Back from the brink

She began to worry about her future. What would it hold for someone like her, she wondered? Her mind had been broken, and it wasn’t ever going to be fixed. At least not ever like it had been. But what had it been?


Julia had never seen her city like this before. It was as though she were taking a guided tour through streets and roads she didn’t know. Or maybe had once known. There were so many things she had once known. Like maths. She remembered enjoying maths at school. Her school days hadn’t come back yet, but Doctora Ortiz said they would. Dra. Ortiz had fantastic faith in her. A well-built middle-aged woman, Julia could imagine her at home with her children, watching television. She sometimes imagined herself squeezed in beside them on the sofa like a Persian cat sitting between a family of good-natured bulldogs. Julia had been put in Ortiz’s care on her arrival at the rehabilitation centre. It was down to Ortiz that she had come so far. Her skeletal frame and stitched-up scalp had seemed too frail to survive, but one of Ortiz’s unflinching methods was a diet of regular exercise and rich foods. After a week she could sit up, after two, she could get out of bed. By the time two months had passed, Julia could walk, with a frame, as far as she liked. And she did like it. It was as though she had never walked before.Everyday she could be found exploring various corners of the spacious building. Her body still refused to put on weight, but Dr. Sanchis, the physio, told her that her muscles were recovering, which was good. Anyway, her family said, you’ve always been slim. The biggest change was in her face, her eyes, formerly a flashing green, were now the shade of an autumn forest, with none of the life. On her chaperoned walks in the park she saw trees which fascinated her. Surely she knew what trees were? Her accident had caused such severe damage that she often felt like an infant, seeing everything anew each day. The thought caused her as much joy as sadness, as well as another feeling. If she could have given it a name, she would have called it bittersweet.

As she continued to regain lost memories, and forge new friendships in the centre, she began to worry about her future. What would it hold for someone like her, she wondered? Her mind had been broken, and it wasn’t ever going to be fixed. At least not ever like it had been. But what had it been? She was 24 years old, it wasn’t unusual for her to return to her parent’s house. But it would be like living a second childhood. One with aging parents, who would suffocate her recovery. She had had many conversations with Dra Ortiz and with the clinician, Dr. Ferran, about this, although she could barely express the worries in words, which had only served to frustrate her even more.

In any case, like so much of her recovery, it had been Ortiz’s idea to walk off her emotions. “Everyone thinks better while they are moving” she told Julia once, and surprisingly Ferran agreed. “I’ve seen how you enjoy walking. Many people say it helps to clear your head. In this case, I can’t think of a more suitable solution.”

So she walked as far as the corner. And around the corner. She had never been on this street. It was already busier. Her worries now were mainly that she might not remember how to return to the centre. But she had the address written down, and there were plenty of people to ask. Some of them looked foreign. An Asian man selling fruit offered her some oranges. She declined and kept moving. She saw a young man pushing a baby carriage. He was not much older than her and looked tired. On the street she saw some lorries and bicycles, which for a moment brought back sickening memories of the accident. But she recovered herself and kept moving. Here was another park. She ducked into it away from the traffic, and immediately was assailed by the smells of dog faeces and urine. A gypsy traipsed past carrying some lengths of metal salvaged from a rubbish container across the street. It was appalling. She started to run. And this was the moment of exhilaration. The moment her head cleared, and she had a fully-formed idea for the first time since the accident. She would become a runner.

Painter’s Muse

You stood stock still in the golden hour

Your brush dangled from your hand as you scrutinised the scene

It was the first time I’d watched you work

And the joy and the freedom were almost more than I could handle.

If I moved – to speak or to scratch,

You would gesture impatiently for me to resume my stance,

The crickets clicked their deafening wings

While the lowering sun engulfed us both in its splendour.

The heat of the day would not subside, but would linger

Long into the hot summer night, the mosquitoes usurping the crickets

Your sensual, gentle strokes continuing,

As your final touches transformed the wasteland around us into paradise

The Prince sleeps

As Shakespeare said: ‘what dreams may come’?

Lying spreadeagled under the moon

no tension there but an occasional moan,

Morning light will come too soon.

Resting on his laurels now

The leaves of which will flavour

His dream meals of tomorrow, 

And the joys he has yet to savour.

And his throne will hide his tired eyes

Imperiously drained,

He dreams not yet of how far he’ll rise,

The future cannot be explained

So slumber on, little prince, 

With carefree snores and whines

What dreams may come, no one can tell,

But tonight your dreams are your design.

A New Avenue (poetry prompt #2)

I’ve seen it now,A new avenue

Straight and wise

Like a volcanic plume

Nothing is new 

under the sun

It was said 

by those who know

But I am here 

Far from our star

Not off the ground

But far below

Below our earth

In a space never seen

The tunnels run

For days and years

My mind is expanding

To fill the gloom

I carry not enough 

Light or food

To explore the vastness 

Which I have found 

In this tube of lava

Far underground.

On a rainy night

In the dark hours of night with the sodium glow
permeating the sky and making me feel low
I stand in the downpour and get soaked to the skin
I raise my face to the sky and let my senses reel in
they’ve been gone for a while, as I wandered in rags
accosting strangers and tourists, begging for fags
screaming at ghosts, clawing at the air
sleeping with women who weren’t really there
I met cowboys and Indians, liars and crooks
I met men who appeared from the pages of books
they taught me to see the real world that we’re in
I wanted to warn people, but they wouldn’t listen
they call me a madman, a hobo, a drunk,
it seemed like my senses were all in a funk
but the rain washes away my physical sheen
my body is ready, my mind is pristine
I’m watching them both from a really great height
And I know the rain can’t wash away the truth in the night
originally posted June 28, 2012

Sunday Scribble – ‘A portrait of my Son as a Dinosaur’

‘A portrait of my Son as a Dinosaur’

Spielberg had never seen my kid

So how did he know

that the T-Rex had his beady little eye?

Its tiny arms flailing wildly,

grabbing hold of nothing

Is my son a T-Rex?

Not at all.

he’s much closer to a velociraptor

In size, if not in speed.

And that nasal scream,

the angry red skin,

and the kicking feet,

weapons of mass destruction

velociraptor it is.

But that’s good, they’re the smart ones.

Watch out Spielberg – he’s coming for you.

Somali Pirates

Here’s a song I wrote about five years ago when Somali pirates were the big thing in the news every day of the week. (I also wrote the first chapter of a novel, however I lost momentum when I discovered that Wilbur Smith had just published one on the same topic. Another unfinished first chapter to add the the pile.)
My smile is turning upside down
Like a clown left out in the rain.
I wandered through the empty town
And never saw your sun again.
I wanted to think about you and me
And the times when we were just all right
But instead the only thing I see
Are Somali pirates in the night.

Sailing in their motorboats
Their grins and guns give me a fright
I hope I never ever see
Somali pirates in the night

You left me with a head of dreams
Melting like some toast on cheese
My river now is just a stream
My trees, some paper leaves.
My thoughts turn to my memories
Like the time you set my fire alight
But the fire will only ever remind me
Of Somali pirates in the night

The First Week

I wanted to write about my kid

But he’s so small

He’d fit in a lady’s  handbag

And that’s not all

You could probably add water

And maybe a laptop too

That handbag could be carried

Without too much ado

But with him comes baggage,

Pram, cribs and bath

And a wardrobe the size

Of Canary bloody Wharf

The heating is going by

Night and by day

As to the stench of the nappies 

I really can’t say

When I lost my sense 

Of smell, it was near

To 5am Sunday,

I was nearly in tears

They say your life changes, and

 you don’t know how much

That bringer of baggage

Your heart he will touch

He’s as cute as can be, while

He sleeps all day long,

And when he’s bawling his lungs out,

He’ll calm with a song

I wanted to write about 

my new kid and me

I guess I have to end 

With a rhyme for free.

Serrano Towers at night

Under the tower

In need of. Shower

Long day saying Mass

Now surrounded. Shards of glass.

Collar undone, black pants grey.

A priest off duty. (Off the rails.)

Former entrance, now bypassed.

The tower’s faded glory lasts.

Flags hang limp, limp creatures there

And tourists climb the outer stair

Its free on Sunday, don’t you know

Last night’s kebabs still strewn below.

For night time revellers – a  spot to play

The tower speaks in shades of grey.

Searching for Salvation

Looking at him, you’d never have guessed he was a high-ranking sales representative with a six-figure salary. You’d never have guessed that he was only forty-six years of age. You’d probably never have guessed that he had never used public transport until a few weeks ago. However, even without any of that information, you might have guessed that he was going to die. Not in the ‘everybody’s-going-to-die-sooner-or-later’ sense, but in the ‘that-guy’s-sick-as-a-small-hospital’ sense. He knew it, too. Only Chin could possibly save him, Sidney reflected.
Sidney watched his reflection in the opposite window, shown sporadically as the trees on either side of the track flicked in and out of view. Each time he was shocked by what he saw. Somehow each week it was worse, despite Chin’s insistence to the contrary. The distance from his village platform to the city suburbs was next to nothing, five minutes of steadily increasing passenger numbers before taking a dive underground and becoming a crowded nightmare. Thrust into this routine unwillingly at middle age, he was still getting used to his new station in life.
Today, he saw, the scarf his wife had bought him seemed to magnify his yellowed eyes – it was the colour, not of death, but of stained hospital sheets. The fluorescent lights in the carriage were unforgiving. Out in the open, with the daylight outside, you’d barely notice them but underground the change was significant. People became reflected in unflattering ways in the smudged windows. Sidney had felt that his thick-rimmed glasses gifted him with gravitas and created a positive impression with clients. That feeling was gone. The metro, great leveller that it is, had caricatured him, accentuating the round, scarred face, sagging jowls and jaundiced eyes hiding behind the ridiculous glasses. It wasn’t that he felt old. He’d felt old since he was twenty-five. It was the compound fact that, to add to this, now he actually was Old. He finally looked how he felt. Was this Chin’s doing? Did he have some sort of magical Oriental psychic powers? That wasn’t the impression he gave. In the last few weeks, Sidney had yet to see anything deeper to him than his profession. And even that, he treated with a healthy dose of Western cynicism. Which was partly why Sidney continued coming. Chin had become like an old friend.
Breathing deeply, and with difficulty, he grasped the bar and hauled himself to his feet. The metro slid to a halt. One good thing about the trip; the trains always stopped in the same place. He counted his steps to the escalator, waited for the right moment and then planted his feet firmly on the same step, holding tightly to the handrail as he swayed slowly with the motion. He could easily spend an hour riding upwards on an escalator, he thought. He closed his eyes and counted the seconds, stepping off at exactly the right moment. “At least my memory is still intact”, he thought. Looking around the empty station, with its many entrances, he shivered and wound his scarf more closely around his face. He’d been feeling the cold recently. More than usual. That was something he could ask Chin about. Chin might smile. Sidney felt a great relief when Chin smiled. He was almost there, just one more escalator. He looked up at the bright light framed in the portal and whispered “I’m coming, Chin.”