Tidal Volume

Definition: the volume of air taken in with each breath.

My ribs move out, my chest expands
The water rushes in
This is the tide of my breath

Waves crashing up the beach and sweeping back
The rattle of pebbles in the current
This is the tide of my death

Stranded in that bed, I dream of beaches
When beeping machines drown everything out
I meditate on sand and summer and you

And just as the tide is moved by the moon
So you orbit my bed and fret
We don’t kiss

My lungs expand, the water rushes in
These pebbles scrape the seabed.

On an aside,
Do you remember the story of the King who tried
To hold back the tide?
He died.

And my darling, I lied.

I won’t survive.

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Goodnight Kiss

Boy in bed

A young child waits alone in the dark
His duvet pulled up to his chin
He waits for his goodnight kiss
But his mother forgot about him.

He can hear her voice, drifting upstairs
She giggles, gossips, drinks tea
And while her son waits alone in the dark
She laughs, obliviously

While upstairs her son is alone in the dark
Thinking, “She doesn’t love me.”

Hospital Bed

Hospital Bed

I can’t do this.
I’ll fall.
My foot fumbles forward, the icy floor making gooseflesh crawl across my skin.
My legs are twigs… too thin, too fragile. They’ll snap.
I hold onto the bed with both hands, knuckles white.
Rapid raspy breathing; deafeningly loud in the sterile room.

“You need to let go,”
A jerky, terrified shake of the head.
I am hunchback, trembling, folded inwards on myself.
“If you don’t let go, you’ll never be able to leave.”
My breathing hitches; half a gasp, half a sob.
Softly spoken; “Let go.”

I release one hand. The blood begins to flow again. It hurts.
My toes inch forward.
My feet are concrete, stone, rock. I can’t shift them.
“I’m too weak!”
“You can do it.”

With all my strength, I lift my foot.
My eyes widen. I let it hang in the air, flightless bird.
Lower it. The frozen floor greets it like a friend.
I’ve taken a step.
I’ve moved.
My left foot twitches
I take another hesitant step.
And another.

My other hand is holding me back, gluing me to the hospital bed.
I pry the fingers off one by one, cutting off my lifelines.
I shuffle forwards, tenderly, slowly.
I expect pain;
None comes.
I straighten my spine, standing tall.
Flex my toes.
Breathe deeply, savour the sweetness.

Shuffling, walking.
Walking, striding.
Chin up.
Eyes forward.
I smile, amazed, happy.
I can do this after all.

I don’t stumble.
My body remembers being alive.
I begin to jog,
Air filling the sails of my lungs.
Wasted and dying muscles gaining their past strength.
I run down the corridors, grinning.
Skin-coloured blurs and startled faces
Nurses and patients and doctors and family
Flash by.

I’m flying.

_

Inspired by this song, 3:20 until 4:21.

Spotlight

Ballerina

A thousand spotlights
The fluid babble of the audience
The stage, gleaming like the sun
All that open space
A map, unrolled, just waiting for an explorer
Inside my ballet shoes my feet begin to itch
Everything is holding its breath
My ears ring with unheard silence
I am ready.

Without warning, the orchestra burst into song
And audience are struck dumb in awe
The music swells
The high, sweet notes of the violins
The patient cellos singing softly
The trumpets crying out in pride
All intermingling, blending
Separating and joining
Reaching higher and higher
Soaring above the clouds
A skyscraper of music

I am more than ready:
And I rise on tiptoe
My arms in the air
And fly out of the wings and across the stage
I dance
Mindlessly
The open stage surrounding me,
The audience adoring me!
The spotlights searing my eyes,
The orchestra filling my ears and
Making them throb with music, my heartbeat
And this moment is so perfect
That I must be dreaming…

But then I slip in the mud
Trip, begin to fall
Barely catch myself
And stand upright,
Facing the headlights.

I am not a ballerina after all.
I am a just a girl
Standing, alone, in a muddy field
In the glare my cars headlights
Dancing my solo in my pyjamas.

Headlights

Seedling

Seedlings
 

When did you become so important to me?

 

Your name was such a small word. A pill, easily swallowed

Only it didn’t leave me; travelled to the epicentre,

Burrowed itself in my heart

A seed taking root in fertile earth

 

I didn’t notice for so long; it was only when

The pain of being around you became unbearable

I couldn’t see it, I didn’t know

But the seedling had grown and grown and filled

All the space. Nowhere left to go

 

So it split my heart wide open

I noticed then, but too late to do anything:

Already an unstoppable force

Bursting through my flesh, ripping me to shreds

Splintering my bones. Ruining me.

 

I am broken by you, you have undone the tendons

That knitted me together

My skin peeled off, my tender flesh exposed

For the world to see.

These wounds I bear belong to you.

 

You’re making me live, and you kill me slowly.

Autumnal Haikus

Buttercup, golden

Brown and burgundy; the leaves wave

From the trees like hands

In the darkness, the

Orange grins of pumpkins are

Glowing eerily

Parents light bonfires

Sparklers spell names, draw pictures

Cold toes, hot coffee

Introvert

Sometimes

I feel most alone when I am surrounded by my friends

And find that I can only be happy

When I am by myself.

Drawing Credit

His Restless Nature

 

He is restless

Constantly in motion

Like smoke billowing through the air

Never still: twisting, contorting

Fleeing one second, attacking the next

As changeable as the wind

Creating flawless works of art with a flick of his fingers:

Goddesses, and elves, and water-nymphs

Their long-lashed eyes gazing down from the heavens…

But only for a heartbeat, a snapshot:

Before they become boring, and torn to shreds

By his own restless nature

Moving on, moving away

Fleeing from himself

Leaving behind scraps of beauty:

A glimpse, perhaps,

Of what he could do, of what he could become

If only his head

Was not stuck in the clouds.

The Ancient Heart

She was bent over, shuffling slowly

Around her dusty and gloomy house

Scowling deeply, each step causing her pain

Her back bent like a question mark

Broken by life, and time, and terrible sights

That had seared themselves into her memories

As effectively as a branding iron.

Her face was a map of wrinkles

Sunk deep, like scars, into dark,

Weather-beaten skin

She possessed mighty wisdom;

Deep, deep knowledge that seemed to come

Directly from the gods of old

As though they whispered

Their dangerous secrets into her ears.

Her eyes had watched time unfold

When she was young,

They were a shocking cornflower-blue

That made the boys stop and stare… But now,

They are obscured by a film of milky fog,

And the blue is watery and weak

Like the cold, misty winter sky. Although,

Despite everything,

Her old eyes still shine when she speaks

Of her children, and her children’s children

Her skin is sandpaper, her back broken by life

But her heart remains undamaged by

The passing of time.

She is the source of many things

Her huge family stretch from her,

Like the thousands of branches

That stem from the gnarled trunk of a tree:

The ancient heart of everything.

A Day at the Dunes

The contents of the overcrowded minibus spilled out onto the sand.

After being cooped up for hours in that sweaty tin-can bus, the teenagers exploded.

For hours, the golden sun gazed at the crazy teenagers in wonder

Watching as they ran and screamed and slid and clambered over the endless sand dunes

They chased, and raced, and tumbled, and played games until the sun began to sink

Then, as one, they collapsed at the bottom of a dune, exhausted

Sand caked every inch of their sticky suncream skin

They lay sprawled on the sand, using each other as pillows

When they recovered their breath, they struggled to their feet and slowly stumbled off

Searching the golden sand for driftwood

By the time the heap of wood was big enough, the sun had sunk out of sight

Leaving only the very tops of the dunes blazing with gold

They lit the fire and the dancing red flames shot up into the dark sky

With the last traces of energy they possessed, the teenagers leapt to their feet

And danced, and sang, and ran around the bonfire as the night fell

Holding hands, making an untidy ring around the roaring bonfire

Dancing to the left, to the right, faster and faster, stamping their feet on the sand

Singing all the campfire songs they knew, as loudly as they could

Until they ran out of songs and had to sing them all twice

All caught up in the wild stomping rhythm

When the flames died down, they collapsed around the ring of glowing coals

Marshmallows were passed around and soon everyone was eating and chatting and talking

The fire popping and crackling merrily in the centre

The stars began to prick through the heavens and shine

A yellow moon peered over a dune, then raised its dented head and climbed into the star scattered sky

The teenagers lay on their stomachs around the fire, watching the gleaming ashes with heavy eyelids

The wind gusted now and then, sending sparks like red fireflies floating through the air

The conversations grew quieter, laughter still breaking out now and then

The fire was little more than embers but the heat it gave off was cosy and comforting

Slowly, their heads drooped and the conversation faded away

With their heads resting on someone else’s stomach, they sleepily stared up at the stars

Then, one by one, they drifted away

Their dreams full of running and dancing and the stamping of feet

Until all that was left at the bottom of the moon washed dune

Were the still warm ashes of a fire

And the sticky sandy bodies of many exhausted teenagers.

Summer’s Energy

My lungs seem so large in my chest

The summer air has inflated them

For the first time in months

I can breathe normally

 

Sprint a thousand miles, never gasp for breath

The landscape peeling past

A thousand different views; all

Golden, shining, glorious

Liquid energy coursing through my veins

I’ve never felt so alive

Image Credit: Rosikifish

The Days of Rebirth

The Days of Darkness are behind us

A new sun rises

 

Winter’s frozen claws

Which have been sunk deeply into this land

Are finally thawing

 

The land slowly awakens

And remembers her past glory:

Soon the trees will be crowned with snow-white splendour

And the birds will sing the joyous news from the treetops

 

The Days of Darkness are behind us

Now come the Days of Rebirth.

Image credit: Catherine Buca

Spider’s Tightrope

Gripping the tightrope with my legs

I try not to look down

Or remind myself of just how thin the string is

From which my life hangs.

Written for Ermilia’s Picture It & Write

What More Do You Want From Me?

What more do you want from me?

I’ve given you everything I have.

I gave you my life, my dreams, my sanity.

There’s nothing left to steal.

 

When will you be satisfied?

You’ve ripped my soul from my chest.

You keep on taking and taking,

Will you ever let me fly away?

 

What more can you take from me?

I’m less than human, less than the meanest ghost.

You’ve taken everything I own.

Leave me in peace.

A Preserved Lily

An old faded photograph.

Lily: that beautiful flower. Preserved

Forever, her sepia-coloured face

Still smiling, in spite of everything.

A gleam in her eyes that I know

Only too well. A gleam

That meant adventures for us,

Her friends; but fear to her foes. Lily

Will forever be inside a photograph,

Her mouth wide open in a cry

Of amusement… or perhaps the

Beginning of a joke. One that would put us all in

Stitches for hours and hours; become another

Private joke, another of our wonderful

Shared secrets. Lily, the girl

With the silvery laughter, and her

Contagious joy. The girl who loved

Everyone with in the same delightfully

Innocent, childlike way. Lily is pressed

Between the thick, creamy pages

Of my photo album. Preserved, forever.

Lily.

That beautiful flower of mine.

Credit for image to Studio B Portaits

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