My warders have me in thrall.
It’s a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
I’m at their beck and call.
I’ve tried to rise against them.
But they are big. I am small,
So I rub against them like a cat
Curl myself into a ball.
I understand you, I say. I really do
But it does no good at all.
My addictions, anxieties, fears —
My warders —- have me in thrall.
On a road trip the other day
we got talking about birth marks
and how you never see them any more
then at the airport
I saw this barista
with a mulberry stain on his face.
I had to ask him,
is that a real birth mark? I asked
we were talking about them
and how you never see them anymore.
Yes, he smiled
as if it were just another feature
on his face
like a mole or scar.
It looked almost beautiful.
Then he made me the greatest cup of coffee.
Thank you, I said
glad that I had asked him
and didn’t wuss out.
It’s okay to be curious.
is anyone else fascinated by birth marks ?
what would you have done?
I used to like my poems neatly wrapped.
I thought of them as artifacts.
Pristine, well presented, spruce
But now I like them ramshackle, loose,
keen to slouch in seedy places,
tie undone, inquisitive with loose shoe laces.
I took two of my mates to the vet the other day.
The Jack Russel came too.
Three of us were on valium.
All except me. I was the designated driver.
Do you mind taking the dog for a walk, I asked, in case he pees in the car?
They shuffled along the street like zombies, Les had taken three, Dave four with a few beers, but the dog’s eyes lit up when he came to a bush on the verge and he lifted his leg the way dogs too —- I tried it once and made a mess — but he was too doped to pee,
He managed in the car though but Les had a pee blanket under him so that was alright.
As we drove Eddie, the Jack Russell, put his head out the window, his ears flapping in the breeze.
That’s so cool, I said. I did that once but the cop who pulled me over told me to pull my head in, it was dangerous.
Dogs have all the fun, Les said, but he was slurring his words.
It was only five minutes into the trip.
It was going to be a doozie.
Once it carried five
and two pets
towards a bright new future
but it was anything but
with a son who rocked
a daughter who kept throwing
and a younger afraid to put
her head out
in the storm
gathering hard above us
but the dove came back telling us
things had eased
a shaft of sunlight spotlighting
our position :
our son had found calm
the elder daughter steadfastness
the younger courage
now it’s just us
my wife and I ,
a pair as God
You okay, mate? You look forlorn.
Like the knight in ‘La Belle Dame’? I say.
‘Alone and palely loitering.’
‘On the cold hill side’. Keats, I say. “La belle Dame Sans Merci’
John Keats. Romantic poet. You must have done him at school.
This is a butcher’s shop, mate. Not an English classroom. What can I get you?
“Sorry, you have to move.”
“You don’t belong here. You’ll have to move.”
“But I was here first. You saw me walking up and down with my multitudinous strands of hair incarnadine.”
“You can’t have ‘multitudinous strands of hair incarnadine’ in a poem about waiting for a poem to pull up like a bus.”
“It’s too heavy, too overwritten. Too Shakespearean. It changes the tone of the poem totally. It’s like two colors that clash.”
“I’m sorry. You’ll have to move. I can’t fit you in.”
“Okay”, she says, shaking her multitudinous strands in a flurry of petulance, “I’ll write a poem of my own and guess what?”
“You won’t be in it.”
And with that she gets out her notebook from her backpack and begins writing, furiously as Lady Macbeth cleansing her blood-soaked hands in the basin.