He came bouncing into the world like a red rubber ball. Over time he lost his redness but never his bounce. He knocked over problems as if they were pins in a bowling alley. Hurts and insults found no purchase on him for though he was hard and rangy, his soul was round and smooth. He took the global view on things and realized that the earth had lost its bounce and needed nurturing too.
I go to borrow a book but the librarian takes me aside.
You take care, she says. I will, I promise. So when I get home
I remove all sharp objects, have a packet of anti-depressants
at my side and put on the Monty Python song’ Always Look
on the Bright Side of Things.’ I have beside me a poem
‘Hope is the Helium’ though modesty forbids ……. and have
the Lifeline number at the ready. I flick through the grim
chapter headings and brace myself for an ordeal.
At least there are no photographs.
- have you read any books lately that have disturbed you?
- is it permissible to make jokes — black humor — about subjects like the above?
- is there even a point — aside from morbid curiosity — in even reading such books?
She’s reading the graphic novel Donna had accidentally left from her last visit. It’s Wuthering Heights. She’s unfamiliar with the format but rather relishes the art work that captures the violence and energy of the original.
Outside in the garden she is listening to the wind picking up, whining and whimpering like a dog that’s been shut out in the cold and she’s out on the moors again with Cathy and Heathcliff, her wild grey hair escaping from a loose bun.
Stephanie was out in the garden, chasing chooks out of the vegetable patch. She was some way from us, out on the back porch, so I was surprised that she responded to something I said.
“Yes. I remember when …” and then her voice seemed to get swallowed up.
”What’s that?” I said.
But she stood there helplessly waving her hands as if signalling to us to disregard what she had to say and to carry on our conversation. We did and when my friend left, Stephanie came over and sat beside me.
“What happened out there?” I asked. “Out in the garden?”
“What I was about to say got swallowed up,” she said.
“Like in a sinkhole?” I said. They had been in the news lately.
“Like in a sinkhole.”
“It’s all right,” I said. “Tell me when you remember.”
I try writing a serious poem about a relationship break-up
About how gutted I feel
I even get in a few good metaphors
But then it starts going off the rails
The clown in the closet wants to come out and play.
I try to shut him out
But he plants his foot in the door
And before I know it
He’s taken over
pouring out puns, profanities,
double and triple entendres
A real word-acrobat.
The poem’s a mess but he’s having fun.
and so am I.
What the heck!
We horse around a little then get into it.
I just can’t help myself.
It’s like walking around with a ‘Vacant’ sign around your neck.
It’s like being scooped out by an excavator.
It’s like being a songbird without a voice.
It’s like walking along a jetty studded with couples clinging to each other like barnacles to pylons.
It’s like being on the esplanade ripping into a pulled pork burger like an animal ‘coz you’re on yr own so it isn’t all bad.
His stomach feels knotted. Should he, or shouldn’t he? Will he? Once again he flings his frustrations hard into the distance, but they twist and turn in the cold air and boomerang back at him, landing at his feet,
She hands me the change.
The two coins bounce off the rubbery counter.
I catch them mid-flight.
You should be in a circus, she says.
I am, I say. I mingle with clowns every day, drive around in an old jalopy, juggle my bills, keep the customers satisfied, pop popcorn at night; get up in the morning, put on my face paint and start all over again. What a performance!
She smiles at me nervously.
Anyhow, have a good day! I say.
You too, she says, as I walk away, honking my clown nose.
Two more drownings down at the Bay.
‘Swim between the flags’, lifesavers say.
Live between the flags, and you play it safe
But against such restrictions, the spirit chafes.
‘Don’t Drink Too Much’, ‘Gamble Responsibly’
‘Wear seat belts, bike helmets, drive responsibly.’
‘Don’t Smoke, Do Drugs’, the flags hem us in
& we’re scared little children, there seems to be no end.
‘Doctors won’t prescribe benzo- diazapines
Or other drugs of dependence’, and please no codeine.
‘Don’t Talk To strangers’, Be careful Online.
Swim between the flags and you’ll be just fine.
You wanted time on your own.
It’s time you put a stop to that.
We’re more nuanced together.
Good writers know this.
We’re a team.
Like Bernie and Elton.
So won’t you come back?
You steady me.
Climb on top.