Skeleton in the Phone Booth

A skeleton from the closet

Phoned the other day

One we thought had been

Securely locked away.





We tried to entice it

Cajole it back in

But that skeleton was

Determined to be seen.





For it had grown flesh

Learned how to live

And clearly would rattle

All the relatives.





This poem was written twenty years ago when first contact was made. It was more a ghost from the past than a skeleton but gradually over further calls it acquired structure and then one magic day it acquired corporeality. I was not there — my partner and I had split up — but I heard about it through others, including my children. Then just last week over New Year we met. This wonderful, warm person is now a part of my life. Thanks to the Marriage Equality Act She is getting married soon to her partner of eighteen years. She thanked me for keeping the lines of communication open and hope alive.

ps that third line in the second stanza still is not right

*have you ever had a skeleton from the closet visit you?

The Sad Podiatrist

Lauren Williams wrote a poem about the sad anthropologist

spurring me on to write one about my mate, Arthur,

the sad podiatrist I see three times a year. We’re like mates.

When someone’s been intimate with your feet for such a stretch of time

what else can you call the relationship?

Usually he’s perky, upbeat but today he’d downcast even though I praise

him for finishing my feet in record time.

Just think, I say, you earn more in three minutes than most people earn in an hour but he protests that it’s not about the money.

When I ask him what it is about, he blurts out the old abstracts: Recognition, Glory, Adulation.

Wow, I thought, where’s this coming from?

And he says: “When did you last read a best seller about a podiatrist? Watch a Reality Show called, ‘The Good Foot

Doctor’. See a film with Tom Hanks, Chris Hemsworth, De Niro playing a podiatrist?”

He has a point. I sympathise with him, then he shakes my foot — he always shakes the right one — and I head out the

door, hoping he pulls his socks up before the next patient comes in.

pic courtesy of Wikipedia




Rusty

When I was a kid in High School we learnt things ‘off by heart’:

poems by Keats and Coleridge, extracts from ‘The Ancient Mariner’,

soliloquies from ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’, whole passages from Dickens;

chronologies of The Persian Wars, War of the Roses,

biographies of the Tudors; not neglecting the sciences, we memorized

physics and maths formulas,chemical equations, and slabs from The New Testament —

we were walking Wikipedias; now I’m a big kid, into my senior years,

I’ve grown rusty, which is why I’m in the backyard walking up and down —-

the bees must think I’m mad —- learning by heart my NEW mobile number

which everyone but me knows





  • what things did you learn ‘off by heart’?
  • do you still remember them ?

A Magnificent Lockdown

I almost tread on this fuzzy little chap on the sidewalk, out for a stroll, soaking up the mid-winter sun.

How’s it hanging? he asks.

Oh , you know; not bad.

He looks up. You out of lockdown yet?

Almost, I say, one day to go but we’re allowed to walk. How about you?

I’m about to enter the biggest lockdown of all, he says in a tone half way between excitement and trepidation.

Wow! I say. Really?

Yes, he says, metamorphosis. You heard of it?

Why, yes. It sounds magical.

Up to 14 days, he says. No food. No visitations. Reckon you could handle it?

If I could turn into something light, winged and beautiful, like a butterfly, I’d give it a go.

You humans can’t have everything, you know.

I nod my head sagely.

True, I say, true. Well, anyway, have a good …. metamorphosis, and off he trundles on his way, giving me the thumbs up, a tricky thing for a caterpillar. Such a clever chap.

They’ve Taken Way the Steps


They’ve taken away the steps

the ones leading to the first floor

where JB HiFi is

cordoned off ‘coz of covid

the ones I climbed for practice

in case I made The Great Wall

but there are other steps

to keep in mind

that Stairway To Heaven

for instance

the one we all have to climb

to get to our Heavenly home

but if the climb takes as long

as the eight minutes of the song

we all might be in a spot of bother;

hopefully St. Peter has a rescue brigade

of angels on call

or a St, Bernard or two with a small barrel

of whisky around their necks

for those who didn’t practice often enough

on Earth





 
 
 

Certificate

I’m hunting for my birth certificate

once again

to prove that I exist.

They seem to need convincing.

Isn’t it obvious? I ask

but obviously it isn’t.

They need that slip of paper.

In fact they insist upon it.

Doubting Thomases! I think

almost inviting them to touch me.

But I hold back

almost afraid to touch myself.

What if ….?

Perhaps I’ve gone around kidding myself

all these years.

Yes, I think, that slip of paper would help.

I hunt for it furiously.

If only to convince myself.





Caravaggio's 'The Incredulity of St, Thomas' courtesy of Wikipedia

There Must be Some Nice Things I Can Say about You

Let me see.

There must be some nice things

I can say about you.

I get to hang out with my inner hermit again.

Where you been? he asks sullenly.

Busy, I say, busy. But hey! It’s good to see you.

Can we, you know, have a beer together? Bring in a Pizza? Watch ‘The Farmer Wants a Wife?’

Sure, I say, sure.

We hug each other. It’s like old times. There’s a tear in his rheumy eyes.

I got time now.

I go to the old bookshelf. It’s pretty dusty. Don’t get much reading done when you’re out and about.

And I grab one, that big Collected Graham Greene

and we settle into ‘The Quiet American’.

There are some stories you can’t read enough.

You could do with a shower, I say. So could you, says hermit.

We give each other a playful punch. It’s like old times.

I watch his hands, his fingers twitching. He pulls back the curtain, peers outside.

Do you reckon we could ,,,,?.

Why not? I say. It’s the season for it.

We stoke up the fire, sit side by side, writing our shivery little three liners, haiku on wind, frost, ice, hailstones.

Winter, you’re not all bad.

She Needs Cheering Up

I need cheering up, she says. I work better when happy.

A shared laugh would help, she adds.

So it’s down to me. What am I? A stand-up?

I can’t think of anything funny to say.

It’s a lovely sunny morning in spite of the forecast

so that’s something to be happy about

but happy isn’t funny.

I riffle through my corny joke book but she’s heard them all

even the good ones, like what do you call an Igloo without a toilet?

An Ig !

I thought that was pretty good but all it elicited was a groan.

And anyway, how necessary is it to be happy when you’re working?

Take art. Some of the best paintings were birthed in rage and fear.

Think ‘The Scream’ by Munch, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ or Bacon’s ‘The Screaming Pope’.

You don’t read ‘In Memoriam’ for a good laugh or listen to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ for a bit of a lift.

These did not come from a happy place.

Sure, being in a happy place helps, but you’re not going to get the dark matter, the weight if you’re buoyant as a balloon.  

pic by John Currin on Pinterest

How Was It, Chief?

He brings me a muffin.

I asked for a blueberry.

I get choc chip.

I asked for a fork.

He brings me a knife.

You’ve got no idea how rude customers can be, he says to a couple at the next table. You don’t know what you’re doing, mate, they sometimes say. Hey! I’ve got backbone. I bite back: Don’t know what I’m doing??? You don’t know what you’re talking about, I say to them. I’ve been in this trade for ten years.

His face is going red. He starts to inflate like a pufferfish. His words bristle.

The couple cower before their coffee.

So how was it, chief? he asks me in passing.

You don’t know what you’re doing, I feel like saying but my mouth is full of muffin.

Instead I give him the thumbs up. It seems the best policy. I’ve made his day.

You Looking at Me ?

Those rocks deflect you

from the red-backs

in your mind that crawled off your brush

onto the canvas that morning:

those Ned Kelly heads

staring at me

from the foot of the quarry:

you looking at me, I say.

You looking at me?

I’m the only one here.

Then I come and get you

and those stolid blocks of stone

with eye slits

wallop your imagination.

the ones you’re committing

to canvas so people can stare at them from the walls

of a gallery.