There was a man in our street who had an apparition in the middle of an afternoon.
He was driving on a country road where on a whim he took a detour. His wife was beside him. They drove down the avenues and streets and occasional crescents till they realised they were caught in an infinity loop. The man began to panic. It was like that time he was stuck in a lift. He could feel his heart fibrillating, his bladder wanting to burst, his vision blurring but he held this from his wife who would accuse him of weakness.
That’s when he saw it, the apparition. It came for him, lumbering down some labyrinth in his brain, a Minotaur bristly and bellowing, big as a tank, barging into him. His heart stopped.
His wife never knew what happened but she found her way out.
Creativity is a terrible thing,
When it gets you in its clutches.
It won’t let you sleep, rest.
It jerks you awake,
Kicks you out of bed,
And before you know it
You’re at the keyboard
At 3 a.m.
Belting out a poem
Belting through the bleariness
To get it down
Then head back to bed
Where it starts again
The brain twitch, the jerk,
The plummet into wakefulness.
You don’t even make a living out of it
But it’s the way you’re living
The gift, equal curse
But when that sweet chariot swoops you up,
Oh the rush, the voltage,
You’d trade your grandmother for it
Were she still around.
It looked like it would stomp any minute
trumpeting in terror from being woken
after all these years.
What had we done?
What if it went berserk?
Trampled on our good intentions?
Pooped all over the room?
[Have you ever seen elephant poo?]
Or, worse, collapsed on one of us like a slab
So far I’ve dodged the bullet
The Damoclean sword
But I know it’s coming for me.
I have its word.
It’s waiting in the rafters.
It’s waiting in the pews.
It has interminable patience
& that is not good news.
It knows my area of weakness
My Achilles heel.
It’s waiting for me to slip up.
It knows I will.
It will not be beaten.
It will not be assuaged.
I open the door tentatively.
It maybe in the yard.
I went out today without my mobile phone.
It felt wanton.
I know something dreadful will happen.
An accident. A death.
A crack in the surface of things.
And someone will try to contact me.
It’s happened before.
My daughter giving birth.
I was three hours late.
But nine times out of ten it doesn’t.
It’s a gamble.
A dead weight in my pocket.
The world can do without me for a few hours.
I’ll be back, as Arnie says.
There may be messages saying,
Where the hell are you? We’ve been trying to contact you all day!
And I’ll answer winsomely,
I just stepped out for a moment.
You shouldn’t have written that poem, he said.
That short one about brain tumors.
But I wrote it before her daughter …. I protested.
Doesn’t matter. She needn’t be reminded of it.
I can’t take it back. It’s out there now.
You didn’t have to give her the book the poem was in. Each time she reads it she’ll be reminded.
You could have pulled it, he said. It didn’t have to be there.
He was right. It didn’t. But it was a good poem. My editor said it had to go in. Anyway it wasn’t about Jess. It was written about a tumor I had seen in Scientific American, how beautiful it was, how like the wings of a butterfly unfurling into the hemispheres of the brain.
Are there subjects we should not write about?