Open Call: Poetry
Winning submissions to our Open Call on the theme of 'Loneliness'
after your death the crows came
they descended on our place
with white jackets and stethoscopes
they unravelled you from the wall
i kept thinking
here she wept and here she sang
after your death i had to sit down
i sat for so long the government changed
they rewrote the constitution and now there was a cure
i kept thinking
here she wept and here she lived
after your death i began telling everyone you were murdered
Just A Speck
I spoke to a speck of dust the other day
Just casually at first
about weather-stuff and what we had for dinner
The speck looked just like a speck on the neck of a family member
Cursed to bits, that speck,
but still my favourite attribute of that person
Greyish and irregular
A blob really
I think they got it removed.
We kept talking the speck and I
Of big and small, far and wide
All of it
I went to bed, my belly full of friendship’s content.
Today the speck was gone.
I spoke to another speck of dust
It didn’t speak back.
I sought shelter in the brittle dust
to protect me from the cold
I dug deep
scraping the belly of the earth
I buried myself like a seed
and waited for the sun
Now it was just him and I.
The congratulations and baby blue wrapping paper had all been swept away.
It was just him and I.
Tiredness, restlessness, loneliness.
The hum of daytime television – the soundtrack to our days.
The snap of the letter box awakening me briefly ...
It was just him and I.
I was afraid of him.
I was afraid for him.
Worried that I would fail him.
Worried that he would be like me,
Now that it was just him and I.
Sensitive to the well-meaning smiles.
No one to listen. No one for company.
Paralysed in the fog that came over me like a wave.
Drowning, it was just him and I.
Enslaved by the daily routine of nothing much,
Life lived under this pall.
There is no solace in its adherence,
I’ve perfected the cup of tea, that’s all.
Find no point, just blunt indifference,
Spirit buried in months, endured, endless.
Projects listed, but unfulfilled notions,
Stare down upon the wretched friendless.
The instrument sits in silent rebuke,
The ideal time, yet it slips by.
The pen un-lifted to mark the passage,
The mind numbed by endless days, oh my!
Talking cyphers, confident fools, untrusted.
Display uncaring ignorance, objects of hate.
The narrow minded in widescreen,
In pathetic self-pity, consider my fate.
Long day, longer night, alone,
The clock stopped, with too much time.
Physical decline with clouded mind,
With each breath, the universe without rhyme.
A barren branch kisses the pane,
adding hollow percussion
to the dirge I direct at the
loss of everything, casting shadows
on the walls of my filthy retreat.
The whistling wind erodes time
carrying me eagerly toward dawn,
the dank musty smell of neglect
replacing the fragile fragrance
of another time, another place.
Random creaks, constant ticks,
a rustle of brittle leaves merge,
removing the soft velvet voice
that once called my name
with fondness, now spent.
I lay here in shit, open my eyes,
try to picture a face in the murk,
lean to kiss what appears a sweet
neck, and inhale the reek of
stale sweat on my pillowcase.
Tap tapping continues as I cower
beneath grime into oblivion where
accusation beats my brow and
I sink into the mire, with just a book
of fairy tales at my side.
When I Knew You
And I laughed when she said it
Now looking back it makes me sad ’cos none of it was ever funny
But it was all that I could muster up to shove in front of trust been tossed asunder
Incognito, under covers
Moth coughs, fluff clots, dust and clutter
Sense had long since done a runner
But it was fun
It was summer
It was young and we were dumber
It was lazy
It was Sunday on a Monday and a Wednesday
Never end days
But they all do
Way back when days
When I knew you
Loneliness is a Queue
Amongst a trail of slumped shoulders
I stand for the first time in years.
Stigma stifles the tiny building,
sagging with neglect;
the intimacies of private struggles
boom from hatch to tiny hatch.
We are many,
huddled in this room closing in.
flash warnings and accusations;
invite the voice behind the glass
to join the torment in your head.
Next! catches the weight in your chest.
A weary carcass shuffles
to a vacant hatch,
an acre of loneliness
in every step.
Sky and Peace (for Peace Nkanta)
the world is a ball of lint
hidden in your bellybutton
i would very much like to stand
at the end of your finger
like a pier and fish
for canoes and yellow dreams
i forgot to tell you
in me a shipwreck sleeps
how do you carry birds
and rivers at the same time
i am a ghost grappling all
the abandoned shoes
that my loneliness could carry
lead me to my lost shadow
in the dark
the skies are falling
all over my mouth
the trees are quivering again
let me be found beneath an upside
down spoon with olives on my lips
Not a mouth or nose to be seen.
I follow the arrows with my shopping basket held in a gloved hand.
Making sure I avoid contact with the rest of the human race.
Outside, mask removed I breathe in a lungful of air.
I fish in my pocket for my keys ready to enter my prison.
Filling the kettle, I place one mug, one plate, one bun.
Before I would have been setting the table for four.
They never failed to turn up rain, hail or sleet.
Good company, lots of banter and all three my soul mates.
Now we have to listen to our prison guard, the Prime Minister.
As I empty my groceries from my bag for life.
The words take on a new meaning.
How much life do I have left to live?
I slap my hand and shake this thought away.
My bun and mug of tea, usually delicious,
tastes of nothing and I leave both unfinished.
I never thought I could feel lonely, but I do.
I weave a blanket of salt stars
In the palms of my hands
Press crystal edges tight
to keep the oxygen in
Back bent arched
Spine poking through starved
Straightened like a whip
Drowning in the starlight I
Sip from my palms.
I know you are there beyond
But I’ve grown gills,
Medicine for aches long-healed
Fresh bruises bloom under
Memories I wash in, and
Seep beneath my skin.
Permeable I move between
Solid and starlight
No longer drinking but full I slosh
Turgid and boundless and
Sea-sick from myself.