Clouds run across the light blue wintry sky. Crows float backwards up the straw-green fields.
The fast train slides to an eerie stop around the Carstairs bend. Nothing moves inside the highest and most clinical of fences.
Then an opening window flashes the sun. Again. Again, again – a dozen times
The darkest lightest semaphore escapes.
February 1997 On the way to work in Motherwell
Head and Heart
A vast barn of a lecture hall echoes soporifically with the soothing amplified monotone of the careful English woman.
The congregated listener slips gently off her academic content and onto her mature young face, golden skin, gold earrings and thin gold necklace dangling over long black starry dress, lapel weighed down by tiny mike.
From the giant speakers on the wall a constant tinkling pulse of ice cubes in a glass is noticeably not noticed.
The distant listener hears her heightened heart beats as closely as the clicking technology and necklace on her breast.
September 1987 Gill Gorell Barnes plenary at AFT Conference
Late in the day the corridors still rang with forlorn repeated bursts
of questing scurried steps, an endless door to door to door search for contact, a meaning in his life
At last hope fading he composed himself a poem.
But each word he opened echoed with absence.
With their absence
With their ritual love cuddle his mother'd gone out leaving unexpected minutes – time to admire the jewel of a present he'd given her a few days before.
With precious saved money he'd eventually chosen the bottled glass galleon, all crystalline fragility.
Wrapped safe in dry-dock packing until launched on her birthday the ship stood becalmed in the open to see.
Tenderly the giant held the ship in its wood-waves, settling down to befriend the miniature crew.
But the ocean of life holds more in its hands.
Swirled on by envy big brother fate took a tilt at what he had found.
A treacherous blow and the ship slipped aground.
Preserving its tragedy the bottle survived – pure translucent love all splintered inside.
"This seat taken?" "No," head shaken.
I like her looks. We read our books. Match careful poses, seem to take dozes.
Gaze at spring hillsides, sway past express glides. Taking odd chances, slip one-way glances.
Watch long-denimed flexion, glimpse warmed complexion? She touches her lips, I straighten my hips.
No word, no contact in our silent contract.
The day-dream develops – nudged on the train gallops. But still we are doubtful how far this is mutual.
Hours pass resolutions, marked flashing through stations.
Staring at the scenery, eyes mirrored have seen me!? Again it's not certain, the real or drawn curtain.
Give up in confusion. Slump back disillusioned.
Prefer private reverie. Write out in my diary a much fuller version with sensual insertion.
Then head for the snack bar to calm thirst and hunger.
Nothing to say for the rest of the way.
Walked home when we got there. She went off somewhere.
Relaxed, ate and read, unpacked, went to bed.
Got up for the diary. Read through my story – Sat bolt up like lightning: a line of strange writing.
Penned neatly under: her name and phone number!
Working words the fountain dries up.
Olive black liquid quenches thirst flowing meaning again into letters forever remembered on the white sheet of life.
Want So Much More To Have Less
I wish things had worked nicer, Thank God we’d the mess; I should have done more, I’m glad I did less;
I’m upset to see / It’s great that we held, So much pain and distress.
I’m calm and engaged, I’m cut off and disturbed; I’ve had less burden to carry, Buried too deep inside;
Just a little mishap Drove in lives of hurt, Too hard and unfair to do what decide.
If it’s all the same to you, Each one is ours shared; Let’s not agree to differ, I’ll keep mine you keep yours;
Scramble controlling weakness, Project to contain, Cut by breakfast and train-times and doors.
Didn’t ask you to care, Didn’t care to ask, But I long for my turn.
I didn’t arrive, get met or meant, Didn’t leave, I got sent, Wasn’t my job, wasn’t there, Worried away to myself,
Need it sorted here, Not so close, I’ve to work it out somewhere else.
It’s great we’re all stronger, But I wish it was me; I want more, to go faster, And less, better slow;
Be in touch in the meantime, Well, I might write or phone, I know I’m not sure what I know!
November 1994 After DIY family therapy weekend with sisters.
Two pairs of women talking board the lowly public transport bus.
Their lively eyes and gentle faces take in each others chat.
The motherly bus brims pregnant with those completely loved since their first inside ride.
Love infectious heals us lacking busily deprived.
Forget Me Not
The loveliest garden grows over the gardener’s buried secret darkest deed.
Endlessly weeding out the forget-me-nots.
In expressionless concentration a heavily set youth sits stock still and stares over his bulging black sports bag a well-stoked boiler on the table before him in the swish swaying carriage of a modern express – a motionless motion my older reflection exactly shares.
Deceleration draws back today’s curtain of noise on an unslackening clacking and rhythmical hiss – the precise sound of yesterday’s steam train in spate – leaks unwittingly out of his black-stoppered ears.
Pressed hard up, now deafens Far memory soft flows.
26th January 1998
An Eye for an Eye and Love
Another eye op another day inert in bed Alert ears fly on the walls of ward life Huge storms and recessions halt life outside But NHS staff get through where humans fear to tread
Skilled teams perform their daily miracles of sight Here's a late emergency addition to their long list A dazed youth caught in the crossfire of some frontline brawl A thrown glass cut full across his face and eye
Warm care and no judgement from the admitting staff Contrasts with a taxpayer parent raging in my head Inconsiderate learn your lesson take the NHS for granted Hell mend you, not these earthy angels of the welfare state
He comes round to the night nurse's lively care and real respect Perhaps the first kind treatment ever in his life? No next of kin or friend to call to chum him home
Odd he's not upset - just wants to know about his eye Fortunes of war perhaps revenge or compensation?
Later she brings the surgeon's notes to read them out More ethical and more likely to repair both mind and body Than my silent rant that now turns to storm At bankers bagging billions that bugger up the world With cuts and payback's served on everyone but they Who're blind to real worth unnoticed in the night
This quality of nursing is not strained It flows freely as a priceless bonus for us all Fair wages a foundation of more personal reward.
Next day he's aged by 20 wiry years His concern not lessons learnt or gratitude for care But fags and an ambulance to taxi him back to what?
My ignorant anger swings round on him again ... But still an eye for an eye is not as good as love.
9th December 2011 In Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion
I like my fluffy bunny My fluffy bunny-bun My fluffy bunny's funny We have a lot of fun.
My bunny's such a honey I call her honey bun I lie on mummy's tummy With my bunny on my tum.
We lie down when it's sunny Puffed with running fun Fluffy bunny on my tummy And me on mummy's tum.