Posts Tagged ageing
When your parents die
the movie ends.
Now you’re not playing a part.
You can sit back in your chair,
the one with your name on it,
and watch the action played back.
See the part you played.
Sit uncomfortable beside others,
self-conscious as your playing is reviewed.
And the silence closes in about you
as you see your failings
and the quiet of those around falls away
into the distance,
and your life and the stuff that is you
comes into focus.
A real tearjerker is this.
Who wrote this script?
How could, who would, did I?
They were just people.
Life’s timeline compresses.
Your streaming curve cuts across theirs
And streams away to curve back.
You with your guns firing.
Your stupid guns.
We should have talked more.
Because now I don’t see you
By way of a mirror.
Now I can look straight at you.
And I have to hang my head
So what am I really?
Now I’m in the mirror.
You stayed for a while.
I felt you and I heard your thoughts.
Now it’s quieter.
But one day I may
Have to have that talk.
About how we all made mistakes.
Mine feel so much greater
And I wonder where I’ll sit
Between you and my sons.
Warm air rang chilled,
hammer on an anvil.
Church steeple still
in pleasant landscape
stopped to look
at small life given.
Sleepy world glancing
his way for once
and simmering summer
sultry birdsong sang
So little england carried on
and one who came to pass
and had lived their way
no longer had a choice.
Mild wind in blue sky with sun glinting
off snowy Cretan mountain peaks
and bird song amongst orange groves
ripe with fruit waiting to be picked,
reverberated to a double shotgun blast
as someone blew his brains out
and spread them over the plaster
landscape that was his for too long.
As I wrote mellowed by birdsong,
righteously writing about what was wrong
with no cognisance of what went on
just below my balcony.
A moment came and passed.
And I learned about it from the news.
Written a long way away.
And now when I gaze down,
the birds still sing amongst the oranges.
And the dogs still bark.
When you truly listen to people
and you hear what they are,
you will find
that everyone is lonely.
The sad thing is that
the only people I’ve harmed
have been those I loved.
As he died and saw the world fade away,
he also saw his life spread out
like a two dimensional fan in front of him.
Then flames appeared and a charred black hole
spread out from the source into the delicate fan spread.
Each blade a part of his life,
crumbling to charred paper and blowing away on the wind.
And so he returned to his original state.
Now able to play a part in the way
he spent his life hoping he might.
Wiser now and on a universal stage
rather than a bit part in a sideshow.
But having learned to understand this.
A happy soul is one
that’s learned to let go.
Like a seed from a dandelion head
in a sunny breeze,
that let go
of its anchor point
and turned to face the breeze
and the skimming land below.
To arrive where what is.
All we can see of ourselves,
that tells our tale,
is our hands.
Smooth and then
suddenly not so.
This process of
the compression of one’s life
cannot be seen
by seeing yourself.
That would be to try
to describe your face
without a mirror.
But you can see
the hands that lie there
looking back at you,
and they tell no lies.
Wrinkled a little now,
they represent your life.
Its good and bad
and ultimately tired understanding.
Ahead lay the divide that ran from top to bottom of their lives,
Defining the move between their doom and their fortune.
So millions of people lived their paths,
Not knowing that far above,
White winged Josef and the raven winged woman
Flew towards the light.
If only the minions also had that sight.
Through that one small window pane
Looking out onto a black garden
On the darkest of nights,
I saw so many children
Running in the sunshine
Made sparkling by hosepipe rain.
And dogs and barbeques.
And the oak tree leaning over
To whisper smiling praise
For the children’s snowman.
And that battered and sun faded deckchair
That never got put away.
And the rose bush that ran wild.
And the garden shed that came to sag sadly.
And that forgotten glass in the flowerbed
That grew pale green with time.
And the memory of you.
Clear as daylight. Sitting there.
And that crumbling vision of a life
That drained away into the earth,
As though it had never been.
I weep for that now,
Seeing it through my mean window pane.
I weep for that in the eternal now.
In a Budapest pub against a wall,
Stands an ancient pram that sits quietly
Amongst the bawdy crowd,
Remembering walks in the park.
Its cast iron wheels and rusty springs
Support a wicker basket lined with
Broken cotton that once warmed
A baby long dead now.
In its place lie old bottles,
And a single, painted plate.
It looks up at the ghost of the woman
Who still patiently pushes her charge
Down tree lined paths in parks
Long since bombed beyond existence.
She sings to her baby
And it beams back,
Its awkward, human hand painted features
Irregular in a mechanised world.
The plate is still there
Whilst the baby’s long gone,
Having lived a process through
Two world wars.
Now through that plate,
The artist and the child join spirits
And smile happily up at the pretty young woman
Who knew nothing of what was to come.
The truth is that as you get older, the old illusions fall away. The trivia you once aspired to, become worthless, or at least worthless in your heart of hearts. Ignore the false heart that’s fed by those outside. You become someone who’s worth more than them.
You don’t have to be old for this insight to occur. You could be just 16. Or you could be 84. It doesn’t matter. What this process is, is the emergence of an understanding. It might be triggered by something you read, or thought, or was told, that grew into something bigger that belongs to you now because only you really see it, even though you can’t describe it.
It might be an understanding that is the purpose of your life.
Odd that God, or whatever force that drives what is, should ask so little of us. Given what it’s given.
If you’re lucky, and you succeed in gaining such an understanding, I hope that when you’ve moved to a different state, you’ll be kind enough to look over your shoulder and give me a hint. Hopefully with a smile.
It’s hard to let go of things.
But once you let go of the first one,
And the memories associated with it
Become like those clouded passing visions
We all remember from childhood,
Then losing the next item becomes easier.
And then the next item becomes
Easier again to choose,
As if loss throws value into relief.
And when that next thing goes,
The context that one’s built over years
Starts to dissolve.
A process of distillation takes place
That concentrates your
Value of things
To a few.
Enough to carry with you.
Then your perspective changes
As you let go.
If you’re lucky a lightness takes hold
And your life thus far seems contrived.
Like a game played by a child.
There aren’t many years left now.
Time to turn and face yourself.
And just as your things reduce and fall away,
The markers you measured yourself by
Fall away as well.
And you’re left with a wide open
And wondrous world
That’s yours for you to wander through
For the first time.
It isn’t too late.
Because it takes just a moment
To realise the extent of your smallness
And the scale of what you’re privileged to know.
Once I was part of something flat
That lapped upon a shore that resisted.
Then I found myself lifted up
And up and soaring
Over a golden beach and curving trees,
And then I fell forward too fast
And the beach disintegrated across my face.
And now I simply go with the flow,
Up and down this unredeemable beach.
Dad was further up the bus queue
He caught one just now.
I’m still waiting.
Some wait in front of me
And some wait behind.
Number 37 or some such.
Don’t know where it goes
Or why it’s called that.
But we’re all waiting for it.
In a queue.
I didn’t see that he’d caught his bus
Until just now when the phone rang.
But then it is a long queue
And he was right up at the front of it.
I remember when he stood
Kicking the dirt right back here
Where I now stand.
Looking about him
And wondering what and why.
How do I train myself
To ignore that smooth silken curve
From neck to shoulder?
Those gentle swells
And that swinging curve
That slices through the world?
That sensous soft hair
Falling down her astonishing back?
How do I stop wanting this in her
Now that I’m of an age
That truly appreciates a beautiful woman
But is too old to be allowed
To know her?
In the mirror there’s an echo
Of light and of insight.
Something I might become
If I don’t try harder.
Always try harder.
With half an eye
To that place over there
Where you lie in a hammock,
Being fed grapes
By that girl you fell in love with
And never knew.
A man still learning,
And the wiser he becomes
The harder it is to live.
As the swirling whirling world
Flew by my eye
Caught sight of a frozen moment.
Hanging there still in streaming blur,
Eyes wide watching me and asking why.
So I lied and I told him a story.
One that I came to believe.
And now I stand here looking out
Across the windblown moor.
Knowing what went wrong.
So slow life seemed then.
But as life’s integers pass,
Each becomes smaller.
That transformation from potential
To manifest form isn’t easy.
And as life progresses
You’ll know the same experience
Again and again
As you rise and fall and rise again,
Only to be blown to pieces
When you least expect it.
But there is a circularity
That you’re permitted to rely upon.
When you rise, then you will fall.
So when you fall
Then you will rise.
Become wise at
The uppermost point in this sine wave.
Grab the moment and start again.
It’s not about luck or knowledge.
It’s about timing.
Bluebell wood and silent son
Walking together in a quiet space
Defined by delicate birdsong
And oceans of bluebells.
We sat on a bench and watched
Grass grow and real life happen.
A place where pretensions fell away
And discussion turned to issues
That were true and worth considering.
We never stop growing up.
The questions remain the same.
In a cold chill wind one night,
I wondered what it would be like
To be somewhere balmy,
On a warm wind evening
Where cicadas sang,
And golden leaves gave up the ghost
And finally moved on to drift down
To a swirling river passing by.
An ill considered thing so far,
Once viewed from on high.
Swift river of life that moving on,
Carries our golden souls round
In vortice after vortice.
They still seek direction as they sink
Beneath the cloudy water,
Listening to the noise of a million
Sibilant conversations everywhere,
And permeating everything,
As humanity gossips its last throes
Instead of watching.
A warm wind blows that shakes trees
And sets golden leaves free to roam.
Transition time now between what was grown
In such surety of purpose,
And the dying and the melding back.
I thought I knew how to be once.
But the seasons changed
And my solutions lost relevance.
They acquired a different beauty
That crumbled and snapped at the slightest stress.
Now they lie in the dirt.
Rotting with promise of new leaves
For the next generation,
Whilst I look on bewildered,
Wondering where my dreams went.
May my children not make the same mistakes.
Purpose is an illusion meant
To defraud us into believing we have value.
Wet concrete steps reflected red neon lights.
Walking behind her past cold marble pillars
To the warm orange light of the foyer.
We walked up the stairs and the pleats of your skirt
Splayed like fingers spreading to cover you,
As you swayed in that inimitable way.
Then the crowd flowed in with babbling mouths
And I lost you in an ocean of grey suits and sequins.
These days long now watching setting sun
And remembering the sway of those splayed fingers.
Then the shell that you made,
Flexible as far you could make it,
Burst suddenly and the yolk
Sprang forth as a bird
And flew away.
Broken shells are your reward,
And you ponder why and question your virtue,
As the air that filled the volume of your life escapes,
And you scramble to find something
To bind your essential elements together.
Synthesising a new mode from remnants that seem stale.
To find a new world is hard.
Especially as there’s so little time.
The potential frame of reference is more confined.
Regardless of your best intentions,
You’ve yet again
Passed the big questions on to the next generation.
You just didn’t have time.
One thing is for sure, and that is that a new world is emerging. A debate about what form that might take, as occurs on a lot of fora, is futile. Change is happening at an ever more rapid pace. Debates by supposed wise people of a certain age, like me, are more likely to be wrong because change is so rapid, based on newly emerging, networked paradigms that are evolving so quickly that I suspect the dignified thing to do might be to shut up and see what the 20+ generation make of things. Listening to their music, I suspect it’ll be pretty good, if they’re allowed to thrive.
At a certain age and sitting
On a mouldy wooden park bench watching
Children swinging in the wind pushed
By smiling mothers in short skirts.
The old oak tree sighed as a cool breeze blew
Through my memories of being there,
Where I was watching.
And all the stages in between
Folded in on each other,
The same mistakes touching across the years
And chuckling at the irony
Of each other.
I knew you once too.
You saw me through a mirror.
I think it was you.
Sitting there in that waiting room
In that garage with six other people
All staring straight ahead
I sat quietly by myself
Inside my head.
How daft it was we that had nothing to say.
Even though we did.
But six strangers dare not.
One Irish man though who couldn’t stand
Without his short stick spoke up.
His life was worth speaking of.
And did he speak of it?
On and on and on he went,
This happy man who loved his wife
And his life.
This plasterer who knew
Every way to make any wall smooth.
He had wisdom
Did this droning man
That at first I made myself politely
And as he spoke I became transported
Into a world that was smaller but wealthier
He was a happy man.
And I was not.
And his happiness derived
From not knowing too much,
From being what he was
And not thinking about being more.
There was a time that I remember well.
When we used to carry small children laughing
Loud in the shimmering sun
Over soft sand that yielded and made our only challenge.
And then as we grew old things changed
And children’s laughter became
Something more rare.
As those who controlled our lives began to complain.
We weren’t paying our way.
Apparently, whatever that means.
And my last child cried as he said goodbye to me
Not knowing how his passing
Sentiment meant so much to me.
Because we all knew that our life
Was over now and new a way was to reign.
Small entertainment that was all the same
On everyone’s machine.
So why should a mere donkey seem
Worth the while.
But I know my life was worthwhile.
As children laughed and thrilled their small glee
Riding me down Blackpool beach.
And I made many memories
That console unhappy people
In their contrived lives.
As they remember something more real.
To be a donkey it seems
Carries so much more appeal
Than being some poor human
In some relentless wheel of commercial
Now I’ve left the movie
And I walk alone through the couples
Billing and cooing and wending their
Way back to their cars and on
To their warm homes together.
I walk past some sorry excuse
That sits there with his cider
Hidden poorly in a bag.
And some slag with legs bare
And tits flaunted to drive me mad
Staggers past with some chav leering
At me to taunt me even more.
I followed them and watched them
And in my mind I felt them
And I ate them
And I swallowed them.
And as the neon windows flickered
Crazily over snow bound pavements,
I saw the sun rise in my mind
And I drew my gun and
I blew their fucking brains out.
Then in a certain patch of snow
The neon stopped flickering
And stayed blood red.
Then there was old Mrs Nocneid. Small and dainty, with a lame leg. Wearing the hat with a fabric flower to one side, and sheepskin boots. Picking her way along the pavement, trying not to step on the patches of snow, and standing in the puddles instead. She’d only popped out to get some onions and a loaf of bread.
Her path took her through the cemetery, where she always stopped to consider at least three of the headstones. Each one a portion of her life, wrapped up neatly in granite, frozen in time. Slow moments pondering, and wondering. And remembering, and sometimes dreaming. The sounds of wind and birdsong becoming distant for her, as her pale blue eyes misted over.
Two youths rushed by on bikes, shouting obscenities at each other and weaving in and out of the gravestones as they went.
“Hey lady.. your turn soon!”
“Fuck off Sim, don’t be a twat..”
And they were through the gate and off down the path, their noise disappearing with them.
But Mrs Nocneid’s world had been ruffled now. And a sibilant wind hissed through the watching Yew trees, blowing snow off the tops of the headstones as it went.
She shivered, her attention pulled unwillingly back from her past to her present, looked around her, and sighed. And the wind sighed with her and became still.
The youths returned, breaking the silence. They were racing each other round the block. Down the path, past the pub, down the high street past the shop, through the cemetery and off down the path again. This time they stopped in the cemetery.
At that moment, bright spring sunlight burst through a passing space between scudding clouds, and the church and cemetery lit up. A cross that stood on top of the roof cast a long shadow over the jumbled headstones, and there lay Mrs Nocneid. She was face up and cruciform, her eyes staring at the sky. Her hat lay some way from her head and her surprisingly long hair lay fanned out on the dazzling snow like a silver halo. She was smiling.
She forgave the boys.
It’s all coming to a grinding halt.
All those years of making
And trying and playing.
It hasn’t worked and its stopping now.
And a sense of failing grows
Like a vine though my mind.
What road next? What turn or twist?
What way to go to stay
Sure as rock and solid,
That I might hold my head
In cocksure certainty
And hope to be a winner.
I’m on a raft and bouncing down
This torrent of white water,
Carrying me off rocks and dying.
Only the pace seems important.
How long will this last?
It just goes on.
But some friends smile
And a gentle word makes it all worthwhile.
This form is strange stuff
That makes such a trial.
I don’t know how to manage this
But maybe that’s the problem.
I try too hard to make it work
To fit some silly idea
Of what should be. But this is luxury.
To think like this.
Necessary planning on a route
To self sufficiency perhaps.
But there’s no such thing.
We have a world that is no softer
Than that hard bed that Christ was born to.
And the harder we work
The further it moves and we build
A wall of fire before us.
Do I give up?
Do I really know?
What is mood and what’s to see?
What is the real me?
And what is my circumstance?
It isn’t what I think,
It’s something deep inside
Some non existent existence that
Preceded all I know.
I’ll die one day.
Maybe too soon.
And then I’ll know I was deluded
And time’s much longer
Than even I imagined.
Bright eyes dulled reveal inner tears
As fledgling wings find the folly of existence.
To flutter in vain against forces unknown
And to break and be wounded
In pursuit of grace.
But bright eyes can also see pure.
And through staying true to their real sense
Can fly high over what we see round us.
By being so pure they can see the real way
Of a world become clouded
To us who have lost how to see.
Subjecting ourselves to our own made poison
That obscures our own natural truth.
World weary we’ve let understanding
Defile the original view.
Well I know how they feel.
Like a straightjacket
That forms you
To pixelated proxy
Person who may
Or may not
To move elsewhere,
The slime clings
And moves with you.
You are what you become
And it grows as you go.
And you seem to have
So little choice as you grow old
And conform to the flow.