Monthly Archives: May 2013

Bus Station Cafe

Never having learned to drive – due to a combination of factors, some accidental, some intentional on my part – I’ve been reliant upon public transport, in order to get to work and back, for most of my life.  As a result, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time hanging around at bus stops, train stations, and bus station cafes.

I can’t say that these experiences have been all that rewarding, creatively speaking.  In fact, I found them tediously dreary and soul-destroying, most of the time.  Just on the odd occasion, something would happen to spark my imagination, and a poem would eventually ensue.  Watching the manoeuvres of a particularly portly pigeon was the genesis for one poem; and sitting in the bus station café, listening to the drivers’ conversation, on a bleak winter’s day, was the inspiration for the following poem.

BUS STATION CAFE:

At the bus station cafe, the drivers stand,
or sit, wreathed in steam; a warm fug.
Drink hot, sweet tea, from a mug.
Forget boredom, complaints; all of that.

Sizzling pools of saturated fat,
to fry pink, succulent pig.
Hot bacon rolls, sausage sarnies, egg baps.
‘Heard ‘bout Jim?  Died.  Heart attack.’

These men and women; their everyday cares.
You sense the feelings; imprints in the air.
Heart attack, cancer; anytime, any season.
Can you predict?  Is there rhyme or reason?
Who knows what will kill us?  And what’s life for,
if you can’t eat what you like, and ask for more?

‘Jim!  Of all people!  He wasn’t even fat!’
So cold outside.  Forget it.  Forget all of that.
‘You gotta laugh, really.  It’s just a joke!’

The egg bap greets you with a playful spurt of yoke.
It drips from your jaws, as you bite into it.

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Tinnitus: Two Poems

When I first realized the high-pitched ringing, humming noises in my ears seemed to be constant and showed no signs of going away, I went to the doctor.  His verdict was far from comforting.  “Ah yes.”  He said.  “You’ve got Tinnitus.”  Seeing the lack of comprehension on my face, he quickly followed this up with “There’s no cure for it.”  That was over thirty years ago.  So, I’ve had no alternative but to accept the fact that I have to live with Tinnitus as a constant presence in my life.  I’ve adjusted to it, to a certain extent, over the years.  When I’m outdoors, the tinnitus tends to blend into the various background sounds, so, thankfully, I’m not aware of it most of the time.  Indoors, however, I only cease to be conscious of it if I’m fully focused upon an activity, or if it’s submerged by various loud noises from electrical appliances.  I’m sure the symptoms of Tinnitus vary with each individual, so I hesitate to categorize its severity in my particular case.  I would describe it as fairly acute, however; suffice it to say that, if I had no means of distraction from it, it would drive me crazy in a fairly short time.  This created a slight dilemma for me, when I decided I wanted to write about Tinnitus in my poetry.  I soon realized that thinking about it, and writing about it, only made the affliction more acute than it had been in the first place.  You can understand, then, that these two short poems will almost certainly be my last word on the subject!

TINNITUS:

I have not known silence
for over thirty years.
Only a high-pitched humming,
a baleful buzzing.
Parody of singing,
a resonant ringing,
in my ears.

I remember that night;
the “post-punk” band.
I shall not name them,
but I damn them, and blame them.

I knew something was wrong,
when I felt the sound;
started to panic,
looking around.
People clutched their ears,
fell to the ground.

I walked to the exit;
began to run.
But already too late;
the damage was done.

It was, for silence,
a final death knell.
I entered the portals
of a kind of Hell.
My ears resounded,
like an ill-struck bell …

And, over thirty years later, they still do.

TINNITUS(2):

Outdoors, it can be quelled,
by traffic noise,
or street-life chatter.

Indoors is its domain.
Only high-speed spinning
of the washing machine,
or vibrant humming
from the fridge,
threaten its reign.

It is always there,
eager for my attention.
When it is quiet:
evenings, night time,
it swells, booming,
clamouring, insistent;
until I fall into
blissful oblivion.

I can survive,
if I strive to ignore it.
What I’m doing now,
I know I shall rue.
For when I think,
when I write about it,
It’s the worst thing
I can possibly do!

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Food for Thought

I’ve written quite a few poems about the pleasures of food and drink, and I’m quite unapologetic about that.  Poetry can address the most mundane subjects, just as it can the most high-flown, spiritual musings.  Occasionally, you come across a subject that has potential for combining the material and the spiritual, as in my poem “Food for Thought”, where a humble fish supper is the starting point for nostalgia and thoughts about religion.

John Donne wrote some of the greatest poems on the subject of religion; one of them being his Holy Sonnet “Batter my heart, three person’s God”.  Towards the end of “Food for Thought”, there is a blatant reference to Donne’s sonnet.  My apologies to the shade of John Donne, but I just couldn’t resist it!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Fish supper tonight; I have been enticed.
The Chinese chippy; its friendly hubbub,
wafting aromas, glowing bright lights.
I stand in the queue; people come and go.
Memories of childhood flicker and flow. . .

I knew, every Friday, going home from school,
what awaited me, glistening, on a plain, white dish.
Week in, week out, an unbroken rule.
Unwritten, understood: it would be fish.
Cooked by my mother’s fervent, Catholic hands;
pure, white fillets of haddock or cod.
As clean, as virtuous, as Sally Army Bands.
Wholesome, nutritious; an offering to God.
Jesus and fish, I could understand.
The disciples, fishermen of Galilee.
Peter and the others, harvesting the sea.
Loaves and fishes fed the five thousand.
But bread and wine as Christ’s body and blood;
(the priest got the wine, to savour and taste;
we got “The Host” of cardboard and paste.)
that was a problem, never understood.
In no way did this artifice fill my need.
“Transubstantiation”, indeed!
When Host met tongue at communion rail,
all faith and belief would begin to fail. . .

Will it batter my heart, this oleaginous cod?
I anoint it with condiments; can of beer for
libation.  Insert a mouthful; await revelation.

It tastes of grease and salt; but what it tastes of most
is paste and cardboard: it tastes of The Host.

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