Monthly Archives: January 2017

In the Ditch

IN THE DITCH

So I’m standing here, nonchalantly,
next to a bench half submerged in foliage.
It’s also on the edge of a ditch.
I’m watching David Cameron,
and one of his Tory cronies,
as they approach the bench,
clutching packets of sandwiches.
Cameron and crony sit on the bench;
begin to munch their sarnies.
They completely ignore me,
the insignificant prole sitting
at the other end of their bench.
Oh yes, I’m sitting there now, aren’t I;
not standing. How did that happen?
Oh, well. Part of me wants to warn
the ex-P.M. “Don’t sit there, Dave”
I want to say. “It’s dangerous. It’s on
the edge of a ditch, and there are also
HUGE insects, creeping around in the
shrubbery”. But another part of me
wants to leave the Tory twats to their fate.
It’s that part that wins; so I say nothing.

Next minute, one of the HUGE insects
manifests itself. A black beetle; slimy,
covered in scales, with multiple eyes,
claws, and pincers. It’s growing larger,
second by second. Cameron and crony
seem to spot it, out of the corners of
their eyes. Languid, insouciant, they
rise to their feet, still nibbling their
sandwiches. I’m smiling with satisfaction
and schadenfreude. “You need to move
faster than that, mate,” I’m thinking “or the
beetle will get you”. But then I notice
the beetle seems to have lost interest
in the Tories, and has turned its attention
to me. It’s my turn to jump to my feet,
as claws and pincers snap away,
ominously close behind me.
But what’s happening now?! There’s a
grassy verge in front of me, and the grass
is sliding, slipping away from me.
I can’t seem to get any purchase on it.
The beetle is going to get me!
No! Oh, no!

Next second, I’m falling, rolling,
off the side of the bed; my hands
pawing, frantically, in mid-air.
I land on my back, on the floor;
half-asleep, half-awake. I’ve pulled
all the sheets, and the duvet,
off the bed, on top of me. I’m lying
on the dust-covered floor; cobwebs,
spiders, creepy-crawlies, God knows
what else, all around me. All right,
maybe I should hoover the bedroom
floor sometime. It’s pitch-black;
the middle of the night. The bright
red digits of my bedside alarm clock
showing 2.45 a.m. Worse still,
I’m stuck; wedged between
the bed and the otiose wall-heater,
protruding from the bedroom wall.
I can’t lever myself up off the floor;
nowhere for my arms to push.
I don’t believe this! I’ve fallen;
done a sort of forward roll, off the side
of the bed. I’ve never, ever, done that
before, in my entire life! Propelled by
the force of the dream, the insouciance
of the Tory twats, the horror of that
black beetle.

I’ll be sleepwalking, next!

Like most people, I suspect, I can rarely remember what dreams I’ve had during the night, no matter how powerful the dreams may have been.  So the dream described in the above poem is a rare exception.  The poem is fairly self-explanatory, I think; but I have no rational interpretation of what the dream could have meant, and no explanation of why it had such a powerful effect upon me. 

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The Hemingway Toothbrush

THE HEMINGWAY TOOTHBRUSH

The Hemingway short stories:
such simple sentences, but unlike
anything else he had read.
He closed the book; it was time for bed.

He placed the electric toothbrush on its stand,
and flicked the switch. It immediately began
to flash its green light, as it charged up.
He watched the green light flashing
on and off, in its steady, repetitive rhythm,
for a few moments. Then he went to bed.

Five hours later, he got up, reluctantly,
to relieve his ageing bladder. All was quiet
and still, in the darkness of the early hours.
He came out from the bathroom, and saw
the toothbrush’s green light, still flashing,
in its steady rhythm. There was something
imperturbable, reassuring, about it.

He stood, in the darkness of the kitchen,
watching the green light. It was like
Morse Code, he thought. What message
could the toothbrush be sending out to the world?

I am pulsing out this message for you, Nick;
only for you. I care only for you, and your teeth.
You might think you are alone in the world;
that no-one gives a two penny damn about you,
that you are a cold, selfish bastard,
that your life, such as it was, is behind you,
that only dementia and death lie ahead,
that you had too much to drink again, last night.
But none of that matters to me. I want you to know
I am here for you, Nick; only for you.

 He smiled. This is what his world had come to:
a man and his electric toothbrush. He went back to bed.
The toothbrush continued to flash its green light,
sending its message, throughout the night.

Electric toothbrushes have been on my mind quite a lot, lately.  I was having problems with my old toothbrush, just before Christmas, and I finally bought myself a new one just after Christmas.  At the same time, I was reading a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories.  I hadn’t read any Hemingway for many years, and I found myself impressed by the sheer literary art, compressed into simple, declarative sentences.  I was particularly impressed by the earlier short stories, featuring Hemingway’s altar ego Nick Adams.

In short, it was the conjunction of these two occurrences – my concerns about my electric toothbrush and my reading of the Hemingway stories – that led to the above poem.

 

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