Some nights, I can’t sleep so, I go out walking following the river in my discomfort and anxiety All too aware of where we’re heading winding towards that war no one can win
I pass bonfires of guitars funeral pyres of pianos strings all snapped Art must be rationed out, now There’s a faded memory of a song from long ago that hopeless refrain, lilts ‘these are our final days’
The cities seethe, swollen and diseased remnant governments siphon off our blood all the schools are barracks hospitals lick flames from every window Kids wear shrapnel like fast-food crowns landmines pop like party balloons Lorries scurry the broken masses from one smouldering ruin to the next
A hatred crackles between the people the rusted blade edge of civilisation I feel helpless and heartbroken panic surging behind closed eyelids As humanity divides the two sides meeting twice once in their compromise and again at the extremes
The river rushes ever higher the floodplain quickly vanishes I mourn the poetry of seasons the grave of tenderness is washed downstream I meet a woman, burying her daughter From an old matchbox, I offer her the thin stem of withered hope, I nurture she waters it with her tears
“These are, these truly are our final days”
When we reach the river’s end the night is at its darkest just then a thousand suns light up this fractured northern hemisphere
Waking in my bed I realise my dream But is all this hell still yet to come…?
Thanks for reading. Happy new year! Don’t have nightmares.
Nineteen nighty five Nominally fourteen; I was sitting in the sports hall pen in hand the desks apart a teacher I didn’t know patrolled the aisles The English paper said ‘write a story include a river and an allegory’
The clock at the front clicks thin hands jerk and tick I spin my pen study the air vents above me there’s a dusty shuttlecock caught up in the pipework there’s a brown deflated football sitting on the skylight I need to start writing…
I wasn’t a reader, then I knew nothing much of stories I’d watched a lot of films I’d heard a lot of pop songs but I wasn’t a writer
Unimpressed by the aesthetic the muted light inside the sports hall I pushed my mind out onto the playing fields down the long road past the waterworks to the river on the edge of town
And I could see it there a bend in the channel where a tree had lost its leaves a tree was clinging to the dry mud of the riverbank being undercut by the flowing water being ever exposed by the erosion being deposed
And I started to write of the tree being cut and torn being pulled and weakened by the hunger of the river Hanging on with every root and the river’s endless running
The more I wrote the sadder I felt for the tree the more I wrote the more the tree’s plight mirrored something I’d seen the more I wrote the more I saw my mother’s best friend’s fight with cancer revealed before me The more I wrote the more I saw her face looking back at me and the more the story moved me
And the tree succumbed to the river’s flow as all things will, eventually
That essay was the first time I wrote something with any meaning handed my paper back a tear-stain just above my name That was the first time I wrote something and I haven’t stopped since…
Kicking through the moss in the cooling evening air I’m staring down the barrel of a living Rivelin Valley
Crickets clicking in the tall grass bramble searching for a shin I stoop to flick away the tickle of a nettle caught under my tongue
O, why could I not have felt this way at twenty one To know myself my capabilities, my limitations to feel this comfortable in my own skin or in company O, to have been at peace at twenty one…
Now, I am humbled every day by the wonder of this place…
The birds join each other and sing contentedly, of a night that’s closing in The faintest kiss of summer still smacking on my skin
There’s such endless opportunity in this undulating scenery I throw my bare arms into the sky thankfully and breathing deeply High with every lungful I’m still here and doing fine…
The journey takes whatever course it needs meanders through required weeds Arriving at the edge of town a spray-painted billboard message greets me “There’s no wealth but life” And I agree there’s no wealth but life…
I’m humbled every day by the wonder of this place…
Thanks for reading.
Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by The Lighthouse in 2021. I really appreciate it, you’re the best.