SURVIVAL OF THE SICKEST

“What is mine is mine and what is yours is mine too.” That attitude has pretty much brought the world to its knees. So much childish behaviour from so many allegedly brilliant human beings through the ages. But very few of us ever grow up, really, we just just become bigger children and dress more in keeping with what is expected of adults so we can get a pay cheque.

Marriages are broken because “You looked at that woman longer than you looked at me.” Friendships are destroyed because “I thought you were my friend but you stole from me. And I gave you so much!” Countries go to war because “We have bigger weapons than yours and we need someone to bow down to us so we feel important.” We see beauty in the landscape of the world and feel that something superior to us must’ve created it so we get envious and cut down the trees, pave the ground, damn the rivers, use the oceans as a rubbish dump, and build skyscrapers that are monuments to our own ego. “Look what we can do!”

But then again, calling all that childish is an insult to most children. It is, in fact, the very worst of us. At any age. Reducing the spirituality of things that there are no answers for to something we can dissect and misunderstand. Men worship at the stagnant pool of their own reflection while women get sexually excited by bank accounts and are seduced into a lifelong prison of their own making. We always aim so low. The bottom feeders. Men and women have lost their identity and their way. The first casualty was romance. Today we don’t have time for that. Let alone getting to know someone. We just want an app that tells us what street corner  you’re on and if you have 30 minutes to spare. Sex is no longer intimate. Not like a kiss used to be. Nudity is no longer revealing. Not like a conversation is. And real life is play acting the persona you think will go over best to achieve what you crave. But then the more you get the less it means until you realise it’s all been for nothing. You have nothing. You are nothing. Your relationships are nothing. Your forecast is nothing for there is nothing you can take from this life that you’ve given so little to.

God, that genius in the sky, has given us free will in which to entrap ourselves.

“It’s not fair!…it’s not fair!” We scream as we run hatless through deserted streets trying to find eyes that will look upon us with some pity for the self-inflicted mess we have found ourselves in. But we are alone. As we have always really been. And that realisation kills more than all the troops Caesar commanded.

There was a man from humble beginnings, some say a broken home, who came forward and told us he had the answer. Which, in a nutshell, was this – All we had to do was love each other, and do the right thing, and we would be filled with such an inner joy we’d think we were in heaven.

We killed him. He was obviously a lunatic. And dangerous to our view of the world and each other. Besides, his concept had nothing to  do with anything. There was no money in it. And money is the only way we can put a value on something.

After that, every few decades threw up another messianic lunatic that told us “all we need is love.” But no. All we needed, it seemed, was to kill these misguided lunatics and then we felt safe again.

Now we have evolved and have TV shows like “Survivor” that teach us, and the younger generation, that if you pretend to be someone you’re not, and lie, and plot, and betray the people you’ve hoodwinked into thinking you’re their friend, you emerge as the winner. The producers will bestow riches upon you and for 15 minutes you will be a star.

This of course confirms that the world has entered the end game and at night, if you have any spirit left, you may hear the faraway faint cries of thousands of broken, despairing messiahs who died in vain thinking they could make a difference.

I believe that the creatures of the earth have lodged a petition with the United Nations documenting their outrage at being labeled “animals” and that the title rightfully belongs to us.

Who among us could argue with that?

(C) Frank Howson

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NO GOODBYES

God said I can stay
Just long enough to save you
Then I must be on my way
I’ve kept so many waiting
On the other side
There’ll be hell to pay
I have sat in the dark
Watching you shine
Raising yourself to a height
Twice the size of mine
And it tells me it won’t be long now
Before I can slip away
Without a goodbye
(You know I hate those)
I’ve had so many goodbyes in my life
I like to go unnoticed now
The theatres won’t go dark
Nor will the taxis blow their horns
The government won’t fall
Or acknowledge my existence
I was never in their club
I just did the work and went home
Now my only joy is to see you shine
And laugh
And joke
And hold your own
Maybe I’m the father you never had
For I have no agenda
No conditions
No strings
No competition
Only concern
And hope that you soar
And leave this ground
That ties us down
I too will be leaving soon
It’s well overdue
I bought my ticket some years ago
But your existence made me saunter
And I lingered to see that you are alright
And you will be alright now
And maybe sometimes
You might stop and think of me

(C) Frank Howson 2019

THE BIG MOUTH STUMBLES

2 dogs barking through a symphony
A bottle of red wine gone bad
Like a new king in early spring
One never knows what one had
I lost my youth in search of truth
But it got me here
I came so neat
I’m gonna fake my death
And find some peace
Just like Elvis did
I’ll walk away my pain in the Kentucky rain
Just another face in the crowd
I never knew what love was till you broke my heart
Now I’ve got it all down I don’t know where to start
K.D is gone. And Sisto too
Maybe our world ends one at a time?
So many things lost in translation
And disguised by poets’ rhymes
Distractions invented to confuse
By some other guy’s muse
Wearing a tattoo that says “Born To Lose”
I’ve clearly overstayed my welcome
By the look on your face
I didn’t hear the starting pistol
In this human race
Well I’ve walked with kings
And I’ve walked with fools
And I’ve treated him them all the same
I judge people on your spirit
I don’t need to know a name
But you on the other hand
When I was down
I heard you laugh at me
But now I’m back you reappear
Quoting lies like poetry
Do you think I’m dumb?
Do you think I’m smart?
Or a bit of both
Cursed with a heart?
Call me Einstein or Casanova
But give me credit for once
For knowin’ it’s over
You assassinated me
And poisoned my son
You polluted the lives
Of everyone
You’re a Shakespearean character
And this story ends in death
Cursed is the one
Who steals a dying breath
Because a good life
Has belittled their evil
They can’t live till I am gone
Gone, gone, gone
But in death we are everywhere
And cannot be conquered
The evil vote for evil ones
But God is on my side
And the love I leave behind
Not even fake news could distort or hide

 
(C) Frank Howson 2018

ME FOR THE ROAD

Who’ll share this load?
There ain’t two
Just me for road
I’ve loved psychos and fakes
I’ve made more than enough mistakes
I did everything I could
Everything I should
But it left me empty handed
Feeling stranded
I never understood you
Payback for never seeing who
I am
A fugitive on the lam
Yet all roads lead to this
The Judas kiss
Another saviour on our block
Killed by the ticking clock
I wake today to find I’m old
And that the outside world’s too cold
My secret identity revealed
Every layer of skin’s been peeled
Still answering to the name “son”
From a time when I was one
And my dreams were bigger than me
And the world was further than the eye could see
And my princess was still undiscovered
My mission failed but I recovered
Or so they say
There’s no better way
To find yourself
Than to lose your wealth
And the love you were waiting for
Still the crowd cried out for more
But my encore went on too long
And they lowered the curtain mid-song
So now who’ll share my load?
There ain’t two
Just me
For the road

(C) Frank Howson 2018

SWEET ROSEMARY

My sweet Rosemary
She came to tea
In 1994
She showed me
A thing or two
Before I showed her the door
We met again
By new year’s end
We kissed beneath our tree
Call me a fool
But I ain’t cruel
So once more I set her free

From her sacred chalice
I’ll never again sip
All my golden chances
I let ’em all slip
Now I’d lay down my life
If I could only see
Once more the smiling face
Of my sweet Rosemary

My sweet Rosemary
Come back to me
I’m broken and alone
I lay here
Beside you dear
And your grave of icy stone

I remember her words
Devoutly now
She said, “We’ll always be together”
She knew that, somehow
You don’t know the cost
Till you’re hurt this deep
And cannot awaken
From the nightmare sleep

From her sacred chalice
I’ll never again sip
All my golden chances
I let ’em all slip
Now I’d lay down my life
If I could only see
Once more the smiling face
Of my sweet Rosemary

(C) Frank Howson 2018

(c) 2018 photograph by Raija Sunshine

I DON’T DANCE ANYMORE

I was fooled by the mystery of women
Until I realised there is no mystery at all
Only myth
Invented by men so they could
Fall in love with the Virgin Mary
And partner with her to give life
To their boy child Jesus
But like Joseph us men don’t last the distance
We leave to give our saviour a chance
Not even returning to witness
His crucifixion
One overcast day
On a mount somewhere east
In our guilt
Sacrificing his life
To try and live up
To our destructive hopes
I once was a child dancer myself
Early in my journey
Spending hours
Polishing the steps made famous
By others before me
Too shy to speak to girls
In case they saw right through me
And realised any charm I possessed
Only hid my fear
That the problems of my life
Could not be cured by a slick dance routine
And a few witty lines
I was married three times
To three absolutely charming women
Who took everything I had
Except the will to go on
Still, the romantic fool
Remained hopeful
And God was exasperated
By my lack of ability to learn
Anything
So I endured many hardships
And trauma
Smashing my spirit
And voice
I then judged my true friends
By those still willing to listen to me
Patient enough to judge the message
And not the flawed messenger
Thus I found Saints
Where others found fault
I found angels
Where others found beggars
I found God
In the humility of affliction
No one is born with empathy
You are gifted it
After walking many miles
In the shoes of the suffering
Having lived it
How could you turn your back on another?
Young women are very well mannered
When they remind you that you are too old
It’s in their eyes
Their smile
Their giggle
Their changing of the subject
It is appreciated
For otherwise us foolish romantics
May think we are still 18 years old
And that life is still before us
But it is I that also pity them
For I know what their road beholds
And such outer beauty
Is a hard thing to live without
On their journey to inner beauty and humility
And empathy
Aloneness
And the higher purpose
Of a life
For sex leads to the entrapment of both parties
And longing is replaced by the desire to not belong
So just say that I don’t dance anymore
For my heart and my legs ache
And perhaps like Doc Pomus
Someone special
Will save the last dance for me
And although now
Wiser
I will decline it
But will be touched
And moved
By the invitation
As I think back
And remember
The days when I danced

(C) Frank Howson 2018

 

 

WRITERS

Why would anyone become a writer? Especially in a world that doesn’t seem to read anymore. Or go to the theatre, or go to the movies to see anything other than comic book heroes. Good question.

All the great writers were mostly drunks. Coincidence? Or is there a cost for looking too long into the abyss and reporting back to the good folk what they’re too timid to experience for themselves? Springsteen once wrote that there is a darkness at the edge of town. No, that darkness lies within us all. Each one of us has the latent potential to be a Hitler or a Christ. God has cleverly given us free will to choose our own poison. And the highly sensitive among us reach for the bottle, or the harder stuff, in order to numb ourselves to the responsibilities of that choice.

When I was at school I just couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was hopeless. Sometimes I feel sorry for those who attempted to teach me anything. Not sure if my undisciplined mind was a result of the trauma I witnessed most nights in my abusive family home, or I had what is now diagnosed as ADD. One day the headmaster of the school phoned my mother for a meeting to question her as to why her son had the highest I.Q at the school and the lowest grades. She was at a loss for words. But not me. Words always came easy to me. In fact I could talk myself out of any beating I was about to receive from a Christian Brother. That was quite a feat considering the relish they got from handing out such brutal punishment. These guys would’ve been more at home as members of the Third Reich than Jesus’ band of 12. But talk my way out I did. So, words became my friend, my salvation. And humour protected me from the cruel slings of other peer group bullies. I could always hysterically put myself down before anyone else had the chance to. Timing was everything. Playing the court jester got me through my troubled youth and shielded me from revealing my true self. And what was that? I was scared of everything and everyone. I felt like an alien most of the time in a strange world that only threw contradictions at you.

My refuge again and again were words. The only subjects at school that I attained any respectable grades for were Art, English and Religious Knowledge. The latter because I loved hearing all the Biblical stories and for some reason remembered every detail. They were filled with such amazing imagery and drama. Oh, and miracles. I guess I was depending on a miracle to happen in my life that would save me. And this Jesus character sounded like he might’ve been the only person who would’ve taken the time to understand me. Whether he was the Messiah or not is up for debate, but he sure sounded like a nice man. And like me, and all the other loners and misfits in the world, grossly misunderstood. I never forgot those stories and if nothing else they were great morality word plays.

Due to my restless mind I found it too difficult to persevere and read a book through to the end. But I tried again and again to achieve this. Thank God I did because I now must own over a thousand books that I cherish and have taught me more than I ever learnt at school. I always tell people I was self educated and that’s the truth of it. All my education took place in a class of one. In many ways, books saved my life.

My introduction to books began when I was a small child and my Irish grandmother would sit me on her lap and read aloud the adventures of Noddy in Toyland. We bonded through the whole Noddy series until she was taken from me when I was two.

The first book that hooked me enough to finish was, ironically, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. I guess it proved that I had a fascination with the mystery of women from an early age. This of course led to much heartache and my premature death but that’s a whole other story. Either that, or Ms. Alcott was one helluva writer that captured my imagination and kept me turning the pages. By the end of the book I felt I knew all the characters and cared enough about them to shed some tears. The mark of a great writer.

After that I read Enid Blyton’s book series “The Famous Five” followed by “The Secret Seven.” Then I graduated to “Biggles,” and then many books about the Wild West that introduced me to such colourful characters as Davy Crockett. Kit Carson, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy The Kid etc., etc., etc. Yep, who needed to time travel or see the world when you had books?

Then in my late teen years I read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and my life really did change. A book about the ultimate loner always surrounded by a party of people. I savoured every word in that book – it’s prose was exquisite and the story heartbreaking. It foretold me that following the wrong dreams can get you killed. Reading Fitzgerald was like finding a new best friend. I understood him. And from what I read I knew he understood me. After that I read all six of his novels and every short story he ever wrote. I couldn’t get enough of his words and the insight he gave into the human heart. It really was like he’d read my letters or thoughts and knew me intimately. Of course being part Irish, like me, virtually every story ended in death or heartbreak. He painted such a romantic but dangerous world where his characters always paid a high price for caring too much.

Fitzgerald’s own life was cut short by too much booze and heartbreak topped off by rejection in Hollywood. But he remains my friend and I reread “Gatsby” every couple of years. It never fails to move me. Hollywood has never been able to pull off a wholly successful film treatment of it for the simple reason that most of the truly beautiful stuff in the book are the thoughts in the characters heads, and that’s impossible to shoot. Films are about action. Fitzgerald’s writing is about emotions. Unless you do endless voice-overs and that usually renders your movie as exciting as porridge. That’s why the great Fitzgerald had such a hard time of it in Hollywood trying to make it as a screenwriter in order to net enough money to keep his wife Zelda in a mental home and pay for his daughter’s schooling. He died a broken, despairing, weary man old before his time.

Like Gatsby, killed by the wrong dream.

I came to Charles Dickens late. Not sure why that was but come to him I did. The first book of his I chose to read was “Great Expectations” and was astounded. To me it remains one of the greatest novels of all time. And in my opinion he is right up there with Shakespeare.

I heard that Dickens original ending to “Great Expectations” was tragic and certainly all roads in the book are leading there. But his publisher leaned on him to come up with a more upbeat ending. Dickens listened, went away and rewrote it, and what he does is simply sublime. He gives it a happy ending that is so bitter sweet he moves us to tears as our damaged leading characters come together to try and seek a way forward, and into the sunlight. It is so beautiful my hands trembled as I read the final pages. This novel alone would’ve assured his place among the giants of literature, but he did it again and again, novel after novel – “Oliver Twist,” “David Copperfield,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “Hard Times,” “A Christmas Carol,” and “A Tale of Two Cities” (another ending that is so exquisitely executed as our flawed hero rises to the most noble of acts, laying down his wasted life so that others may live and find the joy that had always eluded him. Death giving his meaningless life a meaning. If there’s a better speech than his final words, I would surely love to know about it.

After Dickens I discovered Hemingway, Steinbeck, Schulberg, Shakespeare, O’Hara, Maugham, Hammett, Greene, Wilde, Twain, Isherwood, Chandler, Huxley, Ephron and many others.

All complex people, flawed, contradictory, confused, and yet so much wiser in their work than in life. Perhaps the writing down of stories and emotions helped them understand themselves.

It’s interesting how great writing never dates. You may think that picking up something that was written a hundred years ago or, in some cases longer, couldn’t possibly be relevant to your life. But the surprising revelation is that the emotions felt are timeless. Just different scenery and choice of words. But at the heart of every great story is just another human being trying to solve the same problems, whilst dealing with the same heartaches, pressures and obstacles. The universal human emotion. If you write the truth in its naked honesty it will always connect – now, tomorrow, a thousand years from now.

It teaches us that we are not alone. We are all in this together, wandering around a desert seeking an answer to why we are here. And awaiting that opportunity to rise to the potential of who we could be.

John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”

A person with books is never alone.

(C) Frank Howson 2018