THE DARK AGES

Sitting in the dark ages
Of this room
As words and faces circle me
From other times
When the sun did shine
And my power could light a block
Everywhere my eyes fall in my room
They fall upon trinkets, books, photographs, ornaments and other such mementos of that other life
Every one of them priceless
To me
The first gift I ever bought my mother out of my own pocket money
The first book I ever read
Gifts from past loves
The handful of the only letters my father ever wrote
Addressed to his prodigal son
Filled with spelling and grammatical mistakes but his humour and heart in each word
And I wouldn’t sell them for millions
Of course, once I die
Most of this stuff will just be gathered up and thrown in the local tip
People won’t realise, or care, what each item meant to me
And the story behind them
My personal Rosebuds
I have kept so many of these treasures
That it’s getting difficult to move
And I know they are weighing me down to this earth
But what can I do?
Throw them out?
It would certainly lighten my load
But at the same time add more weight to my heart than what they added to Phar Lap’s saddle bags
So here I am
Stuck in the dark ages
The shadowy silence
Of another night
Spent with well-meaning ghosts
That mean me no harm
And in my last breath before falling into sleep I thank them for their attendance
And for caring
As much as I do

(C) Frank Howson 2019

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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

THE ARROGANCE OF ENTITLEMENT

I knew her
Long ago
When the world made sense
And people listened more to their hearts
Than the spewing of ill-conceived words that never come close to what we mean to say
But back then
In the silence of that half-dark room
I loved you
More fully than I had loved anything
You were sweet
Always smiling
Tender
Caring
Creative
Alive
Open to all possibilities
And in my mind’s dream I leaned closer
And our lips kissed
And for a moment we were one breath
If I hadn’t been rendered a coward
From too many failed campaigns
On foreign battlefields
I would’ve taken you there and then
And perhaps the overpowering
Tenderness I felt
Would’ve erupted into a savage brutal act that would’ve reduced
You to pleading for mercy
As your whimpering became sobs
Confirming the declaration that man has
Once again killed the very thing
That gave him life
In my haste to act gallant
I lost you
And bearing the mark of Cain
I left your house that night
Cursing the moon
And the unmanly man
Whom you laid beside each night
Whilst thinking of someone else
Perhaps he did too
I walked many blocks
At a pace that identified me
As a madman
And yet I couldn’t escape myself
Finally
Dissolving into a dark doorway
Where I unzipped and had you
Just the way I imagined you
Wanted it
These are the rituals of
Broken men who feel too much
Who have paid so highly
There is nothing left
But shameful acts
That reduce you to something they can understand in their
Degradation
Years went by
As they do
And we met again
On a street corner at night
We smiled that smile
Pretending we hadn’t changed
But it only fooled ourselves
Your tenderness replaced by a reserved sadness caused by disappointment in human beings
My longing now disguised as a wisdom that brings no one any good
We walked through Chinatown
Talking not touching
Two fugitives from ourselves
Finding refuge in a familiar place
To eat, drink and seek common ground
In the truthful silence of things too intimate to voice
Gradually
The small talk gave way to the bigger stuff wine can produce
And you told me you had been taken
By a master in Germany
And that he had made you do unspeakable things that shocked you whilst liberating your wildness
That raged like a stormy sea until you screamed your release and found yourself naked, spent and calm
Your true self had been on display
For all to see
And it excited you
Teased you
Possessed you
Coveted you
With lust
Until you found the power
And scent
Of the hunter
And cried out for the kill
Jolting you back to reality
Although you now uttered some regret for the forced exposure
I could tell you needed to be unleashed again
Publicly paraded as the whore of Babylon through crowded rooms c
Beyond shame
And humiliation
To become god-like
Laughing with abandonment
Taunting your captors
To use you in a way that takes you by surprise
The slave as exulted queen
Demanding full attention from everyone
Mouths and hands
Everywhere
As you laugh hysterically
In the face of who you could’ve been
Missing among the timid procession of the already dead
As you damn the wasted years
Where you once lived by rote
And other peoples’ standards of polite society
And now you tease me
Whilst probably teasing yourself
And tell me you are ready for your lesson
And need to be stripped
And chained
And conquered
So you can feel the sweet bliss
Of unbridled imagination
And be set free again
Liberated
Weightless
Taken again and again
Until you lay calm
High on the satisfaction
That I have now seen everything you have
And are
And am one with you
Cradled in my arms
Your protector now
Desire subsided in you
And with dawn it becomes clear
That God is a woman
And conceived and gave birth
To all living things
Including the darkness of that bottomless well
In which all possibilities
Eternally spring
And there is no such thing as shame
Only the acceptance
And praise
Of who we are bold enough to become
I hold you
I expose you
I taste you
I take you
To somewhere where there are
No names
No shyness
No recriminations
No inhibitions
Just bliss
That we have found ourselves
At last                                                  In this darkness where I have made my home to maximise my advantage
I only feel with my hands now
My heart is closed to ignorant insults and taunts
And I see things so much clearer
Now I am blind

(C) Frank Howson 2019

THE PRICE OF LOVE

“Hello Pooky.”

“Good morning, Schmooky.”

She had this theory that couples who called each other cute nicknames had lasting relationships. Unfortunately, like most theories, it was as effective as a feather-duster at the Alamo. Still, the memory of that naïveté still brings a tear to my eyes. It was a sweet, divine, beautiful season of delusion that also had its days of overcast skies that foretold a gloomy downpour neither of us would have the strength and wisdom to withstand. We were not Romeo and Juliet but rather two clowns in a touring circus that had seen better days. Still, we performed each show like our life depended upon it. And, looking back, it did. For neither of us would ever be the same.

At our best, on those nights when the planets aligned and the stars indulged us, we stumbled into the zone where it was real and unbridled and passionate and our fears had failed to conquer the best in us.

But you made me laugh, you gave me joy, your smile filled me with life.

“I’ve never seen two people more in love,” said one spectator.

Like the pathetic thespians we were we ate up any good reviews and dismissed the ones that were not. Perhaps we loved too deeply and such a thing can make every wound seem like a fatal diagnosis.

“I could’ve…I should’ve…I would’ve..” These words will haunt me all my life. Words that had been so good to me in the past now conspired to arrange themselves in sentences that spewed from my mouth before my heart could edit them into the beauty and respect she deserved.

We had both been broken long before that night we met on the Titanic. Broken in different ways but concealing our hurt and damage, smiling with all the bravery of idiots who have lost everything but continue to gamble what they have left in the hope that their luck has changed. And that God is compassionate enough to smile upon them.

I was hailed as your hero and love of your life and then, when rendered vulnerable by your praise, you killed me. I slowly bled to death in your arms, the Madonna and child. The fatal wounds delivered to my body, my heart, my ego, my dreams would prove to be inoperative.

What monstrous demon whispered in your ear and filled your thoughts with a negative view of our future together? Whoever it was, they lied to you and have been proven wrong. Although that fact rewards me with little pleasure this far from paradise and too many years lost. So much of us lost too, and yet, we go on. Pantomiming the actions and feelings expected of normal people. But old soldiers don’t smile, they weep when they sense no one is watching.

And now, in the winter of my vulnerability, age, recognising its cue, attacks on all fronts and I fall again and again carrying my cross to the Hill of Skulls.

I am still awaiting the right dawn for my resurrection. But you will not recognise me in that early morning mist, for I look younger in my defeat, having laid down the heavy responsibilities and weight of love.

Love came at such a cruel cost. But I would gladly pay it again for one day of being whole and loved and wanted once more.

But I only attract those who fear life and take the joy out of every situation. They ignore your financial loss but bemoan every penny they have spent on themselves. In many ways they are already dead. Like me. And so we make our home in this darkness. A cold, lonely place that has iced the veins to happiness.

 
(C) Frank Howson 2018

THE ASSURANCE OF HEAVEN

I applied for a government grant
But was knocked back on a technicality
They thought I had talent
Some asshole suggested I get a second opinion
I came wanting
Pushed into this world
A dark room
With much huffng and puffing
Blood and tears
Born into a religion
That gave me the assurance of heaven
If I followed the rules
(Made by man
To ingratiate himself to God)
I read much about this God
And learned that in his youth
He was like us
Quick tempered, revengeful, slow to forgive
But, also like us, he mellowed
In later years
And ordained a common man
As his adopted son
To bring us the good news
That God had changed
He was now non-judgmental
Forgiving, compassionate, and
Like your favourite grandfather at a Barbecue
A joy to be around
But when his chosen son
Was railroaded by a fixed jury
Of the envious and the threatened
And was killed in the most agonising and cruel death ever invented by man
God withdrew from the world
He had over estimated us
And like all those that do
We deeply disappointed him
Some say he died
Some say he’d never existed to begin with
Some say he was just sad
And a sad God cannot rule
In his absence we were left lost
And confused
And scared as to how to go on
This manifested itself
In self destruction
And we have since sought many unique ways to achieve this
For those with money
It was drugs
For those without money
It was drugs
The cowards way out
Because the burden of living
And doing the right thing by each other
Was too great a responsibility
So, like God,
We, in our own way,
Have become sad
And withdrawn from the world
Most of us can’t be bothered voting
And then complain about the leaders we are saddled with
Who, in their naive stupidity
Attempt to lead us out of the darkness, and try to sell us some strong medicine to heal our wounds
And, if they don’t succumb to compromise and side deals
The shadow people shoot them
Or they’re found hanging from doorknobs
Their deaths a question mark forevermore
In the file marked
“Believe It Or Not”
The weight of carrying the cross of responsibility
Is indeed great and we are not programmed to stand it long
Falling time and time again
On our lonely agonising walk to our own Calvary
And in those dizzy blindingly excruciating final hours we find ourselves confused and insecure and doubtful
Because we were promised
An assurance of Heaven, you see?
A free ticket
An escape route
A place where we’d be welcomed and loved and held
God shouldn’t be hated or blamed for spreading this dream
He meant well
He just forgot that we are human
Deeply flawed
And always looking for the easiest option
We have no loyalty
Other than to the junk man
And that’s because the junk man has something we want
But unlike heaven
We can see it, feel it, at a cost
It may not be paradise
But in those despairing moments
We have lowered our expectations of miracles
It numbs us and that’s enough
To get through another lonely night
But why burden ourselves
Worrying about it
When it brings momentary relief
Like a happy finish
It ain’t love
But it’ll do
Tomorrow we can wake to the aftermath nightmare
But now
Let us just drift
Into our dreamtime
Our glimpse of grace
The small change
That we don’t deserve
But were born into
Like thieves in the temple
Women are not madonnas
And men are not messiahs
We have more in common with a sewer rat
And just as much cunning
They say rats will survive the end of the world
Perhaps we will too
Having brought about the ultimate destruction
It would be just if we were made to live in it
My own condition is of great concern to no one
Well, maybe someone in Rumania
Frets about me
But if so, I am unaware
And in this state of ignorance
In some year of our Lord
I begin this…

All I know of today
Is that dawn came on time
And that I have ruined dinner
And every chance I had to be free
I mistook sex for love
A handshake as a promise
An enemy as a friend
And money as happiness
Someone more mature
Should’ve had my life
They’d have known what to do with it
But they’d have never known the exquisite bitter sweet taste of loss
Of having no further to fall
Which in fact gives you some real security
I have been betrayed by many friends along the way
But at least I drew evil into the light so that I now recognise its face
If there’s no afterllife then why have we been made to learn all this wisdom that can never be put to use in this world that is built on false values?
But maybe God’s sadness has turned to boredom
And this is some kind of ironic game for his enjoyment
Come to think of it, if there is an afterlife why the fuck would God want us there?
Perhaps we have inherited our self destructiveness from him!
Freud stumbled upon this theory whilst smoking himself to Death on a cocaine binge.
Maybe you have to be stoned in order to see through the surface bullshit and glimpse the truth?
We on earth are angry.
We have awakened to find all our heroes dead. We didn’t win the lottery. Every war fought was just a lie. And the Vatican is run by Satanists.
But apart from that everything’s just fine after a few pills.
The most damaging drug I was addicted to was women. They quite clearly got me up and then nowhere. I’ve come to realise that two people can’t live one life. Unless there’s huge compromise and compromise breeds resentment. Both have to forfeit dreams in order to keep the relationship going. This leads to you both acting roles in each other’s company making out that this dire situation of strangulation is actually bringing each other bliss. After awhile you start telling bigger and bigger lies until you get caught out and it’s over.

As a child I loved the circus. In many ways it tells you everything you need to know about Life.

Cigarettes were my friend right up until the time they weren’t.

You were my friend too. Right up until the time you weren’t.

I die so hard each time I think of you. But never learn the easy route, always doomed to take the long way home. Alone.

Born into a world hellbent on bringing about its own destruction, what hope did we have?

I drive around
At night
Going nowhere
The desert is beautiful
After nightfall
The stars are so clear
The air is so thin
Up here
One can almost forget oneself
Almost

And sometimes on the wind I hear you calling my name. But from your lips it now sounds like a curse word. And in the mist of early winter I sometimes see your vision of who I imagined you were.

And our dissolving future.

So, it’s once around the clock we go. Our history of joy squeezed into a crowded hour, before the sun set for good.

If there is a heaven, will you be there? If so, I may have to make other plans.

(C) Frank Howson 2018

TELL ME STORIES ABOUT OUR LIFE

Tell me stories about our life
Did we have fun?
Were you truly happy when you told me you were?
Because, you see, I was happy when I thought that to be so
And if you take that back now my life suddenly means nothing
And the doctors have nothing to give you to treat wasted years
And it breaks so many
To fall so far
So, let us just sit in the sun
On our favourite bench
Surrounded by the trees we named
And chat
Like we used to
When we held hands
Like each other was the most precious thing in the world
And it was
Or so I thought
Please tell me now
Was it true for you?
Or were you just being kind
When you said you were mine?
Were you settling for less
Than you believed the world owed you?
Do you feel that you threw away your life
And beauty
So I could live?
Because if you did
You have killed us both
And our life was just a one-sided
Delusional dream
Perhaps I worry too much
In these September years
But you’re all I have
My only constant
In a world that has lied about everything we’ve been told
For the last 50 years
A governmental plan to confuse us But enough about lies
I surrender
To whatever it was that got us through
Let us take some time out
And sit in this park
And you do the talking
Hold my hand
And tell me stories about our life

(C) Frank Howson 2018

 

painting by Frank Howson

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