Down here on this barren battleground
We have been issued no orders
We don’t even know who we are fighting anymore
Yesterday the fog was so thick
We mistakenly shot our own leader
And laid him to rest ‘neath a tree
Perhaps we should withdraw
Which is not a surrender
We mustn’t surrender
For there is too much to lose
But we’ve forgotten what
Send word back
That we have not thrown down our weapons
But we need back up
It seems we have gone weeks without sleep
As we sit in the dark every night
Waiting for the enemy to attack
But they never come
This is a very sophisticated strategy
That we have not been briefed on
For our leader is dead
And his family have not received word
For they will only grieve
And too many tears have been shed
Too many hearts broken
Too many roads taken
Too many widows haunting us
In the mists of dawn
But we are holding our position
And ready for action
Eager to do him proud
To fight to the last man
We have burnt our white flags
So we wouldn’t be tempted
Our enemy has a lot to answer for
We just haven’t been informed of what
But we’ve been told to hate them
I wonder if they’re scared like us?
I wonder if they sleep?
I wonder if they just want to go home
Like we do?
I wonder if they’re still there?
Perhaps the war is over
I wonder who won?
The heavy decrepit bodies of the great and not so, mingled with their offsprings, children too young to realise that this too would be their fate. Pathetic men way past their glory days paraded pretending that they still had it, while bored defeated women looked on knowing they didn’t.
It was another day at the enclosed perfectly temperatured salt baths. The warmth was comforting to the skin and the soul and made old bones and muscles feel rejuvenated. The inhabitants floated safe in this maternal womb away from the business deals that no longer mattered in a world that no longer cared and was on its last legs. Some old guys studied the racing form while younger middle-aged men preferred the stock market. Some gambled with their own money while others ventured with what they had married into, or had inherited. All in all there’d be few winners that day. There were no more lucky numbers to be had, or surprise gold and mineral funds in a world that had been looted, raped and gang banged so many times there was nothing left. Certainly not energy for outrage. Only resentment from natives who had been trampled under foot and squashed by the invaders who destroyed paradise without ever having taken the time to truly look around and realise the greatest wealth was above the ground. But like rats they burrowed lower and lower into darkness desperate for any shiny morsel of opportunity. Never thinking any further ahead than that.
We had destroyed the world without realising that such an abomination also destroyed ourselves. What we project outwards also implodes us. Given time.
I stood in the warm salt water as the floating bodies of the dead and the dying circled me.
But here we are
Who’d have thought
We’d have come so far?
We danced so long together
Everyone else has disappeared
But all those things that seemed so frightening
Are now no longer feared
They’re just funny
But we dared to love
And now we shine
Like the stars above
Our friends can laugh in wonder
At how we left them far behind
But we got something they only dream of
And rarely get to find
They think it’s funny
How we never expected
To find love again
Taken by surprise we were
Don’t know where, hard to say when
The moon was just a neon
Till I looked into your eyes
Now everything’s for real
Beneath these friendly skies
How the chairs are placed
And the dragons
Have all been faced
Now hold me close forever
And never let me wander lost
We stood alone for far too long, girl
But we have paid the cost…
How quick the evening goes
When the two of us fill it up
How warm our hearts can get
When there’s nothing to interrupt
Ain’t it funny?
But here we are
Who’d have thought
We’d have come so far?
In my time of dying
They’ll call for a holiday at the workhouse
For there’ll be no bills to be paid
Mouths to be fed
Or favours to be returned
And the women that loved me may walk a little slower
And the men who plotted my downfall will have nothing to do
The people who go around taking names will give them back
Realising their data and all their lists reveal not a thing about who we are in those lonely nights
In our lonely rooms
Where the hours after midnight are our only friends
And some will weep for what was denied
And others will laugh at the remembrance of what was done
There will be those who will continue to phone my number expecting me to be there
As I did for some weeks after my poor mother died
Others will walk with my ghost
Along familiar broken dark alleys
That I walked to expend my joy and tragedies when they were too intense to share with anyone
Some will cry at the ground beneath my headstone thinking I’m there
But I’ll be gone from the things that rooted me to this earth
Maybe some women will regret that we didn’t take that dance
Just once perhaps
In an intoxicating act of madness
Risking the stars for a shot at the moon
But we risked nothing
And got nothing in return
While others saw Paris
Saving ourselves for what?
We weren’t given a life for safety
But rather to live
To make mistakes
To sometimes get it right
And to find shared humanity
In the loss and ruins of our deluded dreams
Some will express disappointment
That they never saw what I did
Because there were too many excuses that kept them home in front of their mirrors
Reflecting on things long gone
Old men with cracked voices revealing broken hearts will drink to our friendship in all the bars where we laughed away the night
And reduced all our tragedies to punchlines of a joke
Those whom I loved will know that I loved them by the strange feeling of warmth they feel each time they remember me
And that will be because I am still with them
Smiling that smile when you have said it all
Shared it all
And given all
And they will be the custodians of my true legacy
Not the academics
Who never knew me
Nor the critics
Who never got me
Nor the talkative acquaintances
Who never saw me bleed
And be less than myself at times
Or surpass myself when a friend had stumbled
And needed someone to defend him or her
No, don’t look for me in the cold corridors of libraries
Or reduced to a 60 second grab on a news channel
Or killed again in some passionless speech from some senile professor
Who thinks he has worked me out
Or edited to the bone in an obituary dashed off by some hack demoted from the sports page
For I was never here for them
I was here for you
You were my mission
I have seen how people are rewritten in order to take their place in the posterity of people’s hearts and minds
All the creases ironed out
Christ-like into history
By a St. Paul who thinks there may be a buck to be made from my resurrection as a different man
My intentions adapted and rewritten to reflect someone more palatable to the masses
As if it is not enough to be crucified in life
They must crucify you in death too
Eventually we are all turned into Lincoln monuments
Stony cold and all-knowing
Devoid of all the doubts, regrets, mistakes, failures, anger, frailties and foolishness that made us human
For the road to earthly perfection and hero status is merely a Houdini illusion
The big lie
Told enough times to become fact
But if this circus comes to town
I don’t want you to attend it
For you knew me better than anyone
You saw me weep
When I pretended not to care what they said about me
You saw my anger
When I turned the other cheek
You saw my bewilderment when success came too late for me to care
You saw my scars from the loss of the irreparable
You saw my kindness without agenda and trusted it
You saw the pain that wrecked a life but was rewarded with a shining talent and an impossible schedule
You saw an old soldier’s dignity that could not be captured by the enemy
You saw the effort it took to face another day
You heard my prayers and the foolish hopes and dreams of a prize fighter punch drunk but still standing
You heard my approaching footsteps when all the others had run for cover
For you were my friend
And I loved you with all the nobility of Sir Galahad laying down his life when it was needed
And discussing life
And the reasons we live it
At our little round table
Watching you being whipped for the sins of others
I caught your fall
And guided you to the ground
Laughing at the stupidity of taking it all too seriously
For it, after all, was just a dream
And now here I am
In another dream
And can be summoned up whenever you need me
I am stronger now
And the night, and people, can no longer tire me or disappoint
I am now all yours
And no one can be jealous of what we have
Your past and present friend
Who came to save you from the confusions of life
And in doing so saved myself too
It is only love that gives sense to this whole huge expensive gaudy experiment of God’s imagination
And in excepting your love
I have given you mine
And it is in this love that we are granted eternal life
In my time of dying
I will take one last look around
To see if I missed anything
And then close my eyes to what could’ve been, should’ve been
For you are allowed no baggage in heaven
And yours will be the last face I see
There will be no will to find
Only the stubbornness that left me penniless
For I gave no names
To betray my brothers
For the betterment of my career
And the belittlement of me
I was always wiser in my work
Than I was in life
Thus I withdrew from life
And lived in my work
So if you ever miss me
This is where you will find me
He came with love in his heart for every living thing. His innocence had been untouched and his light force shone so bright that crowds gathered to see him but, more importantly, to feel his warmth. By gazing upon him they were somehow changed. “Was this the Messiah?” they mumbled to each other in hushed tones lest they be deemed blasphemous by some. For some can find darkness in every hope, every wish, every prayer.
And when this man spoke it brought some to their knees, others to tears. It was as if the calmness in his voice could heal every hurt and fear that had weighed them down and they were now somehow lighter.
The taking away of such anguish even brought back sight to the blind. As if all they had needed was to believe in something and were being granted the ability to see the world anew. Men who had walked too many lonely dead end loveless roads and were now crippled, found that they could walk again. And after those first awkward unsure steps they inched closer and closer to him growing more confident and accepted with each one until they were in his arms, and the safety and strength of unconditional love made them sob for the joy of each precious moment. Time that they had, until now, misinterpreted and cursed for their burdens, and wasted, was now rediscovered and rejoiced over. All things were possible again.
In his face they saw no judgement, no impatience, no pity, only love. And his love became contagious among the people and they sang his praises.
He had not come to destroy the Romans, or hand out weapons, or preach hate. He was here to give meaning to our lives. What was the meaning of life? Love. For love opens the door to joy. And its light extinguishes all shadows.
But there were those, the shadow people, who were angered by us learning the meaning of existence and saw that this teaching could undermine their power over us. For they ruled by fear and threats, both of which were rendered insignificant when the masses walked proudly in the sun again unchained from their own mental limitations.
So they arrested this man, this dangerous man, beat him, whipped him, ridiculed him and his suffering, and sentenced him to an agonising death for the crime of telling us to love and forgive each other.
And in his final conscious moments he forgave those who had plotted his death, and the ignorant who had killed him. To this day it remains the greatest triumph of the human spirit.
Perhaps he was drawing evil into the light so that the world could recognise its face?
I never really thought much about the future. In fact, i wasn’t really ambitious, which may come as a shock to most people who don’t know me. I was always about just getting through today. I think perhaps having been raised in showbiz from an early age I’ve seen ambition break people and destroy marriages, friendships and reputations. I’ve also seen it turn good people into the kind of person they started out loathing.
Dreams are okay. They get most of us through the night. I know I have them, but in my life there has been only a handful I remember. One memorable one was so funny that I awakened myself laughing hysterically only to find that in the clear light of day and consciousness it wasn’t funny at all! Not even remotely. So, how fucked up is our subconscious? Perhaps it’s that weird surreal night world that David Lynch captures so well. Peeking over the wall into the black abyss of madness. But from God’s point of view it may not be mad at all. Maybe that other dimension is the reality of the afterlife and our daily foibles and chores in the civilised world, of a structured life, is the true madness? I’m beginning to think so. If so, then it makes perfect sense that the zombies and vampires and other monsters of our imagination only come out at night. Night falls, indeed.
In our civilised man made conscious world there are indeed zombies and vampires. I know this for fact as I have worked for some of them. But, during the daylight hours in our conscious world, they are heavily disguised. The zombies pass themselves off as normal people and act out basic emotions by rote. They appear, for all intent and purposes, to be functioning adult human beings. But there is nobody home. Scratch the surface and all you get is another surface. Don’t believe me? Well, test it out by hitting any suspect with a question, or idea, or action, out of the box. They will, before your eyes, recoil into what they are – the walking dead. Rigid. Non-functioning. Pale. They may even look like their brains hurt. And after a given amount of time will resume their rote conversation and actions as though you haven’t spoken and the lapsed time has been rewound and erased. Vampires are another kettle of fish. They don’t want your blood, that is a metaphor for sucking your life force out of you. Their goal is higher than blood. Much higher. They are after your spirit. Hence my term “spiritual vampires.” Like the zombies they are drawn to the living. Show any signs of being alive, kind, compassionate, generous, a good listener, and you are a target.
TAKE THIS MAN
WHO ONCE STOOD PROUD
HIS EYES HAVE SEEN
ALL HIS KINGDOMS FALL
WHILE THE BLACKBIRDS PECK
AT HIS HOPES AND FEARS
HE CASTS HIS MIND BACK
TO WHEN LOVE WAS HERE
SEE THAT WOMAN?
SHE ONCE CARED FOR
BACK LONG AGO
WHEN SHE HAD A PLAN
BUT PLANS LIKE DREAMS
DOES SHE STILL REMEMBER
WHEN LOVE WAS HERE?
NOW WE TURN OUR COLLARS
TO THE WINTER CHILL
NOTHING IN OUR HANDS
EXCEPT MORE TIME TO KILL
I RETURN AGAIN
TO OUR FAVOURITE PIER
AND TO ANOTHER TIME
WHEN LOVE WAS HERE
WATCH THE MOON
IT CAN BETRAY YOUR TRUST
BEFRIEND THE STARS
ONLY IF YOU MUST
THEY WILL STEAL YOUR HEART
IN THE FALL OF A TEAR
YOUR ONLY MEMENTO
OF WHEN LOVE WAS HERE
(c) Frank Howson 2018
and break like china
my reward for longing?
“where is paris in this empty place?”
yells a fool to the drunken maitre ‘d
my taxi driver’s lost again
the eyes of st. christopher
stare down on
may God forgive
I’m at the age when people die. I view life from the cluttered comforting living area of a mystical art space, going from room to room as inspiration strikes me. A song lyric here, a line of dialogue overheard from lunch, a painting or sketch there. It’s a very full solitary life and reduces everything to the minimalists’ joy of simplicity. I suppose I would be just as happy in a jail cell with my necessary tools, although I’d miss the occasional walk in the sun. And impromptu visit from a friend. My life has been crammed with so many adventures, tragedies, faces, external forces, Machiavellian plots, heartaches, silent joys, defeats and comebacks etc., that I sometimes feel I’m five hundred years old. Other times I forget and am back to feeling like that seventeen year old kid with it all before me. Sometimes Hercules, sometimes Norman Maine. Many memories occasionally stampede through my mind from what feels like another life. Friends and lovers long gone, but my heart still carries the weight of their memory. Although death may take a life it seems that the relationship continues for those left behind, excluded from the final mystery. Sometimes I resent the birds who are not chained to the ground like us confused humans. Our only soaring comes in those momentary waves of joy that are so overwhelmingly spectacular and personal that there are no words invented to accurately verbalise them so we walk them away in dark alleyways, alone – as alone as our birth and our death. The magic hours just before dawn. There is an exquisite sweetness in failure, just as there is a sour aftertaste in triumph. Perhaps only General Grant fully understood this when he allowed General Lee to savour the nobility of defeat in all its glory and, as Grant stood in his torn and dusty uniform, head bowed in humility, paying homage to his defeated opponent, denying himself the tacky opportunity to steal the thunder of victory from a long and vicious campaign where young boys died bewildered and despairing on battlefields made muddy from the blood of their comrades.
In my own line of work I too have known long campaigns that have left me too weary to celebrate the victory knowing how much it has cost myself and those that battled alongside to make a dream a reality. “Was it worth it?” The eternal question that is right up with Pilate’s “What is truth?”
David Lynch believes that life is just a dream. And perhaps he is right. And perhaps it does one no good to think too long and deep about such things, for to stare into the abyss too long may be as damaging as staring at the sun. You just become blinded in a different way.
Does it matter how one achieves creativity? Does anyone really care what price is paid for their entertainment? Scott Fitzgerald put something of himself into six novels and over a hundred short stories, until there was nothing left. He died a hollow, weary, flawed man, old before his time. Broken by Hollywood because he took it too seriously and led with his heart. And didn’t realise it was all just a game.
I too have worked for many people in my past that nether understood what I did, or how I did it. But that doesn’t stop them attempting to piss on the tree to claim ownership. A bet each way. If it’s a disaster it’s all my fault. If it’s a smash, it’s because of them. I don’t work for such people anymore, regardless of the dazzling upfront fees that are used to tempt you to go against your instinct. This donkey has been beaten too many times and won’t go down the dark mine shaft anymore. I now only work for people I truly trust and/or admire. I can’t be bought by money because experience has taught me that it’s a false god and to worship at its altar will never fully satisfy your hunger for more and more until there’s nothing of you left. You will die like Elvis having over-eaten, been overworked, misused and misunderstood, devalued, surrounded by carny promoters, backslapping sycophants, con artists and those who want to be you and secretly resent that they can’t be. The most desired man in the world died of loneliness. Now, if that doesn’t tell you something about our society, nothing will.
Success has to come on your terms or else you lose your identity. And to lose sight of who you are is to become a ghost ship wandering lost in that innermost night of the soul. Going through life mimicking the happy-go-lucky person others expect you to be lest you reveal that you’re haunted and thus damned from seeing too much. As my dear ol’ daddy used to tell me, “The best way to lose people is to tell ’em you have a problem.”
Those who don’t understand creativity will seek to belittle your contribution, downplay your involvement, and even humiliate you by praising everyone except you. This is a tactic and you are smart enough to recognise it. And, thankfully, so is the audience.
Wilhelm Reich once said, “The living are always under attack from the dead,” and so it is and will be till the end of days. All I know is this – it’s alright to love something, but you are damned if you love that thing too much.
What is truth? Well you sure as hell won’t find it in your newspaper or favourite news channel or the Internet. These days it seems to only exist in our hearts. Our in-built shit detector. Trust it. It’s all we have.