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 WORLD ENDS ON TUESDAY

I got the good news, baby
All our troubles are gone
The world ends on Tuesday
God said “Hey Frankie
The world’s in a mess
But it all ends Tuesday
I gave you the gift of love
That you seldom used
I gave you countries and borders
You chose to abuse
I sent you many angels
But you killed every one
You couldn’t get the message
So I sent you my son
I gave you seven seas
You polluted them all
And every time a tree grew
You made it fall
You think you’re me
And you’re oh so smart
But come Tuesday night I’m gonna break your heart”

(C) Frank Howson 2018

THE DEAD SHALL NEVER AGE (for my father)

I was awakened to the end
From our waiting sleep.
He was going and it wasn’t long.
Sitting in his chair,
He bid us all farewell.
We were too scared to cry,
Too lonely to try,
Though we sat at his side.
Death left its calling cards years before,
But in morning’s safety had waited.
Gasping for breath that wasn’t there,
Holding our hands that were.
He never cried a lonely tear
Or closed eyes that knew only hope,
To those past long nights
When nightmares were life.
They came for him, ready as he was.
We brushed his hair and washed his face.
He knew, and we knew,
Though nothing did we say
Lest we frighten the other.
Yet I screamed so loud in my silence
And cried so long in my pain.
So many things left unsaid,
But, oh, think of the times we spent,
And don’t bring flowers for the dead
Unless he saw them in life.
Just think of his humour as dry as the sand,
And his smile as big as his heart,
And those eyes as blue as the sky
And twice as wise.
Even now we miss him,
Every day I’ll wish he were here.
He loved us more than he loved himself.
We loved him back as much.
Something’s gone now forever,
Part of us is gone with him,
And in the still of things a night voice screams — “God, I’m as lonely as hell.”

Dedicated to Henry (Jack) Francis Howson

By Frank Howson (c) November 1974

 

WHAT IS TRUTH?

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.

 

(C) Frank Howson