WHO SAW HIM LAST?

These were the shoes he wore. Notice the soles are thin. He’d walked many miles in these trying to get ahead.

This was his favourite jacket. He felt wealthy when he wore it. Even though it had holes in the pockets.

This is the shirt he called his lucky one. He always wore it to important meetings and although nothing ever came of them he felt this shirt would bring him luck. Someday.

These were his favourite pants – he’d been married in them. Twice.

This was the hat he wore everyday. It shielded his head from the rain and the wind and the sun. And if he pulled the brim down, from everyone.

This is the map he lost just before he lost his way.

These are the tears he cried when he had nowhere to go.

This is the heart you broke and you didn’t even know.

These are your letters he kept when he believed in you.

This is the photo of his mother who thought he was precious.

Where are the friends he helped instead of helping himself?

This is his favourite song that he played every night.

This is the movie he said changed his life.

These are the books he loved now all packed away.

Who saw him last?

(C) Frank Howson 2019

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WHERE DID WE LEAVE THE STORY?

Where did we leave the story?
Oh, that’s right, you left me
Were we out of our minds
To ever think we’d be free?
What’s the name of that street?
No, wait, it’ll come to me
Did we throw away our good fortune
Whilst searching for destiny?

“I knew a man who went to sea
And left the shore behind him
I knew that man for he was me
And now I cannot find him”
You once sang me that song
On our way to the gym
I think it’s about a legless man
And how it was he could still swim

Where did we leave the glory
We’d fought so hard to win?
Perhaps God was insulted
And deemed it a sin
What is that condition
When we’re too scared to win?
But perhaps we can’t blame it on theories
The truth is we’re made of tin

Where did we leave those tablets
That got us through the night?
Who said we had a chance
And that we were in the right?
You know me so you know
When I glow in the light
I don’t give up till I’ve given my all
Although this time I just might

Why did you leave our story
Just when things had worked out?
Were you afraid to express
All of the things that you felt?
Well it snowed this Christmas
Alone I watched it melt
Then I toasted us with aged whiskey
Although our drink is stout

(C) Frank Howson 2019

THE DEAD AND THE DYING

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.

(C) Frank Howson 2019

Sketch by Frank Howson.

A WALK IN THE RAIN

He aged within the silences of our stilted conversation. His eyes were those of a man who’d seen his kingdoms fall and the survival mechanisms of such pain had turned him into a statue. Although he was outwardly pleasant and patient there was no one there. He was a ghost haunted by himself but chained to a place that had been familiar in his real life. I wondered if like other theories of ghostlore he was doomed to act out his past mistakes over and over again until they revealed something he hadn’t known before. And replayed to the incessant drumbeat of “If only I’d done this. If only I’d done that. If only…If only…

The dark circles beneath his eyes told me he didn’t sleep much and that the night was rarely his friend. To him there was no morning, afternoon or evening only awake time and dozing time.

It was those eyes that still haunt me to this day. They told me they knew the secrets of this life and that the knowing of such things begats a penalty far beyond any pain most humans experience.

He said his best writing came to him at 3am which was God’s favourite time to speak through us, when the night is still and the silence is that of eternity. The world at momentary peace with itself and you feel you can hear God’s breath within the comforting embrace of darkness. Such were the fleetingly magic moments when inspiration struck him.

He felt he was no longer a person, but a vessel. He had worn himself out in his search for a lasting kind of love and knew now that it was not written as part of his destiny. Hence he no longer sought it for it only carried disappointment in its train. and such disappointment sometimes took years to wash away. A penalty for those who cared too deeply. Furthermore he now feared he no longer contained the capacity to feel the emotions of normal people, and wondered why God had spared him and taken so many others. Sometimes it crossed his mind that the lucky ones died young, still hopeful with dreams intact. He mused that perhaps that old saying was true, “God calls home first those he loves the most.”

These days he liked to walk in the rain. It made him feel something.

(C) Frank Howson 2019

Photo by Raija Reissenberger.

THIS PRISON HAS NO BARS

From the mansions of sadness
To the bums on the street
From the highways of loneliness
To the halls of defeat
I’ve watched your ascendance
The road I never took
Girl, you’ve come a long way
On a smile and a look

From the poolside of stardom
To the kids on the run
From the mountains of compassion
To the things never done
I’ve watched your progression
With an assassin’s eye
I could have been there too
But my heart doesn’t lie

There are stars in cars on every corner of this town
You’re gonna need a lot of help
When you finally come down
You’re slept with the Caesars
And you’ve dined with the Czars
But none of them told you why
This prison has no bars

From the towers of power
To a broken man’s plea
From the face on the magazine
To the girl you used to be
I’m waiting for some answers
Beneath the falling stars
Wish I could’ve warned you
This prison has no bars

(C) Frank Howson 2019

THE MEANING OF LIFE

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?

 
(C) Frank Howson 2019

Painting by Frank Howson (c) 2019

SECRET LIFE OF THE MARRIED WOMAN

once I smiled

and doors opened

now they are shut

and bolted

 

I see a husband and wife

in a sushi bar

he attempts to talk

small

but she ignores his

existence

as if trying to swallow

a load

of

past recriminations

too wise

or well schooled

to bring them up

now

here

perhaps

they no longer make sense

anyway

but this is all they have

now

this was their life

and cannot be

discounted

or forgotten

otherwise

it’s all been for

nothing

 

what would you like to order?

 

watching them

we know that strangers know

some things

no,

strangers probably know

more

about his wife

than he does

she has probably shared more

with

them

opened up

fully

everywhere

exposed

giggled

slap me

he won’t care

he never has before

the stranger can take her

anywhere he wants

she’s all his

it’s easy

she’s not really herself

and knows this is going

nowhere

other than back to her husband’s bed

and

the swallowing of more secret

recriminations

of a damned parade

of meaningless

words

that meant everything for a time

but

don’t hold up

to

examination

in the daylight

 

ah, but the memory of

those dancers

who took her once

to

somewhere

she

would hate it known

she

has

visited

 

he has gone

too

the husband

somewhere else

that other country

called lost in ambition

and

small print

of a thousand deals

that came unstuck

so did he

briefly

pulling himself together

he went on

like his father before him

never acknowledging

that he

died

over dinner one night

still

no one noticed

so he got away with it

 

once

when he was gone

on business

in paraguay

or somewhere

doing something

that would come to

nothing

she put on a dress

in his absence

a red one

to match her lips

a tight one

a low cut one

a short one

so they could see

thigh highs

heels

nothing more

oh, and the wedding ring

just to be naughty

she went out

alone

this night

to a downtown bar

and sat

alone

trying to look bored

drinking

while strangers looked at her

and smiled

even some of the women smiled

she blushed and looked

away

acting her part

knowing they like a challenge

seeing her wedding ring

they approach

hi there

she smiles

acting surprised

soon she’s surrounded by men

all horny

for the conquest of the married woman

asking where her husband was

oh, he’s away

that’s too bad they lie

looking at her breasts

sitting beside her

buying her drinks

joking

flirting

lying

stripping her with their eyes

dropping hints about how big they are

big house

big job

big car

big bank accounts

well-built

she looks up

interested

they’re not sure about what

she dances with some of them

they grind into her

letting her know

the truth

some are impressive

some just big talk

some put their hands on her married

ass

challenging her to object

she does not

and the whole room sees

the wife is burning

on a mission

to feel something before

dawn

her husband thinks she’s at home

watching tv

she smiles

what he doesn’t know would kill him

 

the chosen one

drives her home

to his place

she objects

hollow sounding

he takes control

just because she lets him

he’s too dumb to know that

he takes her

inside

and strips her

roughly

like a birthday gift

finally

seeing the other man’s wife

fully exposed

being offered up to him

to take anyway he wants it

both of them knowing he will

 

on the other hand

he was fully exposed to her

hours ago

she knew everything about him

and knows he’s too stupid

to

ever be a danger

to her real life

he does tricks

in an effort to surprise her

he takes off her high heel and

penetrates her with it

her back against the wall

her dress pulled up at the front

hoping the good wife

will enjoy being ravaged

in a way

her husband would never

dream

or dare

“would your husband like seeing this?” he smirks

“seeing how you respond?”

she represses her urge to laugh in his face

 

“beg” he begs her

 

how far will the respectable wife go

he wonders

she smiles

letting him know there are no limits

tonight

there is something in her smile

that makes him tremble

now

who’s in control?

he orders her to get upstairs

and into his bed

where she belongs

as she runs up the steps

he slaps her sexy ass

with all his might

until she squeals from the sting

 

he makes her lay

across his bed

on all fours

she does so

and hears him open the bedside table drawer

behind her

 

she closes her eyes

 

he will be big

 

he will make her cry

again

and again

 

but she is so pleased

that she chose him

he was just the darkness she needed

before

returning to the

light

of a reality

that is slowly killing her

 

she has defeated temptation

by

giving in to

it

 

she hopes her husband’s trip has gone well

 

(c) Frank Howson 2013