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.

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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 NIGHT DYLAN THOMAS DIED

It’s nearly nightfall
Watch your step
I once fell here
And got a bad rep
Black and blue
Chet Baker’s voice
You should still be with me
But it was your choice
And there’s the Chelsea Hotel
And the smell of stale beer
Expensive winos
Once drank here
I thought I saw Keith Richards
But it might have been me
Gore Vidal’s name
Is carved in that tree
They say he cried
The night Dylan Thomas died…

Tonight a nightcap
Feels like death
Your sacred name
Said under my breath
Lead me on
Return my youth
I can’t seem to cope with
Your version of truth
And there’s the Chelsea Hotel
And the stench of my fear
Poor Dylan Thomas
Once died here
I thought I saw his spirit
But it might have been me
Clark Gable’s name
Tattooed on your knee
I think you lied
The night Dylan Thomas died…

It’s four minutes to three
And I haven’t thought of you
Since the last time I cried
I’m playing Monopoly
With a man from Paraguay
Who was here the night Dylan Thomas died

And there’s the Chelsea Hotel
The address of King Lear
Edger Allan Poe
Once bled here
I thought I saw my father
But it might have been me
Time’s running out
Said God to a flea
All dreams denied
The night Dylan Thomas died…

And there’s the Chelsea Hotel
And the stench of my fear
Poor Dylan Thomas
Once died here…

 

Recorded by Keith Potger.

(c) Frank Howson 2013

THE FACE I CAN’T FORGET

 

Dreams lie

And shadows loom

Love stumbles

With a glass of scotch and doom

You live again

In September rain

Near the Chelsea Hotel

Where we went insane

 

So many things

I could have said

So many things I’ve already said

That may have raised the dead

I feel I’m adrift

On the sea of regret

My only companion

Is the face I can’t forget

 

Boys cry

And fathers run

We gamble

For a place beside someone

We lose our hearts

And never complain

Deep in Sleepy Hollow

Where we hide our pain

 

So many things

I could have said

So many things I’ve already said

That may have raised the dead

I feel I’m adrift

On the sea of regret

My only companion

Is the face I can’t forget

 

Is that my phone?

Can someone get the door?

Was that Elvis on the beach?

Did we break some law?

 

So many things

I could have said

So many things I’ve already said

That may have raised the dead

I feel I’m adrift

On the sea of regret

My only companion

Is the face I can’t forget…

 

Recorded by Keith Potger on his album “Sunday”.

(c) Frank Howson 2013