So many battles I've had to fight alone. Betrayed by those I loved the most, they were also the ones I had been fighting for. The weariness of this realisation makes you weak at the knees and yet you must continue to fight or else the duplicity of their motives will win the day. You become hollow inside, not by cancer, but by the fact that something deep and magical and life enhancing has closed down never again to be reignited. You feel lighter as you inch closer to death. All that remains on most days is a shell. This is when you are called upon to become an actor and give 'em what they want. A performance. A great performance because it is so convincing most people think you still function and have risen above the hurt and damage of the shadow people. But then again, your life, or what's left of it, hangs on the thread of your ability to push on through the small talk and darkness of "What if...?" without puking on someone's expensive shoes. So many amongst us are asleep at the wheel and do not understand or care about what is at stake. Love is a distraction. Pain is the only honest constant and it has become your friend. You cannot be hurt anymore, which is disappointing to a lot of women. You cannot be brought down any further, which is crushing to many men. You cannot be bought, because there is nothing you need. You cannot be humiliated anymore, which is pleasing to God. For now all layers of bullshit and make-believe have been ripped away. You are free now. God almighty, free at last! You once had a dream too. But now you have awakened to see the game for what it is. Nothing can scare you now. You are impenetrable. This makes you frightening to those who only operate by spreading fear amongst us. And at the dawn of our demise you are noticeably at peace. And powerful again. (c) Frank Howson 2017 Painting by Frank Howson (c) 2017
I stumbled and fell into this. It was not of my doing as the road I was forging went in a different direction to the dreams of the boy I was. This caused me great confusion and suffering as I wandered lonely as a cloud through school poetry and beatings. My pain became my shield and protected me from the salt of their laughter. I learned to make them laugh before they had the chance to laugh first. Several women attempted to wash my feet before my crucifixion one grey day in history when our father forsaken me because of his drinking. I cried in agony with a thief each side of me, one believing in me, and one to ridicule me for a life that ended so. Somehow I rose from the dead and since then I have had several resurrections. In fact, the more times people write me off, the stronger I come back. My enemies have unwittingly made me indestructible. The shock realisation of this has killed many of them. The rest I have dealt with. People now stop me in the street and ask for my wisdom. But this wisdom was not my doing, and has come from the undoing of everything I wanted and loved. It was fired by pain and made as strong as steel through humiliation and injustice. But still I go on. And those who have spoken against me have been struck down by God or are dying in the poisoned bile of their lies. I visit their graves at night to laugh. For nothing is forgotten or forgiven at this train stop on the way to Armageddon. I choose to travel economy for my instinct tells me that God only welcomes the humbled. The man who brags may get ahead in this life, but suffers a thousand years in the next. The ignorant fool who never stops talking and always distorts the third hand facts will be the next to fall on his sword and death waits patiently in his gallery of art to silence his unrepentant and envious ways. I am coming for him. Coming in the night. Coming in the dead end street. Coming in his busy schedule. Coming for rightful correction. Coming. Every hurtful snide remark is etched on my heart. Every belittling lie is another stab wound he will suffer. Another thousand years to linger at the abyss. And the hellish realisation that it was all for nothing. (c) Frank Howson 2017 Photograph by Raija Sunshine (c) 2017
Once I saved While others played I came fresh faced In a suit of blue Sacrificed on the altar Of others' agendas Sent scurrying to find Things that were never there Was given love Only to have it taken away Was made to laugh Until I cried A man of peace Hardened enough to kill I always went crazy In the final reel "Since I lost my baby" Is all I play On every jukebox That I find In this burnt out wasteland Of broken hearts Paperback dreams Second hand lives Mercy murders The billboards tell the truth There's nothin' down here worth savin' We've filled our lives with shit Auctioned off paradise And gambled away the money The writers get degraded And then ignored They're resented for knowing too much About what makes things tick Now there's a lonely kid Livin' on the street With dreams of makin' it big But little does he know He's already dead Dead to the world Dead on arrival At the feet of the paedophiles And the worshippers of Satan Who shape shift Into human beings Regret is my supper For turning my face away From all the horrors I have witnessed That killed me Piece by piece Believing politicians That didn't even believe themselves Until it was too late (c) Frank Howson 2017
I remember only yesterday
Thinkin’ love would never go away
You painted all the colours of my dreams
The picture’s blurred and broken at the seams
And one by one these dreams they disappear
Till all that’s left is make believe and fear
We choose our words with a painstaking care
Then we wake to find nobody’s there
And so we say goodbye to unforgiving
Say goodbye to all that living
Say goodbye how could we part
Tear one more page from Life’s flip chart
Say goodbye to all that loving
Say goodbye all roads to nothing
Say hello my brand new start
As you go say farewell to my heart
Oh my dear it seems like yesterday
When all my dreams were cruelly snatched away
The perfect girl for lonely me I thought
Dumped me for the life that money bought
And left behind a bitter broken shell
My bride now someone’s toy and I’m in hell
Just a place where lonely men confer
And talk about how once we were in love with her
And then we say goodbye to unforgiving
Say goodbye to all that living
Say goodbye why did we part
My love has stopped and won’t restart
Say goodbye to all that loving
Say goodbye all roads to nothing
Say hello go play your part
And as you go say farewell to my heart…
Too late to cry…
Say goodbye to my heart…
(c) Frank Howson 2017
The street was the same as I remembered it. And the birds swooped as if to herald my return. So it was true, I hadn’t dreamed it. For a moment I stood and took in the beautiful cacophony of noise that I’d never fully appreciated before in all its ugly glory. The sun came out to shine on cue and its warmth informed me that I had now entered a safety zone for lost boys.
How can you know a place so well and yet feel that you are seeing it for the first time? If this is a dream and I awaken now I will be angry all day. Maybe all days.
I continue moving on further into it until I reach the gate no one ever closes, and the narrow cement path leading to the apartment block steps I once knew so well I could climb them in the dark, and under the influence of too much life. This time there seems to be a lesson learnt in each step and greater effort needed to conceal the weariness of the outsider.
Halfway up I enter the glow from the first storey window that conspires to shine God-like behind the statue of Buddha as if even the universe is welcoming my return.
More steps and more weary remembrances of lessons learned and I am at the front door, knocking in a drum pattern of whimsy and familiarity.
After an eternity of seconds the door is opened and I see your smiling face as I remembered it from a long ago carefree time. Bright, loving and kind. I can now die in my footsteps and not be lost to wander and wonder.
I enter and am surrounded by the comfort of the greatest books and music ever written. Each word and note a friend of mine. And I sit at the empty table. Alone no more. Everything and nothing has changed as I take my place amongst it.
You ask me how I am. But there are no words to convey the miracle of ordained destiny.
For in that sheltered moment, I am home.
(C) Frank Howson 2017
My home felt like a home to me. My mum and dad were there. And frequent visits from Uncle Arthur, Auntie Gladys, Uncle jack, Auntie Dagmar, Uncle Alf, Auntie Daf, Uncle Bill, Auntie Mary, Uncle Barney, Auntie Terri, and Uncle Charlie (who wasn’t really an uncle but was an honourary member of our family), who all added colour and laughter to our home at 51 Fawkner Street, St. Kilda.
From my child’s point of view our house was like Graceland and I was very proud of it. Today, I stand outside that same house and see a place so small and modest it resembles a doll’s house for grown-ups. Amazing that so small a space can house so many memories. To those who wander passed it would probably at best be considered “quaint.” To me it is a museum of my youth and I can still hear the distant echoes of laughter from my family, now all long gone.
My personality was formed in that house by those people. Life was simple and there was no need to be afraid of anything because my mum and dad held all the answers to Life.
It was a nicer world. People trusted each other. When we were having a poor week, Mr. and Mrs. Kilpatrick who owned the corner store would put the cost of groceries down on a piece of paper behind the counter and we’d pay them when we could. In those days to be able to wander up the street and buy an ice cream on the good of your name gave a small kid a lot of pride in who we were.
I learned the meaning of generosity and trust and the value of reputation in those bygone days. Your word was your word and your reward was the warm glow of pride when you were able to settle your meager debts.
From my mother I learned the meaning of kindness and never turning anyone in need away. I would sometimes wake in the morning and toddle down the corridor to find a stranger sleeping on our couch in the living room. When I’d ask my mum who this person was, she’d reply, “Oh that’s Tom, he’s from Hobart and didn’t have anywhere to stay so he’ll be here for a few days until he finds some place of his own.” People did what they could for each other.
From my father I learned that we all battle our own internal demons and that alcohol can sometimes make you say things you don’t mean. Hurt people hurt people. Sometimes in that house a kid got to hear and see things that ruined the dream world of Disneyland and Father Knows Best forever. But I learned forgiveness – knowing that at the heart of it my father didn’t mean what he said. He was not lashing out at us, but at the world. He’d had a much harder childhood than I could imagine and who knows what innermost regrets and sorrows his poor heart held and had to deal with every day. All I know is that he was the nicest man in the world up to 10 drinks. And that’s the man I choose to remember.
From my elder sisters I learned that envy can drive people to be cruel and mean-hearted and after many attempts over the years to forgive their actions towards me I had to cut them out of my life for good.
We were the last house in our street to get a television set and in the end we only got one by an Act of God. One day a delivery man from Steele’s dropped one off to us by mistake. Steele’s department store only realized their mistake two years later and dispatched another delivery man to pick it up. But by then we were seriously addicted to the weekly TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene, and there was no way my dad was giving it back. When the delivery man sensed that my dad was willing to fight to the death to protect his family’s entertainment, the man from Steele’s swiftly departed and our ownership of the small mahogany television set was never contested again. My dad was a hero that day.
Before God granted us a television set, a boy had to invent his own entertainment. So each day after school, I’d rush home, change out of my school clothes, get dressed, grab a football and stroll out onto Fawkner Street and start bouncing it up and down on the pavement. It didn’t take long before boys from other houses would hear the familiar sound and start piling out onto the street for a kick to kick football match until night fell and we were all called home for dinner.
I used to try and take skyscraper marks, sometimes climbing up onto the backs of my opponents, like my football idol Big Bill Stephenson of St.Kilda. My mum and dad had taken me to every St.Kilda match from the time I was a baby in their arms, and as a young boy I had marveled at Big Bill’s genius at full forward. Then, one day when the Saints played Essendon, Big Bill had climbed into the stratosphere for a mark and came down landing badly and ruptured his knee. When he collapsed to the ground, he uttered the words, “I’m buggered” to which his opponent Don McKenzie replied, “Thank Christ for that!” So far that year Bill Stephenson had kicked 20 goals in just three and a half games and at that rate would’ve scored 102 goals for the year at a time when the leading full forwards averaged 54. He never played again. To me, it was a tragedy on the scale of the JFK assassination.
It’s funny the things that mean so much to us along the way and shape us as human beings. I still sometimes get teary eyed when I recall the long forgotten football hero Big Bill Stephenson. He passed away in 2010 with hardly a mention in the newspapers. But it meant something deep and profound to me. From Big Bill Stephenson I learned that no matter how high you soar, there is a still a price to be paid.
When I was born my mother wanted to name me Peter. My sisters wanted to name me Michael. And my Irish grandmother demanded I be called Frank. Guess who won out. A short time later we got a dog and he became Peter. Oh my, how I loved that dog. My first best friend. My confidante who never snitched on me if I did something wrong; who continued to smile at me even when I disappointed him and proved I was only human. From Peter, my rock, I learned loyalty.
One day I came home from school to be told the tragic news that Peter had run away from home. What? My best friend had run out on me? Had abandoned me for greener pastures? How could this be? It didn’t make sense. I grieved for many years over this and never got another dog. Perhaps deep down I still grieve in my schoolboy heart. Not that long before my mum passed away she told me the true story. Peter had not run away. The neighbor across the road had thrown chicken bones over our fence thinking the dog would like them. But Peter got one caught in his throat and choked to death. My mum invented the story that the rest of the family stuck by thinking it would be less traumatic for me if I thought he’d run away. I wonder if they still felt that when every evening after school I’d stand at the front gate looking up and down each end of the street for my best friend to come home. To me. It has probably instilled in me abandonment issues I carry to this day. If you love something too much, God takes it away.
Anyway, that was my first home. Sometimes I stand outside it today and fantasize that one day I’ll knock on the door and offer the people who live there a huge sum of money to give it back to me. I need somewhere to house these memories and am weary of carrying them for so long from one place to another.
And when I have it back, there’ll always be the kettle on for a visitor, a spare couch for someone in need, and if you have a dog with you, a big hug as I close my eyes and imagine Peter has come home.
(c) Frank Howson 2017
The hardest thing to get used to in heaven is that there’s no time. Not that much of a problem for me as having been a writer I was used to nights turning into days whilst I chiseled away at a new work. There’s not much point continuing that profession up here as no one seems to have the time to read. But here’s something for old times sake.
What’s heaven like? Well, it’s like Portsea with nicer people. No one brags about what car they own, or their penthouse in London, or how they made a killing on the market this week because of a pending war. Conversations like that seem a little facile here. Oh, and you can’t judge anyone by the cut of their clothes as birthday suits are the fashion of the day in this place.
Yes, we’re a friendly bunch. All the veils that separated us on earth have been stripped away and the fear of intimacy no longer exists. That’s probably because our leader (he hates being called that) is such a down to earth person. On arrival he told me I could call him anything so I now address him as Ted. My first request was to meet Jesus but Ted (whom I assumed was his father) just smiled and said, “Haven’t you worked that out yet? You’re all Jesus.” He really loves answering any questions with a complete mind-fuck that silences you. A bit like Bob Dylan. It may take an eternity for me to get what he means. So, I mainly sit and ponder until my head hurts.
There are some really beautiful women to gaze upon. I like to hit on Marilyn Monroe which is an exercise in futility as there’s no sex here. We seem to not need it anymore, or the expectations and responsibilities that used to accompany it. We generally just chat which consists of smiling and staring at someone while you read their thoughts.
Ted, our leader who hates to be called a leader, loves chatting about his favourite food recipes. He keeps promising to let me taste his Peach Melba but so far he hasn’t delivered. In fact, there are no meals as that’s kinda pointless too.
One day, or was it night?, I asked Ted what the point of creating the human race was, and he answered, “Well I wanted to find out what’d happen if I dumped a whole lot of ignorant people into a paradise, gave them total free will, and waited for the result.” I prompted him for an answer, “Which was?…” And he smiled and replied, “Pointless”. I’m going to need to sit and ponder that too.
The good news for men is we don’t have to shave anymore. And ladies don’t have to pluck anything.
I play cards with Freud, who should be called Fraud as he cheats at everything, and Van Gogh (still a grumpy bastard who can’t read a thing you’re saying). If Grumpy tells me again he only sold two paintings on earth I’m going to have to clock him. Vincent and I currently owe Fraud several million dollars but again it’s kinda…pointless.
Marilyn is looking very alluring as I sit here but the cruel bitch just likes to tease me. She taunts me with tales of how good Milton Berle was in bed and the fact that he used to trip over his own cock. This has obviously left a lasting impression on her. I wish I didn’t have to read her mind, it’s painful.
The one thing we do have is music. Ted is a freak about it. I sometimes think it’s like being trapped in an elevator and having to listen to endless muzak. Wagner is a favourite of Ted’s, although he occasionally, thank God, slips in some Elvis, whom he confidentially informs me was just as chosen as Jesus. I am now pondering the conundrum that both Jesus and Elvis are in us all.
This could take several more eternities to work out before I’ll have a follow-up question that won’t embarrass me in front of Ted.
God, he demands a lot.
It just crossed my mind that, between Freud’s cheating, Van Gogh’s whining, Marilyn’s tauntings about Uncle Milty’s cock, Wagner endlessly played far too loud, and Ted’s oblique answers, this could be hell.
(c) Frank Howson 2017