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

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LOVE WAS HERE

TAKE THIS MAN
WHO ONCE STOOD PROUD
AND TALL
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 
THIS MAN
BACK LONG AGO
WHEN SHE HAD A PLAN
BUT PLANS LIKE DREAMS
ALWAYS DISAPPEAR
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



 

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 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

 

THE ASSURANCE OF HEAVEN

I applied for a government grant
But was knocked back on a technicality
They thought I had talent
Some asshole suggested I get a second opinion
I came wanting
Pushed into this world
A dark room
With much huffng and puffing
Blood and tears
Born into a religion
That gave me the assurance of heaven
If I followed the rules
(Made by man
To ingratiate himself to God)
I read much about this God
And learned that in his youth
He was like us
Quick tempered, revengeful, slow to forgive
But, also like us, he mellowed
In later years
And ordained a common man
As his adopted son
To bring us the good news
That God had changed
He was now non-judgmental
Forgiving, compassionate, and
Like your favourite grandfather at a Barbecue
A joy to be around
But when his chosen son
Was railroaded by a fixed jury
Of the envious and the threatened
And was killed in the most agonising and cruel death ever invented by man
God withdrew from the world
He had over estimated us
And like all those that do
We deeply disappointed him
Some say he died
Some say he’d never existed to begin with
Some say he was just sad
And a sad God cannot rule
In his absence we were left lost
And confused
And scared as to how to go on
This manifested itself
In self destruction
And we have since sought many unique ways to achieve this
For those with money
It was drugs
For those without money
It was drugs
The cowards way out
Because the burden of living
And doing the right thing by each other
Was too great a responsibility
So, like God,
We, in our own way,
Have become sad
And withdrawn from the world
Most of us can’t be bothered voting
And then complain about the leaders we are saddled with
Who, in their naive stupidity
Attempt to lead us out of the darkness, and try to sell us some strong medicine to heal our wounds
And, if they don’t succumb to compromise and side deals
The shadow people shoot them
Or they’re found hanging from doorknobs
Their deaths a question mark forevermore
In the file marked
“Believe It Or Not”
The weight of carrying the cross of responsibility
Is indeed great and we are not programmed to stand it long
Falling time and time again
On our lonely agonising walk to our own Calvary
And in those dizzy blindingly excruciating final hours we find ourselves confused and insecure and doubtful
Because we were promised
An assurance of Heaven, you see?
A free ticket
An escape route
A place where we’d be welcomed and loved and held
God shouldn’t be hated or blamed for spreading this dream
He meant well
He just forgot that we are human
Deeply flawed
And always looking for the easiest option
We have no loyalty
Other than to the junk man
And that’s because the junk man has something we want
But unlike heaven
We can see it, feel it, at a cost
It may not be paradise
But in those despairing moments
We have lowered our expectations of miracles
It numbs us and that’s enough
To get through another lonely night
But why burden ourselves
Worrying about it
When it brings momentary relief
Like a happy finish
It ain’t love
But it’ll do
Tomorrow we can wake to the aftermath nightmare
But now
Let us just drift
Into our dreamtime
Our glimpse of grace
The small change
That we don’t deserve
But were born into
Like thieves in the temple
Women are not madonnas
And men are not messiahs
We have more in common with a sewer rat
And just as much cunning
They say rats will survive the end of the world
Perhaps we will too
Having brought about the ultimate destruction
It would be just if we were made to live in it
My own condition is of great concern to no one
Well, maybe someone in Rumania
Frets about me
But if so, I am unaware
And in this state of ignorance
In some year of our Lord
I begin this…

All I know of today
Is that dawn came on time
And that I have ruined dinner
And every chance I had to be free
I mistook sex for love
A handshake as a promise
An enemy as a friend
And money as happiness
Someone more mature
Should’ve had my life
They’d have known what to do with it
But they’d have never known the exquisite bitter sweet taste of loss
Of having no further to fall
Which in fact gives you some real security
I have been betrayed by many friends along the way
But at least I drew evil into the light so that I now recognise its face
If there’s no afterllife then why have we been made to learn all this wisdom that can never be put to use in this world that is built on false values?
But maybe God’s sadness has turned to boredom
And this is some kind of ironic game for his enjoyment
Come to think of it, if there is an afterlife why the fuck would God want us there?
Perhaps we have inherited our self destructiveness from him!
Freud stumbled upon this theory whilst smoking himself to Death on a cocaine binge.
Maybe you have to be stoned in order to see through the surface bullshit and glimpse the truth?
We on earth are angry.
We have awakened to find all our heroes dead. We didn’t win the lottery. Every war fought was just a lie. And the Vatican is run by Satanists.
But apart from that everything’s just fine after a few pills.
The most damaging drug I was addicted to was women. They quite clearly got me up and then nowhere. I’ve come to realise that two people can’t live one life. Unless there’s huge compromise and compromise breeds resentment. Both have to forfeit dreams in order to keep the relationship going. This leads to you both acting roles in each other’s company making out that this dire situation of strangulation is actually bringing each other bliss. After awhile you start telling bigger and bigger lies until you get caught out and it’s over.

As a child I loved the circus. In many ways it tells you everything you need to know about Life.

Cigarettes were my friend right up until the time they weren’t.

You were my friend too. Right up until the time you weren’t.

I die so hard each time I think of you. But never learn the easy route, always doomed to take the long way home. Alone.

Born into a world hellbent on bringing about its own destruction, what hope did we have?

I drive around
At night
Going nowhere
The desert is beautiful
After nightfall
The stars are so clear
The air is so thin
Up here
One can almost forget oneself
Almost

And sometimes on the wind I hear you calling my name. But from your lips it now sounds like a curse word. And in the mist of early winter I sometimes see your vision of who I imagined you were.

And our dissolving future.

So, it’s once around the clock we go. Our history of joy squeezed into a crowded hour, before the sun set for good.

If there is a heaven, will you be there? If so, I may have to make other plans.

(C) Frank Howson 2018

THOUGHTS ON BOB DYLAN

The word enigma doesn’t come close to describing Bob Dylan. For a start he’s a Gemini – the sign of the twins. Duality. He once said he wakes as one person and goes to sleep as another. And that’s before we add all the different masks he’s worn, and the myths that have been woven by others, and by himself. This is no doubt an attempt by him to protect his true self – Robert Zimmerman. Bob Dylan was his invention and as such even his own autobiography “Chronicles Volume One” contains numerous things that are fictional. Again, adding to his own myth as a means of throwing people off the scent of this fiercely private man. He writes about Bob Dylan like the old Wild West reporters wrote about Billy The Kid, Davy Crockett or Jesse James. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

There must be many hundreds of books published about Bob Dylan. And why is that? Because he continues to fascinate us. We can’t work him out. Scratch the surface and you just come up with another surface. But I think this has always been his masterly plan. In the words of the late, great Alex Scott after seeing the movie about the life (or lives) of Bob Dylan, the aptly titled “I’m Not There,”  Alex said, “I knew more about him before I saw this movie!” Precisely. Or did you? I’ve had the good fortune to know quite a number of people who have known Bob for many years as a friend. And the words they use about him are “kind,” “sweet,” “gentle,” “loyal,” and “sensitive.” And those qualities are precious and need protection. “They say every man needs protection.”

Last Monday and Tuesday nights in Melbourne, a troubadour playing the role of Bob Dylan took to the stage at the Margaret Court Arena. No grand entrance. He merely sauntered on as a member of his band and found his designated place at the piano. No hello and no goodbye. Just two hours of brilliant songs, some old, some new, that any writer would give their soul to have written just one of them. But here is a small man trapped in the spotlight that has a catalog of so many classics they are too numerous to name. He has given us so much, and continues to give, thank God. When so many of our music heroes are gone, some cruelly taken from us who had so much more to give, we truly should be thankful that Bob is not only still alive, but continues to spend the majority of each year on the road performing for our pleasure.

Some people complain that he just stands there and sings his songs. There are no “showy” effects. No scripted witty repartee. But I continually have to remind some disappointed patrons that that’s all he’s ever done.

Bob was once asked if he still gets nervous before a show, to which he replied, “No. Never be afraid of disappointing people.” At first when I read this quote, I laughed thinking it was just another example of Bob’s very dry sense of humour. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised the heart of what he was truly saying. There is no point worrying about a performance. It will either soar or it won’t. He is not slick, nor does he want to be. He is an improv artist. A method actor. He has the same inspired, spontaneous genius as Brando. Always reaching for that unplanned moment of pure magic. The trouble with being that bold is that sometimes you miss the mark totally and run the risk of being ridiculed and walked out on. All of the greatest innovators have at one time or another been ridiculed and hung out to dry. But they’re the ones we remember. The brave ones. To be totally unique is a very heavy cross to have to carry. A lot of people will not “get” what you’re doing. Or what you’re attempting. But if everyone played by the tried and proven formula, where would the excitement be?

Bob has literally never looked back. The range of material he has tackled is extraordinary and at the age of 77 when most artists are happy to coast on their back catalog, Bob is still taking chances. Spare a thought for the huge risk he took in attempting, at his age, five albums of crooning the American Songbook. Yet those albums have been big hits and in some cases even named among the Top Ten Jazz Albums of that year.

But this is the same man who, just as he reached the pinnacle of the folk music world, went electric and angered the majority of his then fans. Next, just as he won most of those fans back with the electric mercury sounding masterpiece that was “Blonde On Blonde,” he goes country music. More angst from fans. Then he rebounds with introspective “Blood On The Tracks” about the pain of his divorce. Then Jesus popped into his life and we had the Gospel Years! Then, just when everyone thought he was no longer relevant, and running on empty, he comes back with arguably his best album, the multi-Grammy Award winning “Time Out Of Mind.” Then the Christmas Album. Then the Sinatra inspired saloon song standards. This man deserves a medal for bravery.

Oh, and when people say they don’t like his voice, I always ask, “Which one? He’s had about 6 different voices over the journey.”

As his dear friend George Harrison once described him, “He is a friend to us all.”

It filled my heart with warmth and my eyes with tears to see him perform such a spirited and brilliant concert last Tuesday night. It certainly was the inspired spontaneous magic he strives for.

And then, without a word of farewell, he was gone. But rest assured, he’s still on the road, headin’ for another joint.

(c) Frank Howson 2018

BRIGHTER DAY

I dreamed that you will come to me
In the land of no surprise
And you will kiss my lips
And look into my eyes
And I will say to you
Behold the holy sign
“All was lost, all was lost”
Well everything that was mine
But your presence now
Renews my belief
That true love
Springs from grief
And all the tears we shed
Along the way
Got us through the night
To this brighter day

(c)  Frank Howson 2018