Life in Season – Summer

Life in Season – Summer is part three of a four part series. Please click here for part one and here for part two. The final chapter will be published next week. We hope you enjoy it!

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When you’re alone, it’s hard to believe in love. Whilst it married your neighbours, Mr and Mrs Bran, you had to listen to their arguments every night, which dampened your hopes that it could ever happen to you. The slamming fists, the shattering plates. You knew it was expressed in poetry, in literature, but this never convinced you when the words refused to move your mind, soaked in alcohol and clogged in smoke.

You spent your time at the bar. You drank next to the old men, those who ran the gas stations, the bakeries, the water sewage systems and the polling stations. The fights were a regular thing. Alcohol rings like a wrestling bell in these people and within an hour, you were between two or three men, who were flexing their muscles and throwing curses. You were never first to throw a punch, but when they knocked you off your stool, you fought back. At least once a week, you left the bar nursing your knuckles, with blood on your shirt.

One night, on your way home, you saw two men following a girl. Her steps became rapid as theirs became strides, like vicious, hunting hyenas. Before they wrangled her purse from her hands, you pulled them back. Two blows to the head, one to the gut and a kick to the groin, and they bailed, scampering off into the dark on limping legs. “Thank you,” she said. It was then you were reunited with Alice Meadows and it was then, as you helped her up from the ground, that you found your friend.

She worked in the library, stacking shelves and serving customers. As you sat on the grass of Newland Park together, drinking strawberry milkshakes, she told you how she loved to be among the books. When it was quiet, she’d dive between the aisles, scoop the best stories into her arms and indulge from behind her desk. It was her little world she could escape into.

It was then she thanked you again for saving her that other night. She placed her hand on yours. You were happy to have saved the girl, but you never guessed she would save you.

She took you home one day, and she fed you. She watched television with you, she drank coffee with you. She got you outside, she got you in clean clothes, she got you in clean habits, she got you running on weekends, she helped your posture, she held your head high, she made you laugh, she brightened your mood, she strengthened your spirit, and most importantly, she understood you. She read you like a book when you opened up to her and knew exactly what you needed. She was there for you.

One day, whilst helping you clean your room, she lifted your mattress and found beneath two hidden relics of your past. As she held your Playboys in one hand, your face went red. “You’re still a boy,” she laughed. She picked up The Masque of Anarchy, analysed the cover and began to flick through the pages. You explained to her how your Father gave it to you, and how he explained the meaning behind it when you were confused. You told her that he called you a lion. “You are a lion,” she said, and for the first time, she kissed you.

Before Alice, your life was at a minuetto pace. Tiny steps of bad habits. You thought your life was like stagnant writing. Repetitive stanzas your days, repeating lines your hours, and nights were rounded off with the rhyming couplets of alcohol and tobacco. You were anchored with depression and you had lost the will to live. You felt as if that boulder inside of you was locked in place, unable to move or grow, victim to the erosion of despair. But when Alice pressed her lips against yours, that feeling inside of you dissolved. You shook off the chains like dew and embraced her warmth, her kindness, her love. This was life in season.

You spent your days together. You took walks in the park, you shopped together, you went to the cinema, and you listened to the music from your childhood on rainy days. Every Saturday, you took a blanket to the fields and lay beneath the stars, counting constellations and connecting the dots. “I like it when it’s like this,” she once said, “When it’s still. When it’s calm. When the sun’s gone and the moon has his little moment to shine, to let us all know he’s there.” You returned her smile. “Lights out,” she said.

That summer transformed you. You were healthy, your mind was clear and you felt like you could breathe. With this clarity, you spoke to your mother and apologised, for the things you had done, for the things you had said. While she cried, she understood your anger, your sadness, and how life had been harsh to you. She hugged you for the first time in fifteen years.

On Tuesday, July 18th, you went to pick up some flowers for Alice for her birthday. There’s a florist in town who bundles them together, arranges them in delicate vases, tulips, roses, magnolia. You selected the perfect bunch, each petal fresh and vibrant, each bud rich in colour. On the way home, you stopped by the jewellers and picked up the ring you had chosen months ago.

As you approached the end of your road, you knew life was about to change once again, as you ran your thumb across the ring in your pocket. A person was sat on your doorstep, sporting an olive mohawk with a toothpick grin, and a greaser jacket dotted with metal studs. You recognised him as you got through the gate, that’s when you knew it was true. Billy Ross was back.

Life in Season – Autumn

Life in Season – Autumn is part two of a four part series. Please click here for part one and here for part two.

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Your Father rests in Johnson Cemetery, next to his father and his father before him. At the time, death was heavy on your mind, and you too hoped to be buried there, beneath the fresh grass, amongst the daisies and daffodils. Every Tuesday you went down and cleared the autumn leaves from his grave. You spoke to him, told him about the new poets you’d discovered and the new poems you had read. We are Seven, by Wordsworth, was one you studied, hoping it’d help you with the loss; you couldn’t find the strength to subscribe to its optimism, no matter how many times you read it. You were above ground, Father was beneath it.

One night, the Bartholomew kids vandalised the graves, you knew it was them. The joints by the tombstones, the sneaker prints in the dirt. You spent the day picking up empty soda cans, empty beer bottles from the empty, reckless youth. That evening, you followed the eldest one home and threw a stick through the spokes of his bike; he hit the ground hard, the gum flew from his mouth, a tooth bounced into the gutter. You grabbed him by his shirt and threatened him; he shook in fear, he soiled himself and you left him there to weep.

Your mother found out. You knew she would, she had to know where you were, every second of every day. She faced a toothless, limping boy with an angry Mother at her doorstep but they couldn’t force an apology from you. In an attempt to extinguish your anger, she seized control of the house and soon, your life. Overnight, poetry was eradicated. “It’s not good for you,” she said; she threw away your literature. Anything in rhyme or prose was thrown on top of the casserole and beetroot salad you didn’t eat, stomped down by a heeled shoe and hurled into the Sunday garbage truck. You found a cross above your door and a Bible on your bed; it went straight into the bottom drawer. She never found The Masque of Anarchy, hidden underneath your mattress, along with a couple of Playboys, but the house was void of books and art in an attempt to tame your iconoclast persona.

It was a mystery how Father, kind, sweet and gentle, managed to marry this woman. You knew she never liked the way he read to you each night when you were younger, but never thought it would go to this length in his passing. You never accepted her as blood, despite holding the same build, the same eyes, the same frown. You held your atheistic views whilst she had her Christian values running through her veins, five generations thick; they were fierce, they were strict.

You joined the army at the age of eighteen. Whilst sat at the back of the bus on Ronaldson Avenue, your bag between your legs, you saw Alice Meadows sat the on edge of the fountain. Her pink dress made her shine like a flower amongst the hard, concrete buildings. She waved and you waved back. “Goodbye Alice,” you said, through the thin sheet of glass.

You sat next to Patrick Wilson on the journey. He introduced himself;  “I’m Patrick, I’ve got a nervous disorder.” You shook his hand, his sweat coated your palm. He explained that joining the army was the only choice for him. His family had very little money and this was his only future, to fight for his country. You lied and said you had the same reason, but deep down you knew it was to escape your mother and her regime. A lion cannot be caged.

You found your tempo in the rigorous routines. Making beds, cross country runs, weapon assembly, orientation, survival trips in the woodland. You felt as if there were a small stone inside of you and it grew with each drill, with each order, to become a hard, masculine boulder. You were the only one who never flinched when Sergeant Angus spat in your face. His booming voice at the end of the night was oddly calming, and it switched you off. “Lights out, cadets!”

You stuck with Wilson during the training. He admired you, although at the time, you didn’t know. You shared jokes and stories from your childhood. Wilson had it rough, but he never let it get him down. He was cornered by Adam Pear and Edgar Mow down by the creek on a morning run. You fought them off; they never laid a finger on him. The thrill of the fight excited you, throwing punches, blocking fists. That boulder inside you shattered the glass cannons of the young boys. You felt strong, you were strong.

But Wilson feared the world of combat. He kept saying to you he wasn’t ready, that there wasn’t a man to emerge from within, nor would there ever be one. On Christmas day, you found him in the lavatory. Blue face, blue toes. For the first time in his life, Sergeant Angus spoke with kindness and sympathy as he tried to calm your tears and soothe your senses. “I’m sorry, cadet. It’s never easy and it never gets easier. You’ve got all of us with you. We’re a team.” He spoke like Father did; he looked like him, with an anchor moustache in a perfect trapezoid beneath his nose, and emerald eyes. However, his words never repaired your broken shell. Time slowed to an andante pace, and it halted when they couldn’t get you out of bed. You signed the papers, you packed your things, they sent you home.

Your room was different when you returned. The Bible sat on your bedside table, the cross above the door was bigger, and the curtains were a bright beige instead of the juniper you liked. They were horribly thin and let through the sunlight.

You tossed the Bible onto the floor, pulled out a cigarette and you hit the whiskey, hard.

Life in Season – Spring

“The Romantics won us wars,” he once began; the title of the night. It’s a sound you always loved when Father thumbed through the pages, softly humming until he found the right place. He’d quietly clear his throat, look down from his nose, and begin. Percy Shelley was your favourite. It was hard to understand, at times you weren’t sure if it was even English, but you loved it. The way Father read was that of melody, emphasising rhyme and meter, alliteration, pauses, soft couplets, sibilance, speech. “Poetry is music,” he would say as you slowly drifted; it was your calming allegro, your slumber song, your lullaby. A childhood of Romantics.

You kept reading poetry into your teenage years. While weekdays were still topped with literature as you read into the nights, weekends were spent cycling dirt ramps and grass knolls with Billy Ross. Both of you raced across the Towdown hills and through the Smith Woods. Billy always rode faster than you, always made more air time, was always able to wheelie for longer; the king of cycling, or the BMRex you called him. He’d give you bubblegum when you met. “Don’t tell Mom,” you said. You admired his indestructible personality. Billy would arrive from home with bruises and burns but never let it erase his smile, which was often garnished with a toothpick. While it wasn’t something you’d wear, you were jealous of his leather jacket. It turned Billy into a movie star. Sometimes, Alice Meadows and Tiffany Green joined you, when they weren’t doing homework. Billy always made the girls laugh, especially Tiffany, who would rest her head on his shoulder. You saw them holding hands once and it made you happy. Emma admired you; at the time you didn’t know, nor did you understand her flirtatious gestures or what it really meant when she complimented your freckles.

Billy never understood the poetry you tried to share, that was made clear pretty quick. “I’m not books, not me, you know. I don’t get any of that stuff but I’m glad you do. This place needs a smart person.” He rolled cigarettes with his frail fingers and smoked them whilst the spring sun set. His fiery ginger hair glistened and glittered with sweat. After the long days of cycling, you both would ride down to the quadrant. Before he closed up and the night set in, Horace gave you both a Pepsi, free of charge. You never knew why. Together, you sat on the curb and counted pedestrians whilst slowly drinking the fizzy pop.

Billy would walk you home. Mom would be standing outside, her arms folded, her foot tapping, like some classic disgruntled parent. Once inside, you’d watch Billy slowly meander his way back down the street, to one side of the road, then the other. He was never in a rush to get home.

On Saturday, April 16th, you met Billy in the park. He was sat on the bench, his head down and his feet resting on a football. He wore a poppy bruise on his left cheek. “I’m going to Breckenridge tomorrow, to be a mechanic,” he told you. “My cousin’s got a workshop there, makes ten bucks an hour. Says it’s a good life if you don’t mind working hard and business men. There’s room in the car for you.” Your passion for adventure never matched his, nor your bravery. You stayed at home, with your roots, with your family.

“Mom will kill me,” you said.

He was sixteen years old when he left. You thought that was the last time you were going to see him. He gave you his last stick of bubblegum; you saved it.

That night, you read The Masque of Anarchy, the epic poem by Shelley. The politics weren’t clear for you nor communicated but Father afterwards put it simply for your rested mind. He said at times of turmoil, there’s strength in the people, in their numbers. All they have to do is realise it when they come together. You liked that, the idea that people can overcome the odds as a whole. Father laughed at your little analogy, how you said it was like the arcade games.

As your eyes fell heavy and your body relaxed, he stroked your head. You saw his tall frame in the door, his hand on the knob; his pebble moustache sitting beneath his nose; his kind, parakeet eyes looking back at you. “You’re a lion,” he said. “Lights out, kiddo.”


Life in Season – Spring is part one of a four part series. Click here for part two.

In This Life

I decided to rip the fabric of habit.
In my appetite to stray from the routine
Where I was free from fears, scars and doubt,
Watching waves roll in,
Roll out,
Watching customers come in,
Then go,
I struck a hornet’s nest
With Mother’s rusty gardening hoe
And ran for the hills like a Neanderthal
Just to feel
The primal excitement
That the newspapers never delivered.

We Were Different

Our parents came from soil.
They struck the ground with iron, raked the earth with metal,
Planted carrots, green beans, rhubarb and fennel
And left behind the oil.
Not once did they come home with clear skin.
It was caked in dirt, brown and raw, all to feed their kin.
Even their hoarse voices, that herded cattle and sheep,
Could become butter soft when they soothed
Their children to sleep.
“Rest now to rise up. Rise up and early!
We can still see the stars in the morning.”

We were different. No muck, no mud.
Instead, our hair was combed
And our fingernails were clean and cut.
Big Apple weekends, smoked salmon,
Cream cheese and chives,
In famous expensive restaurants
Where the rich were televised
To our living rooms, to our kitchens.
Our employment history wasn’t in the ground
Nor in the woodwork or land.
It didn’t give us shade,
But only told us
How many cards we punched,
How many nights we slept,
How much money we made.

There’s no sparkle here.
Only in streetlights and neon signs.
Our pewter skies are too exhausted to shine,
They are coughing, clogged and charred
Because our stars wear sunglasses
And are driven down boulevards.

Our parents came from soil.
We came from concrete.

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Back for the day to share this piece. It’s been in the poetry oven for quite a while and not sure where to go with it – if anywhere!

Nesbit Likes: And The Days Are Not Full Enough by Ezra Pound

If you were ever looking for the shortest poem that spoke the loudest, it might just be this one. The piece is one that is known by many – however, if this is your first time reading this poem, you surely won’t forget it.

Pound encompasses our fears in one, short stanza. Life is fleeting. Keats similarly touched upon the subject and it’s heavy and haunting; there’s just not enough time to complete our goals – whatever they are. Time escapes us. As poets, as writers, it’s a feeling too familiar that although there are thousands of ideas we have in our heads, it means nothing if it isn’t written down.

For me, this poem is the epitome of the wake-up call. Whatever it is you want to do in life, whatever it is you want to achieve, whatever it is you want to become, it requires work, it requires time, and you have to start right now. Turn off the television, put down the book, finish your pint. It motivates me in wanting to not only shake the grass but tear them up from the roots, salt the earth behind and let everyone know that Nesbit was here.

— — —
And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass

Eternal Return

Well, bless the boy who broke the chain!
Escaped the life of picking grain
Erased the old and putrid stain
Of not living his life.

He drove himself, persisted through
And flew over the oceans blue
Fulfilled the need to start anew
And found himself a wife.

They’ll buy a farm with cows to breed,
Dig up the earth and plant the seeds,
And work until their fingers bleed
To build and grow.

“Now when my son is ripe of age
Controls his life with adult gauge
And asks to leave, to turn a page,
I’ll let him go.”