Below, Above

She ascends the stepladder, tiptoes
the top shelf to reach the picture rail.

It’s secure. She clicked the hinge lock.
Found the flat surface for each foot.

She does as she does
a hundred times before.

Yet, I still find myself below,
knees with a slight bend,

arms in front, tense, to ready
a chance she might lose her balance.

After all, for the number of times
she’s caught me, it’s the least I can do.

Eternal

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A nearby plaque details history of a land
once dense with forest, once rich in life,
home to hundreds of trees in their varieties,

all subject to the culling for the golf course,
no sympathy, no remorse, even the plaque itself
poorly painted. The grubby writing forgotten, faded.

But, there’s one tree, veteran to time and change
standing tall and proud upon the driving range,

where two lovers once carved their names,
whittled down the bark to declare an infinite
affection and spark between two beating hearts.

Let it stand, let it remain, neighbouring
a lonely flag for the fourteenth hole.
Two cupid-shot initials eternal.

 

Gibley Finds: Poetry

A part of writing is to sample something, perhaps what we all see or experience, and paint it in a unique light. Whether it be the summer glow, the winter chill, or the marching men in business suits on a Monday morning, we all have our own perspectives, and we tackle our thoughts and ideas and thrust them onto paper in poetry and prose.

Brenden Norwood kindly let us share his piece ‘The Unsaid Words of Falling in Love with a Stranger at a Coffee Shop’ and it wonderfully depicts an ordinary moment in a fresh, vitalising light.

The poem starts slowly, showcasing a little of the awkwardness we’ve all experienced when approaching a stranger (especially one we find attractive!); as the writing continues, the poetry takes its form, the thoughts articulate themselves and communicate clearly in rhythmic sweetness and magnitude. The realisation from the narrator, commenting on how on the grand scheme of things in this world and the way they work, demonstrates perfectly why it’s important to seize the moment, especially in the name of romance. The poem finishes, bookended with the little awkwardness that’s undeniably endearing.

This is certainly a poem to read out loud; Brenden writes with clarity, his dialogue’s real and concrete, his character rich, and all with light, liquid poetry weaved throughout. A very satisfying read and a great sense of style.

Enjoy!


The Unsaid Words of Falling in Love with a Stranger at a Coffee Shop

“Hi! So okay, I know I’m a stranger,
and that you don’t know me,
and I don’t know you, but very recently I’ve
come to the realization
that the number of people we meet
in this world isn’t nearly
as infinite as we’d think it to be,
and that our lives or this world,
for that matter, aren’t nearly as infinite
as we’d think them to be,
which is why I think it’s so special that,
upon first laying my eyes on you,
I felt that infinitude:
that boundless untick tock
frozen clock ticking vast vacuums
of savory saturated seconds,
of crossed legs and eyes the color of undug gold;
soft brown irises blinking etched eternities–
what I’m trying to say is you’re very beautiful!
And to be a hundred percent honest with you,
if I didn’t at least ask your name,
why,
I’d be as bitter as this black coffee!
Ha!”

Underneath The Stars

The music plays light rock and swing,
And the scattered spots spin and flicker
Across the bobbing heads. Joined hands,
Twirling skirts and tapping wingtips,
All King and Queen competition
On the gymnasium floor.

But these two have their own disco ball.
They create new constellations
Picking out the brightest ones,
Connecting the dots for their night picture.
The stars blend and mix in Moonshine,
Looking down on them both,
Swirled and smitten.

We Are Fragile Things

Yes, our people have done the greatest things.
They’ve explored the deepest trenches,
Climbed the highest mountains,
Even travelled to the moon and back.

But we can be fragile things,
Broken by folly and fault,
Taken by tide and turbulence,
Wrought by death and accident.

And we can be mended,
Healed by truth and trust,
Bandaged by season and time,
Recovered by friends and family.

We are fragile things
Broken by loss and fixed with love.


Kintsugi (also known as kintsukuroi) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer dusted with gold or silver. You may have seen these bowls or vases and they have these beautiful veins of colour across them, where the pottery has been put back together.

This art inspired this piece. I love the idea that something strong, like a bowl or vase, can be broken quite easily, and while one might toss it aside, the other fixes it, and does so with such care and talent. The finished result, arguably, has more beauty than it did before because of someone’s talent and time and love.

I had a thought. While people have done tremendous things, bigger than we could imagine, for our planet and its people, they too could have these golden seams. They may have been broken or hurt before, but their recovery, reached by the help of others, only made them stronger and more magnificent!

Life in Season – Winter

Life in Season – Winter is the final part of a four part series. Please click here for part one, here for part two and here for part three. Thank you so much to anyone who made it this far. We hope you enjoy it!

——————

It was an earliest memory of yours, siphoning through the fine grass and trying to find a four-leafed clover. Father knelt with you, brushing his fingers between the narrow leaves, scanning the ground on his hands and knees. The Smith Woods, neighbouring the turf, stood tall, lovely, dark and deep. Together, you trekked into the heart of the woodland, as far from the buildings and factories as you could get. You washed your feet in the cool streams and soaked in the tranquility and silence. That’s when Father told you about nature. He described it as everything and anything. If it was green and growing, that’s nature. The river runs and the rain falls, that’s nature. The sun shines and the moon glows, that’s nature. “The seed of the Romantics,” he said, “From the farthest of stars to us, right here, on Earth.”

Billy flicked his cigarette into the dirt. He pulled another out of his pocket, offered you one, but you declined. “It’s not all I thought it would be,” he said. “I shouldn’t have left. There’s nothing to it. You work, you get paid. You work, you get paid. Just the same thing, over and over, and then you die. That’s not a life. I wanna travel, you know? Tour the world. Hike some mountains and shit, all of that. I could – I could go and meet a monk, and then he could teach me his monk ways. Then, I could shave my head and presto – I’d be a monk!” Billy laughed to himself, hard and long, while you could only muster a small smile. It was different, everything was, and it was only then you realised. The Towdown Hills weren’t rolling greens, but mud and marsh, speckled with tree stubs. The Smith Woods were gone, every bush and every branch, levelled out and flattened with concrete for the retail parking lot. Billy Ross, the spice of life, was telling his jokes, telling his stories, but you couldn’t relate to it. His flaming ambition never went out while yours was extinguished long ago. Life was fleeting, you thought, and you lost it to the regular life, to the American dream. You hid your ring from Billy, afraid to show you had subscribed to the ordinary. You wanted something new, you wanted what he had: a lust for adventure. Billy was the ticket. “Let’s drink tonight,” he said, “And then let’s go. Come with me.”

At home, Alice was sat by the window. She was reading During Wind and Rain by Thomas Hardy, and she read it to you when you entered the room. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? It’s so sad but it’s so honest, it’s so true. The spring is fresh, but it must end. The autumn cleanses, but decays. The summer flourishes life, but the winter takes it away. Change is natural.”

Now, I’ve made mistakes in my life, more than I can count on my fingers, on my toes. But it’s all been in an attempt to follow the three most important things in life: love your family, love your friends, forgive yourself. I loved my Father, for all he taught me. I loved my Mother, for her strength. I loved my wife, for her person. Finally, although it took some time, I have forgiven myself for my mistakes.

One mistake I made was listening to my ego back then. I can’t forgive myself for the choices I made that day, so I don’t want to be associated with that person I used to be. What I did was unforgivable. Because of it, I’ve disconnected myself from the past, from that identity. That wasn’t me who rebelled, that wasn’t my anger. That’s not who I am now, instead, that was you. You, in your arrogance, blinded by a life of chaos and anarchy, ignored the words of your dear wife. She asked you not to leave, she pleaded you not to drink, she begged you not to rekindle that old fire but you did it anyway. Something very unnatural stirred, and it changed you. You packed your things and you left. That was the last time you saw Alice Meadows.

You met Billy in the concrete plains of the Smith Wood mall parking lot. You traded swigs from the bourbon bottle as you planned your trip, which countries to go to, which landmarks to see. It had been two years since your last drink, and breaking the seal was a new wave to the beach. Billy threw the empty bottle into the air, and it came crashing down onto a Cadillac. You both laughed and escaped the scene. “I’m hungry for a fight,” he said. You knew just the place.

You recognised every person sat inside the bar, each with the same sullen faces sipping in the smokey haze. A whiskey for you, tequila for Billy. The men stared at him, nosing his studded jacket, his sleeve tattoos, his mohawk mane that nearly brushed the ceiling. The quiet murmurs surrounded you. A quip from the man at the jukebox, which played Frank Sinatra, sparked that flame inside. “You look like a fucking peacock.” The bar laughed, and Billy downed his tequila.

You remembered The Masque of Anarchy. The strength of the words resonated with the alcohol in your blood. It was your calling, why Father had brought it for you. It’s for the pride, it’s for the fight, it’s for the lion inside you. You turned and slugged the man, flooring him instantly, and Billy smashed the glass onto his head. His friends bolted towards you but in two swift hits they were downed as well. In a second, the room erupted, the entire bar rose from their seats, threw down their drinks and threw out their fists, into a barbaric brawl of balding men. Chairs were thrown and broken over backs, the snooker balls were lobbed and smashed the windows, and in the heat, you smacked a cue across a man’s head. His face hit the bar, and then bounced on the wood floor. He cupped his mouth with his hand, trying to catch the teeth that protruded out, crooked and broken, the blood spouting between his fingers. You regretted that in an instant, and knelt to help him.

A thrown eight ball hit the back of your head and you fell, landing onto the broken glass, imbedding itself into your skin. You screamed in pain through dizzy vision, and yelled out as a stool was broken across your legs. You tried to stand but couldn’t feel anything below the waist, your legs bent and battered. Billy was still standing, blocking punches, twisting arms, his feet danced between the fallen drunks who writhed in pain.

One man held his neck and pinned him back against the wall. Billy wrangled against his hold, kicking his legs, pulling at his arm. Unable to free himself, he withdrew a knife from his boot and swung it towards him. The man turned his body to the side, throwing Billy hard onto the floor. He wrenched the blade from his hand and drove it deep into his chest. He bolted for the door, leaving Billy on the ground, gasping. The jukebox began That’s Life, and the sirens began to fill the air. You watched Billy from across the room. His hand, wrapped around the knife, released and fell by his side. His mouth agape, his chest deflating, you watched him take his last breath. The life escaped his eyes. Lost in colour. Slowly fading. Lights out.

 

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!

——————

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.

Nesbit Likes: On a Wedding Anniversary by Dylan Thomas

It’s an awful day over here; we’ve had rain pounding against the windows and winds rattling the trees – it brought me back to this poem.

Thomas describes the fall of a marriage in three stanzas. It’s powerful, it’s chilling and it’s impressive. The tone delivered from the opening stanza immediately puts a dark cloud above your head and it reads ‘This won’t be pretty.’

Thomas says a lot about marriage and a lot about love; while you may have all the pieces to make it work, to live together, to grow old, things happen in life that puts it to a solid halt. There are wounds that never heal, especially when death isn’t caused by nature.

This has been my go-to poem for when a sombre mood strikes. The lingering rhyme scheme is unforgettable and the last stanza in particular is haunting and has stuck with me for a very long time.

— — —
The sky is torn across
This ragged anniversary of two
Who moved for three years in tune
Down the long walks of their vows.

Now their love lies a loss
And Love and his patients roar on a chain;
From every tune or crater
Carrying cloud, Death strikes their house.

Too late in the wrong rain
They come together whom their love parted:
The windows pour into their heart
And the doors burn in their brain.

Nesbit Likes: I Am Very Bothered by Simon Armitage

Right now, I’m sure you can pinpoint a moment in your childhood or teenage years you sincerely regret. That moment often follows us and while we forgive ourselves and label it as learning (the hard way), if we could turn back time, we probably wouldn’t have decided to read our love poem out to the entire class at the age of thirteen… perhaps that’s just me.

Armitage has condensed all of this into three small stanzas of memory. There’s a very natural rhythm to this, dotted with internal rhymes that give the poem a bounce like a brainwave jolt in remembering events. While the content isn’t exactly pretty, the vivid imagery allows us to fully experience this memory as if it were our own.

It’s a quirky love poem that epitomises the awkwardness of growing up as a teenage boy and how feelings are expressed and acted upon – anyone of that category will find some relation in this ode to clumsiness, we’ve all been there. Arguably, there’s an unsettling level of ambiguity we’re left with, but nonetheless a brilliant piece that will stick with you.

— — —
I am very bothered when I think
of the bad things I have done in my life.
Not least that time in the chemistry lab
when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
and played the handles
in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
then called your name, and handed them over.O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
then couldn’t shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
the doctor said, for eternity.

Don’t believe me, please, if I say
that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
of asking you if you would marry me.

Powerful Themes – Time, Memory and Love

A short piece containing some of my favourite pieces of writing, with a bit extra.

Nesbit and Gibley

John Hurt in the Gate Theatre Dublin production of “Krapp'’s Last Tape” at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre						Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Time, memory and love are some of the top, most prominent themes in writing. They are regularly the key topic when it comes to a story or otherwise an umbrella theme for others. One reason why I actively seek stories which encompass and explore these themes is because they’re universal. Every human being to have ever lived will have experienced some form of love, memory and without a doubt, a sense of time. Whether these things are in an abundance of or a lack of, they’re relatable, understandable and translate across all mediums of art.

Below, I’ve compiled a small list of my favourite pieces where these themes synergise and flourish. Some old and some young, they are complete masterpieces in my eyes and I’d highly recommend reading or watching them when you get the chance. Most of them I’m sure people have heard of but if there’s one that’s new to…

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