Edited by Helen Aitchison
This week, we have another wonderful, eclectic collection of poetry and prose. Staying with our theme, ‘Beginnings And Endings’, the pieces demonstrate change, moments to contemplate, celebration, commiseration, and hope.
I hope you enjoy this powerful selection.
The poem Goodbye From My Eye evoked a range of emotions in me. The piece tells a story of a career dedicated to the police force, taken away by an illness. It shows us the fragility of our health and that sometimes we are forced into endings. Despite this, Paul McCoy’s words highlight an admirable gratitude and camaraderie to his profession and colleagues, as he embarks on a new chapter in his life.
Goodbye From My Eye
Dear Chief Constable,
I write with regret.
My forthcoming departure,
A service I’ll not forget.
Idioms of reflection,
Understand my position.
Sent by a soul,
Destined…on a mission.
Enriched with kindness,
Devoted to a cause.
The opportunities provided,
A role worth applause.
To victims of crime.
Pursuing vile criminals,
To ensure they did time.
An unexpected illness,
Stole the sight in one eye.
A stroke of bad luck,
Now I must say goodbye.
The friendships and memories,
Like blood in my vein.
Best wishes to all who serve,
May love and kindness be your gain.
© Paul McCoy, 2023
Connect with Paul on Instagram: @writerpjmccoy
Our next piece is an excerpt from Brigid Griffin’s upcoming novel, When The Small Creatures Wake, to be published through my own business, ‘Write On The Tyne.’ When The Small Creatures Wake tells the story of a northern England community in the early 1980s, navigating recession, poverty and family life. The Wedding symbolises a new chapter in two people’s lives, often one of their happiest days, with a poignant reality and gritty humour that it isn’t always like the movies for everyone!
The Wedding (excerpt from upcoming novel, When The Small Creatures Wake)
A fresh breeze was blowing up Broad Street where the wedding guests gathered outside the registry office. The groom was a fat lad with a greasy, red hungover face, looking like a sealion in a shiny Burton’s suit. He was nervously chain-smoking and simultaneously polishing his plastic shoes on the back of his trousers. The best man was a rake-thin lad in a blazer and slacks that looked borrowed and slept in, a crushed pink carnation in his buttonhole and tiny red raw eyes like a rat with conjunctivitis. He was wringing his hands, smiling and nodding as the small group huddled together on the cobbles.
A white Triumph Herald swung round the corner from the Co-op, pulling up outside the registry office to a thin cheer. An elderly man clambered out and walked around to open the rear door and help the bride-to-be out of the car. She was heavily pregnant in a glossy, tight white dress. Fishnet tights clung to her thick shapeless legs like caul on sausages. A pink handbag on a chain was slung over one arm and in the other she held a small bouquet of salmon-coloured carnations and twenty Bensons. She wore a small white pillbox hat at an angle, the net pulled over one eye, well crammed down on a crispy permed, yellow frizz.
“Ah, gorgeous,” said a woman next to Stella, “she looks like Princess Diana in that hat.”
“Not as long as I’ve got a hole in me arse,” muttered Jean, dragging on a ciggie and rooting in her bag for a miniature Johnny Walker.
Lynne let out a cracked bray of laughter, she had been on the hen do last night and wasn’t feeling too clever. The bride-to-be stumped over to Jean, Stella, and Lynne on her spindly stilettoes, inhaling her fag and rubbing her swollen belly.
“Hiya girls, did you enjoy last night?”
“I’m feeling a bit rough, to be honest,” rasped Lynne, unwrapping a stick of chuddy and slotting it into her mouth. She was wearing an imitation leather dress that hung off her scrawny frame like a crow trapped in a bin bag.
“Aye, me an’ all. They should never have gone along the optics with that pint pot, I think that’s what finished me. The baby’s been kicking me all morning.”
Probably got a raging hangover, the poor little bastard, thought Jean.
A harassed-looking clerk came out with a clipboard and told them it was time to come in. Everyone took a last drag on their fags, chucked them into the road and trooped dutifully into the building—an ugly structure with the dole office on one side and the driving test centre on the other.
It didn’t take long, within half an hour the newlywed Kennys came out into the road, were pelted with confetti, and they all walked up to the social club in the late afternoon sunshine.
© Brigid Griffin, 2023
Connect with Brigid on Instagram: @brigidgriffinwrites and via writeonthetyne.com
My third piece is After Print, by Viv Fogel, taken from her collection Imperfect Beginnings. I read this poignant poem and it immediately called me to be in the present, and appreciate the moment I’m in, in a mindful way.
This wristwatch has left its mark—a pale lucent disc,
Like the flattened wheat of a crop circle balding.
What’s absent on my tanned wrist,
Naked as the day we come in.
Blanched as the moment we must leave:
An everyday reminder of how small and separate we are,
As time leaves its after print.
© Viv Fogel, 2023
Connect with Viv here: flyonthewallpress.co.uk
This Peopled Earth by Estella Rua is another selection. A stand-alone piece, thematically linked to a work-in-progress novel by the author, as I read the short story the descriptions came alive in my mind, my senses alert with each word. This mighty piece had me eager to know more, read more and feel more.
This Peopled Earth
She came for my crops in the night, arms twisting in the dirt. Her bony offspring held out brightly coloured sacks; furtive faces lit by moonlight. None of them looked up; scurrying away, without turning back. With a full heart and an empty belly, I struggled to sleep, listening to the breathy silence of the highlands, waiting for daylight to return. There is nothing poetic about the emptying of the planet.
The birdsong is urgent now. Branches beat, tambour-like, against the bothy walls. As the breeze picks up, my stomach writhes. A drowning pup in a pitcher of acid. I take stock of my wasting muscles, running a finger over the gristly excesses of my forearm. My organs twitch and I drag my limbs to relieve my bladder of its lurid contents, catching my reflection in the mirror. Mortality has always eluded me, but today the grey clouds under my eyes tell a different story. Could the end finally be in sight?
On the counter, I arrange my rations for the day. A sprouting potato as large and knuckly as my fist. Onion rings and juice. All out of date. It is late summer, bushes fat with blackberries. I could press my own squash from spring water and fresh fruit. I could save packaged goods for the winter months, but I have grown partial to the tang of fake cherries. Besides, I cannot be certain I will live to see more snowfall. In my long years, I have gone without many things, but never have I wanted for sustenance before now.
The walk to the convenience store takes 20 minutes. Its glass front lies on the paving stones; precious crystals spilled from a coffer. Most goods have been plundered already, by humans and animals alike. On the uppermost shelves are large cartons, each filled with 24 units of juice drink.
The distant hum of a generator. So faint, it is impossible to detect its source. I do my best to ignore the sound, loading a shallow trolley with cartons and boxes, but leaving the bottles of orange fizz well alone. For those, I’d need to be truly desperate.
A flash of movement dances across my vision. In the next aisle, a mangy fox carries something small and red in its mouth, its hind legs lifting in a motion somewhere between a limp and a skip. I let the creature go. If I were closer to the bothy, I might shoot or trap it. Fox flesh is not what I’d call succulent, but offers more meat than the sparrows I leave for Lucy.
Years ago, we tried cohabiting. In the evenings, she darned holes for something to do. In the mornings, she rose early and sat in the kitchen with her novelty mug, light flooding on to her freckled face.
She took the copper kettle with her. Neither of us spoke as she loaded barrows with clothes and tins. I imagined a greater sense of attachment to my own offspring. I forget their names. Jason and Sophie? Joseph and Sarah? What does it matter? They do not think of me as their father, and they never will.
Pushing my trolley towards the dim bulbs of the EXIT sign, I remember the dizzying effect of walking amongst shoppers, how they tried not to make eye contact with me as they selected their favoured brand of detergent. They didn’t stare. They’d been conditioned not to. Nothing strange about a tall man, a scarred man.
Some would nod. Occasionally, I’d get a, “Hullo, hoo’s it gaun?”
But these people have gone now.
First, they ran amok.
Then they thinned out.
Now, they feed the trees.
© Estella Rua, 2023
Connect with Estella on X:@estella_rua and Instagram:@estella_rua_writer
A Marriage by Pete Taylor is the final piece for this week. This poem spoke to me of the fragility of age, of health, and the strength of love. A beautiful, moving piece.
So otherworldly was she,
As she trembled on her uncle’s arm.
So full the gown of moiré poult,
An orange-blossom crown or coronet.
So strange the veil,
The lemon organdie and taffeta,
Of wide-eyed maids.
So unfamiliar was this dressed-up family,
That the smart young double-breasted man,
Could barely recognise his bride.
And now again he barely knows,
This lady by his bed.
Who helps him count his walking sticks,
And strains to hear her sweetheart talk,
Of Stanley Matthews, or how he’s afraid.
The nurses steal his biscuits. Yes, they do.
And what about his walking sticks?
© Pete Taylor, 2024
Connect with Pete on Instagram: @petetaylorpoetry
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