Friday, 2 January 2015

More Christmas Joy

Right. I haven't slept all night and I don't feel tired so I'm gonna bitch about my ex. All you faceless strangers are welcome along for the ride, if you're in the least interested. You might be. She's a real piece of work.Strap yourselves in.
     Ok. First, I did my back in. Like, serious, morphine for the pain and valium as a muscle relaxant kind of did my back in. So there was no way I could have my 4 year old and my 2 year old. They saw my pained crawling around the floor as a constant invitation to play horsey. So I didn't have them for two weeks and then my back was better enough that I arranged to go up and spend a few hours in the ex's house with the kids while she went out and did shopping. It was brilliant. I'd missed them so much and we knelt on the floor and built a giant castle out of blocks and played the piano and it was great. Then the ex storms back in with her cowed mother in tow, obviously in a foul mood. The kids are going, Mummy, look at our castle! She doesn't even look at them, just dumps her shopping and and goes out the back for a fag. The mother gives me a feeble smile and we make smalltalk. The ex comes back in just as my son is about to have a minor hissy fit cos he wants something and he can't have it instantly. I kneel down to talk to him about it, get him to breathe, like I always do, which works 95% of the time, and for some reason this makes the ex angry. She'd rather yell at him or just give him whatever he wants, and since that's not parenting, I ignore her initial pissy comments and concentrate on my boy. He calms down, which makes the ex angrier.
Why don't you just leave him alone? she says.
Would that have calmed him down? I ask.
Silence for a beat, then she says, I thought you had a bad back. How come you can kneel like that?
I said, Actually, this is far more comfortable for me than standing, cos of where the pain is.
If there's any pain at all, she says. Just fancied some time off then did you?
Why are you being so snarky with me? I ask.
She just looks at me. Her mother looks at the floor.
Right then, I think I'll be off, I say. Things to do and all that.
I kiss the kids goodbye, who are upset I've got to leave so suddenly, and get the fuck out of there.
The Sunday before Christmas, this is.  
The next day, same deal. She's going out shopping, I'm looking after the kids.
My daughter likes me to put music on and then hug me while I stand up and sway around. She's four and we've been doing it since she was a baby. I guess the only difference between us and most people is that my girl likes to listen to The Cardiacs and Primus. Anyway, we were doing this in the ex's kitchen, listening to Kyuss, while my boy drew pictures, and while looking through the cd booklet for new tunes came across two cds of my own band. Cool, I thought. I'll have them. So I took them out and placed them on the counter to put in my bag later. Later, I saw a copy of the graphic novel The Ballad Of Halo Jones I'd had since I was a kid, sitting on a shelf.
(I should explain. When I moved out, the ex packed up all my stuff. In doing so, she took out all my favourites and ones that had special meaning to me and kept them. Not cos she liked them, or wanted them; just so I couldn't have them any more. I'd already reclaimed a bunch of other cds and books at various intervals over the past couple of years.)
So I took that as well and put it in my rucksack.
The ex comes home. First she tries coming on to me. Cwtching into me on the sofa, getting into my personal space, making suggestive comments, and when I don't respond, she gets angry. Starts making snide comments. So again I say, Right, I'll be off then.
My daughter starts to cry. Please don't go Daddy, she says. I want to play with you more.
I've got to go, angel, I say. Santa's just been on the phone and he wants me to run some errands for him, so I've got to go and do that.
The ex chimes in: Santa's all the way up in the North Pole. How are you supposed to get anything to him?
I look up at her in disbelief. Are you seriously trying to deconstruct a comforting story I'm telling our child right now? I say.
Well, it's just logistics, innit? she says.
Because of course, I say, 4 year olds are so concerned with logistics.
Well, it can't be done, she says.
I say, Dude. Are you seriously attacking me for trying to comfort our 4 year old daughter?
She stares at me.
I turn back to my daughter. So listen, I've got to run this errand and then meet up with one of Santa's elves so he can get it to Santa.
Over my daughter's head, I give the ex a smile that says, There. Happy? Does that fit your exacting standards?
Ok Daddy, says my daughter, still leaking tears. I kiss them away and giver her a hug, laboriously stand up, pick up the 2 cds of my band I found to put in my bag and the ex says, What are they?
Cds of my own band, I say, holding them up to show her. Old crappy college-recorded ones.
Why are you going through my stuff? she says.
I explain that my daughter and were looking for music to listen to.
Well stop going through my fucking stuff! she says. What else have you taken?
Well, I took my copy of Halo Jones back, I say.
Right, get the fuck out! she screams. My daughter starts bawling, my boy follows suit. You're a fucking thief!
How can I be a thief when it's my stuff? I say.
I don't give a fuck! she screams.
I'm trying to back out of the door while saying to the kids, I love you, I'll see you Christmas Day, everything's gonna be fine, while she's charging at me howling, You're not welcome here! You're a fucking criminal!
I can't help it. I burst out laughing as the door slams behind me. She screams FUCK OFF! so loud her voice cracks. She doesn't seem to care she's in the same space as a 4 year old and a two year old. I stop laughing when I remember that now those two poor little bastards have got to be left alone with her.
(I don't sleep much. This is why. The thought of what she gets up to when she has the kids, unsupervised. With no-one to keep her in check. She'll scream in their faces in the street, so what will she do in private? Hence: I don't sleep much. There's a lot of staring into the darkness, trying not to think about this stuff.)
Merry Christmas, folks. 
I swear on the eternal souls of my children, even though I'm not sure I believe in such a thing, that every word here is true. She says and does these things. The other day my son said these words: I'm scared of mummy. What 2 year old says such things? I was talking to my daughter today, and she was saying that Mummy shouldn't shout cos bad guys shout, and bad guys kill people, and what if Mummy killed me, cos then I'd be dead forever and I'd never see you again Daddy - and she started to sob. I knelt down and hugged her and said Not gonna happen angel, and I'll always be with you cos I'm in here, and I tap her gently on the chest, and you're in here, and I tap my chest (and I'm welling up now writing this, Jesus H Christ, what a fucking mess) and I hold her close and I'm thinking, I didn't even know she properly understood what death is. Or how she knows it's forever. No-one close to her has died, no pets, no-one. I've never said anything about it, I've been dreading it. I first understood death at 5, when my best friend's mother died. Why is my daughter thinking about this stuff now? Again, she's four, for Christ's sake. What does her mother say to her?
Hark, the herald angels you reckon they ever sing about the record number of suicides over Christmas? Or do those poor souls not get sung about,cos they're not getting in Upstairs?
I sometimes daydream about getting a phone call from the cops saying, Your ex has been in a fatal accident, or something. And I picture all the tension draining out of me, my shoulders slumping.
We're free.
That would be a Christmas miracle I could get behind.


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas And Other Bullshit

To whom it may concern:
Christmas, for a change, was actually great. For the past I don't know how many years my ex has found some way to fuck it up, but this year it went off without a hitch. The kids were awesome and adorable as ever, they loved their presents, the steaks I cooked for me and my mother were gorgeous, the ex didn't pull any of her stunts, just dropped the kids off and fucked off, which was great, and I've been sitting here teaching myself to play blues harmonica while the kids sleep. The blues harp was my present to myself. The only other presents I had were a graphic novel off my brother and a jar of Colman's mustard off Phoebe. I was chuffed with them. I don't need presents. I just need the kids to be happy with their presents and for it to be over. Fuck Christmas. I wouldn't want anything to do with Santa even if I was freezing to death and he had the monopoly on heat. No doubt the morphine and valium I've been taking for my chronic back pain helped the day fly by, but whatever. I've been cutting myself down, even though I shouldn't really, and I barely slept last night. Anyway, fuck it, it didn't matter. The back's slowly getting better. Both bands are going through really creative phases. My main band is gonna be recording soon. Possibly a lot. The other band's been offered recording time. Gotta gig on New Year's Eve that's paying well. Life is good.
I was feeling miserable on the weekend, for a variety of reasons, and a couple of dispiriting things happened, but I went and bought a blues harp and everything's better. I recommend it to everyone. Now I've got to get a bunch of harmonicas in different keys and play them all. (Mine's a G.) Luckily, decent harmonicas aren't that expensive.
Is anyone actually reading this? I'm sorry, man. It's Christmas night and I'm shitfaced and I felt like having a faceless conversation with whatever stranger comes across this at whatever point in the future. How are you? Christmas go ok? It's a nightmare, innit? Any family arguments? They are as much a part of Christmas as much as the daft paper hats, after all. 
I might be dead by the time someone reads this. I could get hit by a drunk driver tomorrow. What a pointless last communication with the ether this would be. Fuck it. I'm too wrecked. I'm gonna play some blues and go to bed.
Goodnight world.
And have a good New Year's Eve. Just don't go into it with high expectations, cos New Year's Eve is always a fuckin letdown. In the same way that the best parties are the ones that happen spontaneously, New Year's Eve is always an anticlimax cos everyone expects to go out and have the best night of the year, and it never fuckin happens. So just, y'know, adjust your expectations.
Take it easy folks.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Death Of A Funnyman

Ok. Where do I begin sorting out my feelings about this?
I guess we'll begin with the facts. Two days ago, Robin Williams killed himself. What kind of world are we living in where Robin Williams, the cuddliest fucking madman there ever was, the capering court jester, the man born to play Puck (did he ever play Puck? He should've done), just can't take it anymore? Anyway.
Recently, due to my rekindled obsession with comedy, I'd gone back and watched some of Robin Williams's standup.  Listened to the brutally honest interview he did with WTF. Found myself thinking, Man, I like that guy. I'm glad there's a Robin Williams in the world. As little as three days before he died, I was thinking that thought. You ever seen his bit about the creation of golf? Holy cow. A mini-masterpiece of escalation and deconstruction.
I realised, after I heard the news, that he was one of the first standups I watched obsessively. Actually, I think he was the first. I must've been 8 or 9 years old. My parents had recorded Live At The Met off the TV and I remember us all watching it and falling around laughing, and many of the lines from it became family catchphrases. I remember making my mother laugh by pulling my lolling head up by my fringe and slurring 'Don't change the channel', aping Robin's joke about housewives on Valium, years before I knew what Valium was. I remember telling kids in my primary school his jokes about cocaine from that special, mimicking the delivery as best as I could, and every single kid laughing hysterically, until the laughter died down to sighs and hiccups and the first brave soul asked, 'What's cocaine?' So I told them, feeling the warm glow children feel when they're imparting forbidden grown-up knowledge to their peers, which was only possible because I'd done exactly the same thing they had: laughed myself stupid at the jokes, then later, tentatively asked my parents what cocaine was. I'm still not sure how he managed, or how I managed with my awful 9-year-old facsimile of his routine, to make people laugh at jokes when they have no real understanding of the premise. Isn't that like magic or something? I think for us it was about that combination of high energy and lunatic imagery,  ninjas on the golf course and all that. I haven't re-watched it. I think it might make me too sad.
So as soon as he was gone it occurred to me what a presence he was in my childhood. I watched Live At The Met countless times, I watched Good Morning, Vietnam countless times (my parents never censored the movies my brother and I watched; I remember us all sitting down as a family, me about six, my brother ten or eleven, to watch that heart-warming family favourite, ReAnimator), and like I said, his punchlines became in-jokes for the family. Then I hit adolescence, he started making movies like Patch Adams, and Robin and I drifted apart for a while. Not that I ever held any of those saccharine weepies he did against him, and the reason why is because at no point in any of those movies, no matter how treacly and manipulative they might become, with their sweeping string scores and their clunky dialogue, at no point did I feel like Robin Williams was being dishonest with me. This film may be a piece of shit, I'd think, but look at Robin's eyes; he means it.
Another one of his movies that sprang quickly to mind was One Hour Photo. Robin as tragic and increasingly unhinged loner, a photo kiosk employee who becomes obsessed with a family who develop their photos with him. Probably that comes to mind because of what's painfully clear now; that Robin Williams, seemingly, really did share that kind of fierce loneliness with his character, Sy.
I can't stop thinking about what it must have been like for him. In those last few minutes. The utter and devastating conviction that death is preferable to this. That people would be better off. Maybe because I've been there. I tried to kill myself, years ago, nearly succeeded. My mother woke up at three in the morning, went to use the bathroom, saw the kitchen light was on, found me blue on the kitchen floor after a massive overdose. Died for six minutes in the ambulance. In a coma for three days. Woke up enraged. How dare you fuckin save me? But I remember sitting in my bedroom in my mother's house, with all the boxes of pills I'd been hoarding on the bed next to me, smoking gear off foil and downing pill after pill after pill with a bottle of whisky (Jim Beam, not one of your hideous blended malts, I'm not some kind of animal; this was, after all, The Big Goodbye. Couldn't have them finding my vomit-stained corpse clutching a bottle of cheap gutrot, I'd never live it - oh.) and thinking, this is good. I am doing the right thing. Everything will be better for everyone. I won't be in any more pain, and no-one will have to put up with me anymore. And after a few more boxes of pills and some more heroin and some more whisky, and more syrup-voiced and subtle encouragement from the whispers in my head, I suddenly became flooded with contentment and a strange sort of joy that had nothing to do with the drugs. I'd said goodbye, and this was the right thing to be doing, and I'd accepted my death.
That's the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember is exploding into consciousness on a hospital bed with screaming white noise where my mind should be, being held down by doctors, nurses, my dad, and my right arm shot out and grabbed a nurse by the front of her uniform, and from my prone postion, I lifted her off her feet. I'm not a strong man; this was the circus strength of the temporarily insane.
Sometimes, now my life is so much better and I don't do drugs anymore and I don't think about suicide anymore and I've got two mindblowing and beautiful children, the thought will intrude that I did die that day, and everything since has been a Jacob's Ladder-style hallucination. How could it not be? It's so much better than that other life I had. They're like two separate lives. If the multiverse theory is correct, in countless universes I did die, and my children will never exist. And every time I think this thought, the feeling it leaves hangs around for a while, making life feel dreamlike and spiderweb fragile, and every time without fail I think, how lucky I am that I didn't manage to kill myself that time. What a fool I was.
Well, the odds were not with Robin Williams. All the little variables that have to be in place for a successful suicide were obviously present, not least his choice of method. Which is something else that perturbs me; during my attempt, I got to feel that rush of acceptance, got to black out with no pain. Robin Williams didn't get that. Due to the subpar jobs most people do of hanging themselves ( hanging, after all, used to be a considered a craft and a skill, if not exactly an art. A good hangman was much in demand), I doubt very much Robin's death was of the quick and clean variety. Nope, he probably had a good fifteen to twenty minutes to swing there and feel the life drain out of him in between spasms of agony. Long enough to think in horror Oh God I've made a mistake someone help oh God I can't breathe - picture it. Now picture how utterly desolate he must have felt, knowing this pain was coming and going ahead anyway because the emotional pain he was already constantly in was far worse. This bearlike, funny, warm, beautiful man, brought so low and isolated so much by his demons' ceaseless whispering. I'd like to think he went quickly, but like I've said, the odds were not with him that night.
I know that sense of despair and finality and grim determination, and it's breaking my heart to think of Robin Williams going through that, and all the variables being in place - no-one else in the house, check, ferocious self-hatred, check, recurrence of substance abuse issues, check, randomized and oppressive guilt, check - for his attempt to be successful. It's bothering me that he'll never get the chance to look back and say, Jesus, I was so depressed then, but how lucky am I to be here now? Which is something he no doubt thought many times in his life, after a life's peaks and troughs, but he'll never think it again, and a man who seemed to be plugged into the comedy mains, a man who could not help but entertain people, his last moments were pitch dark and painful and despairing and lonely and so fucking senseless.
I dunno. I never expected his death to affect me this much. It has, though. I've cried about it at least three times. I never cry when famous people die. I didn't cry when Zappa died when I was 14. Kurt Cobain, nada. Bill Hicks, nope. Hunter S Thompson, not a drop. But Robin Williams death has left a gap in the world that for some reason I feel keenly. All those other guys are people I loved and admired growing up, but none of them are renowned for being nice guys. Robin Williams, from all reports, was one of the most genuine, kind-hearted, generous and humble folk ever to grace a stage. You can hear it in that WTF interview; slightly shy, brutally honest, someone you could respect as a human being as well as admire for his talent, because of his basic decency. It makes it worse, somehow.
Anyway. I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say any more. It's just too fucking sad. His poor family, living with the aftermath of this. I know some people say suicide is selfish, but those people have never dealt with crippling depression. Suicide isn't selfish; suicide is unfortunate, like hitting snake-eyes on a roulette wheel. You know the percentage of suicide attempts that are successful? It ain't big. Even people who really mean to finish it all sometimes survive, even if they try hanging themselves or shooting themselves or throwing themselves off high structures. One guy survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. We're resilient fuckers, humans. So the metaphorical stars really have to be in conjuction for your suicide attempt to be successful. That's one of the reasons it's so tragic when someone kills themselves; it could so easily have gone the other way. A phone call and a kind word at the right moment, the gun misfires, the light fitting comes out of the ceiling when you kick the chair away...or in my case, your mother just so happens to need a pee and finds you dying on the kitchen floor just in time to save you. If the ambulance had been a few minutes later I'd be dead now.  But no such last-minute reprieves for Robin. Everything went according to plan.
People have been saying Didn't he know how much we'd miss him? That he could've asked pretty much anyone in the Western World for help, and they'd have helped him, because hey, he's fucking Mork! Gooooood Mooooooorniiiiiing Viiiieeeetnaaaaaaaaam! Remember that? We loved that guy!
And the answer is no. When it counted, he didn't know that stuff. He might have known it on better days, but on that day that particular information didn't exist for him. That's what depression is. It's like a version of hysterical blindness brought about by trauma, where the only thing you can't see is any reason to still be breathing.
I'll miss Robin Williams. I'm gonna watch some of his movies again, and watch all his standup again, and listen to that WTF interview again, and try and concentrate on what a gentle and funny and talented soul he was, in the hope that it'll keep me from thinking about how painful his last moments must have been. In the meantime, my daughter just woke up and she wants a bowl of Cheerios, so I'm gonna go do that for her while I think about how lucky I am that the odds were in my favour that night, and how grateful I am to be getting all these extra moments of life, even if they are a hallucination I'm having as the lights go out.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Strong Gear

We're both ill now, striding through darkened streets to Gonzo's house to score, but when we get there this guy I've never seen before opens the door.
     -Er, orright blue, is Gonzo about?  He knows I'm coming, like.
     -What were you after?
     I hesitate.  This guy looks tanned and healthy, teeth white and even, expensive-looking clothes.  Not many people look like that in this game.  Dai's hanging back, leaving this to me.  I'm thinking, fuck it, I'm dying.
     -Just two twenny bags.
     -Mon in.
     We follow him in.  All Gonzo's stuff has gone.  All new furniture.  It looks like a different flat.
     -Where's Gonzo then?
     -He had to leave, he says, sitting down and pulling scales from under the sofa, weighing out two bags, putting them in squares of foil.
     -I spoke to him half hour ago, Dai says.  -He said to call over.  That's why we're yer.
     The guy shrugs, stands up, hands us our gear.  -That's why you're here, he says.
     A good point.  I pocket the gear, hand the cash over and I'm turning to leave when Dai says, -Gonzo's... orright, is he?  Did he get busted or something?
     The guy sighs.  -Gonzo's fine.  He's just not here.
     -Fuck it, Dai, come on, I say.  -I'm dying yer.
     I look at the guy.  Cheers blue, I say.
     He salutes me, says, -Go with God, boys.
     Dai turns and stalks out.  I follow him, stopping in the doorway to ask, -So, if I need something in future, do I call you?
     He just smiles and says, -Be careful with that stuff.  It's something else.
     I've heard that line a thousand times, and it's always bullshit.  We leave.

     We get back to my flat.  We haven't spoken the whole way home.  Dai gets his works out while I put the kettle and the telly on.  Out of some masochistic tendency I'll often leave off fixing for a little while after I've scored, because your need is never as brutal when you've actually got the gear in your possession, so I'll sit there and savour every twitch and shiver for a few minutes.  Perverse.  Dai doesn't share this view (nor does anyone else) so his shot's nearly ready.  I finish making the tea and sit down, pull my works out, get started.
     -That fella said this stuff was strong, I say.
     -And I've got a bridge I can sell yew, he says.  He pulls the dirty fluid into the syringe and does the little pantomime of flicking the bubbles away.  Stops, looks at me.  -What's the fuckin score with Gonzo then?
     I can only shrug.  -Doan know, doan wanna know.  That guy just now gave me the fuckin creeps.
     Dai's pulling his belt from his jeans, wrapping it around his bicep.  -But all his fuckin stuff was gone!  And I talked to him half hour before.  He didn't mention he'd be movin fuckin house in the time it took us to walk there.
     I say nothing.  The gear has a weird sheen to it, like sand.  Rip off?
     -How does it cook?
     -Like...a...dream, he says, pushing the needle into his arm.  He pulls the plunger til blood flowers in the chamber, then pushes it home, and gasps.
     -Oh...oh...oh my fuckin, God, man...I...
     He slumps forward, needle dangling from his arm, and makes a sound somewhere between a groan and a sigh.  I'm sitting there watching this performance, smiling, thinking I guess it is strong then when he starts to laugh, flops bonelessly back into the sofa, laughs again, and something's happening to him.  He looks...blurry.  Like he's coming apart before my eyes, like he's turning to multicoloured dust and floating into nothing.
     I put my gear down and rub my eyes.
     -I get it, he says.  -I know...I...I get it...
     Rubbing my eyes changes nothing.  Whatever it is, it's still happening, his body pixellating and drifting apart, and the last expression on his face is one of bliss.
     His laughter turns to sobs and back again, then a final slurred whisper of I get it before it fades to nothing, and the only sound is the soft thump of the needle hitting the carpet.
     And I sit there alone, looking at the indentation he left on the sofa cushions, the half a rollie he left in the ashtray, the needle on the floor, and finally at the gear, laying in its little foil bed on the table like an unexploded bomb.  I look for a long time.
     Eventually, sunrise, and I stand at my window and watch the first rays climb over the hill and wash the world with colour.  I can see the spot on the pavement where I kissed Jess for the first time.  Off in the distance is the park where I used to hang out and get drunk when I was thirteen, fourteen.  If I lean, I can see my grandma's old house.
     I stand there and remember for a while, not even feeling that bad now, just a few cold sweats, before sitting down and starting to cook my shot.  My hands are shaking, but I'll be ok.  It's going to be ok.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


The first thing I'm aware of
is her voice,
saying Go in the front room please
Daddy. Please?
My eyes creak open.  I say,
Ok babes,
roll on my back,
examine the ceiling.
A florid nonsense sentence
comes from him;
I turn my head.
He's standing in his cot
grinning at me.
He looks like Kilroy.
You remember him?
The graffiti,
not the guy with orange skin.
I sit up, rub my eyes
and check the time.
Half eight.  Not bad.
A lie-in's like a gift..

She's been talking to me
this whole time,
asking for toast, to
get out of her cot.
She settles on a name for me
for now;
I'm Daddy Pig.
A Peppa freak,
she calls me that a lot.
I get called Daddy Iron Man as well,
and sometimes Daddy Dragon
and/or Robot.
I love the way
these words sound in her voice,
which reminds me of
white chocolate.
Who knows why.

He's excited now,
holds up his arms
for me to pick him up.
I do. He grins.
He's got a brilliant grin.
It's weapons grade,
just like his frowns,
which come like summer storms
and dissipate as fast.
He pokes my nose,
I make a noise, a horn.
He laughs, pokes his.
I soak all this stuff up
like rays of sun.

And then I make us breakfast,
and I drink
some coffee.  First of many.
Did I change their nappies yet?
Yes, I did.
I'm barely conscious.
It's alright.
The coffee's working.

He will concentrate
on eating toast,
and she'll talk to me
about everything.
What's that, Daddy?
What's this?
Look Dad, a cat!

Meow, I go.
She mee-yows back. This day
is gonna be ok.
We'll be alright.

And there are the mornings
they're not here.
I rarely use my bed
when it's just me.
I stay awake, and play guitar,
and read.
The moment I'm in bed
with the light off,
all sorts of ugly
memories recur,
and I can't sleep.
But when the kids are here,
these memories
are held at bay
by snores from sleeping kids.
(I can't afford to live
in any flat
that has more than one bedroom.
So we share.)
The sofa, then,
when they are not around.
A lumpy two-seater affair,
as comfy as a brick.
I'll sit up til dawn,
til my eyes droop,
then curl up and black out.
It's not ideal.

But this how it is,
and it's ok.
At least I've got my kids
and they've got me.
They saved me from myself
when nothing else
seemed able to perform
that humble trick.

Don't get me wrong.
They can be assholes too.
But that's ok.  They're tiny.
It's allowed.

So anyway,
breakfast has come and gone.
She wants to hear Nirvana;
they are now
her favourite band of all.
She's nearly three.
I put Teen Spirit on,
her favourite tune,
and as I watch them
bop their little heads,
and she sings just the last
word of each line,
I sip my drink,
remember being young.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Vernon Gets His Wish

The glorious day was coming,
and when it did,
it would not find Vernon unprepared.
He would lead his new family,
tin-halo'd head held high,
and the flames would lap at them harmlessly,
their rapture shaking the earth.

Can you see their shining faces?
Their cheeks glisten
with tears of pure faith,
and Lord help the man, woman or child
with no armour of belief
in their bold stride.

(Of course, Vernon wasn't his real name;
he'd shed the skin of his past
to be fresh and reborn,
to lead his new family
into the light.)

But nothing is ever that simple,
is it?
There always those ready 
to pervert the course of the righteous.
Clad in silken robes
or Armani suits,
their job remains the same;
wielding blades or wielding bureaucracy,
to stand in the way of the angels.
But Vernon would be ready.
He would do as the angels had done
when Lucifer's pride threatened to topple
the One True Throne.
He would build an army, 
and hold them close.
This would be his family.

Scriptures would be read.
Assault rifles stockpiled.
New soldiers fathered.
Man-sized paper targets shredded.
In this commune
rich in faith and firepower
and alive with brotherly love.

You must remember.
The family's love for Vernon was real,
as real as their belief in him
as the one to lead them to glory.

And when Vernon's day dawned,
he was ready.
His soldiers, his brothers,
at his side.

And they came.

With tanks
and guns 
and sniper rifles
and snazzy matching jackets
and their own misguided convictions,
and they launched pillars of flame 
through shattered windows 
to the tune of screaming children.
And with the conviction that
God was guiding his hand,
Vernon stepped into the light,
and most of his family followed.

Charisma can be a terrible thing.


Three in the morning and I'm wide awake.
This always happens
when the kids aren't here.
They are ballast;
without them, I just float off,

I stay awake so late
because every time I lay in the dark
and try to sleep
I'm haunted by regrets
and failures
and humiliations,
swooping at me from the darkness
like evilly whispering bats.
Their wings brush my face
and, in the dark,
I'll bury my face in my hands
and groan, Oh God.

I'm such an asshole.

I'm not that guy any more,
not really.
The drugs have gone,
the arrogance has gone,
the self-destructive impulses
seem alien now.

Becoming a father burned all that shit out of me,
leaving me unsure
of who exactly the fuck I am
when the kids aren't here.

So here I am.
Wide awake at stupid o'clock
smoking cigarette after cigarette,
avoiding the bats,
missing the kids.