Coastal (Part 4)

They didn’t argue, the fun had left their faces. As they all ceased moving the water stilled too, like it knew to dance would be inappropriate. The girls looked younger in their doubt but he was more intimidated by them now than ever, he could feel the milling in their heads as they wished for him to leave. It was all he could do, so he did.

He gave them a sad half smile. ‘It was nice talking to you.’ He turned and lifted himself out of the pool to stand, water rushing off him but the sound of it hitting the ground was too loud so he started walking immediately. Surprisingly, Dreadlocks called out, ‘Hey, what’s your name? I forgot.’ He looked back, brow narrowed in puzzlement. ‘What does it matter? It’s the least important thing to know about someone.’

‘But it’s your name’, returned Blue, ‘You carry it your entire life, it’s part of what defines you, eventually it encompasses your experiences. People who know you see memories when they hear your name.’

He shook his head. ‘It’s a label like any other. It’s doesn’t say where I’ve been, where I’m going. It doesn’t tell you what’s inside of me right now.’

The extra distance had opened them back up, and they seemed interested in him again.

‘What’s inside of you?’ asked Dreadlocks.

His mind was made up now though. ‘I’m not sure. That’s why I have to go. I need to find out.’

He commenced his track up the hill again, hurrying to his bike. He clipped his helmet and was quickly on the seat, pedalling once again. With little resistance he moved through the comfortable night air. A voice followed, one of the girls’, asking him to wait but it was too late.

 

The next sea pool along the coast waited in dead silence as he arrived. A children’s playground on the headland above was nothing but geometric shadows. It held no meaning without the bodies to traverse it. Settled in the calm night, the water of the pool looked bottomless. Normally when he rode he would have music in his ears and everything would take on some kind of significance. The music would show him that all the things he saw were important somehow; there was purpose to them, dignity within them, emotion to be found amongst them. Without it, the view appeared lifeless.

As before, he set his bike down and took the steps to the pool’s edge. Shirt off and tossed aside he sat down to put his feet in. Looking hard, he tried to make out the bottom but he couldn’t, just another unknown. For a long time, he did nothing except stare into the water, trying to process his thoughts. He was confused about a lot of things and no matter how hard he contemplated, no matter how long he remained unmoving his feelings would not be simplified. If he was being honest, he knew it would come to this all along. For a brief moment he thought the girls might change his path, but ultimately the presence inside was too strong. It was time to see what the future held. Nudging himself forward he slipped into the water, exhaling the air from his lungs as he did so.

 

Mostly he was hoping the first sign of struggle from his body would convince him to resurface.

For the entirety of his formative years he had been trying to figure out if the world had a place for him, or if he wanted one. At times he felt so alive it was like he was a part of the earth, occasionally he felt like he came close to understanding it all, the minds of the trees, the characters of the animals, the motivations of the weather. Other times, he just felt all the sadness in the world crush down on him. The helplessness and hopelessness of millions of people in every corner of every country seemed pointlessly cruel. And sometimes he simply felt lonely, even amidst a warm embrace.

Knowing what could be ahead of him if he found a way to get back up to the air, he was surprised when he didn’t start climbing. Instead he started to feel peaceful. Oxygen was in high demand but all he could think about was how quiet it was, how still, and how simple. There was nothing here to hurt, and nothing to be hurt. He guessed it was like the time before birth, when everything was out of his control. It seemed somewhat of a solution. Suspended there, eyes closed, he could have been in space.

Just as he was ready to let go, a thought nagged at him. He wasn’t in space or the womb or any other place of isolation. He was drowning to death in an ocean pool, and in death he wouldn’t be blissfully alone either. He’d be another number without the ability to do anything. He could help no one, like the millions of helpless souls he’d be joining. Alive, he could at least have the chance to change. Perspective is one thing that can always be altered.

Up there somewhere were people who hadn’t been born yet that could be his family, up there were places of natural beauty that he could visit, up there were songs he could hear, stories he could read and watch, food he could taste, textures he could feel.

He forced his eyes open but was struggling to make his arms and legs move. Starving desperately for air, he had no idea how long he’d been under. No, everything was hurting. The pain in his chest was excruciating, he couldn’t think straight, his brain was bursting trying to make him breathe in, but that would be the end. No, no, just like most other choices he’d made this one was a mistake but he couldn’t fight it off now. He let the real darkness come just as commotion roiled the water above him.

 

He woke up coughing violently, water coming out of his mouth. He could feel grass under his back and unintelligible voices talking to him. Collapsing his head back to the ground he slowly allowed his vision to clear as his chest heaved. There was a light, from a phone or a torch, moving around. Soon, he could see Dreadlocks and Blue knelt either side of him, concerned. Something was still keeping him from interpreting them properly and he noticed another figure. Next to Dreadlocks stood a black Labrador. This time though it didn’t scare him, he didn’t want to run away. He lifted his hand, noting the animals kind eyes, and the dog bent and gave it a lick. Then it turned and wandered off, perhaps back home.

He finally managed to focus his gaze on Dreadlocks and Blue and smiled self-consciously. A boy embarrassed in the company of beautiful women.

Leaves

I’ve been trying to figure out
If leaves have a life of their own.
When they fall are they simply done?
Do they just get blown with the wind
Or do they navigate?
When they leave home is that the beginning of the end
Or an escape?

Are they individual
Or are there too many to possibly distinguish?
Extinguish one,
It only hits pause on the fun
Before the rest realise they
Need to make the most of their time,
Especially if it involves making a dime
Into more.
We understand the crunch under our feet
Means they’re gone but we don’t mind,
They weren’t ours to think of.
And it’s probably more kind
To chop down the tree when it stands empty
Then to let it live without family,
But the tree is the only one that really understands the loss.
Despite the others moving in empathy,
It’s impossible for them to care
As much as they make out they do.

When a leaf is loose
It may fly for a while
Until eventually it spirals down,
As sad as the end of a good song
And the tree from which it came
Can only stand so long

Occurences

Part 1

Spin your lucky coin

Spin it seven times if you think it makes a difference.

Spin it until it’s cork-screwed

into the table.

Spitting out woodchips,

superstitious shrapnel.

That’s what people do,

even me and you.

 

I’ve always found luck

to be a curious thing.

You never feel it coming

and you never feel it going

and you never see it

happen.

You just put it down to luck

but what if it doesn’t exist?

What if events and instances are just a matter of our choices

and we make all the wrong ones?

Well I suppose I believe in that more

because I know that I’ve done it

many times before.

 

Bad luck

is just a combination

of a lot of bad thoughts and a lot of wrong decisions,

and good luck

is the just the result of a positive mind

and a positive mind is the best thing

you can have

but it’s not so easy to find.

 

Part 2

The answer won’t change

if the question stays the same

and dust will quickly make hay

if the cloth is put away.

I pulled the phone off the hook

but then hoped you wouldn’t answer,

released the change,

pocketed it for a rainy day.

 

I remember

the time

I was on the other end of the line

to hear your hysterical account.

I whispered back

that it probably wouldn’t work out.

 

In my minds eye

I saw you wilt,

a spent force as the postman passed me by.

He was always smiling

like he believed

he never delivered bad news.

He asked what happened

and with nothing to say,

I shook my head as the ambulance left

and wished for the wind to blow him away.

 

The phone to my ear again

I knew you’d come

and I knew what I’d say.

What better way

to say thank you

than to tell someone

they owe you something.

 

Part 3

Scatter-gun crunch on the road,

crystals splattered all blood-red.

Asking what’s your name?

I stopped next to the dying man’s head.

 

 

 

Train Trips

Trip 1.

She seemed to have

a nice smile.

I couldn’t see her mouth

but her eyes crinkled

in a way that made me

want to listen to her laugh.

 

Trip 2.

He was diligently talking business

while watching TV on his Ipad

and looking annoyed at anyone who ventured near him

in the crowded belly of the train.

From somewhere hidden

came an urge to break his nose.

 

Trip 3.

Pulling off a flamboyant winter style

only those of African descent seem able to,

he was comfortable

with the closeness of the crowd, friendly even.

I didn’t often see that.

 

Trip 4.

It was a lengthy trip

and I had a lot of time to think,

concealed behind my earphones

and contemplatively silent beneath my hood.

 

Trip 5.

Somehow the train seemed alive

and I tried to embrace it.

Using the rollicking motion,

the scenes outside

and my own fluctuating mood

I did my best to create the most beautiful sequence of words.

I never even came close to

cellar door.

 

Trip 6.

To keep him occupied,

she patiently blew bubbles

while he sat giggling in his pram.

It was a moment to grin at.

 

Trip 7.

Newspapers, daters, haters, screens, screams, teens, make-up, shaken up, dust ups, food, dudes, moods, seats, heat, meat, feet, love, beauty, repulsion, religion, scepticism, politicians, aggression, recession, depression, skin, sin, kin, violence, patience, impatience, intelligence, music, silence, deaf, death, dumbness, blindness, numbness, a caress, sunglasses, Pokémon masters, disasters, headphones, IPhones, IPads, dads, mums, sons, daughters, naughty kids, funny kids, cute kids, lunchbox lids, sad, mad, lads, shoes, losers, winners, grinners, colours, shades, blades, debts paid, fights, lights, tights, bodies, money, honeys, necklaces, familiar faces, strange faces, wasters, junkies, drugs, hugs, kisses, hisses, whispers, swisspers, fibbers, breasts, tests, jests, failure, success, business, less, more, scores, sores, laws, bores, cords, elephant pictures, erotic fiction, varied diction, imagination, the heart of a nation, conversation, action, inaction,  races, braces, racists, tastes, smells, sounds, feelings, dealings, healing, steel, heels, banana peels, pairs, stares, stairs, hairs, solitary cares, dirt, shirts, emotional hurts, nerds, ‘birds’, g force,  g string, of course, sauce, Red Bull, bullshit, dresses, messes, lessons, brains, names, shame, more of the same, men, women, humans, dicks.

There’s nothing you can’t find on a train.

 

Trip 8.

A train at night is the worst thing.

You can’t even look out the window

without meeting a stranger’s reflected eye.

 

Trip 9.

You feel like such a disappointment

when you sit down

next to someone who would rather take the trip alone.

Her tweaked mouth told me she’d suffer

my company next to her,

but that was it.

 

Trip 10.

All alone,

looking vaguely out windows

with a murmured conversation here and there

in your periphery,

one can really take the time to consider things.

 

Trip 11.

The faces rushing past seem to mirror

the entire social landscape;

people hold hopeful stares in their curiosity

but are not interested enough

to push up

on what is crushing them down.

 

Trip 12.

Essentially a box

packed full of humanity,

it manages to turn people

into something less.

Everyone would prefer to be strangers.

 

Trip 13.

Not enough people look through a window

that isn’t framed by an IPhone case.

Maybe for the animals it’s safer that way;

less inclination to destroy the world

if they aren’t seeing it.

 

Trip 14.

Travelling is simple

until the conductor sounds like a radio wave

and no one wakes you up after termination

halfway home.

 

Trip 15.

People are interesting

even when they’re not.

I wish I could see inside them

and understand everything.

 

Trip 16.

A voice so delicate,

it made the train seem like a monster

running us away to grind fragile bones

somewhere dark. Somewhere sounds fall dead

and the only way out is the one you can’t see.

You can just hear that voice

from that sweet face

but it’s all so delicate.

At the same time you hear your salvation in it,

you feel more lost than ever.

 

Trip 17.

All in all I think kids are becoming smarter

and dumber too.

It’s so jarring to hear advanced vocabularies

discussing such base topics.

 

Trip 18.

Kids catching the train to school,

hordes of them learning

before they get educated.

Their parents private money

does nothing for them sitting on the floor

at the feet of tradies, the elderly, businessmen, older students, drug addicts, and single mothers.

 

Trip 19.

They say don’t touch unaccompanied baggage.

Don’t give it back,

don’t take it away.

Alert the staff at the next station

when it’s too late either way.

 

Trip 20.

I type on my phone,

flick through six different tabs,

addicted like all the rest

but always admiring the singular clear focus

of the train.

If I could have that for one day

every problem that inspires distress,

every distraction or complication,

would fade.

 

Trip 21.

Every obsession,

everything you can’t get out of your head,

bubbles to the surface of your mind,

punctuated by the stops

and new faces.

 

Trip 22.

Traces of all the bad scents

find their way through the whole carriage

and without noise, all accuse each other

the same way people scowl inside

during conversation with intolerable

acquaintances they somehow got stuck

taking the ride with.

 

Trip 23.

It was early,

but getting on to spring,

the sun was up.

I felt my eyes glisten

as I witnessed the kindness of strangers.

I was happy to see it still existed

but sad

because my reaction proved to me

it had become an anomaly.

 

Trip 24.

On the train you’re as close

to people as you’re ever going to get

and have all the time you’ll ever need

to look at them.

You see the nape of a neck

and a different colour hair on the back of a head

and know they will never be able to see themselves in the same way.

There is a part of them that will always

be more familiar than yourself.

 

Trip 25.

Sometimes you see things that make your head turn.

Like a nervous man with bandaged legs

wrapped in a hospital blanket.

You wonder.

 

Trip 26.

In the early mornings before you get on,

the people around remind you of seagulls.

They have one objective.

Their lives revolve around how they will procure

the next cigarette or hit of something stronger.

And it makes you sad.

And it makes me sad.

 

Trip 27.

Everyone’s knee is shaking,

or their hand is tapping,

or their cheeks are flushing.

We’re all conscious of how we look

or if we’ll say the right things.

 

Trip 28.

Life is like a train.

People think it’s a line

but it’s a cycle

and it doesn’t stop

just because they decide to step off.

as long as the earth lasts

a retired mother vacuums an empty house, implores the quiet spaces for response

and feels an overflow threaten her eyes when she understands

 

the sand blasted beach cottage where family mosquito-plagued board games

inevitably descended into

 

memories of a chance encounter. A night when soft lips held a smile at rest,

begging to be joined by his coarser embrace and to remind him

 

silent Christmas mornings, when no one else is awake apart from a parrot at the

feeder, feel like

 

the sorrowful waiting room dictating one visitor at a time transforms the vending

machine into a monster and only serves to accentuate

 

the gravity of a child’s giggling first step across unforgiving linoleum floor is as pure as

 

a fifteen kilometre walk to the family’s water source allows the necessary time to
think about

 

one gull in flight, so unmistakably wise and independent riding the updraft, can

see even better than

 

the most astute commentator may unmask government failings but will never

remove their own façade to comprehend the

 

sound of waves, ten feet above tingling skin, in an ocean without fear is the closest

one can come to

 

the feeling of a wedding day, when the flowers are fresh, lasts as long as

 

the time it takes to cross a loud, disconnected stranger-infested intersection is

enough to realise

 

we will never know enough about each other’s insides to uncover why

 

so many lost people are misunderstood and dismissed by those who are as ignorant as

 

a film star is everything you want to be, then in any interview is never the human you
want them to be but

 

music is always best experienced alone at night amongst slices of moonlight

while you imagine

 

the things you write under the sun but would never utter aloud except to

 

a pet is the kindest listener because they rarely pass judgement and you believe

they can’t translate

 

your emotions catch you napping in the merciless afternoons and none are as
complex as

 

the idea of love seems both tangible and foreign when you gaze upon

 

a sharp petite face you’ve just whispered a secret to, trusting them to keep it in
confidence so no one ever knows

 

a tiny green caterpillar arches its face skyward through the long grass, completely
unaware

 

that a baby is cradled by an arm of the church, gently wet and forced to follow

Jesus without a voice to speak while

 

the last bus recedes before she could reach it, and as the rain explodes on the
footpath, a hooded girl is waiting

 

for a young man who takes pale steps through a crowded room full of old people,
one woman repeating ‘nice to meet you’ to her daughter, to where his
grandfather is

 

listening intently before being questioned, the light in a politician’s eyes shifts in
shade and he spreads his hands; about to elucidate

 

all is not lost but we are always alone. That’s why misty-faced soldiers

 

never stay for long even though the beautiful bodies of blonde, mid-twenties, skinny
dippers at midnight speak of hope

 

when her lips meet his eyes he’s never seen such a complicated twist and neither can

say what they want because

 

friendship can seem so much easier when a smooth brown horse sharing straw and
sawdust in silent companionship with a farm dog explains

 

that even the weakest solitary iceberg, accosted from every angle, never becomes soft

but that doesn’t stop it

 

— disappearing

Expected Shocks

Eggs cr ack in-two

feathered faces.

Eyes open

for the very first time.

beaks split ting,

taste sharp air.

Nights still get cold,

wind still whistles

through open windows.

Insects popping in fire,

in flame

to pierce ears

with the worst of inevitable thoughts.

On cliff edge

death is always tangible.

A resting crocodile,

a loaded spring

flowing smoothly

through liquid glass.

Role playing nose-twitching gazelle

while tiger creeps,

launches-

misses you.

Weather balloons float by,

decide it’s safer to land.

Vast empty sky

speaks knowledgably

of kindness.

Its gentle way,

permanent presence, grandfatherly.

One more step,

take one more step

and you never have to hear the phone ring.

No one sees the water

fall

momentarily

varnish blue balcony rail.

Each year onwards

morbid celebration.

Candle

life

being blown

out.

People are glad

it wasn’t their family.

Tease you

for buying canned corn

(they wanted cob)

a couple hours later.

Wander away,

wonder

if you had not answered

to hear mother’s tears

wash down the line

would they still have sprung

and would oxygen

have continued to fill his lungs?