The Illustrated Man

His canvas is withered; once a gallery display,

Now ‘distasteful’ graffiti on recycled paper.

If auctioned back then, they would’ve been collectible,

Now faded, only fluorescent in sepia

photographs.

 

Once young and kicking, but that’s forgotten,

as if his art’s backdrop was always creased mess.

Once complimented, they’re now ignored,

Like taboo patterns on fragile casing.

They’re not dated, out of fashion, archaic,

It’s the exhibition that’s aged, he’s sorry to say.

 

Long-sleeved shirts are preferable, as if

He’s wounded; an eyesore, black marks smudged

Illegible to the twenty-something critic.

He’s too old for regret in something

once sublime. Now, a stain he can’t fix,

an embarrassment, named ‘tattoo.’

 

An embarrassment, named ‘tattoo’,

Once sublime, now a stain he can’t fix.

He’s too old for regret in something

illegible to the twenty-something critic.

He’s wounded; an eyesore, black marks smudged.

Long-sleeves are preferable, as if.

It’s the display that’s aged, he’s sorry to say.

 

They’re not dated, out of fashion, archaic

Like taboo patterns on fragile casing.

Once complimented, they’re now ignored,

As if his art’s backdrop’s was always creased mess.

Once young and kicking, but that’s forgotten.

 

Photographs, now faded. Only fluorescent in sepia.

If auctioned back then, they would’ve been a masterpiece.

Now ‘distasteful’ graffiti on recycled paper,

His canvas is withered; once a gallery display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOWL (Allen Ginsberg) – My version

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

validation from Instagram praise,

and seeing the world through their phone’s camera lense.

Who absentmindedly critique a stranger’s outfit, or

snarl in envy at her relationship, advertised on Facebook like

a billboard.

Who forget their friend’s birthdays, for memory is unnecessary when

notified by an event request.

Who compliment each other with a click of a button, yet

fear doing so in person (that’s embarrassing.)

Who find comfort in TV screens;

why step outside when reality’s best bits are selected?

You needn’t make the effort.

The Scream

A screethe-screamch, a yelp, a cry-for-help,

the sex-less Orient weeps. The wind’s cries

wound the clouds in a child-like scribble. Broken colour

erodes the sky in a volcanic mess.

The red smoke fuelling the creature’s trauma; terror-stricken, a product of time’s inevitable toll.

 

Or perhaps it’s euphoric, ecstatic, a wail of joy,

an outcast of the field’s decay. The sky eroding in an attack of Crayola,

its cloud’s clashing patchwork now bruised; emotionally tainted by human vandals.

 

For watchers dissect the image, responsible in decoding a painter’s allusion.

Strangers can’t make sense of the uncomfortable scene.

Why must we untangle, make sense, of a lost cause’s mind?

For God’s sake, let the lone wanderer scream.

A Hypothetical Job

Once again the paper is jammed

tightly strung like my tolerance in

the lift, immersed in a duvet of strangers, a huddle

of workers, where all

we have in common is our

morning Starbucks run.

 

We don’t take the stairs, we have a reputation to

uphold for why do things ourselves when the

computer pastes it as routine?

Each day indistinguishable,

each day a ready meal, like auto-pilot,

for my mind is now drunk from black clotted coffee

my legs structured by clockwork, reliant on the subway.

 

Being praised doesn’t exist

when your competition lies on the grey of your suit

being a notable slate or distinct charcoal.

And the man on the morning commute seems vaguely familar;

maybe you saw him take beating for producing too little

maybe he’s a relative whose name you’ve mistaken

for the smile on your face is now guilt.

 

As your Christmas holiday is taken hostage

by the company of your computer screen

your gift to yourself being new glasses

for your perception has been

altered by the glare of minimum wage.

She’s

Her eyes are a marble collection of rainbow hues,

fabricating past mistrust and apprehension,

into a revised perspective.

 

For she now carries her coat, her mac, her jacket;

no longer a protective cape, but kick-ass costume.

She’s colour, an orbit of Crayola; strides of smashed

kaleidoscope; her glass half-full.

Painting her former demons onto

a canvas of newfound strength.

Her lips mould words, blurring across my vision,

she’s everywhere, a beacon.

Her hair, a patch-work replica of the aqua-marine.

 

She’s home reconsidered, a swimming pool.

She’s a change I don’t fear,

now routine from what was before.

Different perspectives excercise

Mid-thirties I’d say. First thought was married, only there’s no ring on his finger. His lips, pursed. Eyes scanning the menu. All an act of course, he knows the ins and outs of the thing. Probably too much. You know it’s mostly ready meals, but keep it quiet mate. He’s here every week yet he doesn’t want to look too much of a regular.

“Can I take your order, Sir?” I say. I approach him with the same tone as everyone else. Just because he’s our most regular customer, doesn’t mean we’re on a friendship level. Don’t want him getting too comfy, he’ll think he’s entitled to a discount.

“The usual will do, thank you.”

I only know you from the colour of your tie, mate, not if you’re bangers and mash or fish and chips.

—————————————-

Was today a fish and chips day or chicken Caesar salad? Third night this week at the place, they must recognise me by now. I haven’t had my five a day, so maybe a roast would be the best option. Watching the waist-line and all.

The waitress probably knows my back story, sometimes I fear people can mind-read, the amount they stare. It’s always the same sequence. My shirt and tie, followed by my lacking company, and then the absence of jewellery on my finger. Sat alone at the table. And I always said people judging didn’t bother me.

It’s always the same table, by the window. I like to think I’m hidden, out of eye view. Pint in arm’s reach. Furrowed brows, to add to the growing collection of creases across my forehead.

It’s the same waitress. She’s young enough to be my daughter I’d say, but I can admit she’s gorgeous if I don’t voice it, right? She’s trying to hide her evident discomfort, avoiding my eyes. If she’s going to be like that, I’ll address at her pencil skirt instead.

“Can I take your order, Sir?”

—————————————-

The way they looked at each other was like an awkward family reunion. Another day at the office, another evening at the pub. It was routine for Paul. All since Sal walked out the door nine months ago. He’d said he’d learn to cook, said he’d put the Jamie Oliver 10 Minute Meals to good use. Only it was gathering dust on the shelf. Just as their wedding photo was. Turned over on the mantelpiece.

Annie was on the late shift. Minimum wage, with maximum effort needed to force a smile at the drunken men disguising the looks up her skirt. Paul and Annie’s interactions were becoming a level of understanding with one another, without having to say a word. Separate routines, different reasons but same location. Loneliness.

“The usual will do, thank you.” Paul said, when asked for his order. What Paul didn’t recognise was he was one of many that came in on a regular basis. Just another office wanker, divorced and lacking any culinary skills.

Annie had to hide her confusion. She scribbled a child-like scrawl across the page, disguising her poor memory with professional waitress mannerism. Hoping the chef would recognise her description of the one of many ‘usual’ customers, she forced a smile and scurried to the back.

She’d said she’d give the job up for months now, but even she wasn’t convinced anymore. It’d been a long day. Maybe she’d be the next local in the corner. Maybe she needed a pint herself.

 

Break Up Writing

She did that thing with her hair. Twisting it playfully around her finger like a loose thread. In the same manner she did on our first date. It used to be endearing, flirtatious even, but right now it’s pissing me off. It’s too dark for her pasty complexion. Once, it shone caramel; the colour, contagious to the rising of my dimples. Now, it’s a Pound Shop dye-job-disaster.

The first date, the Italian down the road. I couldn’t afford petrol back then so the car, if you could call it that, often sat immobile on the drive way. I could pretend it was to flaunt the thing to the neighbours, but there wasn’t much to show off. The door was falling off and its colour was indistinguishable. Fact was, it was an embarrassment. Not a lady-puller, but a laughing stock.

She wore a pale pink blouse, the colour just a dark enough shade to enhance her pale skin. I wore the shirt I often wore to the office, only without the tie. Didn’t want to appear too fancy. Her lips were moulded like cherries, a cranberry colour, uncertain if it were lipstick or naturally desirable. The fact was, she was out of my league.

But somehow I got the girl. Five years of marriage, a wedding we couldn’t afford. Leanne, well she looked gorgeous. I remember the first year all too well, it’s like that first six months of dating but heightened. Calling her my wife felt alien, I still had to correct myself half the time. This is my wife, Leanne. It wasn’t a fear of commitment, or any lack of acceptance. Looking back, it was more the worry of came next. Fulfilling others’ expectations. It’s all they ask you, like a tick-box list of what is to come. ‘So, any baby plans?’ ‘When are you expecting then, Leanne?’ ‘Has it really been five years, already? Better get a move on folks, you’re not this age forever!’

We’re both in denial. She has a book on parenthood in her bed-side drawer, hidden under toiletries she thinks I haven’t looked through. She’s patient, I’ll give her that. But there’s a fine line between patience and deliberate avoidance.

‘How many times are we going to have this conversation, Le?’ The pitch of my voice had increased with irritation.

She stands there, her eyes unable to meet mine, twisting that strand of hair round her finger. I’m surprised she has any hair left.

‘I’m just waiting for you to change your mind, Dan,’

‘What if I’m not going to? What if this is it for me? Like I’ve said time and time again.’

‘But you said you’d think about it,’

‘Which I have.’

She looked up at me, her eyes were brimming with tears, the kitchen lights reflecting from her watered pupils.

‘What are you trying to say?’

I gulped. What was I doing? The words spurred out in a vomit-like, incoherence.

‘We’re both living in denial, Le. We want different things. I can’t do this anymore.