2020 Week One Poetry: That Kills Us

I stopped writing weekly poetry for Social media when it became apparent that work could be used elsewhere… to maybe make me some extra cash, or win a contest. After a year where neither of those things have come to pass, it is time to go back to what was working best for me in terms of creativity. This is the equivalent of drawing every day. It is means by which my craft improves.

These words are the best ones.

That means 52 poems, including holidays: Monday to Friday (or in this case, three days for the start of the year.) Where months start mid-week, I’ll write less (Week Five will also only be three days long) giving time for a bit more rest. The proviso here is everything is written ‘live’: no weeks of polish. If it’s a verse a day for five days the original selection will be skeleton-built the week before and amended on the fly.

That means next week’s five verses are ready to roll starting tomorrow but might totally alter when I post them. We will see. 

For now, this is a solid start.


That Kills Us

Repetitive, blamed infamy
always somebody else
pointing finger, insinuate
your problem, halved
segment, rotten whole.

Slope, madness descends
cackling uncontrollably;
finger given, on the way
past circles held, restricting,
other people’s selfishness.

That kills us, possibility
this time, perhaps, is better;
sad inevitable, lies:
hope only held eternal
if goodness sets her springs.


December Short Story: Stardust

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during December 2019 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Stardust



The biggest mistake I ever made was thinking the little things don’t matter. You see, one small mistake you can forget, hiding it away for no-one else to see… but after a while, all those small stupidities become a larger mess. When all of those come together you’re in trouble. How do you deal with decades of your own failings? I ran away for a long time, avoided responsibilities… making this the end of the story, not a beginning. Redemption will serve someone else well before it’s my turn. My time, however, is almost done… but not quite yet. Almost.

I get one more chance, then it’s done.

This time, I promise to not fuck anything up.


For him it was Tuesday, a double shift. Everybody else was celebrating Christmas Eve. On occasions such as these Joseph’s glad dance music is his only religion, no one else waiting at home. He’ll work straight through, taking breaks when it’s quiet: 10-ish, 2-ish and 6-ish, if previous experience is an indicator. It allows Jay to not be here and at the airport, Chrissie to drive north to see her family. Joseph’s Christmas gifts to his colleagues covers their arses.

Ruben’s waiting, night shift about to take their one day off this week. He’ll go eat Christmas Meatloaf with his mum across town: Joseph’s bought them some Jim Beam, as requested. The kid’s still too young to be as good as he is, deserves a better gig than the middle of nowhere. It’s easier not to think about being nearly a decade older than a stick-thin, tattoo-covered boy. He’s the closest thing to a decent friend Joseph possesses in this town, mirror to his own ambitions and failures. Maybe one day they will get the cash to open a restaurant together.

This year, the boy’s made him a gift, and it’s a genuine surprise. The notebook’s full of recipes they’ve created together, cuttings from the press… printouts of their growing online fan base’s support and encouragement. The T&C Diner is edging ever closer to greatness, success. There’s that familiar ache too as he walks away, out the back exit, into falling snow. How do you tell someone that you want to be more than friends? How do relationships work, exactly… Joseph requires a Christmas Miracle, probably several bottles of Jim Beam to make it happen.

That can be tonight’s thought before sleep: right now the diner’s beginning to fill. Andy’s out front, all hands and teeth as usual taking Trudii Richards’ order. Will she stick to tradition, bacon and egg hash on brown or will their special Festive Menu alter creature of habit? He catches older woman’s eye, pulls out his best kilowatt smile and knows she’ll drop everything for turkey bacon with sage and onion biscuits. Today started special, will only get better if he believes the hype everyone else seems increasingly willing to generate on his behalf.

That’s how the day goes too: smiles as connection, fuel for preparation. Elise and May Ann’s voices, harmonising through Christmas songs that sound fresh, joyous in the throats of young women. Customers tipping far more than is sensible when everyone’s cloth is cut to the bone. The serving window slowly begins to fill, gifts from hardcore clientele who know him only too well: hand-knitted jumpers and socks, chutneys and preserves plus a couple of bottles of decent red wine. Rhonda’s kids made him multicoloured Christmas cookies, each one hand decorated.

It’s already lunchtime and suddenly there’s real singing to replace Joseph’s battered Christmas CD: the local band made good are back home for their holidays. Hearing he’s serving Turkey Meatloaf and Cornbread the Diner’s broadcasting live via phone to fans as they eat then play. These guys will be opening for the electronic duo Joseph’s followed since his teens next March, 60 date US and European tour. If that’s not the definition of success, it’s hard to know what is. Yet here they are selling his praises without the need to ask, enjoying Christmas Eve.

Within an hour, there are dozens of people at the Diner. Joseph excels at improvisation: main meals evolve into snacks. Plates are piled with finger-food, Andy drafted in as extra help in preparation. Without needing to make a call Rhonda appears, plastic boxes laden with treats.

‘Boy, I KNEW you’d want my help without getting the call: don’t you worry, Momma R’s gonna make sure all these people are happy before they pay for our hard work…’

If Joseph didn’t already grasp he needs Rhonda on board making sweet dessert magic full time, this was the sign.

That afternoon he teaches the band to sling hash. May Ann’s brother and Elise’s aunt come help out too, more than enough cash to pay them full rate at day’s end. As sun goes down the band pack up to leave, yet diner’s at capacity. Only then does Joseph realise he’s being watched. The guy with Santa’s beard, in red shirt and black trousers, at the back by the jukebox, single table that’s reserved for locals who struggle paying. He’s been there, off and on, across the last few weeks; never saying much but always grateful. Today however, he looks different.

Joseph knows he’s unable to afford palliative care, lucky to have made it to Christmas at all. Over the last few months he’s struggled but refused any assistance. Weighing a fraction of what he was, huge frame is no longer tense, uncomfortable. This old man is finally at peace. Rhonda’s asking about wine glasses, dessert options: distraction pulls him away pointing, sudden concern: when he turns back the man’s gone. Instead, on his chair, there’s a bag. Red suitcase sits, distinctly out of place; Elise retrieves it, carrying carefully to kitchen door.

There’s heaviness in his heart, sudden realisation what symbolism means: Santa won’t be coming back. This is his last delivery, walking away from the Diner one final time, into the snow. They’d talked about it, he’d tried to change the old man’s mind. No dice, son. I’m through. Joseph had promised: when the time came, no fuss or bother. The things in that suitcase were his now, gift from one man to another. He’d let him go, and not call the cops, because there were things he’d done that would make life difficult this late in the game. Accept this gift.


Then, you let me go.

He’s always been a good boy. Looked after his momma well after I was long gone, plus when this broken body’s just dust and memory he’ll finally understand why it was the fool could never stay. Maybe I should have told the truth. Maybe. It’s better this way. By the time things work out, I’ll be a memory, like it was all those times before. It was his momma who got mad, never him. That boy always understood what it was to be different. He’s the man I could never become.

I’m proud of chef who remains steadfast, always true to his own self, producing baby back ribs so tender Angels themselves will openly weep when tasting his special barbecue sauce: never overly sweet, exactly spicy enough.

I’ll miss them both in God’s eternal embrace.

Bye, son.


The suitcase remains unopened, propping open back door until last customer left her booth. Joseph could open it here but is compelled to do the deed away from staff. It’s surprisingly heavy, carried up stairs to apartment above his workplace, laid on kitchen table with care. The man thinks of dad, dumb enough to believe son had no idea who he was, that he’d just let the guy spend last days alone with terminal illness. The woman who’s looking after him right now’s being paid for thanks to medical insurance, so she’ll call him later with an update.

One moment represents an entire life, livelihood kept and nurtured away from him growing up. Except Joseph remembers this case brand new: open on the couch one Christmas Eve, decades past. Dad’s saxophone, propped beside: a musician was always on the road. His house, another gig. He may have singularly failed as a father, but Moses as a musician had played with countless greats across the decades: saxophone solos littered within the spectrum of modern music. If there were memories of those times within this case, Joseph would find means to preserve them.

It takes longer than expected to open: both locks are stiff, one initially refusing to open. Frightened contents might be damaged if entry’s forced, Joseph is slow, cautious.

Finally successful –

the case is stuffed full to capacity, countless neat stacks of used $100 bills…


 

Run for Home

This should have happened on Wednesday, for which I apologise, but it has taken me 72 hours to adjust brain and body to the new world order, which is EXERCISE EVERY DAY. The RED in Red January stands for Run Every Day and having done that two days out of three this week? Nope. Huge fat nope. Not happening this week, or indeed the rest of January. By June? Quite possibly. We’re working on it.

This will be the only post I make about this here until I’m done on February 1st, because there doesn’t need to be the boring repetition of the same stuff. People have already given money, without prompting, and the £250 total that’s been set should be easily attainable if there’s a slow, sensible reiteration of intent. The best bit of all this, undoubtedly, is having means to be truly accountable using technology.

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There’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the organised exercise classes I do: if you don’t work hard enough, you’re only cheating yourself. Although this is undoubtedly true, it is no longer possible to pretend you went on a 5k run if the stats won’t support it. I’ve never felt the need to do that in the first place: the stats now aren’t just a record of your work, but are useful insights into how your body reacts to exercise.

I’ve been trying to shift some areas of fat on my body for close to a decade. Now I know where the optimal zones are to work in for my heartrate to do that, and have proved this is actually now taking place with the addition of a sensible diet and calorie limit? These areas are beginning to shrink. Fat really is starting to vanish. Now all that is needed is a month’s worth of hard, targeted effort to keep the momentum up.

You can follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with affairs. Like I said, we’ll be back in February not only to see how well things went, but also look at weight loss. I’m down on this week’s weigh in, let’s hope this continues going forward.

Then we can talk about training to be a Mental health Champion…

Intro

It’s almost time to begin a COMPLETELY NEW DECADE. Blimey.

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Everything’s in place to go too, more or less. Some poetry will be submitted tonight, possibly some other bits and bobs towards the end of the week. There are two calendars up on the wall, with ACTUAL COLOUR CODING to keep up with what is submitted. Honestly, the last time organisation at this level existed, it was college. NO EXCUSES this year, everybody. Everything gets improved.

Last year, the ‘target’ of publication was hit, but only once. Bearing this in mind, 2020 is when I produce my own pamphlets for the first time. It’s when there’s an effort to make money and not lose it, building body of work that isn’t just digital. I’ll be looking for feedback in January, and am considering a return to Patreon as means by which to try and finance this effort at entry level.

Everything on that side is still in a state of flux.

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On Wednesday we’ll sound the 31 Days of Exercise klaxon for RED January, and instead of filling your Instagram feeds with Haiku for the month you’ll get 31 days of my sweaty body instead. This means lots of time to sort February’s Love Poetry out (had to be done) and an opportunity to get out more to do photography. I had so much fun in June doing that, for Places of Poetry, that it needs to be repeated.

Let’s hope the weather allows this to happen without incident.

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ALSO MORE POETRY AS ART IN 2020. I know, this is not reinventing the wheel, and other people are better connected to complete these tasks, but if there is not the means for expression, humanity has been lost. It all counts towards that vital Body of Work

2020 will, whatever happens, be all about the output.

To Be Free

I have a new notebook for 2020. It’s sole task is to help me keep track of the content I’m producing, and in the bottom right hand corner of that first page is a blue PostIt Note. The message on that is simple: One Video in January. I’ve borrowed a microphone from my husband, dug out the old webcam. There’s even a storyboard in progress. Everything is prepared. There is no escaping the inevitable.

The main reason for doing this is to find alternate means of expressing myself as an artist, which is what this ends up being. There might be some vlogging, I dunno, it will all depend on how well my first few bits of stuff are received. I have some form with video as well, but if honest an awful lot has changed in the two decades since that was a Thing. Needless to say, those principles are still largely sound.

 

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I can do the whole visual media thing too. It isn’t hard: my skill in graphic design came from being a reasonable mimic, and as all are is by definition derivative? Really, how hard can it be? The plan, such as it is, to have something up by January 24th. Might be sooner, definitely won’t be later. Having said it now, that’s it, there’s no looking back. Things will happen.

Watch this Space.

Deliver Me

Everything’s a bit out of order here, for reasons that still include dentistry and Christmas. You sometimes can’t predict the outcomes of certain events: tooth pain is a special Circle of Hell which I can only hope is now gone for good. In the midst of it all however, a lot of good has come from the experiences. Most notable of all is the Altered Paths project which, this year, has made me more than happy.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself in 2019; to continue to do so in 2020 there needs to be a redefinition of what I read and consume via Social media. The changes are already in place, and a bunch of new and interesting projects will be investigated during the next 12 months, plus there will be the continuation of the body of work which keeps this site alive and relevant.

As a result I’ve decided to leave the Christmas week fallow of posts and content, allowing plenty of time to prepare for the new year. That’s included graphics work today, poetry contest submissions and other pieces being given much-needed love and attention. After this is all finished and I’m up to date with poetry, we can start planning for my January fundraising project.

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We’ll formally launch RED January on the 1st, and begin a year of fundraising for Mind (as well as my training to become a Mental health Champion) on a strong, positive note. There’s also Time to Talk Day in February, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So much has to happen before that, including some fairly significant real life gubbins. Let’s see if this year, that precious life/work balance can be finally located and maintained…

For now, let’s clear the backlog and ready ourselves for January.

Quiet Alone

I’ve decided to theme the next couple of months under a banner. It makes having to think up ideas a bit easier when the coldest of winter days do in my brain, and also allows a bit more forward planning than has previously been the case. There’s a lot of behind the scenes organisation being pushed forward for other stuff as well, to allow me vital time in 2020 to… well, look after myself more.

Therefore, we are starting 2020 with the theme of HOPE because after the last few weeks in the UK, everybody could do with being helped to believe that there are better things ahead. I can’t change the political climate or instantly improve environmental issues that everybody should be considering as urgent, but there are ways and means to make everything better. Hope can help with so much, and not just for ourselves.

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It will also be the first opportunity for me to see if all that practice in the last six months, the numerous rejections and polite silence means I’ve actually learnt anything as a poet. Undoubtedly 2019’s been my journeyman year, lots of polishing and rebuilding the building blocks for larger, more ambitious projects. With the announcement of a 2020 Mslexicon it will be time to try and make the cash required to get myself back to Leeds.

That will mean trying to attract interest in my work, enough that people may pay me for the content. I was reminded yesterday that I only have myself as promotions manager, and if I don’t sell the skills available, nothing’s gonna happen. Therefore, next week there will be some effort to get my donation methods more prominently displayed on my webpages and social media feeds.

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After that, I just have to put in the hours. Success only happens with hard work and application. The hope is, of course, that this year one of those many things I’ve written might finally stick on a target and gain me some much-needed publicity. I read someone say this year that a poet needs to work for five years to create a realistic body of work… which means this could still be a long road.

We will see.