Silence down a Phone

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

We’ve kicked the cousins and their entourages out of the house at last, so it finally feels like we’ve had Christmas. It lasts a long time in my family. Now for New Year’s.

At this time of year, for the brief period of time when I’m back in England, I sometimes get in touch with old friends. This year, I’ve put my mobile somewhere stupid, so I’ve not spoken to anyone except those who’ve rung the home phone. And Nick (my twin) has dealt with calls from local, mutual friends. And actually, strangely, it’s a bit of a relief to be away from everyone, and just with the family. I’ve always been close to my cousins, and we’ve always got stuff to talk about… and we never seem to have awkward silences, as we can just move on and talk to the next one.

This poem was written over the summer, when I was rushing around trying to meet people. It also fermented during the “let’s get drunk and write poetry” experiment. Looked back on it today, and decided it was reasonable, so I’ll post it up.

Silence Down a Phone

We haven’t spoke in months.
Sure, Facebook, once or twice.
Does that count? Still, it’s
your voice, this time. Different.

I planned jokes, in fact.
Silly things to say, but
I dropped them, not knowing if
you’d changed, or worse,

stayed the same. Strangely,
we picked up as though nothing –
but with extra silences.
As if our natural conversation

always had those gaps, between.
So I quickly turned the call
to a purpose. Let’s all meet up
I said, catch up, I said.

Yeah. Good idea. What’ve –
what’ve you been doing,
these last few months.
Oh, you know. When I don’t,

really. That wasn’t the question.
The question was, are we…?
Are you? And more, am I?
Because I don’t know.

But neither do you. And maybe,
if we meet, we’ll know. But
we have, you know. Changed.
But let’s regress for a day.

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Gravediggers

Woo new poem!

This one’s been knocking about since near the start of the holidays, when I decided it would be a good idea to get drunk and see if any poems appeared.

comedy tragedy masks

As you know if you’ve been reading this for a bit, I sometimes try my hand at stand-up comedy, as a Nose Flautist (if you don’t know, don’t ask). And for a while, I’ve been trying to write a poem about the experience of stand up. And it’s not easy. Still, I got a good start that drunken night (I should try that experiment again) and just today I’ve fixed most of the problems. I’m quite proud of it, which is nice, as it’s been a while since I’ve been proud of something I’ve produced. That said, it’s still a little obtuse, and I’m not sure if comics corpse. Actors do. I think comics do. Either way, here it is:

Gravediggers

He died on stage – corpsed.
The audience buried him,
then a short, uneasy mourning
at his passing. Next up.

Let’s say a few words.
He knew it back to front
but every night they’re different,
So smile, rush in and engage,

And to pause… for a laugh,
to let his torrent glide down
into an unrelenting silence.
For what? Hope of a response.

And for what? That is the question,
It’s not to be or not, it’s Yorick,
the “comic” stopper in an otherwise
tragic tale. Gravediggers indeed.

Thrill-seeking, I suppose.
“So brave”, they say, “I could
never.” Which is why they don’t,
and he did. And it’s in that pause,

that long old drawn out
hold-your-breath-and-wait pause,
risking everything and yet
precisely nothing, that pause –

for effect – that he lived.

Tennant_and_Tchaikowsky_as_Hamlet_and_Yorick
Only half appropriate, but woo, David Tennant!

Tempting Bathos

Hello. Everywhere I go these days, I carry a little notebook with me. The current notebook has drawings of palm trees, random thoughts, story ideas, and at the back, reminders and notes on some stand up I still need to fix. Me writing funny things down in my notebook has led to some strange situations, where friends tell jokes and then look at me, as if to say, “What? Aren’t you writing it in your clever little intellectual notebook?”

Also, since my lovely old mini camera broke, I’ve been using to write down drunken musings – both my own and any I can get out of the people with whom I am drinking.  From these occasions, I came to the conclusion that I was more creative when drunk.

With this in mind, I dared myself to take part in a social experiment I devised. I would drink a bottle of wine, 1009525554_5121b39880alone, on a quiet night, and see what happened. If it was a success and it made my write in floods, I would become what Kipling once deemed irredeemable – a man who becomes an alcoholic quietly and in private, a drunk artist, sinking lower and lower until all self-esteem, credibility and hygeine were lost.

Half way through the bottle, I decided it would be more fun to watch a DVD than write, so I did. After the DVD and wine were finished, I thought, “Oh crap! I’d better write,” and in a spurt of very worrying creativity, I bashed out three medium length poems and a big part of a short story I’ve been stuck on. Resigned to my fate as a closet drunk, I toasted my success with the dregs, burped, and carted myself off for a mere 6 hours of sleep.

The good news, though, is that when I read my masterpieces this morning, I found, amongst other extracts, these bits:

1) We haven’t spoke in months.
Sure, Facebook, once or twice.
Does that count? Still, it’s
your voice, this time. Different.

(note the bad present perfect in the first line)

2) And for WHAT? That is the question,
It’s not to be or not, it’s Yorick,
the “comic” stopper in an otherwise
tragic tale. Gravediggers indeed.

and, from the short story:

3) Was this one of the “stolen” horses I’d heard abou?If so, how would Mitchell know?But then the light came on.

Hmm.

One lesson from this is, as I’m sure you all already know, is that when we’re drunk, we think we’re better than we are. And what we think is poignant and deep is actually a load of codswallop. Seriously, all 3 poems, while based on reasonable subjects, are just plain terrible. I can salvage about 5 halflines from 30 full ones in each poem.

HOWEVER, The short story stuff is actually quite good. Not just the material – there’s a great scene where the guy holds an imaginary conversation with an intimidating horse that I could never have written sober – but also that the brash confidence got me through a passage I was stuck on, and barged me through an extra thousand words.

SO I’ve decided to cut alcohol from my writing. Except as a sledgehammer to my writer’s blocks. And I’ll rely on you guys for an intervention if my drinking gets too heavy and solitary. Look after me!

My Favourite Philosophers
My Favourite Philosophers