I mentioned some time ago (2017), that one of my poems was selected to appear at two railway stations as part of the Renfrewshire metal health festival Scotland. A few days ago, I got along to see it displayed. I hope it moved some people, or just passed a minute while they waited at the station. A fresh batch of poems will go up in May.
I hadn’t seen her in a decade, Not since that time we … Now she’s lying before me, tucked-up warm In hospital sheets. Her face is older now, saggy in parts - And sallow. Her mouth puckers into A tight circle when I arrive, an ‘Oh!’ Like that time we… She touches my arm, cold fingers That leave cold circles for minutes after. ‘How have you been? How time flies, Tell me, what have you done since… You know.’ Her shoulders hunch, eyebrows rise. She reads my face, faster Than the note I left by her bed… ‘Tell me,' she insists, 'did you sail to that island, Where the wind whips the waves Onto the lighthouse by the edge Of the sea. Did you? ‘Did you climb the thousand stone steps To the castle in the sky, Where the world ends And life unfolds like a paper chain?' ‘Did you finally find that missing moment, Capture it in a photograph, A half-truth bent into a scrap Of happiness? Or did you leave it behind?’ Her chestnut eyes leave mine, Trail the cracks on the ceiling And rest in the corner of room. The sound of my footsteps echo After I leave.
This poem is now published by The Ogilvie.
She stood upon the platform
She stared down the track
She counted back the hours
Since she thought he might come back
She wished upon a memory
Of when her life was true
She counted up the times
She heard him whispering ‘I love you’,
She stood alone and waited
For the seventh time that day
As the train spat out commuters
Who passed along their way
She held her old and broken heart
Afraid her love was lost
She knew she’d always feel regret
She’d grown old from the cost
But alas the lonely station
Had become her rightful home
As hope for the old lady
Stopped her being alone
Her love – perhaps one lucky day –
On the platform she’d reclaim,
Like an old and traveled suitcase –
The man who called her name.
This poem was published as part of the Renfrewshire Mental health Arts Festival and is displayed in two train stations in Scotland – Langbank, and Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire.
Alone in a Council Flat
The Curtains twitch. An ambulance passes. No siren. No need. There’s a hush - A breath Held harder than a hiccup As silence swells Into the four corners of o’clock. Through the letterbox A whiff of kippers; Of soup and salty socks, sink Like a stain into embossed Net curtains and settle. Settle. A beat - A tick of life – A wave from a crackling stereo; and the Corries pinch the space Before the light-bulbs blink And press the night like putty- Into the lips of the garden Behind the disinfected wheelie bin And the whittled bird box Tomorrow waits. For news and for open blinds, For fresh pheasant, hung dead On a hook by the washing line, And footsteps – And an old man Carrying a loaf of bread In a crumpled up carrier bag. The curtains twitch.
This poem was published by Tell-Tale Magazine on 31st July 2017.
Everything is hushed, even the waves hemming the sand seems to hold their breath. Dawn is breaking and teasing the horizon. The world seems warmer. Tiny orange crabs scurry sideways into jagged rocks and now I am alone. I feel naked. Alive. All that I hold are my most intimate thoughts and a new respect for life.
Visiting the Maldives had been a distant dream of mine, since – well since forever. I had lost my mother seven months earlier. Her sudden departure from my life was not only tragic but deeply confusing. Life as I knew it had changed. I found myself searching for answers instead of comfort and could not see beyond the noise. Seven months had passed and I found myself frustrated. I spent too much time sitting on my doorstep, looking to the sky and searching. I found nothing. Waiting for nothing is the most desperate way to pass the time. You feel the outside expanding rapidly from your doorstep while you slowly shrink inside your own head. After receiving a small windfall, it didn’t take me long to find my escape. “If I can’t find you, I’ll try to find myself.”
I watch the sun climb. Shocking red and orange slices flash upon the placid sea. Blood rushes around my body; my head feels light and my skin tingles. I want to grab this vision and stamp it urgently in my memory; nothing had been or ever could be this beautiful.
Sunrise is followed by nature. The salt water and wet sand creep up and swallow my legs. Schools of fish swim daringly close to me examining by pale white limbs. I enjoy teasing them with my toes. A stingray skims the surface of the shore, round , large and flat like a piece of old leather being carried by the waves. I stand up and follow it until it disappears into deeper water. “Time is irrelevant. Time is unconnected to the world outside. The world outside is now extinct”.
I am walking. My island has opened up to people. Swimwear – bright and cheerful which somehow looks dishonest here. Every soul I see equally treasures the silence. I see the emotion on every face that turns toward me. Passion has touched their soul. Passion has touched my soul.
I find a spot under a palm tree. It is a light relief from the burning sun as the fan like branches shade my skin. A tiny lizard scurries up the rough bark and hides from me. I have stolen its place. I close my eyes and breathe in a smell of warm salty sea and dry foliage. It is the pure and clean smell of the natural world, stripped back to its rawness, undeveloped and unpolluted. Unspoiled. All of my senses are kick-started. I am alive.
Hours pass, or perhaps it is just seconds but the next thing happens alarmingly quick. The brilliant blue horizon turns charcoal grey. In the blink of an eye the neighbouring island vanishes. The atmosphere feels instantly charged. Excitement and fear presses heavily on my skin and I watch in wonder as the sea trembles and spits out her waves as she chokes in the dense air. Colossal globes of water pelt from the heavens onto the world below. All at once I am alone again. Noise booms in my ears from the waves and rain and the intense screeching from the unhappy bird high above my head in my palm tree. I am motionless. I watch the storm gather itself, teasing my island with its wildness and ferocity, and I long for it. My heart pounds in my chest, my ears scream as I suck in the humid air and hold it as my body wretches. My eyes explode with tears cascading from deep inside my broken heart. I clench my fists and my eyes stare ahead, finally seeing myself through my blurred vision. I sob for my mother, I weep for the loneliness I feel without her and for my uncertain future.
Almost as quickly as it begins, the rain stops. The world stops. Only for a moment.Like I am caught between when time began and when time ended. I am nothing but am everything. The sea throws its last wave onto the wet sand then lies still, tranquil. Silent. Before my eyes is a florescent sea. A bright shocking bath of glory against a cruel bleak sky.
My eyes dry. The grey moves along the horizon until all that remains is a flawless sky that never ends. The sun lies down on the clear and rested water and time resumes.For the first time in a long time I understand. My close encounter with a tropical storm has awakened me. Like the storm, my grief is fierce but beautiful and will eventually pass. I am alive. I can be whole.
©Eilidh G Clark