That Time

hand pen writing plant
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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.

©EilidhGClark

This poem is now published by The Ogilvie.

Social Media Down Time

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I have been toying with the idea of a social media down day ever since a tutor at university spoke of his own positive experience. Sunday past seemed like the perfect day to give it a go, not only because I already associate Sunday as a kind of  down day, but also because I have  just completed my first week studying  mindfulness. I began the online mindfulness course because I often struggle with anxiety. Anxiety, for those who have experienced it, can be debilitating; exhausting on the mind and the body. For myself, I experience social anxiety, dread and an inability to rest;  my thoughts go into overdrive and I feel them crashing together. My usual “go to” is social media where I can loose myself amongst everyone else’s lives – in other words I detach myself from myself. I knew something had to change; there had to be another way of dealing with my anxiety. Then right on time, along came an e-mail telling me about a  free course with Future Learn –  Mindfulness.  

Mindfulness (and remember I am still learning) is learning how to be present in our experiences, an, in our lives.  Even on my non anxious days I am constantly distracted by social media, not because it is a riveting alternative to real life, but because it is a filler. For me, Facebook more so than any other social media platform,  fills the time between breakfast and walking the dogs or when the dinner is cooking, or basically whenever I have a spare moment. E-mail is another source of distraction, as a writer, I find myself falling into the trap of checking my e-mail whenever I have a spare minute; I send between five and fifteen pieces of writing to magazines and competitions every quarter so am always waiting on reply. So, when I sat down and really thought about it, it seemed that I had forgotten how to just sit and do nothing. Thus, the idea to go ahead with the social media down day was decided.

Sunday 11th February

It is amazing how your hand automatically reaches for your phone in the morning. I decided to turn my internet off so that I wouldn’t receive any notifications tempting me to pick it up. Once that was done, I put my phone on my writing bureau (it usually sits on the arm of the sofa) and got on with my day. I found myself enjoying really quite mundane things such as putting the clean washing away – not only did I tidy my wardrobe; I re-arranged it. Then I decided on a few items that were ready for the charity shop. It was nice to take time to look at my clothes properly, to see the nice items that I have purchased over the winter (mostly from charity shops or from sales), and appreciate what I have..

Lunchtime was interesting; I found myself looking at my lunch rather that looking at my phone while eating lunch – it is amazing how much better food tastes when you look at it and pay attention to what you are eating.

By mid afternoon I had forgotten about my phone and about E-mails and Facebook and all of the other internet distractions that usually filled my time and I sat and looked out the window. We have recently moved into a new house and the living-room window faces onto a private garden with lots of trees and sky and birds. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue and I just sat,  and looked.  It reminded me of my teenage self, eighteen years old, no internet,  and looking out the bedroom window of our family home. There was fields and hills, trees – and a castle nestled behind some Scots pine’s. I was taken to a place where I felt like my old self again, (although I am sure if you asked my eighteen year old self how I felt, I would have declared my utter boredom) but at forty-five, letting myself be still, just looking and experiencing how that felt, I’ve never felt less bored in my life.

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My phone vibrated mid afternoon and I got my other half to take a look. Somehow, without any internet, a notification had got through. I ignored it although I am still baffled by how that could happened.

All in all, my day trotted along at a much slower pace. I had the odd moment when I wondered about what was happening in the land of Facebook or if some magazine had sent me an e-mail, but apart from the weird sensation of not picking my phone up every twenty minutes, it was a pleasant experience. Now I know that it isn’t for everyone, and I am certainly not trying to encourage anyone to follow my example, but for me – someone who grew up in the days before internet – it was like opening my eyes after a long daydream. I do enjoy social media and I would be lost today without the wonder of internet, but I will continue to have my Sunday down days, where I can see the week through wider eyes.

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Shackled

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Shackled

I am separated. Segregated-
An inch away from vertical blinds
And the switch to turn of the Sky.
To shake away the World Wide Web
Of fabricated lies.

I am separated. Segregated –

A mile from the world outside,
Hidden behind grey vertical blinds.
Dry from the rain,
Fighting the pain of oppression.

I am separated. And bleeding from the outside in.

I am separated. Segregated –

Peeking through artificial lines,
Looking for the ordinary kind,
The crowds of mankind,
Unveiled and unmasked, separate and free

Instead of shackled to the reign
Of her majesty – To the so-called face, of a modern race
Of dumbed down, media choked,
Free folk. I am chained.

I am separated. Segregated –

Pained by a society –
Rich in lies and Tory piety, flying toward
Mars in dream boats –
In hopes of a better land.

©EilidhGClark

I published this poem in Untitled 8 in November 2017.

Vitamin Glee

blue bright citrus citrus fruit
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I am filled with vitamin D, with a pink
lemonade kiss and a fancy free
Candy floss smile.

It is a marvellous and menacing mischief
that had now pumped up my heart,
and a vitamin glee that I have swallowed.

Rays of sunbeams are hiding in my sweater
and my unshaven legs – prickling
with joy, how glorious to be shown the light.

I am shimmering and dancing in my pants,
and there is a party in my bed socks –
And they rock, because bed socks do that.

And if my eyes were as blue as the sky
-and they are as blue as the sky,
they would be lost, in disguise and forever.

“What is this poem you ask me muse?”
“What is its purpose?”
“The purpose my beautiful fairy-tale wife,

Is that summer came for a day,
Like sand in my toes and a three wheeler bike
It snapped its elastic on my bum cheek and cheered.”

©Eilidh G Clark

Deadline

Time is running like the River Forth

and it is flowing down my spine.

Big Ben is printed on the back of my eyelids

And my heart is beating

Tick, tick, tick, tock.

Time is painted in the Stirling sky

and is burning holes

into the big fat orange moon, beating on me,

Beating like my pulse

Tick, tick, tick, tock

Time is flapping in the wind

And punching kisses on my chest.

White breath coughs from behind my teeth,

Chattering like supermarket baskets.

Tick, tick, tick, clatter.

Time is waiting on the bus,

Its holding a student pass outright

and the driver is checking his watch, shaking his head

Like a pendulum

Tick, tick, tick, bong

Time is passing by the window,

In the old ladies rain mate,

and it’s trapped in the spokes of an inside out brolly

and it’s pouring

Drip, tick, tock, drip

Time has landing on my face

From a charcoal dusk and

Airborne tear shapes that slap my skin

and roll

Tick, tick, drip, drip onto my essay.

Published in Brig Newspaper – University of Stirling

©Eilidh G Clark

The Lesson

Our heaving lungs suck the air as we climb.

Higher, higher.

Aching legs and numb feet scramble over boulders and broken branches.

Rain, wind, and a glimmer of sun. A distant mist descending

from the sullen sky onto the earth, erasing a castle, a monument

a city.

Leaves shake violently in the cutting wind. Noise.

Squelching mud, snapping twigs,

unnatural sound, we create it.

On the cliff top, the landscape is our canvas.

Acorns and chestnuts, branches and stones, litter the floor

like a countryside collage  hung on a  classroom wall. Winters decay.

Carcasses of cream coloured leaves, consumed by insects, lie randomly

forming delicate lace arrangements.

Brown mud, brown leaves, brown bark, paint the backdrop

of a multi coloured woodland.

Green moss on a broken wall,

orange, yellow and grey foliage A tiny shoot, pushes through the earth.

Layers of  life on death, death on life. The liberty of nature.

Nature is shrinking, the colours rinsed out by

buildings, roads, litter, wire fences

hemming in the farmers cows

hemming in history.

Humanity’s smell is pungent,

food and  people

people and food.

Through the wind, a distant drilling is heard.

©Eilidh G Clark

The Girl I Would Become

This is my family, or part of it. That’s me on the left in my pink and white gingham dress, smiling because I don’t care that the elastic around the sleeve irritates my arms and the neckline strangles me. My socks are brilliant white, the proper wool ones that you steep in a sink of boiling water for hours until a thick film of soap powder floats in clumps on the surface. John has matching socks. He’s my little brother, he is three years old in this picture making me six. John doesn’t look as happy as I do, perhaps because Mum cut the sleeves of his favourite red jumper and made it into a t-shirt; he cried for hours afterwards. John and I are both wearing shiny patent leather shoes, good ones from Clarks. We often went there to get our feet measured. They put your foot into a strange wooden contraption and then the shop person slid a bar down the front of it until it touched your toes, it always tickled.  Right in the middle of us is my Mum, she looks happy. Mum must be thirty-one years old in this picture; I don’t remember her being this young though. Look at how tanned we are. You can almost see the white line at the top of John’s arm were the sun couldn’t quite reach. The little dog to the left of me is Prince or at least I think so, it might be Ben, my Auntie Annie’s dog. We had a dog called Prince but Dad gave him  to the local police man. I’m  not even sure why he gave him away, I think I was sad about it but I don’t remember.

The sky looks grey above our heads but this is an old picture and the summer had been wonderful. I was on my first long holiday from school and Mum took us to King George V Park. We’d been visiting Granny who lived behind the park. We’d have come in from the back gates. I know this because we are far away from the church tower; you can see it above Mum’s head looking like a giant green pencil. It’s the parish church, built in 1845 and the cornerstone of Bonnyrigg; this is where I went to Sunday school. The big old chimney at the far left belonged to a coal mine, it’s gone now. I can still remember the smell of the smoke. They stacked the coal up in huge black pyramids in the yard.

My big sister Marion is missing from this picture, Marion would have been ten. Going by low the angle that the picture is taken from, my sister may have been the photographer.

We all look happy. Except John that is. John is biting his nails. Maybe because Mum is about to feed his chocolate bar to the dog. Maybe because Dad isn’t there. This is likely why Mum isn’t wearing her wedding ring and looks full of life. For me?  I’m smiling because I have two adhesive tattoos on my arm, a tiny glimpse of the person I was to become.

©Eilidh G Clark

Drown

Midnight, On the blackened sand.
Waves crash upon the shore,
unfamiliar darkness
yet I’ve seen this place before.
Lying flat, eyes to the sky;
the stars are out of reach,
I’m all alone without you,
on this cold and lonely beach.
The gnawing cold snags my breath.
I wrap myself up tight,
I’m shrouded in a veil of grief
yet bathing in the moonlight,
I close my eyes and ponder
this melancholy mind,
I’m seasick from the universe
vanished from mankind.
Onto my feet I wander,
to the gentle lapping tide,
I asked the stars to help me,
in the moon did I confide,
but the burden was too heavy,
and my face a sorry frown
as I walked into the ocean
I said goodbye and drowned.

©Eilidh G Clark

Free Day

I sat on the doorstep. My head was filled with a itchy buzz that drowned out the noise from the road fifty yards away. The afternoon was damp and humid and a smell of rotten leaves hung thick. The air licked my skin and my scalp prickled as I sucked life into my lungs, attempting to clear the fog that stifled  brain. I had been grinding my teeth ever since I received the phone call at 11am that morning and now my jaw ached. Outside, the doorstep was my reprieve, a place to escape. The mourning. It was the crying; the fear, it was the look of desperation etched on faces; pale, ashen and distorted. Outside I was alone, raw and separated from the solid hugging arms of collective grief and crumpled bodies. Fat blobs of rain began to fall, and I looked up to charcoal clouds scribbled over the sky.

“This,” I thought, “is how the sky ought to look today’.

From behind the rooftops of an adjacent tenement block of flats, a single black helium balloon appeared. I watched it stagger over the sky, bashing into thick air then sucked into jets of cold.For a moment it hesitated.

“Where are you Mum?”  I shook my head and watched as the balloon skittered off into the distance. The world above was black and white.

How was I meant to feel today? How are you supposed react when you get a call at 11am on a Sunday morning telling you that your Mum is dead?

Death.

Grief.

I had often tried to imagine how I would feel when this day arrived, especially more so in the last year as I noticed how fragile my mother looked and how tiny she had become. One thing was certain; I had always known my heart would break.  What I did not expect was confusion, fear, emptiness and a feeling of no longer being safe. I got up and went back into a house that was no longer home.

Loss. I had experienced it before.

***

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was off school. I wasn’t even sure why my Mum had let me have a free day but it was bound to be great. I got to pick my own clothes because Mum had gone out to see Granny in hospital. Before she left, Mum told me to be good and remember to brush my teeth. When I went downstairs to see who was looking after me, loads of aunties and uncles had come to visit. I felt really excited because that usually meant a party. The room was filled with pipe smoke and old lady smell.

“I got a free day off school,” I said, and tried to squeeze in between Uncle Jimmy and Auntie Agnes.

Everyone was looking at me and pulling weird faces. Auntie Phamie was crying. Auntie Isa had a crumpled up face and was looking at the floor. Uncle John coughed and left the room. I was afraid I had done something wrong.

“Your Granny died this morning,” Auntie Isa said, looking up.

I laughed because I didn’t believe her. My Granny was in hospital. Auntie Phamie started wailing so I turned around and stood in the corner.

“Poor Eleanor, not getting there on time,” Uncle Roberts voice came from near the kitchen.

I knew my Mum was called Eleanor, and I wondered if she had missed the bus this morning.

“And Chic, poor man, going home to an empty house,” one of the Aunties said. I wondered who Chic was and if he’d been burgled like the folk on Jackanory yesterday. I nervously picked wood-chip off the wall, and it fell in between my feet and on to the green carpet. I was hungry because no one had made me anything to eat. This didn’t seem like a party to me at all. I was scared to turn around, partly because I could still hear Auntie Phamie sniffing and grunting, and also because there was now a pile of wood-chip on the floor at my feet. I stood and looked at the mess for ages and thought about my Grannie. Why did they say she was dead? I thought this was a nasty lie to tell.

After what felt like hours, I heard the front door open and turned around.  Mum walked in with Auntie Nan and Papa and everyone got up and started cuddling, just like at Christmas, except no one was singing. Papa was crying, and I felt like I should be crying as well but didn’t know why. My Mum took ages to come over and see me and when she did she crouched down so her face was close to mine. I wondered if my Mum would like what I had picked to wear.

“Your Granny died this morning,” she said.

I frowned and turned my back on my Mum, then felt warm pee dribble down my leg and into my sock.

©Eilidh G Clark