I hear them now as I heard them before,
Like winter’s raindrops, whistling past my ears
These hymns pour through my spirit
And they fall, through dense, damp air
Brittle and bitter, once again, once more,
Their flavour, warm and strange,
Like cinnamon upon my tongue
I was young
When I heard them first,
Every Sunday morning,
Always the good shoes and the un-ironed shirt
Ten pence in my pocket
My mother’s voice like a serpent’s hiss, calling
And the sounds in that church,
Reverberate and contort in my brain:
Symmetry and echoes, distant harking
To a forgotten age of deities and blood-soaked crosses.
We sit in a row on a pew with our hands in our laps.
Prayers read out, boring me half to death,
Songs, vibrant colour in the form of sound:
At seven years, I am given a guitar,
Its body helpless in my hands:
Stranglehold around the neck
Suffocating the strings
My fingers pressing down
Eyes like streetlamps gazing out into the dark
I take the tar that is simmering inside
And pour it out, quick and harsh and hot and fast
It passes through my veins and down the frets
Of that guitar.
And the sounds I create are different,
But equally unheard. Equally unearned.
Saturday night, we steal away into the wind and cold
Alcohol like petrol, pure Vodka burning
As it runs coarsely down my throat,
He holds my hand as we forget the world,
Watch it spin in drunken stupidity
As we crawl into an embrace
With ignorant euphoria written across our faces.
My hometown beckons like a disused bell
Ringing out from the corners where the rats dwell
And the sound swells and the tar, it pales
Until the dark, dreary winter subsides,
A newfound clarity unfurling in my hands
And retreating to a safe spot before my eyes and
For the first time,
I can hold it with a little tenderness,
And let this scared creature breathe.
It coughs, it whimpers,
Then timidly, it asks:
“Will summer come?”
“Will it wither in its own heat?”
I respond and leave it at that,
Not wanting to reckon with these questions
Never again if I can.
Time continues against my will and I am better for it,
My voice may grow dull and my body turn sick
I may lose my hair and put on a couple more pounds,
But that is nature, the universe’s gleeful schtick.
The midnight sky will converse with the moon,
And I will watch on from my bedroom window
With reticent curiosity and unnecessary despair.
I don’t sleep. I walk the empty streets that lie prey to these dead hours,
And when the sounds of a bell call out to me,
I enter with caution and let a hymn take my hand.
I am young again, but like a flightless bird,
I am stranded in its moment,
Caressed by the comfort
But smothered in the long run,
So I leave, vowing never to return.
I laugh to myself, insomnia becoming hysteria,
And I swear I can feel heaven at my fingertips,
I brush off the debris of the night
And inhale the smoke that drifts out of embers burning bright
Against the dawn, against the treeline
There is nothing left to see,
Nothing left to hold,
But the things I keep,
That I keep, perhaps, a little too close.
Again, I will stir
From hazy slumber
And watch on as people go about their days
With angst and impatience,
With regret and dismay
And there are too many elements to hold in my weak hands
So I don’t hold them, at all.
What can I say of things I do not understand?
Move on, I wish to say,
But my words are futile, even to my own ears.
The curtains draw on another day.
Town is drenched in a pillow of warm rain.
And then again.
These things are like cinnamon upon my tongue,
I take them in and let them dissolve without judgement.
Or would you agree that, perhaps,
This poem, and poetry altogether,
Is an exercise in futility?
I lay rest to the seasons,
And accept the fate before me.
Resilience and stubbornness, often the same thing.
But kindness and forgiveness, eternal and infinitely returning
I sit with them, for a while.
My guitar grows weak in the garage,
Cobwebs spun out across its body.
I stare amiss, knowing one day the result of my being
And the sum of my days
Will become something of a sort quite similar to this.
But the songs still ring out in my mind,
And perhaps, just possibly,
So will I.