Creative Writing

Methods of Running in the Race to the Grave

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,

But then,

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.

Older now,

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.

I return,

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

Any longer,

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,

It seems

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.

Enough, enough,

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.

Look back

Look forward

Blink once

And then again.

These things are like cinnamon upon my tongue,

I take them in and let them dissolve without judgement.

Do you?

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.

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Quin Finlay

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May 2022
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