Song: Aunt Madge Said

She fears to die
It comes too soon
It makes her cry

Had she thought
The problem thru
And made her peace
That’s all you do

She brought up five
In a council home
Since they’ve gone
She been alone

Aunt Madge said
My Dad Joe
Did bad things
And no one knows

Aunt Madge said

Some of you
Alive today
Will not see death
Lord Jesus say

He’s a good man that Jesus

The world goes on
Care, don’t care
As if Aunt Madge
Wasn’t there

My Aunt Madge was very lonely
That was easy to tell
She had not really had a life
She had not lived that well

Of this I’m sure
She lived her life
Behind closed doors
As a council wife

Aunt Madge said
She fears to die
It comes too soon
It makes her cry

Oh, my aunt Madge
Oh, my poor aunt Madge

 

Aunt Madge Easton nee Aitken
Aunt Madge at the seaside in the 1960’s

First Verse of poem as saxophone melody

PDF of Ist verse as song

Aunt Madge Said

Hiding the Blame

An inner voice
An inner lawman
“They made me do it”

The inner law
Is a real shadow
In the blood-red moon

To an inner guide
He’s obedient and wise
But it makes him cry inside

It snaps the chains
It cuts the cords
Of his accord

His agreement is lost
He doesn’t agree
With himself

But he tries
To please the lawman
That talks

Through his mouth
Pouring out his shredded memories
Of boyhood photo dreams

He didn’t mean to
It was half a dream
And half of a back door

Into the relics
Of his humanity
His lawful
Legal humanity
Compressed
Into someone else’s vanity

Recycled
By someone else’s
Heavy-handed law

Well
Just explore
Tip out

His puzzle
Onto the floor

Half of the pieces
Are yours
One more step
And I would break
Oh my axeman father

One more pavement slab
Closer
And I would become

A solution
In your gun

One more
Robot step
Forward

One more
Raygun blast
Of your hate

And you could use me
As paste

One more
Step forward
Into

Your sons
No-man’s land
And

You will
No longer
Be a man
The shellfire
Fell for years

Upon the disc
Of my
Darkened sun

How long is war
How long is childhood

The partisan
In the family

Hid in shadows
Moved careful
Through the hate

As real
As death
As weak as breath

If I hold my
Breath
Long enough

He will leave
I will die

The heavy guns
Will cease
Like a new year’s eve

Of any day
Of the ammunition’s
Ceasefire

My will and my blood
Are on fire
Are my attire

In the extravagance
Of fathers war
He tore up
The page
Of my days

But I named
Each piece
With a word

Absurd
I needed a grid
System

I needed
The impossible

Look close
At the dustpan
Do you see?

A few paper pieces
Of me
I would go out
And search for help
I was the scout

And the wagon train
Was
Caught in the rain

Social workers in war paint
Psychiatrist
Hiding in the streets

My wagon wheels
Were rolling
Towards love

I would go out
And run about
From tree to tree

Mad birds
Would follow me

I’d pick holes
In the sky
I’d try

To die
In a tramps
Old coat

I would go out
I would become
Tall grass
The sun
Would blast
On my
Cratered moon
My brow
Would swelter
Melting my
Brain
Insane boy
Joy
I can never leave
Those days behind

People are unkind
They act
Like him

The continents collide
Inside
Volcanoes rise

The bad times
Resurface
The good times

Slide
Beneath

The inner tide
Un-rhymed

Can happiness
Rhyme
Will unhappiness die?
The child part of me
Is like a criminal
Running from my dad’s back hand

The landslide of his
Disguise
His sainthood of blood and mud

His war throne
Where he sat alone
Where white bats
With wings of fire

Left their carrion
On the wire

The childhood part of me
Is the criminal
The unreal is real

The dungeon
Where the nightmare
Thrives
Is where he put me

As he
Ate the tops of snow-covered mountains
His feet dragged thru the slime

And if he knew
The way I felt
He’d resign

Forgiveness comes
When the fire
Has burnt out

How many fires
Were burning
In the night

When at last
I can kick at the ashes and say
It’s over

When will that day come
Will it ever?

My angry fire
May die
But other fires
May last forever

I’m thinking of my mom
She got hurt more
Than anyone

Especially
On the day
He killed her

Dad look at my face

Dad look at my face
My face is no disgrace
They say I look like you
Am I a tyrant too?

Dad look at my eyes
My eyes are no surprise
I have my mother’s eyes
They tell you no more lies

Dad look at my face
Is this the face you hate?
Will I share your fate?
With this kind of face
With this face in the world

Will they hate me like they hate you?
Will my face remind them of you?
Will they talk behind my back about the things you do?

With the savage eyes and the snarl
As you swear and abuse our mom
With the holy mask and charm
As you entertain a lover

Dad look at my face
Can I remove all trace of you?
Can I scour my face with a rasp?
So I don’t look like you do

Dad look at my heart
That you delight in breaking apart
Right from the day I was born
You knifed it with hate and scorn

Was it like looking in a mirror
A face you hate to see
If you hate my face
You hate your face and you direct your hate on me

Do all tyrants stare like you?
With menace through and through
Would you kill all the birds as if they were turds?
Then turn your spite on me

Would you remove all of your relations
Would you put them in torture chambers?
Would you hear their screams as they confess
To the overthrow of your regime

But they all have faces like yours
They all look like you
They swagger as they walk
And they shout as they talk
About their enemy – you

Dad look at my face
Is my face now a disgrace
Will I live my life in hiding
Sure no one will ever like me

Can I get my face removed?
With the butt of a gun or a fist
Or a scalpel in a back street
Where the surgeon likes his blasphemy

Oh there was never a trace of love
In those cold blue eyes of yours
There was never a glimmer of affection
You only wanted subjection

As my mother’s eyes stared alone
And worked her fingers to the bone
And sat and cried in the kitchen
Do you think my trigger fingers itching?

Should I get a bullet for you?
Oh God what should I do
To end this evil foment
To save my mother from torment

Dad can you see what you do
You make me think like you
You trap me with your lies
You twist me up inside

Dad, I think I must run
I can’t do the things that must be done
Something tells me what I should do
But I can’t kill you

Dad look at my face
My face is no disgrace
Dad, I’ll pray for you
That you stop the things you do

“Let’s hurry home”

I didn’t go out again – something inside – keeps robbing me
The cruel life of childhood pegs me down:

Yesterday I was out and the late-night fell
I saw a breathtaking city evening above the crowds

An inner whisper
She tugged like a horses bit
Upon my heart

It was my mother’s voice
I would be helping her with shopping in town
The child son child

Time on the horizon was going away
Like the sun – stars pinpricking at fears

“Let’s hurry home before your father gets back from work”
(With his head in the telly and his feet on the mantlepiece)

And we’d have to go back home: back to the slavery, back to the routine
Light up the oven, peel the potatoes, cook the dinner

And the crow of slavery repeats its death
And it has left behind its smelly carcass in my soul

The crow-of-slavery repeats its death  – it did not die
It left me behind its dehydrated carcass deep into my soul

A light – golden

A light – golden

A light – golden
more golden than the eye can detect
Follows you in, is one of you
Are more than you!

A light older than the earth
Its energy, pure, refined like love
Happiness, greater than time
Yet it is such a minor light, a little light

A feeling felt, sensed of this light
Of happiness, love bound up, glowing

Following you as you go in
But seems unseen by everyone
Invisible, is too much light to be seen by you
The secret part of light, the heat of light
Another light, a guiding fleck of light
I almost saw the form of a man
Much later, as I remember
The feeling the light had
Of guiding you, like two blind men
“At last, about time, got you here”
Not seeing it, presenting me to you

Then left or seemed to leave
Vanished into the night, hurrying away
Bowed out un-noticed by you

You stepped through the doorway
Full of yourselves, smiling professionally
You’d just about made it here not knowing why or how
And you walked in the door without a goodbye

A long-time empty in my mind

The tear has travelled a long way
A long way home to find
The heart was a long time empty
A long-time empty in my mind

Down the roads across the skies
Who knows how many times?
It lost its way and began again
A long-time empty in my mind

I miss the love I thought I knew
I miss the life I had
Like a train can lose its carriage
And rolls on feelings bad

So you cut a hole into my life
And staked me to the ground
There is no freedom in my heart
When you’re not around

The tear has travelled a long way
A long way home to the town
The shadow that I left behind
With the knife stuck in the ground

Insanity has grown in me

Insanity has grown in me
Dumb as dead dogs on broken stars

Someone filled my heart with bangers
Then closed the wound with a spiders thread

I sense my mind getting small and alone
A perpetual machine of inner war

The bit between my teeth pulls tight
I eat my screams and latch shut a smile

Is there any way back to the broken home
With the balsam of love and laughter

The broken home held together

For the sake of the children

 

 

 

A Stranger at the Dinner Table

Several people re sat around a dinner table. I do not know who they are; they seem nice, friendly, unassuming. I do not see their preoccupations with each other.
They pass the salt, they pour the coffee, I like that the sun is shining, at how relaxed I feel with them, at how well the meal was so well organised; a family meal that has been happening every day for years.
Their clothes are clean and well fitted. The table cloth is clean. Items on the table include a pen and paper, a radio, a bracelet.
At one point in the meal they were all passing something to each other, their arms were folding at the elbow, swinging from the shoulder a motion that surrounded the table like a paper chain. Then they put their arms down and began to chat.
The wife spoke and as she spoke the salt cellar exploded like a small volcano and everyone was surprised, she though, not seeing the miracle or the response to her table talk just laughed.
The husband a few minutes later said something. The olive jar cracked open and the olives rolled over the table’s edge. The birds from a nearby tree flew down, do birds eat olives, and ate them.
The dinner resumed. The two twin girls started arguing over the chocolate mousse which stated to bubble and in the bubbles could be seen dark wicked eyes appearing. The mother told them to stop squabbling and be quiet.
The guest began to tell a story of his recent travels abroad. I was in Valencia recently he said and the gravy boat capsized like a ship and spilled over into the lap of their son’s new girlfriend.
This all hinted at the secret life of the family. I asked for captions to appear above their heads to show what they were really thinking.
The husband liked the son’s new girlfriend.
The wife was having an affair with the guest.
The twins were both in love with their tennis coach.
The group dispersed to various rooms in the building and the husband to his garage. The attractive maid came out to clear up the table. Suddenly on a distant hill a house caught fire. A fire engine passed by and all the firemen were singing

Painting: The Two Brothers

tiredness

I was about ten years old when my brother was born in 1961. I was glad to have a brother of course but the difference in years meant we never really got to talk to each other much. Here in this picture I have the expression of tiredness shyness, and happiness as I was given my baby brother to hold for the first time. We went on to have completely different lives.

 

The Lake Waters would Stretch

The lake waters would stretch out in the evening
A dark reflection of the sky
Or a reflection of my real soul
Dark and impenetrable to the human eye.

I’d walk by the glassy water
Spreading out, glassy and cold
Sleeping beneath me, in a fearless dream
Dark and heavy, glassy, tinted with cold.

Something I need to understand
I see a deeper ledge
I cannot see any further down
I become a candle flame, glowing by the edge.

Candle soot whirls skywards
Into the crystal air
The lake sleeps like the anima
Unconscious in the depth of its lair

Then the earth shuts out the sunset
Behind its closing door
The lakeside takes one last sigh
Then the night would hit the floor.

The leaves of trees would fill me
With a dark, secret, rustling sound
Then all seemed to go silent
In the landscape all around.

A crescent moon would be behind me
With one eye and half a smile
And I’d walk along the soft water’s edge
Just for a little while.

Home became a prison then
To return to alone and cold
But with a little of the wilderness
Singing in my soul.

Chasewater, 2000

Alone in the Shoe Repair Shop

Alone in the shoe repair shop
The child becomes a spider
Who carries an anvil
Behind the shop counter
That becomes a crippled clotheshorse
That gallops amongst piles of shoes’
In the unlit workroom
Where the smell of leather
Is as slick as a tin of Brasso
That spills over a box of rubber heels
Where the smudges of wax polish
Like burn marks are branded
In the cobblers heart of shoe leather

Alone in the Shoe Repair Shop
Another shoe jumps
Onto the upturned iron foot
As cobwebs cover the dead child
Who rolls in the eye of the cobbler
Who fills his mouth with tacks
While bleeding from his feet
Whose socks are bedraggled lions
Tearing the carcass of the rent man
Who rolled on the floor in flames
After a bible thumped against a door cupboard
Where old hammers are stored
In cake tins along with bankruptcy
That walks in the army boots
Of a Methodist preacher that echo
In a parade ground in France

Alone in the shoe repair shop
The child is split in two by a cuckoo
That turns into a Football Pools lady
As shoes fly at the clock-face
Carrying bags of nails
That dam up the floods of tears
Of the small child looking for a seat
Amongst the generation gap of black machinery
That dribbles oil and grease
Into the eye of a dead bantam cock
That pulls a Wellington boot
From a plague of birds in the fireplace

Alone in the Shoe Repair shop
The small child is a shattering windowpane
Where the distant sound of a town
Is falling into an orphan’s nursery rhyme
And fills the empty street outside
With powder puffs and nail varnish
As the tram cars whistle by
A tune like a broken pitch pipe
As girlie books fall from the thundercloud
That opens an old budgie cage
Hanging from a weeping willow tree

Alone in the shoe repair shop
Where the darkness drips like magnetism
Into the grimy sink
As earth worms cover the machinery
That becomes the loss of a dead bird
Who sings itself to death
In the lap of the lonely child
Who followed it into oblivion
Where a dragon lived in an old shoe
In a bowl of mashed potato

Alone in the Shoe Repair shop
The thick canvas machine belts
Rotate the earth
Beneath an avalanche of worn shoes
Piling up in the toy cupboard
As darkness falls on the street outside
As Christmas stuffs a chicken with a nightmare
That turns the small child into granite
And runs away from there
Into mists of forgetfulness

Blood Made Gold

When human warmth is normal
The full hue
When you walk into
The room of a close family
Their smells
Cover you in
Blood made gold

A blessed family
A home of human warmth
How their lives
Have relaxed into harmony
When every surface is alive
With layers of breath-touch-love
Reapplied daily
Burnished
Like blood made gold

This human tenderness
Fashioned into manifold affections
That paint the room
That watercolour the air
That sing a gentle lullaby
Of activity
Where relationship
Combines a hive, a nest, a den
Into a womb
Of blood made gold

How the beauty of the home
Is overwhelming
When it works
To fill your needs
When it grows quietly
Like a summer meadow
Between their lips
How different life is
For its family
Who lie for an eternity
A life of blood made gold

June 2019