Poems – Restructuring

The following poem was the prompt for a series of poems I have been working on concerning a character called Henderson, and exploring his take on life, in particular work-based life. At present I’m looking to get the sequence published in some form – hence Henderson does not appear on this site. However, in readings and workshops, Henderson has become quite a popular figure – certainly eclipsing his creator.

office

Restructuring

It was obvious he’d gone.
Twenty minutes later he emerged;
a year older (and an inch shorter),
for every minute he’d been before the boss.
Never seen a man so reduced.

He stood for an hour and stared at the car park.
Something had left him,
none of us knew what words to offer his shell.
Then Shivali asked if he’d still sort the Lottery
and Dave wondered if an office would be free.

The following week
hushed conversations stopped
whenever he came into the tea-room.
Might as well have rung a bell.
He’d eat alone, untouchable.

Then his desk was empty,
though his screensaver still showed
a picture from the Christmas do;
dressed as an elf with Leanne on his knee,
he always liked a laugh.

Emails arrived with words like rationalise,
downturn and downsize.
It was like a damp we couldn’t stop from spreading
and it seeped from his department into ours.
Just now HR Jenny smiled at me;
my appointment ‘s Thursday, half-past three.

(This poem appeared in Acumen #77)

This poem features in ‘Codes of Conduct’ my pamphlet from Cinnamon Press.

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Poems – Invisible

The poem Invisible is one that has been commented on by a few people after readings. It seems OCD and similar conditions, being invisible – unlike a broken leg – are more common than we might think. I absolutely sympathise with anyone who has difficulties with anxiety. After all, which of us has never gone back to check we locked the front door?

Invisible

The thing that’s grown inside me
cannot be explored by ultra-sound,
or removed by surgeon’s knife.

I go to work as normal.
It exists inside my gut
and mind: controlling.

To leave the house in haste cannot be done.
First I feed the gnawing devil with ritual;
kettle, cooker, lights, taps,
switches, back-door. Kettle, cooker,
lights, taps, switches, back-door.

It wants more.
Plaster cracking is subsidence,
unknown emails contain viruses.
I cannot pay by phone
or order online just in case.

Awake at night to the electric thrum,
sweating to think of what comes next.
No scan can show this demon.
No lump can be removed.
(This poem appears in South Poetry Magazine #48)

Poems – Endless December

 

I was asked to produce a poem which combined ideas of the Nativity with 1914 – a tricky task if one wants to sound full of festive cheer. I played with the idea that men in 1914 surely did use the name of Christ, though perhaps not always in a positive manner. Anyway, this is how it came out. It was read at a Carol service earlier this week and I think people appreciated the scope and sentiment. However, I remain unsure about the title I gave the piece – titles are so often a tricky part of a poem’s puzzle for me.

 

Endless December

 Most men uttered the name Christ

in the December without end.

And that name was followed by a plea –

Make it stop or Don’t let it be me,

while some could find nothing more;

the name was all they had.

 

But in the blur of battle

prayers are hard to hear;

men died with Christ upon their lips.

A million lives became a kind of sacrifice

to all that we hold dear.

 

No gold for these men – only lead.

No frankincense or myrrh,

just the heady mix of cordite

and bitter iron blood.

 

That blood stained fields

forever England,

but now we know that Belgian mud

could just as well be Afghan sand.

 

The name of Christ continues to be spoken

as men and women pass before their time.

Their tomorrow is our today;

let’s hope to God we find a better way.