Poetry

by david ratcliffe

SUMMIT TUNNEL

The homeboy patrolled the platform
hauling a case full of troubles;
a youth, unprepared, undercooked, fidgety,
4 minutes from departure.

He could see his half-life below,
wished to wallow in its familiar frown,
allow his timidity licence to return
to the arms of invisibility.

The village continued its sophistry;
July sunrise presented limestone ripples,
clouds created kaleidoscopic greens,
the old mill beseeched him, remain
within its simplicity,
content to drink life from cupped hands.

A cursory glance to the exit;
would he prove them right?
'would he eckerslike',
yet fearing the train's arrival
he hoped it would run out of steam,
hiss to a stop, forever
lost in the tunnel a mile
from his inward mitherings.

Through branches of dappled summer, 
he looked down at the bus stop
from where his ride to that point had
terminated at the limits of imagination, 
while he waited for adventure
far beyond ambition...

 

Infinite Ignition © 2015 All Rights Reserved

SUMMIT TUNNEL

The homeboy patrolled the platform
hauling a case full of troubles;
a youth, unprepared, undercooked, fidgety,
4 minutes from departure.

He could see his half-life below,
wished to wallow in its familiar frown,
allow his timidity licence to return
to the arms of invisibility.

The village continued its sophistry;
July sunrise presented limestone ripples,
clouds created kaleidoscopic greens,
the old mill beseeched him, remain
within its simplicity,
content to drink life from cupped hands.

A cursory glance to the exit;
would he prove them right?
'would he eckerslike',
yet fearing the train's arrival
he hoped it would run out of steam,
hiss to a stop, forever
lost in the tunnel a mile
from his inward mitherings.

Through branches of dappled summer, 
he looked down at the bus stop
from where his ride to that point had
terminated at the limits of imagination, 
while he waited for adventure
far beyond ambition.

Taking patchwork images,
he ironed them into solitary thought;
the flighty, flirty, giggles & curls
wanton, wretched, innocent girls
who’d hit harder than the ballyrag,
chased harder through the night,
laughed louder on waking.

Maybe he sought self-worth
from lips of experience?
the feature, without outtakes,
maybe he'd return to rule the village
like the fox in an Aesop Fable?

By way of distraction
he allowed himself to imagine;
Manchester, Birmingham, Exeter, Plymouth,
alien places printed on a travel warrant;
thinking them familiar,
reminding him of a football coupon.

Two garrulous women, with matching expressions
seemed to own his thoughts,
Would he, Could he? Should he?
nosey little witches!

The echoing announcement of the arrival
of the 08:14 Manchester Victoria train
jolted him, ‘least it offered the opportunity
to relieve his flatulence’.

‘Damn the summit tunnel’
how could it allow this Naglfar carriage
to lap at the corpse of his childhood?
Yet as he slumped into his seat, new life
breathed through an open window.


31 TIMES

31 times I’ve been deceived,
blindsided, tormented,
driven to distraction
by flighty fertile females.

Five in one giddy night
bid farewell to my flaky virtue;
those merely the entrée
to a beautiful misery.

Penetrating my fateful flaw,
one by one, the self-serving vamps
stabbed a hole through the
soft tissue of my naivety,

I didn’t blame them really,
I was too attractive, too available
an ‘all you can eat’ buffet
no discerning Senora could pass.

At first, I’d feel no pain,
I had my own hell to raise;
cavorting in the sweet smelling air,
collecting each acerbic kiss
with nonchalant ignorance.

Though after time I grew weary,
camouflaging myself, hiding away,
nursing my wounds in the infirmary
of the lost and the lonely.

Until at last, the wheels left the tarmac,
allowing this pot marked victim to bid
adios to the land of those
merciless, bothersome mosquitos.


LEAD BOOTS

She recalls the time before
his lead boots had
muddied the dense waters
of her existence,
a time she left barnacled wreckage
undisturbed,
as if years since the burial.

Craving oxygen she’d surfaced,
portraying a dramaturgy
of frivolous, effusive behaviour;
Tourists view.

Witnessing purity wrapped in splendor,
he’d sought ownership of her narrative
trading pages of his own
from beer stained scripture.

Her creative non-fiction,
eyes and mouth in conflict,
detained him in a moments lifetime,
hogs tongue lapping,
craving intimacy.

In those, rib cage concertinaed moments,
one thumping heart,
arms and legs locked in twin-engined fury,
she steered him to the brink;
he sensed danger,
future stubborn as memory,
past quickening his stroke.

The greater the flaw
the deeper he trawled;
she longed for salvation,
he swallowed her whole,
feeding his hunger,
challenging debenture offerings,  
for full disclosure.

He gorged,
she wept upon a valedictory gesture.

And now?
as caution settled on debris,
a mere three hours from sinking,
she swore she’d
never surface again.


I chose to write in Lancastrian dialect for International Mother Language Day. This poem features a typical day in my childhood, playing cricket with my big Brother…

SWAGGER SPIT UN CHOMP                                                                                                               

The rod behint ewer heause
led reet tord Australia,
ant SCG.

Inth cowd neet air
oi med a mark int flags
under’t yellow glowt oft lamppost

Our kid, wus owder
n bett-thur thun me,
alays England,
alays-Fiery Fred,

Me, awlus Australia,
alays Ian Redpath.

Oi loiked way ‘Redders’ baggy green
sat on is ed, n how e
cudn’t stop a pig in a ginnel,
but oi dint curr ,cos oi cud
swagger spit un chomp
ant communtaters luved it.

Bein un assuie Oi cud propper bugger abeawt anal,
stoppin ewer kids lang run up, ratchin mi rig n
doin is shed in,
adbi agate ‘owdonabit, am not reddy’ 
an he’d chuck a reet benny.

Although I lost mi wicket loads,
oi remember cleautin wun six streght int
Don Bradman Stand;
crowd goin crackers,
me doing sum gardnin,
an our kid ad to fotch it.

Inthend I awlas lost
but it was me who got to
swagger spit an chomp
alt way f ’tae.

Translation…

SWAGGER SPIT UN CHEW

The road behind our house
led straight to faraway Australia
and the SCG.

In the cold night air
I’d make a mark in the flagstones
under the yellow glow of the lamppost.

My brother, being older
was a better player than me,

he was always England,
always-Freddie Truman,

Me? always Australia,
always Ian Redpath.

I liked the way ‘Redders’ baggy green
sat on is head, and his bandy walk,
so I didn’t mind for I could
swagger spit and chew
and the commentators loved it.

Being Australian I would really
mess around as well,
shaking my shoulders,
stopping my brothers long run up,
all to annoy him.
I would say, “Hold on a minute I’m not ready”
and he’d get proper miffed.

Although he got me out a lot,
I remember clouting one big six
over the Don Bradman Stand;
the crowd cheering madly
me patting imaginary cracks in the pitch,
and my brother having to go felt it.

In the end I always lost
but it was me that got to
swagger, spit and chew,~
past the cheering crowd
all the way in for tea.

 

-Baggy Greens, are the caps worn by the Australian Cricket Team.
-Freddie Truman was a legendry English Bowler in the sixties.
-Ian Redpath was a decent batsman for Australia at that time.
-SCG stands for Sydney Cricket Ground


David was awarded Poem of the Day by Gene Barry  founder of Blackwater Poetry on Wednesday September 10th for his poem 'Virtual Coma'.

VIRTUAL COMA

Waves of guilt push me,
to closing moments, when
forever became maybe,
slipping into never was.

The she wolfs lies, cast
verbal blows
slurs, penetrate,
reverberate,
leave me faltering.

Truth, I neglect to question,
surprised attack, for
she is good at bad, and
wears my guilt like a scarf,
around her flushed throat.

My eyes burn, the acid
of too many tears,
explosions in my head, from
straight right hands, uppercuts,
the left cross to the temple.

The family portrait, laughing from the wall
sends me into virtual coma.

Children sleeping peacefully, safe in their beds,
dreaming of heroes, characters
I’ve placed so carefully,

My tired quivering mouth,
eyes flitter from schoolbags
hanging in the hall,
to lunchboxes on the kitchen table.

Two skipping souls,
brim filled with hope, in a world of tomorrows.

My mind races, escaping the question;
Why did you leave us dad?
Were we even worth the fight?


DARKNESS CLAIMS FOR REASON

Fear strikes the plaintive heart,
presented in clear view through
shapeless memories, too far to
grasp, too near to ignore.

Like a photograph on a battlefield
I am swept aside, half smiling,
half crazed, totally lost among
the remnants of the gone.

Crisp images punctuate with
immediacy; you breathing in a
vacuum as I catch mine at the
cruelest, yet sweetest of moments.

Flitting into, then out of view;
like Notre Dame you beacon me, yet
veiled by fog you vanish as
gargoyles snigger in the murk.

Glimmer tersely shown, now past,
straining muscles in my mind, your
features diminished, I sigh as
darkness claims my reason.


David's got awarded Poem of the Day by Gene Barry founder of Blackwater Poetry on Thursday January 22nd for his poem ‘Bitterest Love'.

BITTEREST LOVE

Between what is adored
and in what is perceived,
to be right at the time
for a peace to be found
taking hold of one’s nerve,
to display what is felt,
In a moment of hurting
where blessings are sought.

Underlying emotion
spills out at the sides,
leaving disguised contortions
behind the façade,
though redemption alludes
and returns to the crypt,
where the corpse of a soul
has eroded through time.

Desperation brings action
though nothing can halt,
the controlling of fate
that the ages have cast,
by the actions and words
from the closest of kin,
that set fire to the wagons
where loved ones exist.

In the ashes the truth
burns away into dust,
taking with it the bitterest
loss of all time,
and the memory of what
was once love so pure
that it caused all who touched it
to perish therein.


SEARCHING

In the dead of dark,
in dreams I travel,
I mean really travel,
with every last corpuscle
immersed in a journey to find someone
I am compelled to seek.

There are windows,
hundreds of them,
stretching into invisibility
with crazy looking people
eyes ablaze,
peering from them.

Recognizing the house,
my impulse takes over,
peering through the window
I see the clock,
the tin bath,
and mother’s apron
draped across the floral armchair.
I call through the letter box
"Gary Mum, Dad"
no one comes.

I am now inside
and hear the TV,
unable to think
it flickers and falters

and I shout at the screen;
but Napoleon Solo knows nothing
he is wooden.

As I turn around,
my father sits in his chair;
the smell of his pipe intoxicates
bringing me closer,
though my eyes burn
and on rubbing them
he is gone.

I turn again.
My mother cleans the clock
its ticking becoming deafening
as if time itself warns me
be gone,
be gone.

I grind my average teeth
and ascend narrow stairs,
familiar creaks excite my senses
and on reaching the landing
I turn to my left
knowing I belong
but feeling I do not.

On hearing my brother,
'my barely talked about brother'
making the sound of machine gun fire,
I call to him
but he is not there.

I speak in mumbles
and think in muddles,
madness distorting my sight,
my head in a vortex of shapeless colour,
I shake and waken.

Leaving me further from him
than ever before,
but I know I will return
to search for his smile,
to play,
to lose,
to let him win.

I miss the essence of my kin
taken in my absence,
my brother
tormentor
and best friend.

I will return to roam the estate
but for now the grieving returns.


TOLL ROAD

I pant in instalments, afraid to move,
grip tight a road sign, and stifle a tear,
afraid to now think, should he disapprove.

I entered this bend, my vision quite clear;
to plead forgiveness, though I'm now afraid
his chanting grows loud, and ever more near.

Shadow in robes, where they found my son dead,
moves slow though purposely, humming a tune,
which sounds familiar to songs I played.

Features now caught by the glow of the moon,
as stench of my spawns rotten flesh brings shame,
for I drove too fast on that wet afternoon.

Eyes meet as strangers, as I yell his name,
the bitterest sorrow I have to unload.
so offer my throat, and take all the blame.

The toll was too high, down that darkened road
now I pay the price, for debt that he’s owed.


TALE OF BONES

The earth is reflecting
the tale of the bones,
the forest so harsh
with its soft undertones.

What once was at anchor
is now cast away
as oars dip and raise
in the heat of the day.

The range of scar tissue
with fauna and ledge,
the snag, the crag,
the sharp jagged edge.

The shock of the snap
and the thirst of the land,
the warmth of the breeze
on damp golden sand.

A crack and a flash
bring relief to the parched
with growth on the roads
where legions had marched.

Plunging sheer icecaps,
to rivers of mud,
Mother Earth changing
clothing long after the flood.

Where tranquil blue waters
are lapping the stones,
on shores that give rise
to the tale of the bones.


OPENING NIGHT

It feels empty now;
this playhouse theatre,
where we'd shared top billing.

Accepting ovations,
bouquets, admiration,
night after breathless night.

When chemistry worked;
ad libbing throughout,
our eyes kept to script,

with no sound from the stalls,
the thud of our hearts
told our story.

Though in time your eyes averted,
bring down the curtain,
as patrons moved on.

Leaving eerie silence,
chewed stubs, abandoned
between empty seats.

My leading lady
along with 'unsuitable' suitor,
exiting the stage door.

leaving me, reflecting
on our final review,
'unkind in its summation'.

I now ask the gods;
'turn down the houselights',
allow me to mourn,

reflect on how great
we were on that astonishing
opening night.


NETTLES

I chased reassurance in corduroy pants,
quicksilver wisp of a lad that I was,
headlong downhill on spindly legs;
ditch shaking wildly as impact is met.

Skin hung on twigs, impaled on dry roots.
blood through white flesh beginning to weep,
wrapped within barbs as pain took its hold,
hollow enslaving my frailty in nettles.

Alone in the depths of what I was not;
a stinging enforcement of all that I was
relieved at escaping the laughter and scorn
from the 'in joking' gang I pretended to know.

Though now I am older and outwardly bold
I remain insecure on the outside of in,
afflicted by pain, still the child in the ditch
held captive by prickles that thrive on my skin.