Archive for the ‘creative writing’ Category

The Confessional

February 4, 2017


The Confessional

She enters the confessional
‘Oh Father I have sinned’
The world beyond has dimmed
A separate dimension exists
In the oak-panelled box
A land where everything is forgiven
Sins obliterated, guilt banished

She tells the priest
Barely discernible, beyond the grille
An insubstantial shadow
Yet still comforting
‘Father it has been so long,
Half a life time
Since my last confession’

This lapsed Catholic has returned
To be wrapped in a cloak
Of warm patriarchy
To be clasped in the hand of God
The fat controller of the universe
Enveloped in the trinity
And rocked to sleep

She is fearful now. For it is time
To leave. She does not want to live
In the world beyond the confessional
She could stay in this dark place forever
A perpetual religious apprentice
With the priest beyond the grille, acting
As her direct line to God

‘Oh no, my dear,’ the priest replies
‘That is not our purpose. Our aim
Is to arm you with faith and courage
And then unleash you onto the world
And they and back and watch
And applaud and cheer
As they make a martyr of you.’


Celebrity Messiah

January 28, 2017



I watch you scream down from the pulpit
An anonymous speck in a vast congregation
You shake your fists at the sky
As the sun bursts from a cluster of clouds
Madmen shriek back at you
One who believes he is the Messiah
God’s sole representative on Earth

Never doubt my knowledge, you say
Never doubt my wisdom
Your tune is irresistible
You are rendered powerful
By the chanting crowd before you
They see God glimmering in your eyes
They hear Armageddon in your voice

They are intoxicated by you
They are bewitched and beguiled
As you depict blood and suffering
In glorious and beautiful detail
You describe every imaginable daemon
They stand, cheer and beg for more
They are God’s newly recruited army

They surround and sustain you
Some see you as a saviour
Others as a screaming psychopath
To your enemies you scream
‘Rot in hell’ as your invoke
The acrid odour of long dead heretics
And burning witches

You are captured in a camera flash
And all over the world people
Who will never meet you
Watch your flickering image
On their television screens
Few can look upon you
Without something dying inside

Members of your congregation
Reach deep into their pockets
Purchasing immortality. I hear
The clattering of coins
As they fall into your collection basket
And iI imagine a huger and greedy grin
Forming in your mind

I knew you when you were
A street corner Messiah
Amidst the neon lights and skyscrapers
Of a vast and lonely city
How high you have climbed. How tall
You stand. But I know
That someday even you will fall

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March 26, 2013


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Two Worlds Collide

The Daughter’s Tale

Images of the Edible

She was dreaming of food.

It was all that Gemma could dream about.  It filled up most of the space in her head. Sleeping and waking, her mind was stuffed with images of the edible.  Chips- hot and salty.  Apples- cool and crisp, straight from the fridge.  Corn flakes, covered in sugar and immersed in milk.

At every mealtime Gemma heard the footsteps of her fellow patients pounding past her door, heading for the dining room.  They seemed to live for food.  The dining room was one room Gemma was determined never to enter again.

They brought her a tray laden with food three times a day.  Breakfast.  Dinner.  Supper.  Every day.  The food they brought her always remained uneaten.  She didn’t even bother to remove the covers to see what culinary delights they had brought her.  The aroma was enough.

She wanted it.  But she could not have it.  It was desirable but forbidden.  It was poison.  Sugar-coated cyanide.

Instead she was sustained by memories of epic binges.

Three times a day, every day, the nurses came to remove the tray with barely suppressed sighs of disappointment and looks that said, ‘Eat.  It’s not so hard.  Just pick up a fork.  Spear a broccoli floret and raise it to your lips.  Then chew and Swallow.  Simple.’

But they didn’t know Gemma.  They didn’t know that if she were to start eating again she would never stop.  She felt like she could consume the entire world.  She pictured herself as some obese God, grabbing planets and stuffing them into her mouth, their juices running down her chin. She felt as though she could have munched her way through the entire universe.  But she still would not have been satisfied. Her appetite was insatiable.

La Fin

March 23, 2013




This is the Dénouement: the final scene, we capitulate
Paralysed, circumcised by self annihilation. Our sky is starless.
At this moment it is merely desolate,
We are but cautionary tales, standing before a precipice
There are no fundamentals to rely upon anymore
For us anything will do. Pale faces brown. A Queen is crowned.
The patron saint of the damned is advancing, breaching borders
Her empire has tripled in size, its interior honeyed with holiness
Surplus sailors, veterans wasting away to bone
Sucked into the swamp. There will be no revival
They leave, devoid of prospect. We hear their long lament

And we who choose to stay behind
With the calamitous cacophony of the tide
The ocean roars in a foreign language
Dissolving into salt water, we finally yield

First Extract of the Year

January 3, 2013

The Daughter’s Tale

Towering Oaks



The oaks towered above me in the hospital grounds.   I explored everything that week. I explored the bowling green, the tennis court, the gym, the crumbling main building, the sloping lawns and the green, neatly trimmed hedges. There was even a hospital cat – a flash of white that streaked through the grounds. Before it became familiar and tedious.

That first week at the hospital was awash with sunshine.   The rest of the world, the city with its bustling crowds seemed centuries away. Had it ever existed?   Or was it only in my imagination.   The hospital was a separate world with its own language, its own rituals, set apart from everything else – alienated, set apart from everything else.   Some of my fellow patients revelled in being different, revelled in being apart from everything else.   Trains crashed, planes crashed, volcanos erupted, wars broke out all over the planet. Explosions in the middle east rippled round the world, barely touching us. We were far, far removed from that.

The hospital would not exist for much longer, I was told.   Tesco had made a bid for the land.

I sat in the patients’ lounge in the morning meeting, the sun on my back.  Someone was talking about bathing his face in the morning dew, about how healthful it was.

‘I won’t be here for much longer,’ I told a nurse who responded: ‘You may not have much choice in the matter.’

I would come to look back on those first sun-washed days at the hospital with nostalgia.   I was lethargic from the medication but strangely happy.   There was nothing to worry about: no essays, no tutorials, no lectures.

I felt free, liberated of all responsibilities.  Nothing bothered me.   I was oblivious to the rotund man with the hearty laugh and the toothless old crone in the corner.   I did not see the man who called himself Nostradamus Reincarnated and ran round the ward shouting: ‘The world is a process of disintegration.   The world will end. The world will end.’

I felt serene. The orange flowed gently through my veins. I had no desire to do anything but lie on my bed with my palms upturned, staring at the ceiling. June was nearly over, term was over.   There was nothing left but myself – the only character in this one act charade.

I could barely move.   My limbs were leaden and yet in some strange, sick way I enjoyed feeling like this.

I enjoyed the feeling that boundaries had been established.

One can only handle so much freedom.

I could not walk without assistance.   I felt the hand of the nursing assistant around my arm. There was no flesh, her hand gripped only bone.

The medication had temporarily banished history.   I sat up in bed. However they did mean that on some mornings I woke feeling as though someone had bashed me on the head with a sledge hammer.

I had lost herself. I was a floating sheet of paper.   Blank, of course.

I was having my life cut and spliced by the omnipotent author governing the universe. Who was this being?   I imagined it as a monolithic video recorder. That recorded every word you voiced, every action you initiated.   I hoped it included features like play, pause, forward, back and, of course, erase.

And when I slept, I dreamed.

I dreamt of walking on a beach with my father, hand in hand, the sand yielding beneath our bare feet.

‘It’s been a long time,’ my father  said.

‘Too long,’ I replied.

The magical kingdom was still within I. Roses blossomed. I was being smothered by so much beauty.   Music poured out of the speakers.   Voices whispered: ‘You are special.’.

I was coasting along, floating.   I had escaped academia.   The academic layer of my being had been painlessly peeled away.   No more screaming over unfinished essays.   Apparently my tutors had all granted extensions for me.   I was willing to bet that I wasn’t going to be a name on their Christmas card list. But all this was done but at a price: I was sacrificing my personality and possibly my very self.

Kingdom of Cold Hands

December 12, 2012



The Kingdom of Cold Hands

Wintertime: warm breath in frigid air
Dog walking weather

No objections here.  The animal strains
On his  leash, beneath trees

Bare and stooped, some crooked and crippled
Trapped in a state of advanced decay

Green to grey as the year marches onward
I inhale.  There are ice crystals in the air.

Tendrils of smoke from every chimney
Becoming a part of the season’s steady breath

Using our kindness for kindling
We make a fire and gather round

Some speculate that the shrieking wind
Is the disapproving voice of the almighty

For winter is charming and disarming
And throughout this season wise witches

Escape from the pages of fairy tales
And wander freely through the forest


Inner Empire

September 28, 2010

This inner empire was something sacred.  Her words were dispatches from a foreign country.  The persona she presented to the world was it ambassador.  Everything seemed unstable and kaleidoscopic.  A rainbow on the edge of vision.  True communication was elusive.  She inhabited a tiny, barren island, surrounded  by a shark infested ocean.  She wanted to throw herself forward into the jaws of these ravenous sea creatures.  She wanted to be swallowed whole.  She wanted oblivion.  Dark blue nothingness like velvet against the skin


July 24, 2010

Angels and Gargoyles embedded in the stone facade of the college glared at us as we approached the main building.  We leaned against the wall, blending into the brickwork. I had turned into an angel carved from stone.  My own blood would be shed in the war within.  Heartbeat pounding in ears.   A drum bursting outwards.

Yet again I dreamt I were a witch, flying by night beneath the gaze of a big, fat moon.  Darkness was our domain.  We marched through the gloom.  Leap across the puddles, over the clouds.  Disrupt the stillness. I converse with gossiping  ghosts.  I hear the testimony of my ancestors.  I keep in step with them as I watch their shadows slip through the shimmering air.  They plunge into the moss that covers their gravestones.  Until I could see them no more.

Pills of Prussian Blue

July 3, 2009

3691350312_d65454905aThey stuffed me full of multicoloured pills: coral, violet, Prussian blue and then they told me that I was ‘medication resistant’ and so they gave me more.  When I protested they called me ‘non-compliant’ and ‘unreasonable’.  They dulled the passing days.  I was beginning to see the attraction.  They lulled me into temporary oblivion.  They gave me a doped-up, saccharine view of the bleak region I inhabited.  It was an escape from the perpetually chaotic atmosphere of the ward, from the screaming and the shouting, from the fighting and the crying.  They made me forget, if only momentarily, that I existed without possibility of solitude in a transparent anteroom.  They called it permanent observation.  To me without the aid of medication it was hell on earth but I reflected that The Ward Attention Seeker had thrived on it. But I remained uneasy.  Each tablet drew me further into the backstreets of a world of declining aspirations and diminishing horizons.

Hidden Twin

June 19, 2009


I have a hidden twin.

Embedded somewhere

Deep within

And even the night,

Even sleep offers no respite.

She comes alive at dusk

And does not rest

‘Til the break of day

She invades my dreams

In a multitude of guises.

She is a hawk with talons of steel,

Savage and merciless and ravenous.

She is the evil spirit sucking me dry.

A pallid bluish green ghost.

A malevolent spiritual being,

A Roman deity.  A rainbow.  A butterfly

A fluttering moth, plain and brown

A flamboyant flake of crimson flame.

Sometimes she is an enchantress, an angel

Swelling as I shrink into myself

A swarm of black beetles.

Obscuring the moon

She pursues me through the dark forest

In which my nightmares dwell.

She whispers into my ear,

‘You are like the farmer’s prize heifer

Destined only to be sold at the cattle market

And milked for the rest of your life.’

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