We are living in a time which shall become folklore.
Retelling this point in history to our grandkids shall, to us, never be a bore.
To think our ears used to perk up at the sound of those three syllables,
we’d order them and add a slice of lime to the bubbles.
Time has slowed from a march to a dreary existential film score.
Why don’t I get the feeling we’ve been here before?
We’ve heralded the dawn when it’s aspirational to be a loner.
It’s jolly challenging, molto difficile, nicht ohne.
We’re in a scenario which just weeks ago sounded absurd,
a world problem not classed by first, second or third,
and which won’t be tackled en masse by flocking in a herd.
It’s a test of our mettle and a strain on our kettles
to wait indefinitely for the dust to settle.
Do we have stored within us the same altruism
as the residents of Eyam, making their plague village a prison?
We cannot be sure what else lies in store,
shall we enjoy mass gatherings never more?
Who could have predicted we would revel in
undertaking mundane household chores?
How much time shall pass until the sound of a cough
doesn’t make us jump or scurry off
to our domestic sanctuary?
Or until a sneeze doesn’t give rise
to a lump in our throats, making us ultra-wary
as a grandfather dotes
on his grandchild and must not second-guess
if showing tenderness
could be a knock at death’s door?
How much longer will this go on for?
How long will we financially be feeling the clinch?
Well that non-expert says wrapping this up by Easter will be a cinch.
I can’t deny having constantly refreshed the internet newsreel,
wanting to be the first to pounce on the article which revealed
this was the most ramped-up and high-stakes April Fool joke ever,
during which we all came together
in socially conscious strands,
though not once with the shake of a hand.
Let’s imagine, or even sing the John Lennon song out loud,
if concerts and football matches are eventually once more allowed:
will we have still maintained that fervently-made vow
to never again take for granted the company of here and now?
How long till the gratitude bubble bursts and we once more start to groan
about how we never get to spend any time at home?
In times when good cheer is harder to procure,
we’ll have to use laughter as a makeshift cure.
It won’t banish infection, but it’s a distraction, sure.
We’ll just have to look forward to normal for one day more.
For now, it’s gone out of fashion, but as we’ve seen before,
trends always make a comeback, and staples do endure.
And through trial and error, through much endeavour,
remember and cling to the fact that it won’t be forever.
That, ladies and gentleman, signore e signori,
mesdames et messieurs, at least for now, is the cure.
My Built-In Bastard Alarm
Mother always told me, in more child-friendly terms, to steer clear of bastards.
You stick with the people who are nice to you, don’t waste time on anyone else, she said.
But how to spot one before it’s too late? They are a varied breed, coming in various guises.
Under no circumstances should you let one walk you home.
If you have led an untarnished life and are as yet unschooled in detecting bastardry,
Let me forewarn you of the common danger signs.
Take a seat. Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Indicators of bastardry may be multiple or few, but they are always perceptible.
Never be fooled by any ingratiating first introductions, that’s how they draw you in.
Bastards phrase questions as though they were statements, because they know all the answers.
A smile is either too forced, with no wrinkles around the eyes, or substituted with a smirk.
Striving is for losers. If there’s a test, they aren’t going to put the work in.
The answers will be handed to them on a plate by that dweeb they’ve got under their thumb.
A queue in which a bastard is in front is not a queue to the bastard’s mind, but a crowd of spectators.
Rather than seek help to battle their demons, their self-chosen therapy is to belittle others.
Discourse with bastards is one-sided. They interrupt your explanations and then they’re
Angry at you because you still haven’t given them an explanation! What a nerve!
Limp is the handshake offered by a bastard. If offered at all.
A parting piece of advice: should a bastard inspire you to imitate them, then
Run, non-bastard, run, because
Mother taught you better, thank goodness.
Our usual morning routine, watching the news headlines. You leant over to stroke my forehead and, noticing your perfume was stronger than usual, I panicked that I had forgotten a special occasion, but the date on the bottom left of the screen made me realise that I can't have done. You scratched my skin with a snagged fingernail, but I never could get annoyed with you. You can get away with anything – even turning off my life support. You cradled my head in your hands and in your eyes I saw the richness of our universe as my star faded: my ghost hands stroked your face at the bus stop after our second date, unbuckled your bra after the fourth, then lifted your bridal veil and changed our son's nappy, before trying to shield him from the car that careered onto the pavement. All I could offer in return was my glazed-over stare and till I could pity no more, the pity I felt for you outweighed the pity I had nurtured for myself.
Somebody told me I was shallow the other day
and I just told them to talk to the French-manicured hand.
I mean, I’ve seen the length of my eyebrow hairs
after plucking them out.
There’s loads going on under the surface, babes.
I last turned to you when I was six years old, distraught when my brother threw my favourite teddy bear out the window. I'd stepped on a CD of his by accident and broken it, and he wreaked his revenge on Timmy Ted, who was forever spoiled, drowned in the mud. Back then I didn't write it quite so succinctly or eloquently.
I'm 17 now. I know, it's been a while. I won't bore you with everything that has happened in between. This morning is enough. Nothing before that matters.
I was getting changed for college when the door burst open. I turned to shout at my brother for not knocking when I was lunged at by a frenzied... I don't know what to call it. Its naked body was male and human, but the body was just the host. Its head swayed constantly and it foamed at the mouth like a rabid dog. Its skin wasn't white anymore, but a greyish green, as if the jerking flesh was already decomposing. I kicked it in the stomach and its back crashed into my bedroom window, shattering the window pane. I grabbed my skateboard and hit it in the face. Just hit it and hit it and hit it. The skateboard's wheels spinned around furiously with each strike. The creature groaned and some teeth flew out, along with something that looked more like pus than blood. It lurched backwards and that's when I dealt an upward blow underneath the slanted jaw, sending it over the window sill and crunching the shattered glass.
I heard it hit the paving on the front drive, but didn't stop to see whether it had died. I ran to Jack's room instead. No one there. His bedding was torn to shreds.
Back in the day, straight after Teddygate, when the tears were still streaming down my face, I had wished that Dad would throw Jack out the window so he would get a taste of his own medicine. Not that I had called it Teddygate then. I see now that I recorded it as the Worst Thing Ever, and I broke off from joined-up writing to hammer home the point.
Ha. Well, six-year-old me, you didn't have a fucking clue.
Too scared to go downstairs in case there were others, I looked out of Jack's window. Maybe he was already downstairs and had gone outside to see what the hell had just landed with an almighty crack. That's when I saw him on the ground. Him. Not it. Now that the raging red eyes were closed and the contorted movements had stopped, I recognised him. I'd dished out the medicine myself.
I don't know how long I stood there staring at him. I moved again when two of those creatures came stumbling into the garden and dragged him into the bushes towards the front gate, where there were more of them on the street. I'd seen enough.
I've grabbed a few things and brought them into the attic, which is where I found you again. Amazingly, the little pen that came attached to you still works. I've otherwise got my phone and charger, half a bottle of water and various pills from the medicine cabinet. I figured that I have a few options up here for a speedy exit. Either I jump off the roof, or I can overdose, or both. Alternatively, I can string together the spare bedsheets up here into a noose. I want to die as me, not like Jack did.
My phone's not connecting to the internet, so I've no idea what or who infected my brother. For all I know, I might be infected already. I don't know if this is just in my village, in the whole country or in the whole world. I don't know if Dad even made it to work without turning into one of them. I might not live to write on your final page. You might not see me through to the end of this. Perhaps they'll move on past my street. I think you can go for up to three days without water.
But until they find me, I must keep going.
As long as I can recall the teddy bear incident, I must keep going.
As long as I can write, I must keep going.
As long as I can read, I must keep going.
And you are going to help me.
The nuclear holocaust will come. The worst part? Not until Trump's eighth year in office.
Theorem for the Common Man
Beauty can be boiled down to a symmetrical formula -
that's what I was taught at school.
I forget the exact ratio
and who uncovered it,
but I know it when I see it.
It's in the angle of your cheeks when you smile.
The first colour of the rainbow is dappled across them,
against a snowy backdrop of all seven colours combined.
And seeing that smile on your face sparks
an equal reaction on mine.
No doubt the precise temperature of comfort has also been calculated.
I can't tell you exactly what that temperature is,
but I know it when I feel it against my cheek.
And that warmth radiates through my body,
as if by ... is osmosis the term I'm looking for?
These states of perfection may not bear my name,
and I'm not the only person they have been revealed unto.
I haven't secured a living or immortality by labelling them,
but each day I discover them afresh
I am made all the richer.
Perhaps one of these days someone, perhaps even I,
shall discover the exact force to which I owe my gratitude
that our paths crossed, but until then
my "lucky stars" will have to suffice.
Just admit you’re hungry.
One chip. You said. Then another one. Make that ten.
We Reap What We Sow
More information than ever before is available at the push of a button or the swipe of a screen. It's easier than ever before to access contrasting views so you can carve out your own independently. So how is 2016 still the year of overwhelmingly stupid political self harm? It's not enough to lap up a news source. You have to be able to question its accuracy,reliability and bias. And many are either prevented from doing so or just never encouraged. These are in part the consequences of voters being fed a daily diet of fear and hatred from their one selected news source. I wonder if the results this year could have been prevented if the likes of the Sun, Fox News and similar gutter media had been called to account for wilful misinformation and inciting hatred a long time ago.
Fruit of my scabby loins!
Here's what you need to bottle the
scent that knocked Mum senseless:
1 severed foot
1 packet of cheesy wotsits
1 warm radiator