Hanging out my shingle(s)

Perugini goldfish bowlIt’s been a long time since I’ve posted – sorry about that. Among other things, I’ve come down with Zoster, (aka shingles), which is every bit as much fun as you might imagine.

Actually I’ve had very few of the nasty side-effects, just aches and a general feeling of malaise (such a great word!) and an interesting rash right on my bra-line, which has rendered my daily choice of underwear a rather more tricky event than usual.

The main symptom though has been an attention span that a goldfish would be ashamed of, with similarly flacid powers of concentration. So I offer the following first draft of a new poem with even-stronger-than-usual caveats about its state of public-readiness. (In other words, it has received zero editing, and I’m not even sure how to begin …)

The Ministry of Sorrow

Build it of stone, of brick, of twisted
metal. Build it of shards of glass.
Build it of rubble. Build it of cards
of condolence. Build it of tears. Build it
of lives, of lies, of lying alone
with the stone of absence filling your belly.
Build it of the extra place you still set.
Build it of footsteps. Build it of sky
in unfamiliar places. Build it of letters returned.
Build it of phone calls at three a.m., and the hours
torn open till dawn. Build it of photograph albums,
page after page, seen through a lens of regret.
Build it of sleeplessness. Build it of anxiousness.
Build it of thankfulness. Build it of guilt,
gild the lobby and marble stares, build it of loss, build
it of all the words too late
for utterance. Build it of families. Build it
of doctors and firemen and mothers
and teachers and shopkeepers,
build it of strangers, some of them family.
Build it of books with inscriptions
that catch you off-guard
one night, late, browsing the shelves.
Build it of faces, clouded
and fading from photos, from payrolls, from memory’s
unbolted store-room. Build it of favourite
restaurants. Build it of charity.
Build it of hope. Build it of random
diversions, phrases from surveys and polls
with boxes to tick, yes or sometimes.
Build it of trees, build it of weeds.
Build it of flowers sprouting from traffic cones.
Build it of soldiers, build it of lawyers, build it
of puzzlement, injustice, poly-syllabic abstractions
in helmets and hi-vis vests. Build it of trying
to buy the other kind of black dress.
Build it of knowing that those days
are over. Build it of those days. Build it of these.
Build it of hearing his voice on an answer-phone,
hearing him laugh on the telephone, his voice
speaking the lines back, missing the punchline (that’s
not like you, old friend), skipping the deadline,
guarding the red-line, under the breadline.
Build it of stars. Build it of asphalt. Build it of shoes
by the bed. Build it of chocolate. Build it of all of the ways
that the world has to wound us. Build it of wounds. Build it
of sutures. Build it of sirens and smoke alarms,
build it of false alarms, build it of falling
and bruising and broken bones,
build it of failing hearts, build it of false starts,
build it of cancer, build it of age and the dying of light,
build it of madness and raving and hurling your howl to the wind,
build it of rattling bars, build it of clubs, heaving,
spilling their fear on the footpath, build it of last drinks,
build it of last toasts and last posts
and last rites, build it of last words, build it of lasting,
build it of finally sleeping the night. Build it of quietness,
spreading like light through a shuttered window.
Build it of paper. Build it of paperwork. Build it of forms
and letters, of ancient address books,
of cancelled engagements.
Build it of notices. Build it of broken
and battered and blistered and barely-healed,
build it of make-do, build it of make-up, build it
of shells to crawl into. Build it of gestures,
build it of faces seen in the rear-view mirror,
build it of hands outstretched in the darkness, hands
falling to fists, hands gripping the phone,
the frame of a door.
Build it of sentences uttered so often
it seems that they utter themselves.
Build it of words, filling with smoke.
Build it of all the things still to be done.

Build it, and we will come.

2 Replies to “Hanging out my shingle(s)”

  1. I like it – maybe edit it to be a bit shorter and tighter? As for the “marble stares” – is that a typo or deliberate?
    Hope you are over the shingles soon.

    1. Thanks, Catherine. Definitely needs to be tighter – this is very nearly word-for-word as it was first written in my work book. As it came. The only work I’ve actually done on it was typing it in, so it will almost certainly get shorter. The ending is wrong: I know, it’s a bit of a meh way to finish, but it’ll do as a placeholder until I regain enough mental capacity to think about it properly. And yep, the “marble stares” was a typo, but it’s one I kinda like. Whether it stays or goes is still to be decided. In some ways I like the surprise of it, but it’s always a bit of a gamble including things that make the reader stop and wonder about in that way. (‘Oh!’ is good. ‘Huh? Did you mean …’ is less good.)

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