Her

Created in a haze
of another world,
you sheltered him
under a thin veil
of love,
no protection
from the grime
of a greater desire

Infected
by your weakness,
an unwanted
legacy remains,
a puzzle unfinished,
never to be
complete

But;
as neglect festers,
so too does love,
for in these times
wishes are granted
and dreams
become reality

Three souls
intertwine,
and from the ruins
of a shattered life,
a family emerges
from the rubble
and life
is renewed.

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Farts and Squeaks

An onslaught OF music SOUNDS,
no TIME for rhyTHm or mOVEment
and no symPHony fouNd
within jazZy tinker bellS
jumbling UP like
words wrong-the-way-around YELLS
nOIse,
and order FLATTened in a menTAL cRAze;
that’s no way an Orchestra plays.

To my EArs, poiSED fOR fORm,
I Sit in pAiN,
in vAIn,
as raIN becomes sToRM
and OF a suDden, pEAks;
anoTHer onSLauGht
of farts aNd squeaks.

Once Upon a Time

it sits,
this life,
alone
in the corner,
fragments
of lost dreams,
splintered
by time and reality,
scattered
to the wind

frail
of mind and body,
wasted
on a tidal wave
of fear,
regret

plans
long forgotten,
made when fear
was not known
and time
stretched
endlessly

when hopes
were as high
as confidence
known only
to the young,
life was
eternal

but time
creeps in
like fog,
spreading slowly,
blinding,
suddenly
plans but a memory;
time grown
short

and this life,
so little now,
so lonely,
so scared to believe,
to try,
swept away,
and dreams
are long forgotten.

Launch

Launched into this world
hurled from my mother’s womb,
sent screaming into this place
I raise my voice yet again but now,
control it with measured grace
And I raise a hopeful brow
to those of you who sigh,
lie lazy on vestigial wings
and cry
So I offer here, myself, my soul,
my compositions for all to read,
and comment on, if not a troll
as I offer only what I can,
so no screaming please
and comment not,
if you’re not a fan.

The Launch

‘Just launch it…’
‘I will. I just…’
‘Come on Eillidh, you need to launch it. Just throw it in…’
‘I just need a minute Cara…just give me a moment…please…’

The two girls stand at the edge of the pier, their slender outlines gently imprinted on the calm, idyllic coastal scene. The first hint of the early evening’s shadows begin to invade the cool, crisp, and often, unexpected sunshine of the late Spring day. A frittering, uncertain sunshine. Like an infant taking its first steps, desperate to exude confidence, all the while only a heartbeat, a mis-step, a moment away from defeat. Gentle waves prod at the foot of the brickwork pier below them, respectful of the calm, quiescent air, careful not to intrude upon the measured silence. Across the river the Lothians stand proudly, illustriously, distant. The peaks of the far-off Pentland Hills creeping into the horizon. Another world, another life. To their right the Forth bridges cut through the landscape. Each bridge unique, oozing character. Each offering a varied route of travel, a mode of escape, from the introspective small town life, piercing a hole into the seemingly salubrious, high-rolling, problem-shedding city life.

‘You’re going to have to do it sooner or later Eillidh. The quicker you do it the faster you can walk away. Yeah?’

Cara glances briefly at the object, the focal point, the subject of the conversation, forcefully clutched in her friend’s hand. She follows this up with an unsteady, yet comforting, squeeze of Eillidh’s shoulder. The latter’s hand slowly rises to meet Cara’s, gently caressing it as her gaze remains fixed on some nondescript point on the opposite shoreline. A slight smile, more forlorn than joyful, edges across her lips.

‘Do you remember when we used to come here as kids? To the beach I mean.’
‘Of course I do.’
‘Any sunny day. Even some rainy ones. Hiding in the caves-but-not-really-caves further along the coast to keep dry.’
‘That’s right’ smiles Cara.
‘All the way through Primary School,’ Eillidh squeezes her friend’s had before withdrawing her own, letting it hang by her side. Cara taking this as a cue to let go.
‘I honestly can’t remember the last time I even built a sandcastle. Buried someone in the sand. Skimmed a stone, even. No matter how crap I was at it.’
‘Everything seemed…I don’t know…freer then. Easier.’
‘Look Eillidh…you’re still…’ begins Cara meekly before she’s cut off.
‘I had my first kiss there aswell, remember. That English boy, Will, up here visiting his Granny, or Auntie, or someone, I don’t know. Where was he from? Cornwall or something, wasn’t it. God, it was awful. He tasted like cheese and onion Pringles. He wasn’t even eating cheese and onion Pringles.’
‘Yeah, I remember’ replies Cara, now managing to force only the barest hint of a smile.

The light continues to gradually diminish around them, the evening entwining with the daylight, a dusky hue beginning to claim sovereignty over proceedings. Towards the opposite shoreline two birds, seagulls thinks Eillidh, one noticeably larger than the other, suddenly career into the air. The larger of the two confidently cutting through the encroaching shadows, the smaller visibly struggling, ascending and plunging with all the consistency and speed of an unrestrained roller coaster. The larger bird descends time and again, flapping alongside the smaller; in support, in encouragement, in kinship. Until, eventually, the smaller bird finds its stride, its confidence, and propels itself into the air. Gliding gracefully through the landscape, pirouetting over the lush red steel of the railway bridge. The larger bird proudly mirroring its every move, coasting close by as the younger of the two etches its own celebratory path into the coastal expanse.

‘And then the beach parties started’ she says.
‘Well…’
‘Didn’t they?’
‘Well, hardly parties’ answers Cara, ‘more like a group of underagers getting together and smoking and drinking anything we managed to steal from one of our parents’ drink cabinet. If that’s classed as a party then…’
‘Suddenly everything just felt different.’
‘Eillidh…’
‘Like happiness is suddenly something you have to work for, y’know.’
‘Eillidh, listen…’
‘Appearance. Expectations. Responsibilities. Exams. Careers. Plans. Books. Looks. Boys Girls. Everything. Like you’re no longer only making decisions to please yourself and make yourself happy any more. Every little thing you do or don’t do, every little thing you say or don’t say, somehow it suddenly becomes all about pleasing someone, anyone, everyone else. When did that start, tell me that.’
‘I don’t know Eillidh. Look, you did the right thing. You did. It’s not…’
‘And then you end up doing the wrong thing anyway. Making the wrong choice. It’s always about the wrong choices.’
Cara’s voice drops to a whisper. Unsure. Muted. She pulls nervously at her hair, curling it around her index finger, tangling it in the process.
‘Eillidh…’ she begins, ‘you had to do it. Ok? You didn’t have any choice. There wasn’t a right or wrong choice. There was just the only choice. You have to know that. To believe that. You had to get it done. You’re 15 years old, Eillidh. 15! It was the only choice you had.’

Eillidh looks down at the object in her hand. Staring at it. Fearing it. Hating it. She looks up again, indifferently staring across the glistening waves. The skyline above the bridges glows a fiery red, the dying embers, the final flourish of an otherwise fading daylight. She tightens her grasp of the object.

‘I could have waited though.’
‘Eillidh, why say that?’
‘In the first place I mean. I could have waited.’
‘Come on Eillidh, there’s no way you could have known this would happen. No way.’
‘Cara, I could have waited.’ she replies sternly, ‘like you just said, I’m only 15 years old. I didn’t have to do it. Didn’t have to say yes. To agree to it. To let him. Even though I knew…I knew it wasn’t what I wanted.’
‘You just…you only…’
‘You weren’t that stupid were you!’
‘It’s not about being stupid, Eillidh. Like I said, it’s not about being right or wrong. All you did was…’
‘Well, I don’t know. All I know is I could have….I mean, you weren’t…I don’t know. I don’t know.’

Cara looks up at her friend, still gazing blankly into that unspecified spot in the horizon. She gently slips her fingers through Eillidh’s, clasping hold of her quivering hand.

‘You did the right thing. I promise you. School. Your parents. Your own life. It’s still yours to live. You had to do it. You’ve not let anyone down…’
‘I know…’ whispers Eillidh in reply, her voice cracking ever so slightly as she does, ‘I know.’
‘It’s not an ending. It’s just something that’s happened. Something that could have been but isn’t.’
‘Yeah…’
‘So just launch it. Just throw it in, Eillidh. Please.’
‘I will, I just…ok.’
‘Besides, I’m starting to shiver. I told you summer dresses in spring was a shocking idea.’ she forces a trickle of laughter.
‘You did.’ smiles Eillidh, this time tightening her grip on her friend’s hand.

Her attention is drawn to the waves continuing to claw at the foot of the pier below. The gentle lapping of the water against the wall bringing with it an almost serene, hypnotic quality. A distant, echoing seagull screech breaks her repose, calling to her attention the near total darkness now surrounding the two of them.

She squeezes her friend’s hand tightly once again, emphatically even, and then lets go. And with a gentle flick of her wrist she sends the white object flying through the evening air. As Eillidh and Cara turn and walk away the very last fragment of the day’s sunlight briefly enshrines the object in a surreal glow. The white object’s small LED screen, once adorned with the word ‘Pregnant’, glistens under a momentary flash of light, a blinding reflective spark, before it continues its downward trajectory, tumbling towards the shadow-strewn, all-consuming waves.

The Gallows Tree

deadtree

I need to see the sunrise. I have to. To film it, record it, capture it. To let it wash over me. Over this project. It’s the missing part. The missing link. The final solitary jigsaw piece that’s buggered off below the couch into an apparent abyss. I’ve got everything else after all. Filmed it, penned it, recorded it. Every shade, every angle, every mood. Yet this is the one that evades, that taunts. A masterpiece can never be a masterpiece if it’s missing a piece. No matter how small, large or vital that piece may be. That’s simple logic. That’s cutting through the jargon, the artistry, to arrive at the truth. What’s a sunset without a sunrise? An ending without a beginning. A finale without an introduction. Death without birth. A masterpiece need’s it’s purpose, it’s opening. And this is my masterpiece.  My Sistine Chapel. My Citizen Kane. My Mona Lisa. I will become the art, the art will become me. A recognition, admiration, a lasting epitaph. Or, at least, it will be once I get this bloody sunrise captured. That’s why I climb. Why I struggle. Why I falter through the uneven hillside under the shadow of darkness. To reach the outline near the top. The crooked pyre. The contorted monolith. The subject of my masterpiece. The Gallows Tree.

The Auld Gallows Tree to be more precise. There it stands above me. Some twenty yards or so. A dark silhouette framed by the even darker clouds and skies above. A gothic beacon on an otherwise barren hillside. Jagged, wrinkled, pleading almost. A decrepit, skeletal sinner’s hand thrust through the soil, reaching up to the heavens. Even from a distance as close as this the branches seem pencil thin. Intricately drawn outlines traversing their own fragmented and wayward path. A tree I know. One I could draw in my sleep. A tree that knows me. One that’s peered down on me, on my house, what was once my parents’ house, on its isolation at the foot of the hill throughout my life and beyond. To me an eternity. To the tree, nothing more than a brief glint in its long history. A minuscule scratch in its vast tapestry of lines and rings.

A history so expansive, one so varied. Infused with life, death, worship. The tree and the land around it has seen the birth of Pictish Kings, Wicca rituals, battles, both religious and political, fought in its shadow. A sight of pilgrimage for thousands throughout the dark and middle ages. It’s proximity to heaven, within ‘touching distance of the Lord’, affording it its revered status. And, of course, it was the sight of one of the many hundreds of clandestine, yet hugely attended, Covenanters gatherings during the Killing Time. Thousands would flock to the hillside, through a myriad of weather conditions, to listen to Preachers booming their sermons, their doctrine, to the assembled mass of believers. Outlawed, hunted, yet defiant. And the subsequent fallout from this period of history is where the name ‘Gallows Tree’ originated from. Whilst many Covenanters were sent to the infamous mass prison at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard in Edinburgh, many others were killed where they worshiped. And so it was that hundreds, if not thousands, were hanged from the very tree they had once seen as a symbol of their salvation, a symbol of their faith. And yet, for all of that, the tree sits on the hillside largely ignored. No brown tourist road sign highlights its existence, its prominence. Not even so much as a crudely-scrawled symbol on a local tourist map. A forgotten feature on a forgotten landscape; tourists and day-trippers directed in their droves towards the nearby neolithic standing stone circle instead.

And so that’s the reason I’m doing this. That’s why I’ve invested so much time, so much effort, in this project. To celebrate its individuality, its isolation, its solitude. Seemingly forgotten, ignored, shunned by all. But no more. This crooked, crippled collection of bark has been there for me. Throughout my life. Watching, peering, whispering comfort. In a scattered rural setting such as this, where next door neighbours can be, and often are, several miles apart, it has been a constant. A companion. Stability. Every morning as a child I’d stare out my bedroom window and it would be there, affixed on the hillside above. Basking in sunlight, wilting under a rainstorm, decadently bathing within a snowy landscape. Every morning there. Grasping at the low hanging clouds. Often slowly revealing itself amid the rolling mist caressing the grassy verge. But always there. I sketched it, time and again. Researched its past, its fables, its ghosts. Wrote about it, wrote to it. Talked to it. Hid my dreams, my worries, my darkest thoughts deep within the scraggly arms of its embrace. I uttered my goodbyes when I set off for pastures new. Shamefully shuffled back to its presence years down the line when pastures new dissipated into nothingness, an ex-wife and a tribe of step children trailing in my wake. A long-term job lost, discarded, scattered into a chasm of indifference. It offered no judgment, no flash of disappointment, no scorn. Just stability. I’ve climbed this hill in school clothes, pyjamas, work clothes. And twice in the last two years I’ve climbed this hill in my Sunday Best straight from the kirkyard, clambering to the tree for solace, for comfort. For answers. Returning to an empty house. To echoes. Memories. And still it watches. Over me. For me. I need it. And it needs me.

The town hall has been booked for an age. The best part of my inheritance gone into hiring its space for six months. They were reluctant to allow me the booking initially. Isn’t it generally artists that usually create art installations such as this? Why for so long? A tree you say? They’ve had to move meetings, coffee mornings, cancel anniversaries, birthdays, wedding parties. It has to be done though. This exhibition, this art installation, demands to be seen. To be witnessed. To be understood. A audio-visual homage to the Gallows Tree. A celebration of its history, its characters, its stories. Its meaning. Shining a light on its existence, its ethereal majesty. Dragging it metaphorically up by its roots from its hillside seclusion and thrusting it into the eyes of the wider population. Forgotten no more. I’ve filmed it day and night, night and day. Every day for months on end. From this angle, from that angle. In every conceivable shade, mood, pose. All weathers, all conditions. Recorded it constantly; cataloguing every sound, every storm, every raindrop, every creak of its branches. Written pages, screeds, tomes on every aspect of the tree. Every historic moment from its past, every character, every death. The hall will be smothered in information; sketches of the tree, photographs, film, branches connecting the stories, the characters. All creaking under the continual, relentless sounds of the tree’s muted entreaties. Every single object cluttering my house, my mind, will be unloaded and presented to the world.

The Tree of Life, that tree in American Gods, the one in Sleepy Hollow, The Giving Tree, all the trees in the Suicide Forest at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan. Trees of fiction, trees of legend, trees of myth. All of them, I repeat, all of them will pale into insignificance in the shadow of the The Gallows Tree once I unveil it to the wider population. Bringing an end to its isolation, an end to the ignorance. All prepared, all waiting, all ready for the curtain call. Or it would be if it wasn’t for this bloody sunrise that I just can’t quite seem to capture right. I’ve captured enough perfect sunsets, enough raging storms, enough exquisitely-picturesque strands of lightning to last an eternity. But the sunrise still eludes me. Any time I think I have it, the camera fails, the light dims, a cloud forces its way into the frame. Any number of factors pollute the waters, the stream of perfection I’m striving for, the one the tree so richly deserves.

So here I stand once more, perched on the hillside. Perched below the tree. Waiting, pleading, begging for the sunrise to creep from the shadows and weave its way through those jagged limbs. To provide me with the beginning, the opening, the introduction I’ve been grasping for all this time. The final piece of the masterpiece. The finishing touch one day before the launch of the installation. The skies above me start to lose their darkness, becoming lighter, penetrable even. Flickers of the morning sun start puncturing the gloom, shards of light dotting the surrounding hills. This is it. The moment. The final I dotted, the last T crossed. I quickly empty the camera from my bag, draping its strap around my neck. Waiting. Poised. Trembling. The weight of history, of relevance, of myself, sparking throughout my tired bones, my gasping veins. Light. Creeping. Finally. Slowly, painfully slowly. Creeping. Creeping. Edging into shot. The perfect shot. The once a day, perfect, film opening, exhibition launching shot. Poised. Ready. Waiting. And…gone. A cloud edging into view a split-second before my finger slams down on the button. Another blurry picture of the tree to add to the collection. The sunrise obscured by cloud, obscured by fate. I sink to my knees, throwing the camera to the ground in the process. My last chance gone. Defeat. Perfection slipping from my grasp. Once more.

I pull my bag closer to me as the clouds scatter every which way, the sun nestling high above the earth, announcing daybreak to the sleep-laden Northern Hemisphere. A familiar battalion of mist begins its march up the hillside, engulfing all in its path, creeping up towards my position beneath the tree. I rummage in my bag, an eerie calmness suffocating me, warding off the emptiness, the anxiety, the darkness. A final cruel placid twist of fate. A sanguine warmth grasped within the flames of failure. A mocking light within a perpetual darkness. The knowledge that this has been planned for. This failure. This eventuality. A shift in focus, a shift in tone. There can be no true ending without a beginning. The ending sought for fallen by the wayside, a new ending required. The Gallows Tree must be seen, must be noticed, must be revered. It’s isolation shattered, it’s solitary vigil brought to an end. I pull the rope out of my bag and push myself up off the ground, glancing down one last time at the empty shell of a house below. Silent. Long ago deserted. Bereft of feeling, of meaning, of life. Letters have been written, instructions detailed. Six months earlier than planned, but planned nonetheless. My epitaph. Carved into the tree, its roots, for all eternity. The tree will have its moment. It will. Its name will step forth into the light once more. I throw the rope around one of the thicker branches protruding from the crooked frame, a tight noose at the other end dangling in the air, swinging gently above the encroaching layer of mist. I move towards the tree, grabbing hold of a lower branch and thrusting myself up. I reach out for the rope, just barely managing to clasp hold of it and wrench it towards me.

I gently loop the noose around my neck with my left hand. My right still clinging hold of the tree.

The tree must be known. Its story must be told.

The ending must have a beginning, yes.

But every story demands an ending.

A finale.

A conclusion.

I let go.

The Launch

Counting down,
I’m lost for words,
I can’t think
what to write

This prompt
has got me beaten,
I’m still waiting
for the light

Every time
I think I’ve got
an idea
or a hunch

I start to write
about The Launch
but it ends up
about Lunch

If a ploughman’s
or a sandwich
could be deemed as
just the job

I could write until
the cows came home
about our
Brand New Blog.