Empty Highway Home
The road is clear, but for the weather
lashing down liquid intermittently, my wipers
doing overtime at midnight, after a John Mayall
gig in Stoke, driving home to Nottingham.
I am afraid of the dark, blank road,
driving rain blotting out the white markings,
guiding forces blurred, no companions
to keep me company, solitary, moving at speed.
I hold on to music, Black Sabbath belting out
another riff on the CD player, I figure if
control escapes me I’ll go out with a bang
of drums and Tony Iomi’s crashing guitar.
Focussing on Ozzy’s often underrated lyrics
“I love you still” fits the bill then memories of
my ex overtaken by 85-year old Mayall’s strong,
tall figure, speaking that evening of being 25 years sober.
A drink would be fitting, after surviving this ordeal,
you and Mayall competing with thoughts of
death on this dead road, but it’s after one
when I park, and the wet dark forbidding.
As the sun sinks slowly
through an ever-changing
sky, your eyes in the light
darkened, opened to reality’s bite,
cruel night blights the soul.
Love lost in the turning hands
unresponsive to touch as the bland
rain constant in morning makes its
own music washing any fragment
of sentiment away, to restart again.
Through the years we have learned defence
strategies, coping mechanisms for loss,
the cost of emotion, the sum total
of physical pleasure, love’s expense
account hits hard, cannot be repaid.
And so, the change has taken place,
your hair splayed across the pillow,
empty arms content not to hold me,
intent on the opposite, determinedly single,
a mistake has been made, we recount our vows.
Bar girl, Street 110, Phnom Penh
The sweep of her jet-lack hair as she
glides past me, the head-turn white smile
and cheery eyes, that small body so capable,
dreamy stare, sitting down after serving me.
I smoke and she smiles, crinkle-nosed
in disapproval, and though YouTube plays
in one of her ears, smiles still and observes
the manic street through an open doorway.
She has seen everything today, and continues to,
all human life passes by this bar, tourists,
junkies, locals scraping by and begging for change,
and, for each one of them, a wide smile.
Roses, painstakingly picked
by one whose hand is held
in addiction their faces turned
toward me, that sharp velvet red
which shouts its presence,
assures everybody all will be ok.
From the window, I hear the regular Sunday
morning activity, kids playing rugby nearby,
screeching, desperate voices, gleeful
though, filled with endeavour.
It struck me: should these roses be fit for the occasion
if you passed away early, and I had to lay them
by your desperate grave.