Birds and Words

Christ almighty!

That bird singing when it’s so cold and dark out there….even the kitchen floor seems wet with night rain and chilly with the window left open.

How the hell am I going to describe that moment, the sound of it, the feeling, as I grope for the kettle.

I can’t.

The song, the moment, the very happening of it was its own closed description.

And you don’t need an arsehole like me telling you to listen to birds.


Playing Fields

A memory, a sound, a snippet of thought, the sight of groceries on shelves and lost shoppers, eye contact that was almost but not quite eye contact, the smell of cars and rain outside…

Our stories are the stories of how we step from one compartment of experience into another and how the walls of these compartments rub uncomfortably.

And when the walls come down, this difficult present becomes an open field of seamless experience where differences go unnoticed, all images playing fairly under a steady sun.


It was unclear but the image persisted…

In some dark place, a simple dwelling perhaps

Some outpost forgotten by the world

An old lady with smooth face, likely blind, sat by a pile of coals.

Glass beads, one after another, passed through her smooth fingertips,

Held and turned slowly before falling

Quietly over her covered knees, clothing worn smooth.

Dark red, browns, greens, blues

Sewn together with a fine, strong thread to form a larger piece,

Her expression changing with each new glass

A smile, a frown, eyebrows twitching with each new vision.

Seamlessly, they passed through her flickering fingers,

All the while a throated murmur that rose and fell

Carrying with it the secret story

Of each tumbling bead.


You’d never imagine that sitting on this sofa in this empty living room with all the usual furnishings and piles, this passive presentation of an ordinary moment, could be so demanding, could be quietly asking you for everything.

To Noreen

Now that you are dead, Noreen, perhaps it is time we had that chat.
I mean, the conversation that can only really happen after the person is gone, that disclosure that is always undisclosed.  I have been little more than a nobody to you, and you to me, for the past forty years or so.  Just a child growing up at the end of the road, you forever at No. 18, a handful of short exchanges since then over your garden wall or through the ironwork of your gate, beneath that wisteria. But we have nevertheless been present, been part of each other’s histories, dreams even.
I suppose we were always going to be just friendly strangers to each other, weren’t we, at different ends, me growing up from nothing as you moved on from middle years towards who knows what. But there is a place for those kinds of acquaintances that stop short of friendships.  Always eager, ready with the gift of a question for me when we would pass each other, as you unwillingly accumulated sticks and aches, slowing down, breathing harder, smiling harder, losing your memory completely at the end.
Yes, we never knew each other to be sure, but the infrequent exchanges we had over the years, puttied between segments of recorded life, in their moments told the story of whole lives and held an integral importance that neither of us would ever have admitted while you were here.
As I said, that chat, Noreen.
(To Noreen who died 3rd November 2013, aged 90)


The autopsy revealed something unusual about an area of his brain tissue. There appeared to have been some form of atypical morphosis surrounding a particular patch of capillaries. The pathologist estimated that over a number of decades, certain vessels had formed offshoots, which in turn had grown back towards the main arteries. He had seen a few similar cases during his long career but never such a pronounced example. The few relatives that were present to learn the cause of death were surprised by the doctor’s choice of words.

“I won’t confuse you with medical terminology. He died of obedience.”