A Soldier Evermore

His girl’s back home at the factory
She’s making bombs for victory
He’s stepping out on foreign soil
Where the dirty hun made our blood boil
She waits for him at the factory
While making bombs to kill the enemy

And she’s still waiting for him
Waiting for her handsome soldier
He’s so fine and he’s so full of life
He’s coming home, she’s to be his wife

And then one day a ghost appears at her door
And she knows it’s him but he is not as before
It is just his body, his spirit is no more
He’s dressed in civvies, but his mind is still at war
His heart lies buried under an avalanche of gore
He’ll be her soldier, her soldier evermore

And he’s still waiting for her
Waiting for his English rose
She’s so pretty, she’s so full of life
He’s coming home, and she’s to be his wife

And then one day a broken man is at her door
It looks like him but he is not as before
His body’s there, but his mind’s still at war
His eyes are dark and she doesn’t know him anymore
His heart lies buried under an avalanche of gore
His soul’s been sacrificed to the insanity of war

She’s working in the scullery
She’s making scones a cup of tea
She puts the kettle on to boil
But his mind is back on foreign soil
She waits for him to drink his tea
But he’s still at war …and she’s the enemy

And she’s still waiting for him
Waiting for her gallant soldier
He was so fine and so full of life
He came home, she became his wife, but…

Every day a broken man lies at her door
His days are dark and she doesn’t know him anymore
She gives him love, but he just knocks her to the floor
His body’s there, but his mind is still at war
His heart lies buried under an avalanche of gore

His soul floats high above the bloody fields of war
He’ll be her soldier, her soldier evermore…

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Burn Out








Burnt out heart
Of a man that’s been broken
Burnt out shell
Of his shop that’s been torched
Broken dreams
And the Devil’s awoken
Burnt out Soul
Of a city that’s been scorched

Bankers bask
While counting their bonus
Hit the poor
As their profits still soar
Take your lead
From those fat cats so greedy
No surprise
That the young loot and steal?

Police hold back
Watching vandals burn buildings
Lives are lost
As folk defend their shops
Broken father
Whose son has been taken
Surely God
This is a mistake?

Newsprint screams
We’re the voice of your nation
Hacking phones
On an industrial scale
Any ploy
Just to up circulation
Cash in hand
And policemen for sale

Leaders preach
Fine words to woo voters
But the reins of power
Turn our politicians sour
Looters loot
But MPs fiddle expenses
Still they preach:
Come take down all your fences!

Broken heart
Of a mum whose son’s been looting
Empty shell
Of a shop that’s been robbed
Burnt out hope
A community’s forsaken
No surprise
That the young loot and steal

Surely now
Your compassion’s awoken?
Hear the voice
Of the ones who have spoken
We are the same
We’re all able to be greedy
But when we are
We’ll just starve and feel needy

But when we are
We’ll just steal and burn out

No surprise
That the young loot and steal

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Camaro Convertible

For the past 17 months and 6 days, Greg had been living like a zombie. Today he sat, bag-eyed, bleary and oblivious, two-thirds the way across Golden Gate Bridge. As usual, his car was motionless in the morning traffic, a fact which only served to amplify his overriding sense of inertia and despair.

Greg’s routine was pretty much the same each day: 8am-5pm was over-filled with exhausting work, eat, fall asleep in front of the plasma, then a night of fitful, non-refreshing sleep, punctuated by sweaty, anxiety-filled dreams. Next, fall out of bed at 6:15am, groggy and leaden, take a shower, dress, consume over-sweetened coffee and syrup-laden waffles. Exit the house, then perform a slow, uncoordinated lunge into his car, optionally running back to the house to collect his forgotten paper-stuffed messenger bag, then finally hit the road in frustrated earnest, ready to join the daily crawl into work.

Go back 18 months, and despite the long queues and crowd-sourced road-rage, Greg would have appreciated the glistening bay far below him, as well as the stark, industrial beauty of the bridge’s famous red (not gold) suspension towers, which reached hundreds of feet above into a clear blue sky, then stooped down like giant metal monsters from some 50s b-movie, ready to swipe the tiny cars off the bridge and send their occupants screaming to their deaths in the icy bay below.

These days, however, nothing much penetrated Greg’s fugue-like state. His previous, happy life, was a distant memory. His mind was elsewhere, immersed in a private hell.

In the background, Greg’s car radio was tuned to KLIV-1509, a barely palatable combination of traffic reports and deliberately annoying jingles set to mind-numbing “sponsor” slogans.

Come visit us. We’ve got loads of cars“. As if the answer to all this congestion, pollution and road accidents was more cars.

How’s our traffic moving in the South Bay, Ed? ” queried the anchorman.

Problems, problems, problems, Joe – multiple accidents and slow spots are clogging up your South Bay highways today…” came the reply.

“… a car hit a tanker truck early this morning causing a fuel spill over at San Jose” he continued, “the Alum Rock Avenue offramp from Northbound 101 is still shut down and looks to be that way for several hours while crews clean up… back to you, Joe

Greg kept the radio on for a reason. Since his daughter disappeared nearly 18 months ago, there had been no trace of her. Having satisfied themselves early on that Greg himself was not implicated, the police suspected Katie had been abducted and probably murdered, but as the many lines of enquiry slowly dried up, the deputy Sheriff had allowed the case to gradually go cold.  Greg, of course, could never give up, and maintained a listening, searching and watching vigil, hoping desperately for some kind of lead.

In his search for Katie he’d gone deep into the shady recesses of San Francisco’s night scene, befriending a call-girl named Candy, a drug addict yes, but generally a good person. He became Candy’s client and even found some sort of solace. She was very understanding. He hoped she might somehow lead him to Katie, but did not know how this might happen.

The only lead Candy offered was a link to a YouTube video, after he told her about the used Camaro he’d bought Katie for her 17th birthday, 3 weeks before her disappearance.

The video featured a black Camaro convertible driven not by Katie, but by an exuberant male, probably high on drugs, gesticulating to the camera, Mexican rap blaring on the in-car stereo. He thought he knew the face but he was not sure. The person holding the camera swung it around briefly towards herself, but before her face came into full view, the clip abruptly ended. It could have been Katie, but the police would not pursue the lead, and Greg’s own investigations failed to reveal any traceable id of the user who’d posted.

That was a year ago. Since then nothing had moved, rather like the traffic.

Now, the intense low sun cast long, dramatic shadows of the bridge’s twin monsters, reaching almost the entire length of the congested and irascible slice of suspended tarmac.

On a random impulse, Greg stabbed a preset on the radio and switched over to KFOG, a rock station. Avril Lavigne was singing “nana, na nana nana, oh it’s so sad, I hope you can hear me, I remember it clearly, the day you slipped away, was the day I found it won’t be the same…

Greg started to crumble – the lyrics simply too close to the bone. When Katie’d gone missing, she resembled Lavigne, with her straightened mousey-brown hair, skater-boi pout, and intense blue eyes. Similar age too.

Unable to listen, he flipped to yet another station. This time, a more considered, in-depth news channel. The female anchor was talking about the Northbound 101 tanker truck collision.

…according to witnesses, a Santa Clara County police patrol vehicle had been chasing the driver at high speed when the car smashed into the tanker. The car driver was killed instantly, while a female passenger was seriously injured and taken to the Regional Medical Center. The truck driver escaped unhurt. The crash occurred after 6:15am on the 1400 block of East Santa Clara Street.

The anchorwoman continued, raising concerns about the validity of police tactics and the apparent lack of justification for the chase:-

the Sheriff’s Department received calls of a driver doing donuts. On arrival at the scene, they saw a black Camaro convertible leaving at a high rate of speed. The collision occurred a short time later.

Greg stiffened. Could it be? Could that be Katies car? And was she the female passenger?

He needed to get off the bridge and down to the Regional Medical Center. He knew they would never ID Katie over his cell phone.

He put his foot down, but it went through the floor. Everything was suddenly pitched into darkness – a dense black cloud eclipsed the sun, car headlamps blinked on and Golden Gate Bridge lit up like a Christmas tree. Meanwhile, to his left, the counterflow morphed into a procession of black Camaro convertibles, hoods down, each one heaving with Katie’s rowdy, partying friends…

Greg woke up with a start. He glanced at the clock-radio. Shit. He’d overslept again. Gonna be late for work.

He leapt out of bed and into the shower. The warm jets of water pounding his head were not loud enough to drown out the Mexican rap coming through the open window. The music stopped abruptly and moments later, the front door slammed. Footsteps thudded up the stairs.

Waist-towelled, he exited the shower room and came face-to-face with Katie, who was very much the worse for wear and clearly had not slept anytime recently.

Where the heck have you been!?” he blasted.

None of your business. Just chill out Dad, Ok?” With that, Katie fell into her room and slammed the door, returning for the first time in 3 full days to the garbage dump that used to be her bedroom.

It was a familiar pattern, ever since Katie’s mum had left home almost 18 months ago, to go live with her former boss-cum-adulterer. Greg threw on some clothes, headed out onto the driveway, past Katie’s rusty old ford, and jumped into his own car, then cursed as he rushed back immediately to grab his bloated messenger bag.

Finally he hit the road, tuning the radio to find out just how manic his journey was likely to be. “…got some really great deals for KLIV 1509 listeners, stayed tuned for a really special deal on this weeks dream-car, the fantastic Camaro convertible in black…

He turned the radio off.

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I open my eyes. Everything is black. I blink. Still black. I reach out, tentatively, hoping to discover again her curved, comforting, sleepy and sensual form, ready to cosy up to her, just as I normally do on waking.

But the bed is cold. No-one there.

I am flat on my back, and so I try to roll over onto my side. A sharp pain rips through my chest.  I fall back. Why am I in darkness, in pain and alone? Then it hits me – this is not my bed.

I try to think – where was I last night? Nothing.

A blank. Then I remember.

Yesterday afternoon, in the blazing sun, adorned with silk headscarf and wielding banners of truth, I was marching with my brothers against the regime. We were chanting, laughing and shouting. Our spirits were high. Change was in the air. I remember holding my brother’s arm as we chanted. My brother-in-law that is, not one of my many other brothers brought together as one family by our debauched, deluded and deranged ruler.

A pain in my heart now: my brother-in-law – a bad feeling. Very bad. No details, no facts. Just a nebulous, dull ache. I realise: something went badly wrong yesterday… What was it? Now I move my hand over my chest, near my heart – the wound I can feel  there is weeping.  I am not worried – I have suffered many physical insults before in the name of freedom. Nothing one of my capable brothers – or sisters – cannot fix for me. But this dark feeling – this is one I have not felt before. A dense black ball of pain, obscure and uncertain as the night, yet one that pierces my heart and mind with the brilliance of a malign death-star. I feel I could cry forever.

I remember now. The section of the crowd I was in had finally reached our rallying point, in front of the palace, all triumphant and delirious with collective anticipation.  The brutal agents of our dear leader were no longer in evidence, taken by surprise no doubt by the massive uprising that seemed to have come from nowhere. No snipers on the rooftops, no troops to greet us with guns, tanks and brutal intent.

Yes, we had finally won.

She was there. Not part of the surging, chanting mass of brothers and sisters merging into a confluence of joyous celebration in the centre of the massive central square, but calmly waiting for my brother-in-law and I, over in the far corner, underneath the crumbling colonial façade of the government building.

I remember thinking: why is she is not smiling back at us?

Then it was the massive roar. We surged back towards the centre of the square, where our hated leader, so contrite, so humble, on the pristine white balcony of her sumptuous palace, faces the crowd.  Still trying to claim some kind of reflected glory, a sickening attempt to steal a victory (or maybe just her own life) from the jaws of ignoble, shameful defeat  –  my beloved nation, she opines, this is what I wished for you all along… maybe she actually believes what she is saying.  Maybe.  But the hundreds of murdered children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and political opponents all beg to differ, as they turn in their graves.

Whether delusional or just lying self-preservation, our soon-to-be-deposed leader’s abdication speech is almost drowned out by the ecstatic and increasingly impatient crowd, until at last she shakes the hand of our revolutionary and adored leader, who despite the many wounds and incarcerations he personally suffered at her hands, graciously accepts the reins of power, and with this takes the heart of our entire nation into his hands.

And now another memory: in the celebrations, I’d somehow become separated from my brother-in-law. I supposed either that he had simply got lost in the crowd, or perhaps that he was still at the government building where we had seen my wife – his sister –  maybe half-an-hour earlier. Naturally, I wanted to share this moment, the happiest day I could ever remember, with both of them – we’d all been through so much pain together at the hands of the regime.  So I worked my way back through a sea of green, red and yellow scarves, smiles, hugs, tears, laughter, chants and victory dancing, eventually reaching  the edge of the sinister old building, where we all knew so many lives had been routinely dispatched. No sign of my brother-in-law, but my wife is still standing there, on the corner. She takes no part in the celebrations, and seems instead to be waiting anxiously for something, or someone.

It cannot be me she waits for, I sense, for when she sees me, she does not welcome me. She seems shocked.

Before I have chance to call her name, a black Mercedes, bullet-proof and with impenetrable dark windows, clearly a carriage of the now defunct regime, sweeps into view from a little side street that runs adjacent to the building. I cannot believe what happens next. As the evil-looking car slows, a rear door opens, a man leans out and hastens my wife to get in. I recognise him as my brother-in-law. He does not see me, but hurriedly stepping out from the building and onto the kerb, my wife turns toward me. With a fraction of a wave and an expression I have never before seen on her face – one that will surely haunt me for the rest of my days – she gets into the car and is swept away, far from the madding crowd and out of my life forever.

Then, the last thing I remember:  a heavy, hard object – maybe the butt of a sub-machine gun? – is slammed hard into my chest and everything goes black.

Now, a vertical white line of intense light, connected at right angles to short, horizontal one, describes the outline of an opening door. Widening, a familiar silhouette appears, and tells me that I am at my mother-in-law’s house, for it is she who now enters the room bearing a tray of iced coffee and fresh figs.

You were very lucky” – she says, tenderly stroking my forehead. “You were nearly killed”.

How did I get here?”

My brother found you knocked to the ground. They thought you were a death-dealer. You were about to be trampled to death

Then with deep sadness and defeat in her eyes: “Have you seen my daughter? My Son?

I cannot bring myself to tell her that her own flesh and blood were with the now-defeated regime, the one that took her father, her sister and countless friends. Nor can I bring myself to tell her that most likely she will never see her children again.

But I do not need to – my silence, my face, tells all.

Deep down, she knew all along.

She moves silently to the shuttered window and opens it, as if in slow motion. In the distance, as tears begin to stream uncontrollably down my face, the riotous sound of the victory celebrations continues, unhindered by our grief.

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