“Careless Talk Costs Lives” 02 June 2008
They were both soldiers
in different wars
History is written by the victors
so theirs were a worthy cause
both lucky and unlucky
to have made it through alive
to have made their hearts immune
to the misery by their side
Reg, from 1898
lied about his age
life imitates Auden
the trenches were his stage
the helmet with a bullet dent
stood in the Garden Shed
it was not The Hun - but old age
that claimed him in a Eighties Bed
His dog, half-blind
loyally ran to strangers in the park
expecting bemused old men, half-losing their minds
to recognise an alien, friendly bark
I was only fourteen
I knew nothing of life
I dreamed of girls
When he was my age, he had the same dreams.
When he was in the mud, and the blood
And never knowing if the next minute was the last
I was up to no good
At the age his friends saw their last sunrise
I was living my life too fast
My other grandfather boiled
Directing traffic in the Sahara as Rommel’s Nemesis
He came back, perpetually cold
Sweating jumpers in August
The crosshairs twitched as he ignored the sand in his moustache
A fraction right or left, then load the barrel -
And the shell was dispatched
Loose lips sink ships
And careless talk costs lives
Were the lucky ones the ones who survived?
What Evil Begets
This is a short biographical piece on Rastiel A'naro, an "evil" character for the Dungeons & Dragons Game. I thought the rest of you might like to have a read too...********************************************************************************************************Rastiel never knew his parents, his true date of birth or even his true name. Found as a baby near the temple of Kemet in the temple city of Baqara, he was already disadvantaged in a land where social status and wealth meant the difference between life and death. The people who found him wanted to keep him but did not want to offend the Goddess Kemet and so took him into her temple. There the priests bid the people to lay the baby onto the altar and to leave; Kemet would judge on the child herself.
The High Priest of Kemet came out and asked for guidance from the Goddess herself as to the fate of the child; he would gladly offer him as a sacrifice if it meant his own daughter, who was ill with fever, would live. He gasped as he was granted a powerful prophecy that in time to come the boy child would ensure the High Priests own name was not forgotten. The High Priest, Kadas A’naro, was truly shocked. Losing his name would mean he would be damned in the afterlife and that such a powerful prophecy had been given made him realise that Kemet herself was watching over this child. And it was this that made him adopt the boy but from a distance. The child was not his but he would grant it life and make sure the child was raised to adulthood.
The first eight years of Rastiel’s life were the simple mundane years of any child, and to this day he has no recollection of anything of that time. All that changed on the year of his eighth birthday. The High Priest A’Naro, who had given Rastiel his family name and status, suddenly died of an inexplicable illness; when he was found his face was black and eyes were bulging, and a torturous look upon his face. But the greatest shock came when A’Naro’s own daughter, Efidiel, announced to the Prince and to the people of Baqara that this was a warning from Kemet herself, that her father had been found wanting by Kemet and his soul had been taken.
The Prince was shocked and a little terrified of the thought that Kemet, Goddess of the Night and of Death, was angry and asked Efidiel, against judgement from his viziers, what would appease Kemet. She replied that she herself should be made High Priestess of the Temple of Kemet, and that she would pray long and hard for the answer. The Prince was taken aback by this request but he did find her eyes pleasing and she had a way about her. After a brief communion together in private, he granted her request. Efidiel A’Naro was now the High Priestess of Kemet.
Things began to change within Baqara over the next five years but as time progressed, those changes went from slow to fast. Efidiel quickly assumed power and a number of deaths from the priests of the temple ensured that no one stood in her way of total control. Indeed, it appeared that Kemet was very angry with her chosen ones for a great many priests and priestesses died with the very same symptoms that had claimed her own father’s life.
Rastiel was quickly bundled out of sight of Efidiel, his step-sister, and the priest who did so told him to never use his family name again. Although he was an A’naro, his sister would view him as a threat and kill him. Shortly afterwards, that very same priest was found dead, drowned in an oasis that had turned blood red.
But that did not save Rastiel. Instead, he and the other orphans of the Temple of Kemet were rounded up and brought to Efidiel. Rastiel was too young to think of lust but he did know that his step-sister was indeed beautiful and that the men around her were loyal to her. But he did not like the way she shamed herself in public, and especially in Kemet’s own temple. Efidiel looked upon these waifs and smiled to herself. ‘Excellent’, she thought to herself, ‘these children would be very useful in the years to come.’ She was already smiling upon one of the orphans, a boy about to blossom into a man. Instead of taking action, she restrained herself and had them dismissed.
Over the coming years, the Temple of Kemet continued as it always had but there were strange rumours of rituals held in the bowels of the temple and odd sounds and smells emanating from therein. All these were dismissed by Efidiel who herself publicly denied any such events. Her comings and goings to the palace to advise the Prince were by now well documented, as was the rise of the worshippers of Kemet in social status.
As the years passed, Rastiel began to notice things about him. How the older boy children would not return from certain ceremonies, how the girl children were taken away from the temple to never return. How everyone bowed deeply to Efidiel, sometimes even in the presence of the statues of Kemet. It angered him especially that people were losing their faith to the Goddess herself, she who was the most generous of all the gods, by ensuring safe passage to the afterlife.
Five long years passed and in that time, the city of Baqara had changed beyond recognition. Gone were the dutiful worshippers who prayed nightly to Kemet, gone were the devout ceremonies that offered flowers, fruit and meat to Kemet, gone were the traditional rituals. Efidiel was now in almost total control of the city of Baqara.
Indeed, one such ceremony, the devouring and release of the Sun God Ra by Kemet, had been completely changed. Whilst before the ceremony required a token sacrifice of fruit, flasks of water, meat and a token man of Baqara, now Efidiel had ruled that the man was no longer token. Indeed, she had ruled, without objection, that she herself would spill the lifeblood of the man.
She would enter the hall whilst the man lay on his back on the altar and when she was at the pinnacle of the ritual, she would draw back her hand and stab downwards, slicing the man’s neck with her dagger, spilling his lifeblood upon the dusty floor. In this way, she proclaimed, Kemet would share her enjoyment and her heated desire to kill.
But things would go too far.
Rastiel was now nearing his thirteenth birthday and knew he was next for the ceremony of life and death. He had become aware that his friends had been taken away and had never returned and once he had even watched as his own step-sister had slit the throat of an arguing priest; All of this in the name of his beloved goddess, Kemet.
Efidiel had him brought to her in the days before his ritual sacrifice. She examined him, all over and smiled at his body. She had said only one word. “Good”. Then she had him dismissed and returned to her grape eating.
The night before his death, Rastiel prayed devoutly to his beloved goddess, Kemet. He did not want to die without pleasing her and he knew he was only going to die to please Efidiel, a snake of a woman even if she was his step-sister.
Rastiel dreamt that night about Kemet, and that she had come to him. In the dream, the door to his cell opened and a woman walked in. She had pure white alabaster skin and dressed in a purple silk dress. But he knew she was Kemet because she wore her ceremonial mask.
She came to him and told him she was displeased. Efidiel was no longer praying to her and she was murdering many of her loyal subjects. It was time for Efidiel to be stopped. Rastiel replied that he would always do whatever Her Majesty desired, even if it meant his own death. The Goddess Kemet, at least in his dream, was pleased with this reply and gave to him a ritual dagger. This dagger, she explained, would not be seen by anyone save him, and it was to be used when Efidiel raised her hand. He was then to strike her down. Rastiel awoke in a sweat but in his hand was grasped a ceremonial knife. He looked down upon the knife and swallowed as he realised Kemet was truly watching him.
They came for him in the morning, the young priestesses, joking and laughing about the day to come. To them, he was nothing more than a young calf to be slaughtered. But he was not surprised when they did not react to him holding a knife in his hands. The women bathed him and cleaned him, they oiled his hair, and they anointed him with fair-smelling scents. They made him eat and drink of the Lotus, but it had no effect on him, although to them it seemed it had.
And then they took him to his funeral room, the hall of Ra and Kemet.
There he was made to lie on the altar. He could twist his head left and right but he did neither, looking straight up at the ceiling of the temple at the face of his goddess Kemet. As the drums began and the darkness began to take hold of the room, he could hear footsteps. He knew it was his step-sister but he did not react. She loomed above him. The darkness was almost complete when the ceremony began, the drums in his ear. Then, he saw her hand rise, and in that moment he heard Kemet speak to him:
“Strike the serpent down in my name.”
Rastiel shot his hand holding the knife forward and shouted, “For Kemet!”. The knife sliced into the undulating flesh of his step-sister and she screamed. The blade had sliced through her belly and almost completely disembowelled her. Rastiel knew, as he jumped off the altar to run away that she was dead as she fell; of the dagger given to him by Kemet, he could see nothing.
As he ran off the plinth, he was grabbed by the temple guards, who pulled his head back and laid a sickle-sword against his neck. Rastiel closed his eyes and said a prayer to his beloved goddess.
The voice reverberated throughout the chamber and everyone’s eyes turned to the altar. There stood Efidiel, her belly flapping open. But it was Kemet within her. Kemet, the goddess herself, had come to the temple in anger of the way her subjects had been murdered in her name, a blasphemy she would not tolerate. And hadn’t.
“Release my priest and bow to him.Do not take my name lightly again and suffer no would be idolaters.”
With that, the corpse collapsed.
Rastiel was released and judged a Priest by all those present, his status completely unchallenged. In time he would help return the people of Baqara to proper worship of Kemet and re-claim the name of A’naro and restore honour back to his family name.
Of the Prince, he was found dead in his locked chambers, his face black, his eyes bulging. In his hands was the Book of the Dead, his own name struck out.
Rastiel would later discover the secret rituals that Efidiel had never discovered and he would journey forth, to spread the word of Kemet amongst the unbelievers and do her bidding in unholy lands.
Life Through A Lens
Lilly Allen’s pregnant
And Amy Winehouse’s a wreck
I’m in my basement
Surfing the internet
Pete Doherty’s in Hoxton
With dirty fingernails
I’m too tired to unleash the guns of Brixton
A goth, beyond the pale
I read Hello, I feel OK!
Take a break, and open The Daily Mail
Think of them all
People in crosshairs - sitting ducks
But I don’t give a fuck
Do they really think
If their paper didn’t have that shot
They wouldn’t sell a copy?
Do they really think
They need to crush at the doors
With their flash photography?
What about the real news?
What’s going on in this world?
Marvin Gaye knew
You can save the world if you’re the singer of U2
Upturn climate change
Whilst the papers tell you you’re gay
The life thru a lens
That doesn’t make sense
That sense of fame
Just for being alive
I’d rather be known
For stopping people die
For curing cancer
Or writing a great book
Giving something back to the world
Something more than creating the Zoolander Look
What’s your legacy?
What did you leave behind?
Apart from a trail of misey
When Diana died?
1. Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Joseph Spence
2. Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes
3. Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland - Grandaddy
4. Everything's Gonna Be Cool this Christmas - Eels
5. Twelve Days of Christmas - Peter Broggs
6. A Great Big Sled - The Killers
7. Little Drummer Boy - The Dandy Warhols
8. O Come, O Come Emmanuel - Belle & Sebastian
9. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Bright Eyes
10. It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas - Pet Shop Boys
11. Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight) - The Ramones
12. Bizarre Christmas Incident - Ben Folds
13. Go Power At Christmas Time - James Brown
14. Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Good, You Deserved It) - Sufjan Stevens
15. Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End) - The Darkness
16. Christmas Everyday - Smokey Robinson
17. I Was Born On Christmas Day - St. Etienne
18. Spotlight on Christmas - Rufus Wainwright
19. Happy Christmas, War is Over - George and Antony
20. Feliz Navidad - El Vez
21. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Coldplay
22. White Christmas (demo for Tom Waits) - The Flaming Lips
soon i will speak my mind
I work all day, and at night
I stare at screens
created needs try to enslave
and empty pockets taunt me
There's still time to fuck me
to take from the winner the spoils
there's no benefit in that but
but for the pleasure of denying me
my escape route
my path to a better life
I stay silent and seethe
powerless but I fight
I go to work and return
there's too much month left and
hell hath no fury like a dream spurned
a revealed lie now the slave understands
Once bills are paid and overdrafts sated
our tastes have remained frozen in the nineties
We're too old to get laid - and hairstyles dated
We exist in the hole of employed penury
and now we grow old
and the same old, same old
is just a blink in a planets eye
is my life
In a rucksack
between Oval and Stockwell
A man fingered a button
to deliver the infidels
to their heathen hells
next to packed gelignite
an object of such power
a black case of comedy dynamite
chosen to help him blend in
with his surroundings
what would make Middle Class Britain
feel as if he was integrated?
what item of mediocrity
would make him look as if he were no threat?
Just an muslim guy with a rucksack on the tube?
That analysts would reconstruct
as somehow significant
in the aftermath, the evidence collected
this would document the motive
to be analysed and dissected
He pressed the button under his clothes
after a moment of prayer
a spark connected
but did not detonate
and He Was Still There
with Ben Stillers worst film,
De Niros cultural apocalypse :
"Meet The Fockers" on DVD in his pocket
and a failed suicide bombing
to his name.
Growing Up On Vinyl
found in the grooves
when everyone else had left
died or forgotten to stay
I found solace in you
in the words and the guitar lines
of the songs that kept me alive
I learnt them, they became my life
and they will stay with me until I die
Growing up on vinyl
the songs helped me
when life was wrong
no one could love them the way I do
they’re more than just songs
it’s a way of life
making sense of love
making sense of being alive
the songs helped me survive
thou shalt not kill
all we have is this life
some curing cancer and healing the ill
try to make the best of it for mankind
some forgetting Thou Shalt Not Kill
time is short on this rock
time enough to make carbombs
to please your perverse idea of God
and to kill the unbelievers
you are so wrong
mankind could be making love
or painting great works of art
but you’d rather blow your fellow man apart
One day all of your lovers and your friends
will be a chimney’s ash
all the same in the end
on the floating ball of gas
and all of this will shrink
to a tiny dot floating in nothingness
stuck on a stick deep in space
bloodshed is not the best you can get
there’s so much more to life
than killing other humans
with your final breath
Well, Reader Meet Author
has only been going for the best part of a year, and with me listed as a contributor all that time - so it's about time I actually got round to posting a little something.
* * * * *
The light switch clicks on.
At the far end of the room thick flowery curtains hang heavy to the floor, shutting out the night. A bowl of fruit – oranges, apples, pears – is positioned in the centre of the low coffee table. Against one wall a dark green sofa; against the other an antique cabinet, proudly polished to a dazzling gleam. Behind its glass-paned doors are stacked blue patterned plates, cups and saucers – the best china, reserved for visitors. On top, porcelain figurines and a pair of silver-framed photographs – a man in uniform; the same man in trunks, on a sandy beach, smiling at the camera, the sun catching his bare shoulders. A gilt carriage clock ticks in the silence. Ten to four.
She is on her way to the kitchen for a glass of water, but something has made her stop. She looks through the doorway again. Neat, tidy, just so. Everything in its right place. Familiar. Secure. Home.
And yet somehow not.
Not since that man had sat on the sofa, smoking that cigarette, tossing an orange from palm to palm. Not since that man had reached into the cabinet to finger the china, his breath misting the glass. Not since that man had pawed at the photographs. She can still see his fingerprints on their frames, even though she’s wiped and wiped and wiped to get them clean.
She shudders. The curtains hadn’t stopped what had been out there from getting in.
“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she had shrieked, barely recognising her own voice, distorted as it was by panic, fear and anger. “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!”
The man had looked up, unconcerned, and walked over to face her. He had stared coolly, unblinkingly, contemptuously into her eyes. He had smirked. His thin lips had parted.
“Hello Mum,” he had said.
The empty glass tumbles to the carpet.
X and Y
the women who
raised us from the womb
a generation ago
danced to music in rooms
laughed about The Beatles
and died of cancer
the women who
bored of being bored
by their men
men who tired of
the supremacy of sex
in pubs and foreign legions
there so much unsaid
too much it hurts to say
to vocalise makes it real
and may make it happen someday.
What if there was no world
no life or death, nothing real
but all of this never was?
Only existed in your head
and I was merely an invention
an actor who shared your bed?
What would I say to you?
“your imagination disappoints me”
let me have the power to make a world –
no wars or suffering there
no work. no commuting.
Just jetpacks, and clean air.
OK GO II
Maria stretched her hands and legs wide, feeling the rough cotton on her body. She had slept through the afternoon warmth and had woken just as twilight fell. The muzzy blue strip of sky between the curtains was slashed with the black of branches of the tree outside. She leaned up on her elbows and swigged from a bottle of water, then swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stroked the cellulite on her thighs thoughtfully. With her elbows on her knees, and her head in her hands, she wondered how much longer she could go on doing this.
She turned the radio on, it was playing a station of 80s pop which she turned right up while she stood in shower to rinse away the sleep. She lathered up the soap, its scent made her think of the baths of her childhood - innocence and hope. She heard and ignored the banging on her ceiling from the irritating bastard upstairs.As she looked at the little gold flag insignia on the soap, it made her laugh at a memory of her younger self. Back then, this represented luxury. She had kept the little gold foil insignias stuck to the pieces of soap and saved them, tucked in a scrappy musical ballerina jewellery box that had been her prize possession. She kept them there, dreaming of running away, as symbols of a better life, a down payment - metaphorical bait to somehow attract freedom.
She washed her hair and stepped out of the shower and began to do her makeup. She pressed and pulled her eyelids up, as she tweezed one hair at a time from her brows, working quickly to control the pain. As she brought her hands to her face to rub in moisturiser, her mind fled to him for one moment, and this was enough to throw her off, to disturb her calm. Her elbow knocked the perfume bottle into the sink, and the vial exploded. Partly by reflex, and also fascinated by the tiny storm of glass that blew up she reached her hand forward into the glittering fragments. Too late to save the perfume, her hands closed on an infinite number of tiny cuts, and as she undid her palm, the blood seeped forth from hundreds of vermillion nicks that looked like bright little smiles.
Maria dressed in jeans and a black low cut top that showed the white sunless streak between her breasts. She pulled on her old army boots with painted patterns on. Checkerboards and anarchy symbols, stylised snakes and grinning skulls weaved around her ankles. These old boots with their painted talismans gave her some strength, linked her to a time before, when she hadn't been softened by age or comfortable choices, a time when she needed to be able to run and was strong enough to.
She picked up her bag. Into it, she threw a bottle of brandy, a lighter, her camera and a small sharp knife. She pulled on a cheap plastic anorak with a hole in the elbow, lowered her black mirrored shades over her eyes, and descended the stairs to the street.
As she walked along, she drank slugs from the bottle, and remembered the night when her friend Mark had given her the knife; how he had showed her how to use it.
"I won't give it to you unless you promise me now that when it comes to it, you'll use it" he'd said. She had laughed at the time, giggled as he'd wrestled with her, earnestly being a prospective attacker, teaching her how to defend herself. Showing her on his own body where he was most vulnerable.
"Stick it right in, then up, UP, under the rib cage." She recalled his face, his seriousness, his eyebrows lowered in concentration.
As she left his flat that night, when she went to hug him goodbye he had squeezed the knife into her hand.
"Remember, M, up. In, and UP!"
She touched her stinging hand to the canvas case containing the knife and moved it to her inside jacket pocket, and ran. She boarded the departing bus, and sat down out of breath, and reading the signs in the condensation on the top deck windows, she headed into town.
Maria sat picking the at scarlet rims clinging to her cuticles, trying to remove the stubborn scraps of red with force. The words Ted was saying were washing over her, mingling with the sound of the jukebox, the high hats esses
obscuring the sounds and rendering his mouth a silent pink circle, making secret smoke rings, shaping empty threats.
'I think we've come to the end of the road, I just can't get through to you anymore.' he blared as the song ended. Two men at the bar turned around to look, as their glassy eyes met they shared a second of resigned recognition.
Suddenly, they all became aware, for just a moment, of the huge, intractable play in which they were involved. They had all been Maria, all been Ted, all been the guys at the bar. The words, the song, the venue, all interchangeable; just another production, another director's interpretation of the same story of love, loss, anomie.
Ted was patting his pockets. Searching for cigarettes, he was consumed with hatred. Every pore resented the pain, loathed the loss, wanted to smash the set of the pantomime up, cut the puppet strings, diminish the panic he felt at the imminent isolation.
He fantasised that he could take Maria and he to a place away from time, away from history, to a vacuum where he might be able to sense the spark beyond words and just transmit the significance of his feelings to her. He pictured them in the blackness of space, naked, surrounded by stars, foreheads pressed together.
Maria felt the wounds of this disaster shallowly, like an acid burn numbed with ice. The familiarity of the scenario detached her from the emotional sensations Ted was trying to provoke, and she watched alienated from the violent outpouring as if from above. Mentally she zoomed in on her lip gloss, she focused on the label, the large printed e, the net weight and touched the stickiness of the peeling edge of the holographic sticker, that seemed to her to represent glamour, impermanence, destruction, mortality.
'Don't waste my fucking time'.
Maria looked at Ted for the last time. She wanted to take in all the details of him, absorb his memory. Pale eyes, damp and defeated. Gold lashes. Cheeks red from the heat in the bar. Curly hair, golden curls, like a character in a fantasy film. She inhaled, smelling his breath. Beer and tooth decay.
She stood, and smoothed down her skirt. Still staring, she pulled open the heavy door of the pub and walked out into the rain.
The WInter Of You.
I'm sitting in a low lit room
with a windup radio
listening to the emergency frequency
and waiting for this to pass
I've got a yellowing photograph of you
and a hazy grasp upon the truth
my periscope allows me to see through
the nuclear winter of you
living from canned tins and batteries
re-reading the same books endlessly
I've burnt through a million notepads
thinking of how great our future could have been
released fusion makes atoms explode
Scientists shake their hands and know
the power to destroy the world
is born from the womb of a girl