Thursday, 17 May 2012


Limp cloth swings in grey folds,
As thin as air.

No motion but wind-eddies
In a still room
Dust-motes shaken by the tiny hands of atoms
And the beat of human blood
Along thumb and finger.

To tie a knot
Brings purpose
And energy
Runs an end through a loop
Like a beginning trapped in process
Like termination turned back upon itself.

Small muscles flex,
Transform fabric into movement,
Make of gravity
And its perpetual falling to earth,

In one moment, listless,
In another, bound.
Like spiral time,
Space, light and shadow,
Combine and rebalance.

Knotted substance,
Brings all its attenuated,
Infinite threads to touch:
Twisted, one through another,
The sweep of the hand tying,
The warp and weft of fate.

© BH 2012

Yet another response poem. This time it's for a painting by Alison Dunlop. She posted an image on facebook and I wrote this. Simple really. Sometimes the words just come out. Nice painting too, by the way.

The illustration is another of Alison's paintings on the same theme. 

Welcome to My Life, Tattoo

In the wide mirror I sat, a chain around my wrist, as blue as the sky, on my arm, a net, running up the skin, reticulated. Over time, my eyes had become watery and ill-defined, just as the tattooed skin had blurred, decade by decade. So, too, the memories they stood for, feathered at the edges, merging. Tattoos: moments scratched beneath the surface. As if memory alone was not enough.

I put my shirt back on, covered up my illustrated past. Most days I lived without it bothering me. But today was St Valentine’s and I remembered. The first cut is the deepest. Like the song.

I actually claimed the Who inspired my first tattoo, from their song of the same name. It was almost a complete lie. No, I did it for love. Unrequited, as it turned out. Unacknowledged. I pulled up the sleeve on my left arm. On the inside, just above the elbow, where I could keep it hidden: tattoo, my secret love.

Going on seventeen to my eighteen, she was pretty, fair, and I was, what, still a boy? I longed for her at a distance. I decided to have her name embroidered on my flesh, in a heart, with a crude lighting bolt, my indelible love, just out of sight, just short of painful.

It would have remained secret, but for a word from someone else. She confided, ‘Anne really likes you. She’s just shy, that’s all…’ Encouraged, I walked on air and my tattoo throbbed with the memory of its bloody making.

Valentine’s Day came. I had a card. Just the one. In the cafĂ© that evening, Baz, Anne’s brother sat across from me. Pure chance. Out of the blue, he said, ‘I’m heading back to the house. Anne’ll be there… You don’t mind?’ On the way, he added, ‘I’ll drop you off, then I’ve to get Lynn. Catch you later.’

Alone with Anne, conversation circled the unsaid. Courage was hard to find. But I found it. I got the words out. ‘Did you send me a Valentine card?’

‘No’ she replied.

All the things I could have said, all the things I could think of now, escaped my stupid tongue. Where was, ‘I think you did…’? Where, the lie, ‘I sent you one…’? Where, even, ‘I wish you had.’? No, ‘I love you’. No, ‘See me, feel me, touch me… heal me’. ‘Oh’ I said.

Baz and his girlfriend came back to find us sitting in unimaginable silence. Quizzical glances, shrugs. Love was history so I had to leave. In time, ‘Anne’ became ‘Mary-Anne’ across the tattooed heart. Mary-Anne with the Shaky Hand, another song by the Who. Another lie.

In the mirror after so long, I remembered it. I remembered all the tattoos that followed and the life they led me. In the blue glass, the bluer haze of my skin was a mist, like the past. I buttoned my shirt up to cover everything. My own hands were shaking.
© BH 2012

I wrote this as contribution to Andrew McCallum Crawford's Lovers season on his website, Wee Fictions. He very kindly published it -here - in February. Valentine's Day, to be exact. Appropriate. The incident was, to an extent, one that happened. The only difference being that I haven't carried a torch and, no, I don't have a tattoo. Too squeamish.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Switching Off

On the web page, the picture was a blank. Ridiculous. The image meant to inspire his writing was not there. It had never existed. Scandalous.