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I wrote over a hundred mediocre bits before my grandfather died just over three years ago. I wasn’t particularly close to him, but I think the piece I wrote in his memory in the days that followed his passing was my hands down best.

And since then I’ve managed to sputter out a meagre six.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that attempting any more poetry somehow trivialises him or his life and/or death. Or that I can encompass any topic as wholly or honestly as I felt I did with that piece. Or that any other topic will ever compare to such a man, who was – in his own way – a giant in his day. I find myself thinking about him more than I assumed I would, post-demise.

It’s strange. I wouldn’t have considered this greaving. But what else can it be? The man has complicated an entire artform for me in his wake.

Sadie released the tight grips with which she held onto the bottommost cereal shelf behind her. She had been sat, legs splayed, smeared across the floor and into the shelving for minutes that felt like hours. Her head turned to one side; her eyes glued to the other, to the boy who hovered in her periphery.

“You’ll be able to move soon. I’m sorry for that. I always am.”

The invisible pressure that trampled her let up enough so she could breathe again. Sadie’s hands dropped to the floor and she turned to face the floating boy. She pushed herself more upright and tried to compose herself, a hundred thoughts running past her as she gasped greedily for air.

“You say you know me.”

His feet daintily touched the floor one at a time. “In this moment in time, yes. Maybe better than anyone you’ve ever known.”

“And you’re not here to kill me.” Sadie looked around her. The people in the aisle were frozen still. Or moving too slowly to be perceptible. One woman was caught in the process of dropping a soup tin from overhead. It still levitated above her eye-line.

“No. Just needed somebody to talk to.” The boy blushed and looked away.

Sadie wiped her clammy hands on her jeans. “Sure. We can talk. About what? Why me?”

The boy shrugged. “I don’t know why. Out of all the people I’ve ever encountered… You’ve always been the easiest person to talk to. Now, I mean. I’ve tried later and earlier. It never works the same. Even when we’ve met before.”

Sadie got to her feet and looked at the boy. “What’s your name kid? You some kind of time-travelling alien robot?”

“Something like that. My name is Ayo: it means ‘joy’. And I’m the last – or only – of my kind.”

Sadie squat down until they were face to face and held his hands. “I’m so sorry. What happened?”

“I don’t know. There’s no way to ever find out. They just stopped existing. All of them. I go back and forwards but none of them ever were any more. But I remember them. I remember my parents. I don’t think I made all of them up in my head. Or else how would I exist?”

Sadie tried to hide her mental gymnastics. “You exist, Ayo. I can see you.” She looked into his eyes and squeezed his little palms. “And I can feel your warm hands.”

Ayo looked at her like an adoring puppy, waiting for her to say all the right things. Apparently again.

“How many times have we met? Ten? Twenty?”

“Hundreds. Maybe thousands. I don’t count. You’re my best friend.” Ayo considered his next words. “We don’t talk about the same thing.”

Sadie stood up too quick and paid for it with a faint head. “Oh Jesus.” She walked up the aisle unsurely. And then down. Up and down she paced. Thinking. All the while the little boy Ayo waited silently. Expectantly. The woman in the aisle still stood under her tin of soup. She’s stuck and doesn’t even know it, Sadie thought. That’s me. “Ayo. You can’t just keep me trapped here. It’s not right.“

“You’re not a prisoner. You live a full life after this.” The boy seemed startled. “I don’t understand. You’ve never reacted this way before here.” Perhaps he was telling the truth and this wasn’t her prison, but only his sanctuary. If so she had shattered it.

Ayo seemed to grow taller before Sadie’s eyes. His hair stood on end and his shoulders lifted. Sadie realised his heels had come off the ground and he was beginning to float again. Higher and higher.

“What’s happening? Ayo?”

The air became heavier. The boy’s eyes began to roll up as he spoke. “Something’s not right. I have to do it again. I’ve got to run it back. You always say the right thing.”

Sadie reached out, through the thick air, grabbing Ayo by his trouser pocket and pulling him back down to the floor. “No!” The boy’s eyes returned to normal as Sadie shook him. “No more do-overs.”

Ayo’s dainty feet touched the floor one at a time.

“Ayo. Listen to me. I know you’re lonely, but you have to let this moment go. You can’t live in this safe memory over and over. You have to move on.”

They both hugged each other wordlessly for a time. Ayo cried into Sadie’s shoulder. And then he left.

(The tin of soup hit the woman in the eye.)

“I’ve roamed the earth since the primordial gases settled. I watched as the first cell split in two. I’m the curse on men’s lips and yet reside in the lap of every gal. I have been called a saint and a god. The children of the Nile called me Bes for a time. I have been known as Eros and Valentine. My boy, I am a creature of love and death and the Lord of union and separation.”

“I come and go as I fancy. Arrogant speck! None hold dominion over me. Not the great hand in the dark nor the pull of its stars. Certainly not you. I could as easily pass eternity sifting through sand.”

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