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May 2020 · 81
Asylum
Paul Horne May 2020
The earliest memory is running
through a field, touching just,
new buds of the dry, burnt grass
with my outstretched palm
but I saw a film, and someone else
has had this dream, got there first
so I’m left with the next, you
over me, fists clenched, while in my mind
I was running away so fast, yet
in reality, I saw that film too...

You say that I’m a fool, deranged
brain diseased beyond repair
you give me white walls for white thoughts
but all I see, leaching through
are the colours of despair
you say acceptance is the key
stop denying the truth, yet
my world is working perfectly
it’s yours that doesn’t fit

Last night, the visitor returned
I’m not supposed to know, so I didn’t
just watched her lying lips, reveal
the missing tooth, which
I remember knocking out
I don’t feel that anger now, just
cocktails of numb, mixtures of vague
like chemicals, coursing through
always this time, or roughly the same

I was alive, I was a child,
a girl and then a mother, briefly
now who? white gowned, defined
head to toe, dressed to press
against windows that conform, yet
you refuse to bend, but iron
has its own will too, ox eyed,
looking, with dulled senses

A life sliced on shards of glass
without a suture to fix, the truth
that died so long before a mind,
needing to be free of this body,
chained, without future,
the next page, simply promised more
a simple note, like blood, pathetic
hanging lifeless, limply by the door
The 1913 Mental Deficiency Act in the UK, enabled unmarried mothers to be categorised as “moral imbeciles” and sent to lunatic asylums, even if the pregnancy was as a result of ****** or ****. The law was only repealed in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the concept of “illegitimacy” was abolished in law.  Even in 1968, in the age of the Beatles and the contraceptive pill, there were 12,993 illegitimate babies given up for adoption by women unable to face the stigma of unmarried motherhood.
Apr 2020 · 101
The last dream
Paul Horne Apr 2020
At the base of a hill, a grass bank
unripe daffodils poking through
beckoning spring, while curious crows
hop around unkempt, a corridor
with a kind face, lights overhead
taxiing towards departure?
the raindrop running down
window overhead, like a tear
images you can’t place,
flit through your mind
skip, pause at random, while
the clock, relentless, counts down
hours, minutes, to an unknown time...

The waiting room, unawake
rows on rows of beds, sheets
unsettled disarray
save the few, clean, pristine
and in the shadows, collared,
for more without a clue

The end? a new beginning?
, some kind of vague middle? thoughts
muddle through the semi-conscious
chains of command to a general,
lounging back, cigar in mouth,
whiskey in hand, triple distilled,
“You’ll be fine, just count to ten,
nine...”
a soft laugh, echoes
and, as I close the door
peace at last.
Yes, another poem about death! When I first started writing poetry practically every poem I wrote was about popping off in one form or another, but this has the dubious honour of being my favourite. The first stanza is about coming into the hospital, the daffodils still waiting to bloom outside the hospital indicating the time of year, just before spring (new birth), then being wheeled along the corridor, looking up at the lights overhead 'taxiing towards departure' a bit like an airplane about to take off. The single raindrop running down the window over the top of the operating table, I always think it's funny how we can focus on the completely irrelevant details at really important times of our lives. Stanza 2, 'The waiting room' is the post op recovery room, following the general anaesthetic, and I've used a little bit of artistic licence by putting a priest ('shadows, collared') in the corner of the room. The last stanza deals with that fine line between life and death, memories going through the mind like flicking through photos on your phone, remembering at the end the words of the ('general') anaesthetist as he counts down from ten, to make sure the patient is asleep, a sleep they may never wake up from.
Apr 2020 · 106
A Life in Care
Paul Horne Apr 2020
Maybe it’s the mess,
or slight sickly scents,
roasted chicken, two veg, mixed
a carefree swish of bleach,
disguising, almost, a rising whiff
of you know what, with
the cherry, antiseptic

And I have to wonder
the wisdom of sense
as resist, again,
an urge to heave, or leave
as opening the door,
the house of memories,
fast forgetting, replaced
by repetition

Along the corridors
cages with doors ajar, borrowed,
months, maybe two
then shipped off, silent
before, hopefully,
fruits of a life
burned on these wasted shells,
similar in body, no spirit
as remembered

You, you’re in your chair, tuned
to daytime joys, maybe one day
I’ll stare in the same direction
wear the same bland expression
or maybe I’ll get lucky,
get taken by a bus, train
something quicker than this.

Offering you Balvenie,
your favourite, so strange
how the stranger knew
I convey the news, ignored
but politely, you always had
such lovely manners

You tell me today’s secret, again
I feign interest, again
I had no idea your daughter
was such, and that
you must be so proud...
the vacuum returns, blank
until the adverts, then
a flicker, but not for long.
I think like most people, I find the mere thought of Dementia terrifying. Of losing your identity, losing exactly what makes us who we are: our minds, the respect of others and the fragile self-respect that we spend all our lives trying to protect. The fact that the mind and the soul are inextricably linked in our thinking just adds to the confusion, and I have the utmost admiration for people that work in the care industry and do the job with compassion and understanding, often for little reward. The first stanza deals with the smell that greets you every time you walk in through the door, a curious mix of smells, none of them particularly pleasant. ‘Fruits of a life…shells’ refers to the use of a patient’s assets to pay for the cost of care. It’s strange that most first world countries ship the old and infirm into care homes, whereas developing countries will tend to care for them in the family home, which feels so much more humane. Perhaps it’s because we have got used to living much more independent, busy lives, perhaps it’s because we live much longer than they do, or perhaps it’s because they have a stronger sense of family.
Apr 2020 · 149
‘Quirrel in a kilt
Paul Horne Apr 2020
No mean to offend,
young laddie,
a point, if I may
It’s ‘Quirrels, not Squirrels

..a difference of ways

Not all big bushy tails
have ‘Quirrels
attached

Maybe pedantic,
this dance with semantics
perhaps, but

more than
a letter amiss
or our ginger tinge
to explain with this,
the Them and Us, they,
while swing from tiny twig,
we’ll seek the tallest tree, fly,
fall, all, as always, without a fuss,
them, no fearsome frights, no sense
fun or adventure, they’ve little rewards
no risks, no treasures

So cute, so cuddly?
so canny, so needy,
with greedy grabby razor Teeth....

Hard lives to fulfil, you’d think!
flitting from bark to branch,
boring and every day,
dressed in grey
while us,
ducks and dodges
tankers and trucks
between the wheels, but

chance is our dash;
life in the moment
or squished in a flash

...That’s how it rolls,
fast and loose, the Lowlands,
life without stale imitations.

Red or dead.

And never enough mush,
only enough for another
furry, fat Squirrel
This poem plays with two truisms; the Scots aren’t overly keen on the English and the Red Squirrel population (the ‘Quirrels in the poem ) has been all but wiped out in England by the grey squirrel. Most of the remaining Reds are now found in Scotland, presumably not there for the weather! The poem is a conversation between a ‘Quirrel and some poor badger he’s cornered, probably in some Glasgow pub towards the end of the night when he’s a bit worse for wear. The idea was to keep the rhythms random mimicking the way a squirrel / ‘quirrel runs, stop, start, quick, slow, but never smooth and never straight.
Apr 2020 · 62
The Suitcase
Paul Horne Apr 2020
Just when you’ve squeezed
the last tiny bit back,
then sat on it, stood on it,
pleaded then kneed it, over-
-bursting the seams until belted and bound,
the time for no more, surely
a long push passed, then,
only then,
a vital cog, finally found
with odd shaped sides, the sterilising kit,
for the latest child

I sigh, with a hopeful look
other child, yawns, resigned,
his job, he states, “is just to drive’
and then, “remember?”
as if I could forget.
a row to rue.

Eyes to the ceiling,
a silent protest, ( ignored )
as start the unwrap
of cheapest, his purchase,
stuck sticky brown tape
an ever reluctant prise, (for a woman)
frenetically freed, and finally
ex-mummified case, ready
to refill again.

After hands and knees,
a numbing derrière
we’re packed again,
minus heels and a skirt
thoughtfully lined
with bits of a shirt,
his, he won’t miss
bursting through holes,
here and there, thinking,
please don’t drop this,
or leave in a puddle,
my sunny vacation,
spent on a rack, or balcony, drying

And just for a second, was there
staring at endless shores, and perhaps
( close your ears, little one )
enjoying an Italian?

Not sat on a floor
in rain soaked here,
with a grumpy Greek.
Apr 2020 · 84
The Rebellion
Paul Horne Apr 2020
Where were you the day she came?
the rain, to wash away our fear
and folly
you told us to believe, so we saw
what you saw, nothing
no farmer lost
amongst the dust
no open mouths
without a sound
no fog of grey
decay, lingering

Our eyes were blinded by the prize
cheap, plastic toys
long discarded
an ease to travel, fast
to destinations
now lost
lives enriched
by cheaper costs
time saved,
drank more, worked more, ate more
talked less

The answers lay, cupped
in our hands, but
as always, we knew best
they pleaded, begged
for us to stop,
we replied with higher walls
taller towers, until
the screams became shadows
impotent
as we hacked and chopped
men possessed
on poisoned lands
until all, took its toll

The wheat grew thin
the cattle fell,
the tides withdrew, revealed
our barren shores
under, as always
the unforgiving star

The city streets, empty now
those long gone,
mere footprints
save a lucky few
worn and tested
waiting, hoping for this day
the day she breathes again
as parched like Lazarus, refreshed
the earth, with its tiny shoots believes
finally, a new day will dawn
I've always loved the rain, but prefer to be inside watching it lash down the window than out in the middle of the park, still a good fifteen minutes away from the front door. But there is a point when you get so wet that you actually give up caring about trying to be dry and just embrace the fact that the weather has won this particular battle! Which is how this poem started out; drenched to the skin and actually in complete awe of the power of Nature, which made me think of climate change which was really starting to make the news at the time, with the Extinction Rebellion protests.
Apr 2020 · 55
Stillborn
Paul Horne Apr 2020
Every intimate touch
each sensitive word
, loving intention
strangled at birth
the cold comfort
, an empty bed
room to wander, echoes
from hollowed corridors,
silent in her mind
fingertips , shunned by pleasure
drum quiet rhythms
without conscious thought
flies to the darkness
waiting in vain
for endless nights to wake
she is , and will be
a shadow , cruelly defined, true
but a vague truth,

Debris from the years
cracks as floats away
watching small details
wallpaper
without emotion
drifting off , naked,
still, almost numb, aside
the faint drum , waiting
Apr 2020 · 77
The tower,
Paul Horne Apr 2020
around which they stand
unshakeable, proud, masters of all
the reason that lies behind
every move, each carefree step,
brick upon brick, fired,
a memory, then layered to a common tune
in the background, gently humming
old man with his stick, holding hands,
love at its first, and last,
this was us, our dream and now,
just a whisper, rubble
to fumble through for crumbs
to comfort the cold and forgotten

Unblemished by joy, the child with her shawl,
no protection from this barren life,
bare, for all who still see
this weathered face, trust destroyed,
all warmth and womanly instinct
seeped out for a well worn page,
insatiable lust, long forgotten
Apr 2020 · 61
Collecting shells
Paul Horne Apr 2020
Small boy, kneeling, gaze fixed
amongst the rocks, crystal clear
flashes its glimpse of life, appears,
then gone, uncertain, until another
braves the tranquillity, why?

Surely the boredom of sand and rock
a better bet than a dart, for what?
a taste of the other side, which
sooner or later, will work its way round

stared for hours watching
life follow its course, haphazard
cover to cover until one by one
their dances done, walks away

Yet, no memory complete without trophies
to treasure, justify each and every,
of time’s allocations, hands
that just can’t resist
what the eyes choose, attraction,
the easy option, a shell, ornate
bright colours to gather dust and fade
until one day, finally recalled
, thrown away, her story of life
forgotten, wrapped in plastic,
a black eternity, entombed

the man, weathered, walks the beach
gaze fixed amongst the waves, lapping
the froth and foam around his feet, bare
looks briefly at the rocks,
their magic, long gone,
as picks the pebble, washed, worn
like the wish, and throws
eyes closed, back to the sea
When we are young we are often fascinated by the smallest of details and will often feel that we have to have some memento, selfie etc,  of every occasion, almost to validate it, even though we very rarely revisit these memories, often throwing them away later without a thought.
Apr 2020 · 74
Alpha
Paul Horne Apr 2020
As the man says,
there’s only one winner
in love, never try
to patch things up
with well-meaning words,
I’m bored of this double life,
single cream, easier to swallow
taken what I need,
not enough
to scratch this itch
need a man with means
not a boy with dreams
someone to pamper,
not hamper, full stop.

No point lying,
trying to dress them up
feel better than they really are,
were they really that sharp
I’d be staying, not straying
displays of loyalty
just not what they need,
the inevitable is,
and don’t look back,
euthanise quickly
before soothing moods, worm
and warm, fertile comforts
change your mind
slip on the slippers,
pipe and hat...

Normal, ordinary,
insanity for this, sensually
a negative charge, nothing
I crave less,
no drug can replace
what’s missing,
adventure, the missing gene,
no money, no trinket
in all the world,
when between the ears
is tumbleweed, drifting.

So,
what starts with a swipe
turns to a tumble
ends with a chain
to the bed, around
sweet neck,
and a text,
“it’s not me, it’s you,
we’re done."

— The End —