Wake up, my son

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A father, his pain, a dead child in his arms
A face, then a blank empty space at the back
Blood on that face then a hollow concave lack

A shroud, a coffin, a blood-soaked embrace
an ill-suited end for a four-year-old boy
His father's own darling, his mother's own joy

His father he tells him, I've brought you a toy
Open your eyes, smile for me, lift up your head
We'll play as we did, how can you be dead?

You're too small for the box, too young for the shroud
I thought you'd recover, I'd watch you grow strong
Wake up for me now, can't you see this is wrong?

I don't know what say, where to look, how to act
Occupation, bombardment, rockets, airstrike
Retaliation, I don't know what that's like

Then I see little Sahir alone in the ground
The scene shifts into focus I know what to say
Stop killing the children in Gaza today

Author’s Notes
1. ‘Wake up, my son’ was written for Sahir Abu Namous, who died aged four, during an airstrike on Gaza in July 2014.

2. A recording of the poem appears on the Leith Walk Rhymer’s youtube channel.

Copyright © 2015 Lindsay Oliver

Mourning Colours

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Why stop the clocks?
When time itself stands dead.
Far better halt the fallow lie
of sunlight. Cull all green.
Staunch the bright pulsing flow of red.

Why baffle the dog
with a juicy bone to stay his bark?
Muzzle instead the boundless sky
whose blues can not compass
this loss that hungers for the dark.

Why muffle the drum? 
Mute you now the too bright brass,
that holds him from me and sears my grief
in burnished oak.
Unpall my boy, lay him on the grass.

Why favour doves' 
white necks with the privacy of crepe?
Hang my heart with shades of black relief.
Wreath my eyes, blind their din
Noose black bows round my frigid nape.

Why give comfort
to another's hand? Grant my grasp
black cotton gloves to hide from sight,
my unrequited fists
forever wanting his returning clasp.

Why allot love
to span of time, love knows no lack                   
no stop, no start, no fix, no fault, no blight
Love finds no rest, no end.
Unshroud him now. I want him back.

Author’s Notes
1. ‘Mourning Colours’ is inspired by W.H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues.’ A recording of the poem appears on the Leith Walk Rhymer’s youtube channel.

Copyright © 2015 Lindsay Oliver

Mr. Kurtzke’s Scale

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Zero: how does it feel to be a zero? You see I forgot. 
I knew it once, but time marches on, and I do not.
One, two, three, four, five, I skipped them all 
and landed hard on five point five, not my first or only fall.

Six, six was hard, unforgiving. The purchase of my cane
kept me upright, steady, and brought me a new and lasting pain.
Six point five a slow slide from six, hardly noticed until my shopping bag
included crutches and with each step my left foot began to drag.

Six point five to eight point five was but a weekend's work, numb from tits to toe.
There's no fighting it, I cannot win my daily battle with this foe
that brought me 8 months of bed-rest, personal care and humiliation.
Time to contemplate ten, the end, our final destination

on this scale designed to measure the depth of our despair,
of damage wrought, of functions lost and lost beyond repair.
But what of joy, determination, of a life well lived, in the face
of such overwhelming odds? On your scale they have no place. 

Now by some neurological fluke I'm back at six point five again
and urged by fate I sit and contemplate the meaning of that ten,
that last mark, that final place where all hearts beat no more. 
I wonder when I come to ten, will I see a dim and distant shore?

I find I cannot focus, or keep my mind upon that final mark, that final
beat, it veers to seraphim, cherubim, archangels, Gabriel, Raphael, Micheal, Uriel
I cannot imagine what it is not to be, to not see my grandson grow old,
to never know the day's must-have gadget, for my story to be all told.

We who are marked by death (eight point five on a scale from nought to ten) 
are encouraged to make our plans: living wills, nil by mouth, for when 
we find ourselves sliding from nine (helpless bed patient), down feeding tubes, past
ventilators to that point of no return to which we all must come at last

But I do not, I refuse, decline, plan instead to wing it, take it day by day,
live in the moment, two fingers up to death, not let it hold sway
until I'm done, not accept death as my orderly ordained carefully planned lot.
To some it looks like dying, to me it's living since it's all I've got

Author's Notes
1. I wrote this poem in response to a scale designed by a man called John Kurtzke, to measure the degree of disability due to multiple sclerosis. The scale starts with zero: a normal neurological exam and ends with ten: death.

2. ‘Mr Kurtzke's Scale’ will appear in the anthology MS: My Story. A recording of the poem appears on the Leith Walk Rhymer’s youtube channel.

Copyright © 2015 Lindsay Oliver

I Won’t Stand For This

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I will not stand

I will not stand before you
I do not stand
I am bound to this chair, by the unseen wires
of pain, weak muscles, and spasms

I will not recite

I will not stand before you and recite
I do not recite
My memory is too full of  blanks, 
my brain too full of holes

I will not be loud

I will not stand before you and loudly recite
You can be loud, 
You can be proud, 
You can stand and rant, 
loudly proclaim, declaim, gesticulate
I'd just fall over, drop my sticks, forget my words

I will not wear tweed

I will not stand before you and loudly recite, whilst wearing tweed
I quite like tweed, the smell, the feel
I never wear it though, 
It's never easy-on, easy-off, easy-wash, quick-dry
It doesn't meet my needs
It doesn't suit the needs of the temperamentally incontinent

And neither does your slam, 
your daises, your podiums, 
your two steps up and your two steps down,
your loud insistence on the spoken 
on the best way to be a poet

So I'll sit and not stand
I'll read, not recite
and I'll not be loud

Author's Notes
1. 'I Won't Stand For This' will appear in the anthology MS: My Story

Copyright © 2015 Lindsay Oliver

This Scar

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This scar is not of the physical kind.
Neither can it heal, nor can it bind.

This scar is not of the concrete clan.
It will not conform to a viable plan.

This scar has no particular odour or taste.
It's not in the blood or foul body waste.

This scar sanctifies darkness, nullifies light,
exhumes shadows, discharges night.

This scar holds a secret in an outstretched hand,
sculpted of mud, branded by rain, and etched in sand.

This scar was lit by a slow burning fuse.
It will bend you, break you, force you to choose.

This scar feeds on rumours of indelible pain,
sets off depth charges of a submersible stain.

This scar is not of the visible breed,
It is not in a book that no one will read.

It does not reside in the words on the page.
This scar is a silent, simmering rage.

Author's Notes
1. 'This Scar' appeared in Poetry 24 an online poetry journal focused on poetry and current affairs (found here) and will appear in the anthology MS: My Story

Copyright © 2015 Lindsay Oliver