Ray Mather

Poetry

FOREWORD

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIVING

No-one is born with a manual
There is no given plan
We have to work out our own way
Of getting on with our fellow man
We have to decide what is right
(And whatever we have decided
May alter from morning to night!)
We must try and be true to our feelings
Without giving too much offence
Not follow to please other people
And lose self-respect in pretence
Treat others as we would be treated
Help love and respect pass around
Never dwell on what we have lost
But celebrate what we have found
Realising guaranteed success
Is a secret given to none
Knowing the secret of failure is simple:
Trying to please everyone

 

LOVE POEM FOR A SCEPTIC

If I write it in a poem
The anxiety always hovers
You may not trust the words
You may think of other lovers
Or you may yet debate
Feelings fashioned in form
Are for a wider audience
Passion comes by storm
So, if in calm reflection
I write of my deep love
You may stifle a little yawn
You may say, “What does that prove?”
My troubled mind’s confused
I cannot rely on skill
If only you could enter me
And discover my true will
You would sample exquisite pain
That sunders and unites
A rampant ripping rage
A bedful of delights
A brightly perfumed spotlight
That illuminates the day
Which quickly clicks into dark fear
Whenever you’re away
A body ever on alert
From wanting you so much
Where the blood tingles in my veins
Anticipating your touch
An ever watchful eye
That hungers for your sight
A burning yearning fire
A need to hold you tight
My darling, when you read this
Know it’s just the start
I’ve still so much to say to you
And it’s all a work of heart

 

AFTER THE ARGUMENT

“All men are the same!”

All men are different
All men are the same
It’s how you choose to see us,
Remember you’re part of this game.
People all have prejudices
And we each  paper on our views,
So when we come to judge someone,
It’s what we choose to choose.
And when the moment’s heated
Fairness goes out the door;
We don’t hear what the other has said
It’s “How can we even the score?”
The original issue becomes obscured
Our tongues are ping-pong bats;
Using wicked words as weapons
In fruitless tit-for-tats.
We like to think we’re intelligent,
Sensible and smart
Easily handling everyone . . .
Except those held in our heart.

 

OCCUPATION

I thought my head was full
But from somewhere
You found the key
To a new room
You came late one night
And kept me awake
Banging doors
And clicking on lights
As you moved yourself
In
Now
I have no peace
Your belongings
Litter my mind
The sound of you
Echoes
Everywhere

 

REGULATING THE BEAT

No more love, no more hate
Let me set the record straight
I don’t want the aggravation
Of being slave to an emotion

No more joy, no more pain
Gone the sunshine and the rain
Live a life that’s bland but free
With no more bonds to bind me

No more highs, no more lows
Gone the sweet talk and the rows
No longer pulled in each direction
Without the conquest or rejection

 

CYCLE

(for Lou)

My renewed love rises
Like a phoenix
From the warm ashes of a fresh row
It stretches its wings
And slicks its feathers
Ready for flight . . .

My mind goes back to last night
How the fire of our fighting fury
Destroyed me
I burned
You seemed so cold
Again the pang of pain
And my feelings for you
Become a little more skewed
This cycle of love and anger
Saddens me
Weakens me
Worries me
Each new phoenix-love
Returns a little more damaged
Than the one before
Without mutual acceptance and support
Can this marriage
Still so young
Ever have the strength
To grow old?

 

FALLOUT

Both
Lying awake
In separate rooms
Across the rooftops
The church clock clangs
Once
Intruding their brooding thoughts
As that last scene is played
Over
And
Over
Again

 

ECO

I want to be more economical
Measure my life with a careful tread
The games we play are so tragic-comical
So much is spoken, so little is said

I don’t want to talk about the weather
Or how the nights are drawing in
Have conversations as light as a feather
Nod agreement with a polite grin

I don’t want to perform a duty
Play my part in some grim pantomime
I want to experience the beauty
So much to value, so little time

 

RUNNING RISKS

What can I do?
Stop talking?
Quit mixing?
Too easily hurt
Too often hurting
Breaking, not fixing
Should I stay at home
Safe from the world
Not say a word
No friends
But no enemies?
Not have to worry
About who will like me
Take me and love me . . .
No
I must take a chance
Face up to the world
And dare to trust
Rely upon others
Or face self-disgust
I must take the risk
And face the unknown
Life’s fraught together
But nothing alone

 

AGING

Winter has come home to Helen
And she has grown old in her own way
See what becomes of hiding away
Helen

Yes, you have grown old since I last came to see you
Your slight body as frail as eggshell
And your cheek against mine holds wrinkles
Helen

What happened to that youth we talked so much of?
And the melodic peals of your nightingale laugh?
And those long Summer nights we ate together, tirelessly
With light hearts and no regrets . . .
Your face has become a white serviette
Helen

And the moon not the sun now shines in your eye
And those swift Autumn swallows only southward fly
Our days are growing shorter
Helen

 

REUNION

I barely recognised you
Standing
So many years later
In a deadeyed bus-stop daze
November Paling her skies around you
Motherhood spreading tired hair about you
So soon a veteran
Your girlish features wearied
Your young hands gnarled
Around the handles of your shopping bag
Your blank eyes
Focused on me
And all the conversation that I had
Stored for you
Fled
I said, “Hello”
Hardly changing my face

 

AUDIENCE

A sinister audience
Has made me aware of its presence
Pricking my senses
With a silent reaction
Wherever I go
Secret eyes follow
Every move I make
Is for her sake
Designed to prompt
Jealousy
Admiration
Or sympathy
Yes
I’m a good actor
And the day’s alright . . .
If only she would stay out of the night!
When the curtains are drawn
And the show is over
When I sleep my lonely sleep
She’ll seep into my dreams
To deliver her harsh criticism
Of my part in the play
Before returning to her ghoulish stalls
For the start of another day

 

DERBY

It feels strange
To be back in your city
It’s been so long . . .
For a moment
I imagine us together again
All those years ago
Acting out mindscenes
Walter Mitty-ing
I try to remember
The streets we loved in
The pubs
The parks
Still have a familiar ring
But so much has changed
And
As you must wear an unfamiliar face
I barely recognise this place

ACROSTIC FOR A FAILED MARRIAGE

Married
Unhappily
Sick of arguing
Tired of pretending

Got to pack my bags
Everything I own
To start anew

And, I leaving,
Will make “married” 
Alter,
Yes, it will become “marred”

 

POT BOUND

Our love has become a pot plant
We water once a week
Kept out of direct sunlight
Draught-free, contained and meek
Tidied away to a corner
Ornamental, but rather dull
Alive, but not really thriving
It can never grow to be full
Trapped inside this plant pot
Truncated and seldom seen
A fragment of the real plant
A reminder of what might have been

 

LIFECYCLE

People standing at graves
See their own reflections
In the epitaphs
Salute the dead
With flowers
And quiet nervous coughs
Hands smacking
Feet stamping
In the February frost

Bare trees ring the cemetery
Ghostly guards of honour
Skeletal stiff
Against the scything wind
Recalling their own Summer life
Rotting
At their feet

The dead are in the ground

Pushing
Through the leafy mound
A single snowdrop shivers
Piercing the silence of the mourners
A baby cries

 

SECRET LOVE

Our love
Survives by telephone line
Squeezing watched words
And packaged emotion
Down the tight cable
My thoughts sit
Twittering
Like agitated birds
That flap and flutter
Into the air
At each windwhipped twitch of the wire
Before settling again
Uneasily
To restlessly roost
The long anxious night

 

NOT SAYING GOODBYE

I wanted to say goodbye
And didn’t know how
I wanted to hug you
And say that now you are leaving
I can drop the pretence
And say easily
In a simple sentence
“What a pleasure it has been to know you”
But reticence
Held me stiff in its bony grip
I remained frightened
You might misunderstand
My motives
So
When you went today
I was looking the other way
The words still trapped behind my lips

 

CROWS

It wasn’t long after my dad was dead
That I heard the first flutter of birds in my head
They began as dark distant shapes in the sky
And I could hardly hear their black crow cry
But lately I’ve noticed they’ve begun to roost
And I shake with the anxiety that they’ve produced
They seem dark portents of a fearsome future
Deep cuts in my heart with their beaks as the suture
They tell me life is short and no-one survives
That we have to remove the pettiness in our lives
All that stupid, stupid career-driven badness
Expending our energy and time on such madness
Blindly making important that daily treadmill
Instead of embracing all those things that thrill
The loves of our lives, our families and friends
I must get the balance right before my life ends.

 

ARTEFACTS

There is a meaning in our things
That words cannot express
They ferry the five senses
And exude a tenderness
I try to fathom the feelings
That buzz around like flies
But cannot seem to nail them
Though at least I realise
These are the artefacts of living
And the essence of our lives
An imprint of our being
Forged through fundamental drives
So when we are left bereft
Because someone close has gone
We can hold them near and dear
And are able to carry on

 

DEFINITION


Of some distilled idea
It may be nurtured and watered
In the search for a truth
Or with weed-like secrecy grown
In some corner of the brain
The poet doesn’t begin 
With structure, form and tone
It’s in the volatile solution
The bare essence of the thought
That words, stripped to the bone
Become 70% proof 
Like the spirit of some grain
Or vegetable or fruit
It could be about anything
Love, hate or war,
The beauty of nature, what is life for  . . .
But will be delivered like a baby
Steaming, screaming to the page
Demanding of the world – ENGAGE

A poem is a product
Of some distilled idea
It may be nurtured and watered
In the search for a truth
Or with weed-like secrecy grown
In some corner of the brain
The poet doesn’t begin
With structure, form and tone
It’s in the volatile solution
The bare essence of the thought
That words, stripped to the bone
Become 70% proof
Like the spirit of some grain
Or vegetable or fruit
It could be about anything
Love, hate or war,
The beauty of nature, what is life for  . . .
But will be delivered like a baby
Steaming, screaming to the page
Demanding of the world
ENGAGE!

 

Of some distilled idea
It may be nurtured and watered
In the search for a truth
Or with weed-like secrecy grown
In some corner of the brain
The poet doesn’t begin 
With structure, form and tone
It’s in the volatile solution
The bare essence of the thought
That words, stripped to the bone
Become 70% proof 
Like the spirit of some grain
Or vegetable or fruit
It could be about anything
Love, hate or war,
The beauty of nature, what is life for  . . .
But will be delivered like a baby
Steaming, screaming to the page
Demanding of the world – ENGAGE

BALANCE


Sometimes you have to be the water
Sometimes you have to be the bowl
There are times when you have to accommodate
And times when you have to remain whole
But if you are always the water
And you are not up for the fight
Break the bowl and leak away
That relationship can’t be right.

 

SPIRITUS



I was not there to see you die,
Though the week before we shared our past.
I did not get to say goodbye
To the soul that escaped when you breathed your last.

Our sunshine’s laughter turned to rain
And, this grim reality really galls,
We will not get to talk again;
Somewhere in a wood another pine tree falls.

 

 KIEV, FEBRUARY 20th 2014

“Human lives should be the highest value in our state and nothing can contradict this principle” Volodymyr Makeyenko, resigning Mayor of Kiev


Today in the Ukraine
There is a deadly rain
                                  Falling
                                              Falling
                                                          Falling
Like the crowd
Protesting loud
Who have been
                                   Calling
                                               Calling
                                                           Calling
For democratic change
It is tragic and appalling
That the crowd has been
                                       Falling
                                                  Falling
                                                              Falling
To the Berkut snipers’ bullets
In this deadly metal rain

 

 FASCISM IS STILL ALIVE AND KICKING

 

Fascism is still alive and kicking:
Skinhead soldiers hunt their prey
Any minority group’s ok
Some poor soul in a street somewhere
These odious thugs don’t really care

Maybe you’re muslim, a sikh or a jew:
These are the politics of the cruel
They always try to divide and rule
Allegedly  reclaiming  their state
Promoting the grim politics of hate

AFP, EDL and nazi Golden Dawn:
The Aryan brotherhoods’ proclaim
“Put the boot in to those we blame!”
From the Jackboot to Doc Marten
For the joy of taking part in . . .

They need scapegoats in times of hardship:
Protesting they’re  pure blood in a mongrel nation
They feed on the fear of immigration
After centuries of cultural exchange
It seems to me so very strange
That fascism is still alive and kicking, kicking, kicking


LEAVING SINGAPORE

 

This slow, green vein
Slips through the CBD*
Sutured by bridges of convenience
Echoes of the past
Haunt Robertson’s Quay
Shophouses re-dressed
For this new experience
Upon the Alkaff
Watching bumboats play
I ready my mind
For the deemed depart
The Singapore River flows only one way
Sadly
Like an actor
In a badly-written part
I place this burden of regret today
Upon this tongkang* of smiling colours
This magical Bridge of Art



* CBD = Commercial business District

* tongkang = original Chinese word for bumoat, shallow trading vessels

 

 

www.singaporeartbridge.com

 

ON THE PHOTOGRAPH OF AN EXECUTED REBEL

What made you choose that shirt

Those trousers

On this

The fateful day

Did you have a premonition

Of some terrible reckoning

Or were you merely a bit player

In this tragedy

Your bloodied outstretched hand

Beckoning

You had clearly dressed with care

There is evidence

Of a comb

A mirror

The parted hair . . .

Now I’ll be forever haunted

By your vacant stare

And the soldier above you

Looking down

With a gun and a sneer.