Sunday, 24 December 2017

Waiting for Uplift

These trees were pure, untarnished
by hand of child or tinsel touch
or by the fierce, loving attention of Cat.

Neither did they bauble nor shimmer,
as other lowly trees of loose November.

Hark, even as they stood bravely in the deep December days,
lesser trees dropped gently in warm rooms
and knew the harshness of regret.

These trees, waiting for their Uplift,
already knew what it was to stay
between life and death,
to stare at the stars by night
and the winter sun by day.

They were toughened to this nether place
and knew they were ready for what came after.

Later, in the warm glow of tail-lights,
they took their final journey with pride,
knowing, til the end, they were tree and nothing else,
and would want only the touch of Nature
as they dusted their way to Earth.

© Amanda J Harrington 2017

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Friday, 3 November 2017

Tales of Death and Stardust

It's only one more step, why not keep company as we fall together?

Tales of Death and Stardust looks behind closed curtains, into the street outside and that corner of your room where the light never seems to reach.

Other lives and this one are lit with a shaking hand and the sensation of falling is never far away.

This book is a collection of poems and short stories, more suitable for an adult audience.

Available on Kindle from Amazon

and paperback

The book will also be available in print from Amazon shortly.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Through the wardrobe

I don't care about reality. You have it, you keep it and take care of it, and tell me all about it if you like. I'll pet it a little and pretend to understand, to know what you mean when you say

The real world matters, we all have to live in it

This reality is what counts, this is what we have

I know this is true because I can feel it and see it

It does you good to live in the real world

You have it, have the grand plans and new schemes, have the walk to work and the run to keep up. I don't want it. I won't answer the door to it, or include it in my limited plans for getting through today, for walking free in my own unreal, unseen world.

I'm unrealistic (apparently). I need to do these real-world, fact-based, hard-edged tasks to make everything happen like it's supposed to. Who made these rules? Does it matter if I fit in? Who cares if I do? I don't care, why should you?

Have it to yourself, you like it so much. You cuddle its hard edges and polish it so it shines in the bright, blinding sun pouring in through your uncluttered, shining windows. Have it where everyone can see it and remark how well done you are.

Later, when the sun goes down, plug in the spotlight and shine it on your reality so it can never sit quietly in darkness. Who knows what might happen if you let the night fall? Or if, tip-toeing into new waters, you lit it only with a soft candle instead of a harsh light. What might it look like then?

How would its hard edges change in the flickering from one candle? What might you not be able to see? How would it feel to lose sight of the corners, to see the edges you had felt so often fall away as if they were instead something living and not so accurately measured as what came before?

Would you be afraid? Would you wonder what really sat behind the candle, looking almost as if it moved in the glow?

Would it feel, perhaps, as if the candle hid more than it showed and the dark room behind your beloved reality was really not there at all, had never really been there, had been a clever illusion held in place by what you constructed and lit and admired every day as your own besotted creation.

It's a gentle grip that never lets go. I can't tell you what lies behind the dark or moves within the candle, or what it was that, on looking, had gone before you saw it clearly. Light the candle, it's better than letting the darkness in all at once, and let the room grow past what you expected to find.

And in the morning, as the sun builds behind the glass, look closely to see if your reality is still as you remember.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Tar girl

Do you remember the fairytale girl who found a way
to another land through an enchanted well,
arriving there behind our heroine and without grace,
without the looks, the charm, the way with words;
and, doing so, was covered in tar and feathers.

She stood, her hopes pooling about her feet, settling between her toes,
tar shoes clicked her to the tar ground. The feathers tickled, then set.
The tar ran long enough to reach every blessed crevice, every fold in her and
her dress, her hair, her necklace kept for special occasions.

She set in place, long, tear-filled hours of trying ran by,
her darkened eyes crowded with her own hair, tar and feathers.
At home her sister sang
(she could always sing, all birds and summer and golden times)
and set the table, dusted the shining clock, watched gentled flowers through the glass
and wondered at the light soaking into the tapestry.

Tar girl moved slowly at last, feet slipping on cobbles, sticking every step, crying at herself,
at the pain in her ankles from dragging up one foot, then the other, each time fighting the tar
and the scorched, driven pain held at every tender spot on her body.

The long way home and her own front door,
greeted mid-song
by the golden child,
and smiling
the pitied welcome
for strange, lost souls.
Slouching in our anti-hero makes her way across the old stone floor
to the water pump at the kitchen door: drenched, tearless and set.

Later, cutting herself out of her clothes, she studies her nakedness,
the light and dark of tar and tar-free, the small, childlike angle
of her shaven head and the pattern
left where the necklace faithfully stuck.

Light falls as the day dims outside the window.
In the soft darkness she watches the way her raw, ripped skin glows,
where the still-tarred makes her disappear against the room.
Lying back she traces the sore threads around her neck and waits for morning.

In the other room her sister sings softly in her bed. Tar girl turns to listen.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

I'm in a world of death and stardust

In your head there are worlds of death and stardust: on your face is a look of vacant possession. The trouble with thinking about writing is how you often end up looking.

I do wonder if Jane Austen's celebrated ability to write and socialise at the same time really comprised of her writing, then staring insatiably at Great Aunt Maud, then at the curtain, then back at the notepad. When you think about writing, let alone when you actually write, you are somewhere else. And it might not be a good place.

It could be somewhere dark with you almost alone, except for what is supposed to live there. You visit hard places, dank, terrifying places full of thoughts you feel are not your own. You step into them willingly, almost like visiting a haunted house, only to find you overestimated your courage - but you have to stay til the end of the ride. No wonder that people stare at you when the outside version of yourself reacts to this inner adventure.

Sometimes it's a good place and you have it just right, but real-life marches on outside and your smiling face is not happening when it should, your excited jump as you realise a great truth is out of kilter with the quiet, sedentary moment you were meant to be living.

All this pales though, with the reaction I have had from people once I put pen to paper. I have no idea why the physical act of writing seems to worry people so much, but it really does. Writing, writing, lines of words shooting across the page, and then they look on, look down at the pen and back at you, strangely.

I tried taking the laptop with me instead of the notepad, when I went out into the wilderness of everyday life. Lots of people take laptops into cafes, don't they? It was the same reaction.

In the end I realised it was the volume of writing I was doing which seemed to worry them, not the writing itself. They picked up on the speed I was writing or typing and equated it with something out of the ordinary. And the human animal worries about the less than ordinary, unless they know it well or have paid to see it perform.

So death and stardust it is, because the only way to get past the effect of thinking and writing in public is to keep doing it until you don't care. If you look up and find someone fixing you with a strange look, wave your pen at them and smile - the problem resolves itself quickly.

I've even stopped worrying about the vacancy, or the inappropriate expression. My students will catch me staring into the corner, like a cat seeing ghosts. Nowadays I just look back, smile and continue with the lesson as if nothing happened, then go back to the corner to trap the stray thought.

You see, I've discovered that when it comes to poetry at least, it has to be written as it happens and I do my best writing when I'm in the middle of normal life. If I'm lucky, I can pull the car over and write the poem in the solitude of a layby, but if I'm somewhere more public, I still stop and write it.

The poem is more important than the ordinary moment: ordinary moments are ten-a-penny, poems are little, crinkle-cut, shining lives which flicker into existence and then are gone, unless you write them down.

Later, in the dark places where you are almost the only one there, the poem shines your way through, flickering in your hands and wafting against your cheek as you look for the way out. And if it is a dark poem, still it sits in your hand and keeps you safe until the light breaks in.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Trump: Still Hoping for the Best?

I know some of my online (and real-life) friends want to hope for the best, that despite hate speech and aggression in his tone, Donald Trump will succeed in bringing good things to America and the world. I understand this need for hope and optimism, for the need to believe that a person who says something in a way you would not can still mean to do good, that intentions are more important than the way something is said.

If someone speaks to you in anger, or hate, or ignorance, you might react or you might try to turn from them to avoid conflict. You might 'turn the other cheek' and hope that your example of loving forbearance helps them see there is a better way.

But if they keep responding in anger, hate or ignorance, and are emboldened by you turning, not speaking - or even by your angry, hurt response - you have to question your own motives first, and theirs second.

What do you hope to gain by giving the benefit of the doubt over and over? Why would a person so full of vengeance and hate want to do good in the world? Will it happen by accident? Will it happen because of good people working beneath them? Will it happen because this person is just bad at expressing themselves and still means to do good things?

How many times would you need to be hurt before accepting someone wants to hurt you? How many times must a person be slapped before they realise the other means them harm? And if not you, how many times must they hurt another before you recognise that a good person does not act this way?

It is no good facing the other way when a fire is burning behind you – not being able to see the fire does not stop it burning and is more likely to end in you being burnt yourself.
Somewhere there is another version of you, feeling the same emotions when they look at their family, touching the cheek of a child, hoping for the best, but they cannot turn away from the fire because it is already at their door.
Look right at the words used, the actions, the effects on people - real, human people going about their lives just like you are.
React with love if you must, believe the best if you like, but do not look the other way. Hope for the best but keep your eyes wide open while you do it.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Dark Waters

They watched the waters close over the heads of their enemies.
The new friend, eyes still on the tops of their dark, sodden hair, said,
What would we have done without the water?
Shrugging, already bored, his old friend replied,

The water was always there, just as it is,
deep, black, unfathomable.
We only used it as we saw fit.
There is always water, always death.
The living belongs to men like us who know how to keep it.

They sank slowly though, their stubborn heads visible in the darkness,
the gleaming faces lit longer than they deserved by the moon which fed them.
And later, when finally they could not be seen, he felt them there and
did not dare leave the water-side in case they came clambering back out,
grabbing for him with hands greased and hungry.

His old friend slept soundly without dreaming, untroubled by the moon.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Light in the dark times

I thought the lights had gone out on the Christmas tree, until now, in the dark, I saw them blinking faintly. They hadn't gone out, not completely, it just wasn't dark enough to see them.

Their batteries are almost flat, I couldn't see them in daylight, or even twilight, and the other times when I've switched everything off in the evening, I hadn't paused before leaving the room. Tonight I did, and there they were, faithfully twinkling, catching the barest edges of the tinsel. The shape of the tree was a very small, very me constellation, the lights forming a suggestion of a tree, the idea behind a tree, only visible on this darkest night.

It's been a year when my own lights have flickered bravely against the dark, and this holiday season has seen me at my lowest ebb for a long while. I have done my best, readers, tried to be the right me for the season, the sort of me I used to be, the Christmas version of me that everyone is used to and expects.

Like the lights, I've found it hard to make myself visible, have felt I didn't have the energy to shine out. I thought I was doing very badly.

Now, I think, I could be my own very small constellation too. If I can't shine as expected, or when I need to, maybe I could shine just enough to make the outline of me, the suggestion of me against the dark night. Each tiny light could be flickering so you wonder if you imagine it, until you suddenly see the full shape and know it.

We flicker in life, we change all the time from full sun to clouded star. We can only do what we are capable of at any one time, and sometimes have to be content with keeping our little lights alive in the darkness.

Still, even if they are small, and we feel they may blink out, let's see each one as the tiniest star that goes towards making the whole of us. Sometimes we don't see ourselves at all, it takes another person to pause at the right moment and see us there, bravely shining in the night.

I stood in the dark room and looked at the tree, noticed the shape, the glinting tinsel, the way the baubles tried to glimmer in the tiny amount of light they were given. I thought of Christmas, and of everything, then left the dark room still dimly-lit by the lights I wrapped round and round at the beginning.

The tree stands, the lights stand with it, and the whole of it belongs to a feeling that the dark nights in the middle of winter can be borne if only we have the ability to light them and perhaps a little help to keep them shining.

© Amanda J Harrington 2016

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A story somewhere