I was raised in narrow alleys between tower-blocks of convention.
Not even the streets and avenues were for my attention.
Just those alleys, New York-like, rubbish strewn, cabbage-aired, concrete and cobbles uneven.
The whirr of air-conditioning, smell of fast-food, and the certainties of both God-fearer and heathen.
Just once in a while, bursting forth into the sunlight, wide streets and avenues intersected.
Bright lights, success, and the beautiful people attracted.
Not for me, though. I didn’t even try to stray.
Preferring my defined certainty to the risks of a better way.
I have no-one to blame for where I am. Or perhaps I do.
Does blame transcend the generations for me and for you?
How much of what we are is really what we are? Truly our own clay?
Or are we just versions constrained by circumstance and inherited DNA?
But those tower-blocks, surely they were not of my doing.
The ‘put your cutlery down between mouthfuls’ and fifteen times chewing.
The constraints of proscribed thought and the wilderness of rebellion.
Stern judgement of those who spurned convention.
A quiff, modest to the point of invisible.
Condemned by words harsh and a tone risible.
Errors examined and exposed for the world to see,
A need for blame accountable, set on the balance sheet of me.
Religion supported this threat of retribution,
Guilt and fear with an all-knowing God of attrition.
Waiting to add the columns of good and bad.
Punishing the crimes and the pleasures I never had.
So, we conform, or at least I conformed, until I could conform no longer,
Struck out at a time when weak despair made me briefly the stronger.
I enjoyed the pleasure of overcoming shame,
Of love, and joy, and disregarding blame.
But soon those cavernous alleys returned and comfort from a new ordinary prevailed,
For that was my lot before my aging body ailed.
Two cracks at the whip and a wealth of experience,
Living in the past a new deliverance.
Breaking away from parental strictures to my own choice of constraint,
I am where I am, no cause for complaint.
My life draws on, the days counted off
from a secret calendar that I have no sight of,
And when it is done, no more bed-making and showering,
an end to the false dawn of passed sell-by-date flowering.
Will they say, ‘he sought vainly for recognition and fame’,
Or will they look in disbelief, barely recalling my name?
Gone in a generation, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Achievements, precious few, rarely praised, often cussed.
So I reflect positively, because that’s my prerogative,
But the memory of others is more likely pejorative.
If your rightful desire is a modicum of immortality,
start now. Don’t leave it like me to imminent finality.
* * *
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