Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Monday, 18 October 2021

BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED

Bewildering Stories is an international webzine that publishes unusual, often bizarre, tales in the form of flash fiction, serials, short stories, reviews and much, much more. It’s a fascinating site and well worth a visit. It also publishes the occasional poem. My poem Red Umbrella appeared in Issue 856.





















RED UMBRELLA 

It rained. 
You held a red umbrella high,
leaned into me and whispered, 
Sod the rain.
I realised that something had begun
that was unstoppable. 

Time’s devoured 
a lifetime of embraces since that day.
Now pain spreads like a red umbrella
as you lean into me. 
The pillow, like an angel’s wing,
kisses my bloodless lips.

 

Monday, 11 October 2021

MISTER BIG

Over the course of, what feels like a long life, I’ve had numerous stories and poems published in various long-forgotten literary magazines, pamphlets, and latterly, online webzines, not to mention at a few ‘public art’ locations. Recently, my short story, The Big Guy, found a place in the exotically-named Taj Mahal Review, an international journal based, as you might surmise, in India. I think I can say with some confidence that this is my most remote publisher unless, of course, you include cyberspace, where all good webzines reside. 

The Review can be purchased online for a mere $20 or, if you’re a skinflint like me, you can read it below free.















THE BIG GUY

Phil fell for the coat the moment he saw it. Luxurious chestnut leather in a style that could only be Italian: Armani perhaps, maybe Gucci. And extra-large, Phil’s own size. He absolutely had to have it.

It hung on a retro-style coat stand beside the maitre-d’s desk right there beside his own battered topcoat.

Phil reached out to stroke the soft leather and knew he was in love. 

The bill had been paid, cash as always, and the desk was unattended. It was his last night in Bangkok. On impulse, he grabbed the leather coat, slipped it on and headed for the restaurant’s revolving doors.

Outside, the oriental night was a kaleidoscope of neon: a frantic cacophony of noise and hustle. Phil hailed a passing taxi and ordered the driver to take him to the airport. 

Phil levered his bulky frame into the rear seat of the Toyota and replayed the events of the last three weeks: a crazy roller-coaster of wins and losses, but mostly wins and lucrative ones at that.

A natural-born scammer, Phil saw other people’s money as his for the taking and if that left them penniless, well, tough shit, no one said that life was fair.

That elderly couple he’d met in the bar of the St Regis: English, like himself, but alien as Martians. They’d taken to him right away: clearly saw him as a local character, a big guy, full of smiles and ex-pat bonhomie. They were old-school, superior, patronising and greedy: the marks were always greedy when you got down to it. And their greed was the key, that magic key to unlock their wallets, bank accounts, the lot. 

He’d scored on that one and no mistake. They’d be lucky, when they discovered just how thoroughly he’d cleaned them out, if they could even afford a weekend in Skegness.

At Suvarnabhumi airport, Phil checked his ticket and admired his profile in a washroom mirror. The richness of the leather looked fabulous and the coat fitted him perfectly. Its former owner must have been a big guy too, broad across the shoulders. It was in great condition, so the punter must have taken care of his clothes. The only flaw was a small tear in the lining of the left side pocket, but that could be sorted when he got back to London.  

Checking his watch, Phil, joined the queue at Security. With only a laptop as luggage, he knew he’d be through in no time. 

Security was visibly high with groups of Thai military stationed at every turn and uniformed police working the concourse and seating areas with sniffer-dogs. 

Slinging his laptop and leather into a waiting tray, Phil, stepped through the metal-detector arch and collected his possessions when they’d passed through the scanner.

He was coming out of Duty Free when two Thai policemen approached him with a black Labrador. Phil relaxed and stood still while one of them walked the animal around him. When the dog abruptly sat down, he was nonplussed. He never touched drugs and certainly wasn’t a terrorist, so what what the hell was this about?

Twenty minutes later, Phil knew the answer. Two small sachets of pure heroin had been retrieved from the lining of the leather coat. They had evidently slipped through a tear in the lining of the left pocket. 

Phil was a big guy and the shiny Thai handcuffs felt uncomfortably tight.  


Thursday, 7 October 2021

REASON TO RHYME

Here's a poem about poetry for National Poetry Day.













WHITE SOIL, BLACK SEED                                                                      


White soil, black seed, I sow in lines,

an alphabet of words in rows:

stark characters that germinate

as, slowly, boldly, I compose

a field of verses, two or three,

approximating poetry.


Reader, a season later, you

will harvest crops that I have sown

then bind in sheaves and subtly add

an indefinable unknown.

Only when poetry is read

is it as nourishing as bread.


Monday, 4 October 2021

THE HISTORY BOYS

I find it interesting and disturbing, in equal measure, that two people’s memories of the same events can be totally different, so much so that the very notion of objective history is flawed.


 
MACKEY'S SISTER
 
You must be? She said my surname. Her voice, low and sweet. I answered, Yes, and thoughtshe looks just like him.
Jimmy Mackey was my brother, she told me. You know that he died? 

I know, I heard, I mumbled. So sorry for your loss
He thought the world of you, she told me with a smile. This damn school brought him so much grief but you saved him from the worst of it. He really was in awe of you: his truest friend ... Her words tailed off. 
I pictured him: the crooked specs and wounded stare, the pallid, vulnerable skin, already marked for victimhood. Fourteen years old with four more years of hell stretching out before him. Wee Mackey. A kid with Hurt Me printed on his puny chest. 
I bullied him. We all did that. I was less harsh than most and once even intervened to save him from the worst of it, but I was never friend to him: lads like that were soft as jelly: no one ever chose them as a friend. 
We stood together in the old Assembly Hall, his sister and I. Waiters flickered to and fro, like white bats, navigating among the crowd of Old Boys and their families by means of high, inaudible squeaks.
I bet you two had roaring times? She said and looked at me expectantly. I almost answered, but held my tongue instead.

 

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

PLAYING TRUANT

Childhood reminiscences provide ample material for verse because, it seems to me, there's something about the haziness and unreliability of memory that seems more compatible with poetry than with prose. 













THE KITE    

That truant day, I slipped away
to the Cave Hill with makeshift kite.
Fourteen years old, escaped from school,
my uniform in disarray,
absconded, not at all contrite,
I fled with mooring-string and spool,
a headstrong, heedless, wayward boy,
to fly my home-made pride and joy.
Beneath me, grey, the city spread
like scattered jigsaw pieces spilled.
Above me, hot, July sun burned
down on my bare, uncovered head.
The kite rose up with warm air filled.
I steadied it as I had learned.
It sailed, breathtakingly, above,
free, yet restrained: somehow like love.

 

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

FOX NEWS

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is a pangram, a sentence that contains all of the letters of the alphabet. It was commonly used for testing typewriter keyboards. Nowadays it’s used when comparing fonts.

This poem has been taken from my Facebook page where I tend to post my more lighthearted verse. You can find others of that ilk by clicking on this link https://www.facebook.com/richard.fleming.92102564













ON NOT HAVING WRITTEN …
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
That fox’s acrobatic leap
over the dog, perhaps asleep,
encompasses, let’s not forget,
each letter of the alphabet:
from A to Z, all have been used.
The writer cannot be accused
of laxity or sloppy work
and yet, somehow, those nine words irk.
There’s something quite ridiculous
in being so meticulous
and one can only speculate
on how one’s ego might inflate
in having come up with that line
by accident if not design.
Well I‘m not jealous, don’t resent
such cleverness, yet I dissent
from fulsome praise, I will not cheer
this alphabetic engineer.
The line’s poetic, I’ll admit:
none could deny the writer’s wit,
and it is visually rich
and memorable, if somewhat kitsch,
but it’s not Heaney or Ted Hughes:
the writer couldn’t fill their shoes.
In truth, when I reflect upon it,
it cannot match a decent sonnet.

Monday, 13 September 2021

RUN RABBIT

The English poet, Philip Larkin, in his poem The Mower, concludes with the following lines (referring to a hedgehog killed by the titular machine) … 

Next morning I got up and it did not./ The first day after a death, the new absence/ Is always the same; we should be careful/ Of each other, we should be kind/ While there is still time.

I read Larkin’s poem years ago and suspect that it lay in the background of my consciousness when I wrote Rabbit, but mine is rather more bleak than Larkin’s poem.


Photo by Jane Mosse




















RABBIT


A rabbit, dead out on the lane,

a fellow that I’ve seen before,

unmarked but dead, that much is plain:

no rabbit-running anymore.


I shoo away the buzzing flies:

no sooner done than more alight

around his mouth and dull dead eyes.

All lives have worth but are finite


and this is death, close up, no screen

of hymns or platitudes to hide

its ugliness. Unclean, obscene,

the very end of self, of pride.