poetry

Sheffield

 – for my father –

I remember the
medicine bottle.
A spiral grows from the
plastic cap, like DNA.

You used them for
hooks, sinkers and
swivels.

I dug through your red
bag of tackle, rolled
like a scroll.

Velcro cracks as
I peel it. Grains of
beach sand dance on
the plastic skin.

My fingers skip like an
excited jeweller. I hold
a grey weight in my hand.

I looks like a battered pyramid,
scars and scrapes
drawn into geography.

Under the butt there is a
metal loop to tie your line.

“This weight is for the sea.”
My father’s voice turns the
tide of my thoughts.

He tells me the pointed end
digs into the sand.
It holds the bait
that flies a bloody flag.

I finger 2 long
lead weights. dead weight.

Ten years on I can still
feel those dense shapes
in the oyster of my palm.

I can feel the smile spill
through the shrub of your beard.
I can smell the scent of a wooden path.

Brown arms become bronze,
Sea and sweat stick to our stories.
Have I become a fisherman?

Well, almost.

 

 

PhilosopherPoet

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Articles, Reviews

words for my father

Father Ballam hooking a big one.

My father is a warrior on many levels. He has risen up through the blizzard of a divorce. He soldiered through his own dyslexia and the currents of a busy family to conquer his Masters in Philosophy. (I better have another drink here this is starting to sound like a damn eulogy…and the bugger is still alive!) Allow me to reel this story in, the way one would clasp the steel nub of a coffee grinder’s arm. I can sum up my father in three words…

Fishing. Philosophy. Ideas.
These are the forces that drive him. They propel him onto the cold mud of a riverbank or into the furnace of concepts jostling in an academic paper. I know when he starts his 5 o’clock mornings ( a ritual the family has grown accustomed to), he first rustles around the kitchen like a wise old badger. To make his coffee he doesn’t turn on the kettle. Instead, he puts a pot of water on the stove and waits for it to boil.

Having a pint with the old man.

I remember being an angst-fuelled 23 year old telling him, “But that takes so much longer!”
He looked at me, a warm smile filling his eyes.
“You do not live with a woman and small children.”
His sensitivity, back then, baffled my own immature mantras. His modest income meant the houses he occupied where no mansions. In a nutshell, he would rarely give up his morning routine and at the same time…restrain himself so the family got enough sleep. Allow me to get back to the badger and his early morning.

My father in his element…or The Element perhaps?

Coffee in hand, he trundles to his favourite chair in the lounge. (If you read as much as this intellectual mammoth, you earn the right. Or perhaps, the chair finds you?) He sits down with a big red book of Rumi (a Sufi poet). It’s the perfect blend for him, mysticism and metaphor.

A gentleman always tells the truth. He allowed me to reel this fatty in so I could experience “the rush”. I compromised and said I’d take the photo as his hands were still full of fish!

Over the years poetry and books kept the two of us together. Much like a weekend for him, alone, pours cool consciousness back into his bones. He may not believe in a god, although he will make an effort to crawl back into nature to get in touch with something close to a Divine. Whether it’s internal or buried in the ripples of a rise…well, that remains to be seen.

Having another pint!

I love you Dad. Happy Birthday!

 

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poetry

that afternoon

we sat on the bank
father. son. river. rod.
3 ducks watch us,
they wait for knuckles of bread
we throw out for carp.

“yaa! piss off!” – my father’s arms
writhe in the wind like an angry officer.
i hoist my box of orange juice
i take a swig.
vodka swirls
like a warm hand into my chest.

before our expedition…
i hid in the car, and
my father was the lookout.
the rear door left open,
a suspicious window.
i drained juice from the carton,
my fingers unscrewing caps
a thousand thoughts whirred
in my head as i mixed the booze.

the ducks became bored and left.
my bait starts to swirl in the distance,
a fistful of bread
with a hook in it (half immersed).

“you see that?”
my father starts to twitch, jiggle,
his hands bubble up through the
arms of the camping chair.

rotating bait equals a fish, gently
gnawing, picking, probing
underneath our excitement.

“have another drink Dad!”
“n-n-not now, i have to watch your bait.”
his eyes cut through the afternoon air,
heads of trees watch us,
insects trickle in the distance.

the bait stops.
my father sighs, his shoulders sag
like branches of an old tree,
he has a drink.

it is the last time i will see him,
i crack open a volume of poetry,
ducks chuckle further down the river.

we exchange poems, metaphors, stories
embalmed in the loam of our language.
vodka sways through our sentences,
no more bites.

the moment is perfect.
well, almost. maybe if there was
a bronze body dancing in
my father’s hands?

night draws over us
like a heavy curtain.
our sighs parallel,
our hands collect rods and bags.
two chairs jut out of my arms
like old telescopes.

“you good to go?”
i nod, and we trundle back on
the mud path
where our memories
lie buried.

 

 

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poetry

My first time

My father taught me to write
in books
Ones full of words, throbbing with ideas

One day I picked up a book
of his, it smelled like a good memory
I opened to a random chapter
my eyes saw a square bracket
herding a phrase together

I went to ask my father
about the marks he had made.
– Once you wade into a river,
you must remember where
you cast your line.

I ran those words over in my head.
Like an old coin you weave
through your fingers, the
rhythm of the unconscious.

I was reluctant to carve up
this soul I spent money on.

My first attempt was in pencil.
A book of poetry I left at
a girlfriend’s house.

I went back to the store to buy
my own copy. It still looked the
same as the last one, unwanted
memories crawling out of its spine.

I wrote in the book
like a draft of my own.
My pencil skated through pages,
my head engorged in the words.
I couldn’t wipe off the excitement.

Months later, I told my father about
this book I had devoured.
He picked it up, pencil marks
leaping at him like headlines.

– Someone has studied this.
He said.
– Oh, that was me.
I muttered.
– That’s interesting.

A smile rippled through him.
For a second I could see
pride splash in his eyes,
a curious carp coming to the surface.

 

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Articles, Philosophy

Living with the Grit on Your Hands

I’ve gone through life long enough now to come to the conclusion I’m an Atheist. Many people hate the ring that word has too it, and instead choose terms like Agnostic or Free Thinker. The reason being is many people misinterpret Atheism. People think you might somehow be sacrificing your intellect when choosing to say you don’t know.

I like to think being an Atheist means you live in the land of not knowing, rather than being at “war with the gods”.

I’ll delve into a few of the myths, or false impressions people have about Atheists. (The following myths I took from this website: http://www.wayofthemind.org/2006/08/15/16-common-myths-about-atheists/). Although the responses are my own…think of me conducting my own interview. 😉

 

“Atheists hate Christians and Christianity.”

Atheists don’t buy into the idea of believing in one single God. I tolerate many different beliefs of other people, this doesn’t mean that because I despise the people I despise the religion they hold dear. In fact if you ever met me, religion is most likely the last topic of conversation I’d go into. I don’t feel the need to tell the world what my views on life are. My opinions on God scare those who haven’t looked inside themselves, so I prefer to question and get to know the person rather than the religion.

 

“Most atheists started out as Christians, and stopped believing because of some bad experience with other Christians.”

Atheism for me isn’t born out of an accident. You may aswell say that Christians bumped into the Bible. After long discussions, questioning, thinking and reading up of ideas I felt I gained more meaning from other places than some parts of the Bible. Yes I used to be a Christian, and everyone has bad experiences, however, I got to my area of non-belief through my own choices and experiences.

 

“Atheists’ lives are cold and empty, as they can’t feel the joy and love that comes only from God.”

God isn’t a factory for happiness. There is beauty and joy in so many other things. If people do believe in a God, my hope is they do it not for the sake of pleasant feelings, but rather because they feel secure, rooted, and challenged.

 

“Atheists live their lives in constant fear of death.”

We are all born to die. From the moment we come squealing out of the womb, we are more vulnerable to getting wiped out by some disease. I’m a very mellow and easy going person. I suffer from depression and anxiety, however, I’ve had the balls to manage it. I hold down a decent job, and I’m too busting with great ideas for paranoia to be my prerogative. In fact, coming to terms with their being no god, means you’re prepared to live with the grit under you own hands. It’s an amazing empowering and authentic thing to know you are the muscles in your own cerebral wings.

 

“Atheists are depressive and nihilistic, since they believe there’s nothing after death, and therefore there’s no point to anything.”

You may think I’ve already shot myself in the foot, since I’ve already mentioned that I’m dealing with depression. Well no I’m just being honest and upfront. If there was no point to anything I wouldn’t feel the need for this interview, or to explain myself like this.

Orthodox Religion is a form of nihility against the Self. The reason being…you spend so much energy in prayer, song and ritual that you forget to look inside yourself, and pay attention to your ideas. Too much focus in one direction means, you’re losing sight of something equally important.

 

“Atheists want to forbid religious worship.”

When last did you see a group of Atheists shouting anti-Religious slogans and waving weapons in the air? People misunderstand Atheists and believe we are at war with everything. Many are under the assumption that the basis to an atheist’s argument begins and ends with “I Hate God”.

In fact, if I were asked “Why do you believe there is no God?” I would go on to question the person of their exact definition of ‘belief’ and ‘god’. The fact that I care enough to question the ideas, and get to know the person, means I have no issue with how people express themselves. The only time I get agitated with religion, is if it forcefully tries to tell me I’m wrong and I should rather just ‘believe’ and join them.

 

“Atheists are incapable of feeling awe at simple things, like a beautiful sunset, as they see everything in terms of cold science, instead of miracles.”

Yes many Atheists are scholars, scientists, and higher minded people, however, this means that they are thinkers who like to get to the truth. I surely hope religion isn’t merely there for the sake of miracles. Religion (if you feel it’s the one for you) should be chosen, because you have found meaning, not simply seeing some sleight of hand and buying into it.

Atheists can be skeptics, and we do enjoy a good debate, but this doesn’t consume our personality to the point of making us stiff, cold and austere beings. I question when I feel the time is right, otherwise, I take everything else in stride.

 

“Atheists make bad parents.”

Bad choices turn parents against their children. Parenting is tough for anyone, however most Atheists I know take a down to earth interest in people. As I said earlier choosing not to stick to a particular religion and be part of ‘the club’, is liberating and those people are often most caring and textured, than the stiffly ironed people bustling off to church on a Sunday.

 

The Grit

My father told me a story about an experience he had in Church.

He was in his early twenties. Young, eager, and full of cleanly honed Bible verses. During the church service one of the elders announced they were looking for Youth Leaders in the Church, and those that see themselves fit should head to the front of the Church so that they can be prayed for, and then they would be interviewed at a later stage.
My father went up there, determined to make the world a better place. The prayer happened shortly after, and then the service continued as usual. Once the congregation had sung the last few words of the final song, everyone bows their heads in prayer, and then got up and said their goodbyes to those around them.

As my father was leaving and old man approached him. He was bald, with thin wisps of hair clinging around his freckled head.

The old man to him, “Let me see your hands boy.”
He thrust his two hands towards the chest of the old man.
“Hmmm,” he said as he turned my fathers hands over and inspected them.
“What’s wrong?” my father replied.
“They’re not dirty.”
“Dirty?”

My father anxiously looked into the creases and lines of his hand, searching for the dirt the old man may have missed.

“Look at my hands.”
The old man raised up his gnarly, wrinkled hands to show him.
“These are dirty hands that have seen life. Yours have not. Before you become a leader go out into the world, and get some real dirt on your hands boy.”

 

 

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Thoughts

Lessons in a Letter

Below is a letter I wrote to my boss recently. I’m not normally the type to put personal things in the public domain, however, I thought more people could identify with this. I’ve taken out the names of the people mentioned in order to protect their privacy (as well as my own).

Dear R—–

I remember some time ago my father teaching me a few principles philosophers sculpted. One such philosopher (Immanuel Kant) came up with a theory of Universalization. We both talked about it and nicknamed it “just because”. The way you act, treat people, make decisions, joke, cry, laugh and so on has no rationale behind it. Sometimes the choices we make are born from an inner feeling of “I’m doing this, and acting this way just because.” If one has oiled their psychological cogs in the right way, then plodding along and acting the way you do, is not miraculous because of one life-changing incident, but rather because you have the momentum and courage to be consistent.

I’ve trained many people by now, and a good example of this would be when I see someone knot their brow with frustration when they don’t understand. Many others pull the keyboard towards themselves and hurriedly console the awkwardness. My instinct though, is first to question and then help that person one foot forward, step by step.

I’ve been through many managers in retail and wholesale. I admire your consistency, and your ability to wear your heart out in the open. Despite the stress and pace that retail runs at…I know by the time I have your hand around my shoulder – saying goodbye, or good morning – we’re friends again.

Look I must admit, the other day when you flipped out because I had screwed up an EFT order I felt very ashamed for a while. Perhaps I needed that. Part of me wanted to get angry and lash out, although instead I held it in and went away to do some soul searching. I didn’t expect you to cover my arse with the EFT, or even when I infamously deleted S—— emails. However, you did it because partly that’s what Managers do, they sort out issues.

At the same token I realize I’ve made you dance across a few hot coals from time to time, when there needn’t be coals there in the first place. I am truly grateful for you helping to bring closure and relief to those situations, it means a lot to me. Hopefully, as I mature in the I.T. Industry I’ll make fewer blunders, and create more successes.

Sometimes I battled to convey my emotions out in the open. The reason being I’m a natural introvert. I wanted to say this to you earlier, but I hadn’t managed to summon the courage to say it. A letter is more fitting, I feel. It’s something you can hold in you hand, annotate, and read between the folds of duvet before you sleep.

Whenever you write a letter, there’s a natural part of you questioning yourself saying “Why am I doing this? Is it not a bit much?” It’s a common human feeling to be self-conscious from time to time. If I had to answer that now, I would turn to you and say…

“Just Because.”

Warmly
J———–

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