interesting times

There is no sun in Dundee today. As I type these words, it’s bang on 7am so it’s light outside, but there’s no sun: the sky is a gun-metal gray. And I can tell there’s no wind – at least at the moment – because the ivy outside my living room and kitchen windows is still; not slapping against the windows the way they would if it were windy out. I suppose it doesn’t matter, as I have done all the laundry there was to do: yesterday I even removed the covers from the cushions of both sofas and washed them. There’s no need for me to clean my wee flat; it’s fuckin’ immaculate, and it still smells of bleach and Dettol from the thorough wiping down I gave everything on Sunday.

Do animals think? I think my fish are confused…they’ve been hanging in front of the tank in a line like aquatic soldiers at attention, staring out at me for a little over 90 minutes now. Are they wondering why the overhead light is still on? Why their Benevolent Fish Goddess is still seated at her desk in her pajamas, her hair an uncombed and nappy nimbus around her head?

It’s been five days since my work shut down. And since I have been avoiding the news for the sake of my mental health, I missed BoJo’s speech yesterday, which means I awakened this morning to discover the country is now in lockdown.

The first thing that popped into my head upon learning this was that ancient (supposedly, as it’s never been proven) Chinese curse: “may you live in interesting times.” As a boomer, I’ve seen a lot of “interesting times.” Wars. The successful and unsuccessful assassinations of political figures. LBJ signing the act that gave black people the right to vote on television. Man’s cruelty to man as evinced by Matthew Shepherd and Rodney King. Roe v Wade. Too many school shootings. Katrina. I could go on, but why bother? None of those events has given me a frame of reference, or any kind of preparation, for this.

My emotions vacillate wildly between hope and positivity, fear, anger, sorrow and dread. I’m a control freak; I knew this about myself long before my therapist brought this facet of my character to my attention. I need to feel like I have a measure of control over my life, and I’m certain many other people feel the same way. Now, an event out with everyone’s control has forever changed life as it once was.

I can’t help but feel dismayed, watching people spread wild conspiracy theories on Facebook and other social media platforms. I’m annoyed by the proliferation of “it’s the end of the world posts.” It’s appalling, watching people fight on Facebook. I’m deeply concerned, watching my friends in the care home industry, the NHS, Police Scotland and those who work in supermarkets go to work every day while I – like the vast majority of the populace with common sense – remain safe indoors. Apart from those times when I go out in my garden, to weed, to cut the grass, to trim the shrubs. I thank God for that small patch of earth.

Mostly, I am broken-hearted watching my friends with mental health issues grow more and more distressed. I can see it in their posts. I can see it in their private messages and their texts to me. I can only speak to my own experience, but I know, on those days when depression has a relentless grip on me, getting out helped. Going to work helped. Especially where I worked, where people hugged one another. If you scroll through this blog, you will see several poems and essays I’ve written about touch. Touch is healing; it’s essential to good mental health. One of the things I love about my partner is how he touches me…he holds my hand, he hugs me. We always fall asleep holding each other. Lockdown puts an end to that.

So I try hard to keep my spirits up. I need – I want – to keep that black dog at bay. I am going to see the end of this nightmare, and although I don’t know the how or the when, I just keep telling myself “this too shall pass” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, KJV).

Y’all stay safe.

K xxx

on Saturday morning

Things are changing far too quickly for me.

In the post below, writing of the changes I’d observed throughout Dundee since Covid-19 took over the world and my general thoughts and feelings surrounding this, I also wrote of my friend Josh, my young student friend whom I know through my work who had moved in with me.

Our first day and night as roomies was a good one; I had so much fun. A loner since childhood, I’ve always been content and comfortable with my own company and have always preferred to live alone. And apart from my two husbands Clinton & Tyrone, followed by Bryon (who almost 32 years later I still find it difficult to talk about) and Colin, the guy I originally moved to Scotland for, I have always lived alone.

That first day and night, Josh and I shared our fears, bolstered each other up, quickly agreed on what he’d pay while living with me, made a list of words we would both avoid using in order to keep our spirits up, and watched senseless movies while eating junk food until we both started to doze off mid-sentence.

“Are you sure about this?” Josh asked for what had to be the 22nd time as together we made up the sofa bed where he would sleep. “I truly appreciate this, but I don’t want to intrude, and I don’t want to interfere with your time with John.”

“For fucks sake, stop asking me that,” I groaned. “We’re good, babes. I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it. These are interesting times and there are no rules – all rule books have gone out the window. You’re okay, I’m okay, we’re safe here. Love you…here’s the remotes – see you in the morning.” And I covered him with the duvet, the same way I cover my Scottish bestie JoJo when she stays with me.

“Can you turn the telly and the light out please?” he asked. “Think I’m just gonna go to sleep.” So I did that, and then tiptoed away to my own bed.

I kept getting up throughout the night. My sleep was thin, my dreams disturbed and all the Pepsi we’d drunk earlier meant I kept needing to pee. And each time I got up to go to the loo, I would peek in on Josh, like any mother checking on her child, thinking how funny and strange and yet wonderful it was that I, who had made the decision at the tender age of nine to never have children, had ended up in the latter years of my life as a mother figure to so many. In truth, every time someone calls me “Mumma” or “Mum” or “Ma”, I am deeply honoured. I hope the people who call me by this name know how honoured and humbled I am that they have awarded me with this sobriquet.

The next morning I awakened at 7am. I peered into the living room at Josh, who was blissfully asleep, looking all of 12 years old. I took my laptop, tablet and mobile into the kitchen, where I answered FB messages, texts, worked on my novel and chain-smoked and drank coffee. When I went into the living room at 9am to feed the fish, Josh was awake.

“Hey, you’re awake!” I said. “Morning! You okay….you sleep okay?”

“Morning,” he said, smiling. “Yeah, I’m okay…musta been more tired than I realised.”

“That’s understandable,” I told him. “You’ve had a helluva week.” Josh is president of the SRC (Student Representative Council) where I work, and he’d been working non-stop to make sure the SRC members, the students on campus and pretty much everybody (the author of this piece included!) was okay and still getting the support they needed in the run up to the sad but inevitable closure.

“Hope I wasn’t loud,” he said. “I talk in my sleep, and my flatmates have told me I swear at people in my sleep.”

“You’re good, baby,” I told him. “I’ve talked in my sleep for years. I also cry, laugh, and cuss people out. I’m prone to nightmares, which got worse after my Mom passed…I’m always punching and hitting John in my sleep; thank God he understands and knows what to do on those nights when the nightmares are really bad. Plus, I fart in my sleep, so don’t worry: you’re good.”

It was sunny that day….Friday 20th March, the first day of spring. We had our showers. We chatted about how torn he felt between remaining in Dundee and going home to be with his family, something I well understand, as I have been dealing with this dilemma for 18 years. After coffee, we gave each other some alone time: there were things he needed to do, and I decided to go outside and work in my garden. After that we walked into City Centre, revelling in the sunshine, the sight of people on the streets and the fact that Burger King – which we’d both been craving – was still open.

Josh, needing to return to his student flat and pack things up, had packed the bag he’d brought to my house and taken it with him for his trip into town. “Just in case I need to bring more stuff to yours, or I decide it’s best for me to go home and be with my folks,” he explained.

“Got it,” I said. “Whatever you do, I’ll support you – you know where I am.” We hugged each other tightly; I kissed him his cheek. He headed off down the Perth Road and I went into the Overgate to have a wee wander through Primark.

Josh is gone now; I no longer have a roommate. After much soul searching – which I watched him do, listening to him while he did it – he made the decision to go back to England to be with his family. And I admire him so much for making that decision.

I’m doing a lot of soul-searching now, just as my friend Josh did. I have lived in Scotland for 18 years. I’m heavily emotionally invested in this country – I have grown old here. My partner John is here.

I wish I knew what to do. At any rate, the decision may soon be taken out of my hands: as more events get cancelled, as more and more businesses close their doors, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a ban on all flights imposed in the near future.

For the moment, I’m going to shove that thought aside. I’ve been given the gift of another day: I woke up in a cosy, comfortable space that is familiar and well loved. The sun is shining, John is in his usual spot on the sofa with a cuppie and his book of the moment, Planet Rock is playing Steely Dan, and I have pots of sweet peas, lilies and violas to plant in my garden.

The worst thing that ever happened to me was the death of my mom. Somehow, I got through that. I’m not over it, and probably never will be, but I got through it. So I’ll get through this, too.

Y’all stay safe.

K  xxx

everything she needs

she’s so not bothered
by the arthritis in her knee
she’s happy with her brand new glasses
cuz that means she can see

pretty fish swim in their tank
lots of meat in the freezer
she worries not about grey hair
it don’t make her an old geezer

her favourite foods are in the fridge
there’s a roof over her head
& when she wants to sleep at night
she’s got a big warm bed

she’s got a job she likes
that helps to pay the bills
& the blessing of free health care
to take care of any ills

can’t forget that lovely garden
with its sweet-smelling flowers
here she finds her greatest peace
digging & weeding for hours

does she miss her family?
hell yeah – they were there first
sometimes she misses them so much
she fears her heart will burst

but there are many folk who love her
she thinks this every day
folks whose smiles hold her up
when grief wants to stay

when her tears fall,
when there’s nightmares,
when heart breaks & bleeds,
her mother’s memory reminds her
that she has everything she needs

copyright © 2019 KPM

house cleaning

it’s a dreich day
in my bonnie Dundee
but that don’t bother me
cuz I’m where I wanna be

even though I got
no money in the bank
peace is what I feel
as I clean my fish tank

my brother & my sisters
may be far away
but as I mop the floors
I find joy in this Sunday

surrounded by all kinds
of bric-a-brac
bits of love from people
who always have my back

a warm hat from my sister
wee Christmas tree from Jude
CDs from my boyfriend
music for my every mood

the pink fleece jersey
from my mother
African statues
from my brother

jewellery, booze & beach glass
Eeyores everywhere
all these signs reminding me
that I’ve loads of folks who care

so gratefully I clean my house
removing any mess or dirt
happy that today I’m free from
any mental or physical hurt

I’m thankful that I have a job
close family & friends to love
& my angel Mother & Father
guarding me from above

copyright © 2019 KPM

sprawlin’ on Sunday mornin’

she’s still mostly sleep
when she feels him pull away
tightens her grip on his waist
to force him to stay

the double bed shifts
his feet hit the floor
there’s a soft snick
as he closes the bedroom door

she hugs his pillow
inhales that familiar smell
listens to the winter wind
& the sound of the first church bell

stubborn rays of sun
through closed curtains start to creep
but she’s determined
to go back to sleep

the tempting smell of coffee
wafts through the halls
she squeezes her eyes shut
& sleepily sprawls

there’s nothing she has to
do today
so she lets the next dream
pull her away

copyright © 2018 KPM

swappin’

right now, shit is complicated
cuz I’m bearin’ a heavy load
makes it hard for me ta decide
if it’s time for me ta hit the road

this country – this man I love
they’d both be hard to leave
& if I give them up
is it just because I grieve?

mah Daddy is long dead
& now, so is my Mother
yet there’s family that love me
I’ve two sisters & a brother

long ago I left them
for a love I thought would never die
more fool me,
cuz that turned out to be a lie

now that my beloved Mother
has been laid to rest
I’m thinkin’ I shoulda stayed
with those who loved & knew me best

that said, leaving Scotland
would make me unbearably sad
for the life I’ve constructed here
has not been all bad

my heart, my brain burn
lit by the consciousness molotov
I struggle with reality:
all life is a trade-off

copyright © 2017 KPM

lipstick kisses (for my sister Kim)

she’s punch drunk
sittin’ peaceful in the sun
too-much-wine-with-lunch drunk
& the feelin’ is like fun

today the sun is out
black dog’s asleep – she got no blues
sun’s as warm as her mother’s arms
& the mailman brought good news

from afar the letter came
in an envelope of brown
words from a beloved sister
that made her dance around

& the letter was sealed
with kisses of lipstick
memories of home
pierce like an ice pick

but she’s happy
in spite of this
the familiar handwriting
suffusing her with bliss

remembering secrets
they’d tirelessly share
those times her baby sister
would lovingly braid this author’s hair

she hears tiny footsteps following her
remembers teaching her sister to walk
she can hear her sister’s voice
echoes of their every talk

& now she has a letter
sealed with lipstick kisses
she says a prayer for her little sister
as she smiles & reminisces

lipstick kisses on a letter
like their Mother used to do
from one sister to another
lipstick kisses: “I Love You”

copyright © 2017 KPM

 

a poem for Jourdy

“she’s mine” you smiled
with gritted teeth
“I got her” you said
all steel underneath

you saw my heart was breaking
you got that the rain was too loud
you musta known I couldn’t take it
that sympathetic, well-meaning crowd

“I got this”
pulling my arm as you insisted
that everyone leave me alone
to my surprise, no one resisted

so tight you held onto me
with one youthful, tattooed arm
in that moment I was grateful
I knew you’d keep me safe from harm

so long have you loved me
when did that begin?
why do you love me so?
when we’re not blood – we’ve different skin

yet on the day of the funeral,
a horrid, slow-motion blur
you stood at my side
a warrior you were

many have said they love me
but they ignored me when I cried
so many people claimed to love me
but it turned out they lied

many have said they love me
in my 59 years
on the worst day of my life you said it
as you wiped my tears

unconditional is your love
on that day, you showed your care
I’ll always love you, Jourdy
cause on that day, you were there

copyright © 2017 KPM

happy birthday, Dr Stonefinger

you’ve missed another birthday
‘n this is a big one
you’d be turnin’ 60
we’d a had such fun

I’ve learned how to cook
so in the oven I would bake
your very own special
extra chocolate birthday cake

just to tease you
61 candles would be on top
‘n the rest of the day
we’d party non-stop

following the
passionate love we’d make
we’d shower together after
then head out to the lake

for a change
you’d defer
you’d let me drive
I’d be your chauffeur

you’d be in charge of music
‘n you would navigate
you’d play air guitar
as we flew down the interstate

but it’s just another daydream
we’ll have no picnic at the beach
you dwell in heaven now
forever out of reach

happy birthday, beautiful boy
my most precious first love
one of the many angels
watching over me from above

happy birthday, Dr Stonefinger
be at peace, whatever you do
no matter where I go
I carry the love I had for you

copyright © 2017 KPM

summer solstice

it’s still light
as I walk through Riverside Park
it’s still light
when I need it to be dark

I need it to be dark
don’t want no one to see my face
I need it to be dark
as I walk through the grievin’ place

it’s still light
why has the sun not gone?
it’s still light
shinin’ on a life gone wrong

I need it to be dark
a camouflage for all my fears
I need it to be dark
so no one can see my tears

but it’s still light
& following me is a lone sunbeam
it’s still fuckin’ daylight
my heart aches – I wanna scream

copyright © 2017 KPM