undefeated

2016
has been one helluva year
lost my job & people I loved
I’ve shed many a tear
so many times
I felt a right cretin
but I marched on:
I’ve not yet been beaten

a long year it was
with nights I wished I weren’t alive
still I got up every day
fightin’ hard to survive
watchin’ helplessly
as my childhood faded
but with God’s mercy
I’ve been aided

I don’t know
what my future may hold
I can only do my best
as I watch each day unfold
disregard the fact that by life
I have sometimes been mistreated
next year I will conquer:
I will not be defeated

copyright © 2016 KPM

undefeated

helpless

once again last night
(though I didn’t want to)
my subconscious betrayed me:
sending me a dream of you
it dragged me, unwilling
back into the past
the bitter ending of a love
I was so sure would last

growing older brings more
than the unexplained ache
it brings unwelcome memories
scenes I’d rather forsake
I have moved on with my life
travelling rocky & joyous ground
yet the ghost of you
persists in hangin’ around

your death nigh destroyed me
deep depression I’ve endured
clawing my way out of darkness
I’ve grown & I’ve matured
I’ve learned how to bend
with wind that blows through summer grass
Corinthians was correct in saying
“this too shall pass”

perhaps I didn’t love you
in the way you thought I should
maybe that causes these dreams
(to be fair, some are good)
I’ll always love you in my way
but a better man I have found
so please, be happy for me
sleep well beneath your burial mound

copyright © 2016 KPM

helpless

in praise of cowboys & angels (elegy for George Michael)

I can see him as a cowboy
I imagine the plains he rides
as he lopes around the ranch
with sexy, long-legged strides

a light shines from his eyes
unshielded from the sun’s glare
revelling in the summer heat
the Santa Ana wind that loves his hair

in my mind’s eye there’s an image
of this cowboy in his saddle
doin’ what he loves
as he fights a private battle

he tends his sheep & pigs
around the cattle he rides in rings
his muscles throbbing pleasantly
as he composes the songs he sings

so angelic was this cowboy
with love stamped upon his face
that the Lord could not resist
taking him to a better place

gone was this cowboy, this angel
a flawed & human soul
composer of the background music
which made so many people whole

& those who loved the cowboy wept
they pulled their hair, they cried
aghast & unbelieving:
surely their muse had not died?

his music had been a crucial part
of my most formative years
I freely admit the morning after
I awakened covered in tears

but these tears I shed are quiet
aloud I will not weep
I’ll celebrate Jesus & Christmas
& pray for the cowboy’s restful sleep

copyright © KPM 2016

george-michael

whistle

she grew up near the railroad tracks
there she & her friends would wander in packs
in jeans with holes that revealed scabby knees
they’d count train cars in the summer breeze

the tracks led to another place
where she had a friend with a smiling face
two dreamy kids, outcasts who didn’t care
finding joy in the secrets they would share

to the tracks she’d often go alone
delighting in being on her own
there to write a lengthy epistle
a childish homage to the train’s whistle

each day the sound awakened her
like sunrise, she knew it would occur
she loved the melancholy song it sang each night
as she lay in bed in the glow of a single light

almost hazy now are those days of her youth
& she’s had to learn many a bitter truth
though life is sunshine marked by stormy rains
comfort can be found in the whistle of passing trains

copyright © 2016 KPM

whistle

Fairmount Boulevard

she remembers driving down
Fairmount Boulevard
back in the good old days
before her life became so hard

to her office she would go
each & every day
where she’d do the work she loved
in exchange for massive pay

she remembers driving
the way she used to sing
& how the trees on Fairmount Boulevard
would all bloom in the spring

the double-click of the key
as she unlocked her office door
at her desk she did work that mattered
her days were never a bore

she’d drive down Fairmount Boulevard
in summer heat, in winter snow
happy thinking of the job
to which she had to go

16 years later
she has no office key
middle-aged & unemployed
she faces a future she cannot see

no more can she delight
in her manager’s high-fives
down Fairmount Boulevard
she no longer drives

copyright © 2016 KPM

fairmount-boulevard

personal space

do I really need to ask you again
to get out my ass while I enter my PIN?
I’m tryin’ to be kind & cut you some slack
but Jesus H, you need to step back!

you’re way too near – you gonna kiss my cheek?
or are you just some kinda freak?
ain’t nuthin’ here you need to see
so why you standin’ so close to me?

it’s too much for me to bear
your funky breath in my freshly washed hair
so listen up, cause I’m tryin’ to be nice
take a step back – in fact, do it twice

I don’t wanna get all rowdy in this place
but you’re seriously invadin’ my personal space
why you all up in my transaction?
back up bitch, or I’ll hafta take action!

copyright © 2016 KPM

personal-space

nightlights

right now my life
is kinda rough
the duvet’s warm embrace
is not enough
each night now
my brain cells riot
stealing my peace
disrupting the quiet

concerned about
the dark thoughts I think
I leave my bed
to stand at the kitchen sink
staring out
the wide window
at tenement lights
shining all aglow

there are others like me
who cannot sleep
do they worry? I wonder
all alone, do they weep?
are they anxious
about paying their bills,
or just lost in reveries
of youthful thrills?

the man on the sofa
sitting with shoulders slumped
is he fearful, or heartbroken
because he’s been dumped?
the woman on the bed
whose hands cover her face,
does she feel like she’s trapped
in a precarious place?

there are other folks with problems
people just like me
who hope & pray for an end
to their current misery
this nightly ritual comforts me
it’s familiar, it’s known
those lit windows reassure me
that I am not alone

copyright © 2016 KPM

nightlights

never too old

the little flat
is always clean
plants a-bloom,
lush & green

it appears
that everything is fine
no one sees
the chaos in her mind

Christmastime & she’s homesick
far from the land of her birth
middle-aged & unemployed
she questions her self-worth

sale signs & Christmas décor
as far as her brown eyes can see
she job hunts every day
battling against misery

interviews galore
they pass in a blur
is her age the reason
no one has hired her?

she works hard to stay cheerful
in her heart hope keeps hummin’
benefits help some
but the bills keep comin’

she’s a woman used to standin’
firmly on her own two feet
who dearly wants her life to return
to its familiar & orderly beat

she’s a strong woman, too
with adversity she can cope
she is not too old to work
she refuses to lose hope

loving, skilled & experienced
loyal, brave & bold
some smart company will see this:
they’ll recognize she’s not too old

copyright © 2016 KPM

African American woman instructor demonstrates program on desktop computer to African American seven year old girl with braids in classroom in New Orleans

escape route

when misfortune appears
with its unwelcome shape
that’s when she finds
she needs an escape
the comfort of
a celluloid hug
a technicolour
high-definition drug

she can only handle
so much stress
so on those occasions when things
dissolve into a mess
when her life is as bad
as life sometimes gets
she takes a mental health break
with her beloved box sets

since childhood
she has loved TV
it’s a fact she admits
honestly
there are those who’d argue
that the boob tube is bad
but she loves those memories
of watchin’ telly with her dad

the Fisher family
on Six Feet Under
restore to her
a sense of wonder
she can laugh at their exploits,
which banish her doubt
reassured that everything
will work itself out

she shoves away
all thoughts of defeat
when engrossed in
Homicide: Life on the Street
inspired by the way
Frank always gets his man,
she resolutely develops
her own new & better plan

still, there are those times
when she’s suffused with dread
when the darkness invades
her heart & head
at those times
she takes to her bed
& fights her demons like the crew
on The Walking Dead

she resists the temptation
to wallow in self-pity
with help from the girls
of Sex & The City
by their trials & triumphs
she is transported
restored in her belief
that her problems will soon be sorted

so she’s unemployed just now –
it’s a temporary state
she refuses to fall for
the black dog’s bait
she has God,
she has friends, she has family
soon her life will return
to what it ought to be

for now, she’ll keep submitting
those job applications
sure she’ll soon be successful
in achieving her aspirations
& for all those times
she’s beset by fear in the night
there’s always a box set
to set her mind right

copyright © 2016 KPM

escape-routes

a little kindness

Wednesday. No spectacular sunrise this morning: my beloved Dundee sky is cloudy, interspersed with patches of murky blue-grey. For a change, I did not awaken early – I had a good night’s sleep, untroubled by anxiety and nightmare dreams of sleeping on the street. This is probably down to something nice which happened to me yesterday, which I’ll get to in a bit.

I’ve entered my seventh week of being unemployed and on benefits. Thankfully, I was awarded the full council tax and housing benefit, so maybe those dreams of living on the street will stop now. I’ve spoken with all my creditors, who – surprisingly – have been very kind and have agreed to put my various accounts on hold for the next month.

I’ve submitted 41 job applications since I was made redundant, and – I admit it – cried over the 17 “you’ve been unsuccessful on this occasion” letters/emails I’ve received. I’ve been on six job interviews since November 1st, and I’m certain I’ll be attending more, as the closing dates for some of the applications I’ve submitted have not yet arrived. So although some days are harder than others, I keep filling out those applications, praying, and trying my hardest to remain positive.

My sixth interview was yesterday. It was a panel interview with a company I’m familiar with and would love to work for. It’s not a permanent post, just an 18-month contract, but I’m cool with that. The day before the interview I did my hair and nails, and got my eyebrows done, raiding my holiday jar for the £7.99 – the holiday jar is something my boyfriend and I put all our spare change into so we’ll have extra money for our summer hols – and thank God for that jar, because it’s also been providing me with bus fare so I can go on interviews. I ironed the outfit I planned to wear, assembled all the documents – passport, uni diploma, etc. – I’d been asked to bring with me, and read up on the company so I could impress them with my knowledge. I was prepared.

The interview went well. I could tell they were impressed because they told me they were: “Wow,” they said, “Your store of knowledge and your skill set is impressive!” It was a good interview, and after telling me they had more candidates to see and hoped to let everyone know the outcome by Friday, they shook my hand, wished me Merry Christmas, and I departed.

I had planned to walk home, as the company was only a 25-minute walk from my flat, and I needed the exercise. I used to walk to and from work every day, as my previous job was not that far from my home, and I missed that daily walk. But as I was walking, it started to rain, and of course while I was making sure I’d packed everything I needed for the interview, I’d neglected to pack my brolly. A quick check of my wallet showed I had the money, so I decided to treat myself to a ride home.

Chatting with the taxi driver on the way home, when he learned I was coming from a job interview following a redundancy back in October, he shared with me that his wife had been made redundant from Angus Council just last week. He was really reassuring…“You & my missus are both smart & beautiful,” he said firmly. “You’ll both get something soon.” When we got to my flat, I opened my wallet to pay him, and he patted my hand and said, “On you go, doll. Best of luck to you.”

I was gobsmacked. But I don’t know why….I’ve learned in my 14 years here, that’s just the way the Scots are.

I never planned to be in this place: unemployed at Christmas time, on benefits, uncertain over the future. I don’t think anyone ever plans to be in such a place. Which is what makes kindness so important. That taxi driver might have seen a “smart and beautiful” woman – he might even have seen a confident woman. But on the inside was a woman who was deeply depressed – even close to suicidal, and he will probably never know how that small act of kindness renewed and restored me.

The internet meme is true. We should all be kinder than we need to be, cause you never know what someone is going through.

a-little-kindness