Unexploded grenades

‘Hey, Beautiful.’ I ignored him.

The words helicoptered in the air.

The other boys smirked, waiting to see what would happen. The older boy – a good four years older –  said those terrible words again, machine-gunning me into an anxious sweat.

I stared into my food. I knew he would not stop.

I was now boarding at the high school. My parents had moved – once again – and I was completing my term where I had just started six weeks before.

‘Hey, Beautiful,’ he baited.

The dining room swayed to the soundtrack of cutlery on crockery and all sizes of boys’ voices. I felt sick to the stomach. No one was going to rescue me from this. The teachers smoked at the top table.

‘Hey, Beautiful.’

I felt the dam was about to break and I would be drowned in the torrent. I clung on in the wave of panic. Once I let go, I knew, I would be easy-pickings.

‘Are you speaking to me?’ I responded.

He had won and went on an orgy of lugging shells of shame and there was no trench to hide in.

‘Look at him. He thinks he is beautiful. No, I’m not talking to you, fuck-face.’

Of course, everyone knew that he had been.

The conspiracy hung in the air like an unexploded grenade.

The reprise of ‘Hey, Beautiful’ every lunch-time played out in the same ritual of humiliation until the end of term. And every day, I had knots in my stomach that could only be washed away by the thought that this would not last forever.

And yet, it has never gone away and remains lodged deep within. It is an unexploded grenade.

I wish I had never given in.

Originally published in 2013 – placesthatsing

Circle back

It came to me, landing on the soft spot, to stop 
Getting in my own way. It is the place that I stand when 
My feet are sore, to return here: 
'No one can do more harm, neither a thief or a hater, 
More than your own untrained mind.' 
To meet this moment fresh, this invitation to 
Circle back to the idea that 'no one can do more benefit, 
More good, neither a friend, nor a lover, your parents, than your 
Well-trained and well-directed mind,' 
Opening up your wildness and your immensity.

Inspired by Padraig O Tuama in a conversation with Krista Tippett, On Being and a talk given by Oren Jay Sofer to the Seattle Insight Meditation Society in which Oren read from the Dhammapada.

Song sung

Your best is not good enough, he lectured
Usually after several stiff brandies.
Outside, the Christmas beetles sang in chorus in
The evening African heat.
It was a life-time ago and, I suppose, to him he thought, 
meant to be helpful.
Yet, even now, it is difficult to excavate the enormity
Of what not good enough meant.
Strangely, looking back, it was
The wildness of the beetle song sung in tune to the darkening sun that
Somehow kept me safe and enough.

To begin

And to begin with myself I need a lighthouse, sunlight, daylight but I need the juxtaposition of darkness. If there was no darkness, there would be no sunset where darkness meets light, there would be no dawn chorus, no light tiptoeing into the bedroom after the long night.

From a piece I wrote ‘What do I want to give myself to’


Short supply

The sky rolls in on dirty grey clouds and the half
awake wind idles the afternoon away.
There is no messiah in sight.
Sunlight is in such short supply (like hope) 
on these June days, the rain bringing
a downpour of uncivil conversations, shouty, colourless voices hollowing out, draining the already feeble light. 
There is no bang,
only a whimper of humourless theories to darken the sky.