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Signs: Juxtaposition

We the people of Gritsalt
Are free to stand
On little yellow boxes
And exclaim
About the shame
For we have grit
And we have salt
And we will cut
And we will sear
With little fear
For we are the people of Gritsalt

Posted by Rich Downes, 29 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 29 May 2016

Signs: Discrepancy

Standing by your locked gate
My inner core is iron
My outer shell is tin
Hit me with a hammer
To let my past times in
I turn to drink
As I try zinc
To get my red corpuscles moving
For being here
Beside you
As left me totally still

I return to the institution. It's different. Still for kids. Kids lost in activity. It feels right and pleases me as much as anything ever will. The gate is iron. Visitors press 0 for reception. Code words are not needed, no special numbers, no secret signs. Just press 0 for reception but though I'm here I cannot press. I have become ghostly. I was interred here. Lost to the world here. The weight of the earth presses against me under an appropriately drizzly sky. And my mass, such as it was, turns to base metal. Inside I am hard. Malleable on the outside. Hit me with a hammer now. I'm sure all those past times will chime.  Evoke, invoke, provoke memories. But I am still, inert, not moving, frozen to the spot.

The common has grown. Trees twisted and twisting everywhere. Haunted into misshapen reflection of the gargoyle children that had played amongst them. I was amongst their number. A slow, gangly, runner. Always first to be caught in trail games except when hid amongst the sand stone. Oaks are yet still royal here. Crab apples fair. Nuts abound in autumn. A sweet horse chestnut shelters passersby on the wrong side of the church wall which now houses a home. The hedgerows like the trees are grown too. Making the top end of the lane almost impossible to pass as fear stalks the reticent walker rooted to his spot. I remember ferns. Curly fronds and all. I have not spotted one yet but then I am ice. Just looking out and about and up and down and all around without moving anything but my head.

The height of things is such that those who remain inside can now no longer look out. I would not have been able to look in if it hadn't have been for the lowness and the presence of the gate. This foxes me. When I was there looking out was always possible. We had fences made of wooden staves standing on a ridge dotted with rabbit holes. Gypsy encampments thrilled. Guitars. Campfires. The staves are gone. The gate is locked and the fence is white metal mesh. Looking out as we did encouraged escape. It is said some of us got out and joined a circus. I, of cause, could never run that fast. At least I could hop the fence, at least I could spend the night on the cold damp ground.  I am yet to work out, in my head, why escape always involved dark dank nights full of large and rapid rain drops. And I wonder further about the height of things and the white mesh that I now see encircles the fond perimeter of the hated ground. Does it keep you newbies in or we oldsters out.

Memory filters in over the tin but gets lost inside, rebounding from the iron interior, not being given access to the heartland. The mind works its wonders. Close down is upon me. My memory does not call for celebration, a party, the very best of a cockney knees up, and yet as I find the scope to move my legs away from the horror I spot a new sign. The way that history marks it defames me. Why this memorial to the past, why this commemoration. Couldn't anyone tell them how this land confounds me, how my life was shaped within its ancient furrows, caught between escape, defence and striving to find life beyond myself and institution - the secret remains revolution.

Posted by Rich Downes, 22 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 22 May 2016

Impairment Haiku

Chest cooed like a dove
A Cardio-vascular
Expression of love

Walking up a hill, feeling weary, I thought my chest had started up again. But no it was a dove. Or a pigeon. Probably a pigeon actually given their current predominence but I thought it was a dove. So, the words were basically there; a given. I wrote it down on an envelop somewhere. It was on the table. Then it wasn't on the table. Now its not on the table. Probably in a cupboard somewhere. The cupboard is still there. So is the pigeon. But not in the cupboard. On the roof. Cooing.

Time passes and i'm sitting in a library wondering if i'd written a haiku. I look it up on wiki. I kind of had. But it didn't quite fit with the primary form. So, i gave it a title. Impairment Haiku. Because it wasn't a haiku. It was 3 lines but it didn't have the required syllable per line count; 5,7,5. But it was very close. And it touched on nature and on love and the second line kind of did link the first and the third.

The library is a quiet place. It gives you time. So I changed my words and made them fit the form and that's how it appears above. But if haiku is representative of society and my form is impaired and I have to change what i do to make it fit in, as i did above, then that's not inclusion is it? So, haiku is oppressor and i demand my write to make an impairment haiku as shown below; in my original impaired form.

My chest cooed like a dove
Expression of love

So, now I'm included am I?

Posted by Rich Downes, 9 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 9 May 2016

Signs: Shrinkage

Image - img_5529.jpg

The Old Garden is fixed in my mind forever. There is no getting away from the system. Out there its inside too - internalised. The work house is industrial red brick; portioned out in millions with millions separated by cement but morticed tight together as if a full soul lock in of lost, forgotten names.   Though we spent our lives together behind the walls we never learned each other's names. In fact the number ruled.  I was 21 as I've said before. 21 cotton stuck to blue striped pyjamas. 21 stitched in underpants. 21. 21 looked the same as 3 and 7 and 11. Lucky Numbers all. 3 and 7 were prime. They made the rules and the big rule was to forget your name, forget your life outside. Whoever you left out there are now gone, and should they not be then, know they cannot help you here. 11 was not prime though mathematicians might claim otherwise. 11 was blessed by being favoured by 3 and 7. 21 was not prime. I was 21 and mathematicians would agree on that 1. 3 and 7 were the largest. Older. Stronger. 5 digits on each closed hand calling you to listen to the rules. 6. 6 is hospital time for waking. You must be awake at 6. You must not leave your bed until the head count. The count depended only on a count of the living. That's why you had to sit with nothing else left to do till breakfast so you could be included and there were many counters waiting to ensure you were included. This was the no name register. Other registers were taken at 9. The sum total of the conglomerate needed to know you were there and that you were there all the time which is what made escape futile. You were never given time to separate. Calling out in response to your number and being of a number that's all there was in the red brick institution that held an Old Garden.

The Old Garden was more random. It's where change happened. Not your change but change none the less. Change that you see, experience, taste. They tried to make it so it was always the same but things grow in gardens. They tried to make it the same each time you were there. They made a path that led to a shed next to the green house. You had to take this route. You were given no choice. Later inside the shed, hosted by pegs, hung spades and spades like you yourself were numbered. There would be no difference between them save for the number. I wondered why they were numbered. Someone talked of inventories. 128 of us and 16 spades. Far too many. But the benefactors loved to bring them in even though there were never more than 12 of us in the Old Garden at any given time. I cherished the secrets of the spade. The spade is so high. 21 is so high. 21 can judge his difference by the spade. Dig it into the earth, turn the sod over. How many worms, lice and other insects. Preparing soil was likewise thrilling. How many roots can you pull out each turn. How far do you need to dig to get to the end of the root. What kind of root is it. Why are some deeper than others. Others find this monotonous. They say that thrusting the spade, turning the soil, breaking it down from clay to dirt and growing calluses is the same over and over again but not for 21.   It was in the Old garden that 21 learned counting games. How many potatoes under this stalk, how many peas in a pod. 21 still counts. Steps that take him across a road, steps that lead to the tube station, steps between traffic going past. 21 can't stop counting and its down to the Old Garden.

Not that 21 is ignorant of the hateful spirits that also grew there. "Break time is time I call time" Jones the Gardener said to 21 one day 21 sat down. Jones threw stones. His target were the workshy amongst the numbers. Don't be surprised therefore that 21 remembers Jones and also don't wonder why Jones alone in this piece got a name.  Jones was not with us. Jones was in the conglomerate that needed to know we were there continually. Sometimes, even 21 had to sit, and even 21 felt the brick. For 21 the hit always meant time to stand again. It was this standing that Jones treasured. You cannot see those lying in the furrows or crouching behind the sweet peas. Stand and keep them standing and you count the numbers that should be present always. 3 and 7 were sometimes heard behind hands cursing and plotting the downfall of Jones. They could see a time when Jones would no longer be standing and 3 and 7 grew to hate standing too. But it was 21's position. Standing. feet on the earth. Balanced. Balanced and blanked out. Blank to the sweat, blank to the heat, blank to the frost and falling leaf.  Although the Old Garden was clearly about change and although 21 could see change 21 had no wish to change. Blank with feet firmly planted was all that 21 ever aspired to.

21's option was to be like the blade of the spade. Cutting, wounding. The way of the spade was more 3 than 7 though 7 tried to keep up. 3 was the blade. 7 more the handle. 11 sought to be the shaft. 21 though no one ever knew was the foot on the blade. 3 could not reach him, Neither 7. Nor 11. Like Jones they all hoped to throw stones. They learned from Jones and Jones appreciated it. The more 3 and 7 cut and thrust at their fellows the less Jones would have to watch for everyone to be standing, the less he would have to do his counting. Some times 3 and 7 could be like 21. You might not know they were there at these times. It was when you knew they were there that they were a problem for anyone who stood in their way. Everyone except for Jones their hated gardener. Everyone except for Jones and 21. The secret of the spade? You can stand with the spade. You can lean and rest but still be standing with the spade. Standing was the perverse nature of 21. 21 doesn't mind you seeing 21 standing. Standing says 21 is here. Here, obtuse, stupid, willing to be standing. Jones and 3 and 7 would never ever see 21 not standing in his earthy ignorant way.  Standing, looking out, the higher you stand the further the horizon, the further the horizon, the further away the Old Garden, the further away the Old Garden the further lost in imagination, the further lost in imagination the further absent, the further absent the further missing, the further missing the further lost to number, the further lost to number the further not constrained by duty, the easier to rest. So 21 remained standing, working and resting. 21 standing. Standing and alone.

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 1 May 2016