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A Homelessness Haiku

Further to my post ‘Countdown’ on 4th January 2019, I’m delighted that the poem was reproduced on Charlotte Digregorio’s Writer’s Blog on 13th January 2019. 

https://charlottedigregorio.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/a-poem-that-makes-us-grateful-for-what-we-have/#comment-9139

Charlotte is an award-winning American author and poet whose books include Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All and Shadows and Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu. 

Her Writer’s Blog and Daily Haiku are essential reading for anyone interested in haiku and I have gained a great deal of enjoyment, insight and knowledge from reading her posts regularly. 

Continuing the homelessness theme from ‘Countdown’, here’s a haiku of mine first published in Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Volume 2, Issue 21, 1st September 2017: 

sleet

a dark form in the shadows

she coughs again 

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech, 2017, 2018, 2019

 

 

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Countdown

 

Happy New Year, Everyone!

May 2019 prove a joyous and peaceful year for you all.

***

Drawing the curtains back on this rather dull and chilly fourth morning of 2019, I couldn’t help thinking about the homeless and the work I did during my long career as a social housing manager, seeking to ease their plight.

Here’s a poem stemming from that period, written with a particular old boy in mind…

 

COUNTDOWN

 

Midnight in bed,

and a whirling, rustling spiral of dreams,

fragments of the day gone by,

dead leaves in a storm.

 

2 a.m.,

and a lingering whiff of witchcraft,

the smell of an old tramp,

woodfire for warmth in the snow.

 

4 a.m.,

and a hazy moon replicated on my pane,

ghostly eyes, accusing still:

“S’alright for you, Guv, you’ve gorra big ‘ouse.”

 

6 a.m.,

and downriver a cock crows,

time to do it all again, almost:

another day with the homeless.

 

Paul Beech

 

Note: ‘Countdown’ was first published in the author’s collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose (Cestrian Press, 2016) and subsequently in Unheard, a Chester Poets anthology (Cestrian Press, 2016) and The Sons of Camus Writers International Journal, Issue 13, Autumn 2017.

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2014, 2016, 2019

 

 

Twin Dakotas

Remembering my wonderful parents at Christmastime…

TWIN DAKOTAS

He bought them when she went into the nursing home with Alzheimer’s, twin clocks in oak surrounds, Daniel Dakotas. Perfectly synchronised, the clocks would tick away their hours of slumber – his greeting the eye when he awoke in the bed they’d shared nigh on sixty years; hers reflecting that golden smile from the security of her cot sides.  There’d be moments, bound to be, when the identical clocks would hold their simultaneous attention, like a lovers’ moon.

Her clock was returned to him following the funeral, and with great care and a ball-peen hammer he hung it next to his own, just touching: “kissing”, as he’d always say.

Frail and bent, trousers hitched around his ribcage on braces, he’s in a home himself now, the twin Dakotas gone from his mind. He’s seventeen years old, she fifteen, as they dance the blacked out streets of their small northern town, a raid in progress.  The rattle and bounce of falling shrapnel becomes the mid-morning tea trolley.  Old ladies dunk biscuits as he gathers her into the shelter of a milliner’s doorway.  Her golden smile is a promise that will never be broken.

Paul Beech

Note: The above prose poem is the title piece in my collection, Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose (Cestrian Press, 2016), which is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Bert and Elsie Beech.

Copyright © Paul Beech 2011, 2014, 2016, 2018

Upriver

It was in the spring of 2015, shortly after moving in with her, that Maureen suggested I try my hand at haibun. And it was a suggestion I shall be eternally grateful to her for as this ancient Japanese form, combining prose and haiku, does indeed suit me well.

My first ever haibun, written that spring, was a light-hearted account of an experience I’d had in the summer of 2014, walking alone beside the River Weaver in Cheshire.

Not every haibun I write these days is light-hearted, but on this dark December morning, with Christmas just around the corner, I can’t resist giving my first ever haibun a fresh airing…

 

UPRIVER

 

A huge dog of Arctic origin bounds through the tussocks. His master squats on a stone.  Across the river a conveyer clanks through an elevated tunnel connecting the old salt mine to its storage dome.  An orange windsock dances in the stiff southwesterly and bedraggled flags flutter.

I’m watching a cormorant fly upstream when I feel the teeth. The huge dog has taken my right wrist between its jaws.  His master is oblivious.  The cormorant’s wingtips clip the current as the teeth graze my skin.

The dog might have found my wrist in the field and now be offering it back.

“There’s a good lad,” I say, and he drops it.

A kindness

in the wolf’s eyes

charms me.

 

Paul Beech

 

‘Upriver’ was first published in my collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose (Cestrian Press, 2016).

 

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

City Siren

 

Here’s a short poem written back in the ‘80s, when I was working as a social housing team leader in a tough inner-city area where drugs, prostitution and gang violence were rife. I was held at knife-point myself.

The poem is included in my collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose (Cestrian Press, 2016).

 

CITY SIREN

 

A city full of leaves,

A city full of snow.

A poet who looks like a gangster,

A gangster who looks like a poet.

The wail of a siren.

Flashing lights.

New life,

New death.

 

Paul Beech

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

 

On Patrol

 

Here’s a haibun from a few weeks ago, one that gave me a warm glow to write as it concerns a local character who puts many to shame…

 

ON PATROL

 

Three times around the green, he rides his trusty mobility buggy, on patrol. Stetson cocked defiantly, he might be a lawman from the Wild West, but for his Welsh dragon flag and twisted body.

An oddball he is, in the rheumy eyes of the old dears who peer tut-tutting between parted drapes. How unseemly for a man in his delicate state of health, to be scalding bullies or climbing roofs to rescue creatures in distress.  Mad, really.  And here he comes again…

Through flying leaves, stetson cocked, the oddball rides his buggy, a small black cat on his lap so trusting.

storm brewing

wicked tongues wag

faintly a banjo

 

Paul Beech

 

First published in Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Volume 3, Issue 34, 1st October 2018.

Copyright © Paul Beech 2018

 

Exhibit 20

On Saturday 21st July 2018, Maureen and I attended the Lady Chapel at Chester Cathedral for the launch of a brilliant new Chester Poets anthology from Cestrian Press, Out of The Ark, edited by Julia D. McGuinness.

The anthology arose from the Gallery Pangolin exhibition of contemporary and modern sculpture, ARK, hosted by Chester Cathedral from July to October 2017, the largest exhibition of its kind in the north-west of England.

Out of The Ark is a truly gorgeous book, printed on glossy paper with colour photographs of exhibits alongside the poems inspired by them. Maureen has two poems included, ‘The Duel’ (inspired by Nick Bibby’s ‘Red Deer Stags: The Duel’) and ‘Mother’ (inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Hollow Form with Inner Form’).  I have a haibun included (inspired by the exhibit named in the poem).

The launch, led by Julia, was a proud moment for all of us attending to read our work, and a moving one for me personally as I began my working life as a 15 year old apprentice electrician at the Cathedral in 1962. The master electrician I worked with told me upon entering the Cathedral for the first time: “Only our best work will do in the Lord’s house.” His name was Herbert and he was a hard task-master.  I only hoped he’d have approved my poem.

Here it is:

 

EXHIBIT 20

1962:

Blown in with flying leaves, a boiler-suited boy advances up the workmen’s passage at Chester Cathedral, hands poised for the split-second draw that’ll end with imaginary six-shooters spinning in triumph.

2017:

Back for an exhibition of modern sculpture, a poet now, he’s ambushed by a pair of eyes that shame him.

Jack Cornwell, the boy in the memorial photograph, was a gun layer on HMS Chester, just sixteen-and-a-half years old when he died before his mother could reach him in hospital; died of injuries sustained at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

organ music

a whiff of incense

a cough

Exhibit 20 is the one that really gets our poet, Joe Rush’s ‘War Horse’, a massive horse’s head fashioned from military waste with a mane of red-tipped bullet-shells. The white candle with black wick might have been extinguished in a dying snort.

He spins his imaginary six-shooters as he hasn’t since a boy and his eyes smart with tears.

a changed man

maybe not

but cogs are turning

 

Paul Beech

(‘Exhibit 20 was first published in Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Volume 2, Issue 24, 1st December 2017.)

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017, 2018