Lens Flare

Looking through the shutter of my mind,
I am the statue in the time-lapse.
The cars blur past me.
The panic rises.
I freeze.

The timer counts down the seconds
of every moment ever precious.
The flashbulb blazes bright
then fades to black.
Say cheese.

Can we call a timeout?
I want to exist in this snapshot a while longer.
Could I be doing more?
Nothing feels like the best thing to do.
Life is full to the brim but it’s passing me by.

How many shots do we get
until we have to admit that it’s over,
that we’ll never get the perfect picture?
Every moment grows ever heavier
as I try to buy more time.

The darkroom down below
prints stills of the regrets
that will adorn the gallery walls
when the shutter closes for the final time,
warning of my future failures.

And in my mind’s eye,
paparazzi cameras point at me:
portals to another reality.
They write my biography
and I read it, I believe it.

With his lens, I imagine
the photographer condemns.
I tell him to stand aside:
I felt what I felt
and nothing has to be justified.

Can we avoid their angles?
I see my image in their mirror.
Can we stand apart but not alone?
I resent the rules of the game they play.
I cut off my nose to spite my face.

Filter set on sepia,
we live in a photo collage
on a timeline in this
thin slice of history
we’ve been apportioned.

All the photographs never taken
for fear of their reception
are burned onto my retina
but still, my finger freezes:
the light is never quite right.

The ticking of the timer
is louder every passing year,
the hourglass emptier,
and I’m still out of frame,
trying to pick a pose.

Will we ever learn our lesson?
The photographer is doomed
and so redeemed
by every scar and mote of dust,
the patina on the bronze bezel,
every sunbeam scattered
across the lens.

Mountain Thoughts

Standing on a mountaintop
daring God to strike me down.
No hiding place, no exit game,
no escape route out.
One false move could send me
spiralling.

Everything else has been practice for this
and this is practice for everything else.

I wonder:
Why do we fight the feeling
when fighting makes it worse?
Do we feel it is our duty to fight,
to push away the prospect of oblivion?
Survival instinct.

I remember:
For a time, reality
was a hell I couldn’t escape from,
a bad trip that never ended.
I had to learn how to dance in hell,
but I knew
if it got any hotter,
I would burn up again.

I would re-acclimatize,
lie back
and try to trust the current
to take me
wherever it would take me.

I had to re-establish
my relationship with my thoughts,
had to remind myself:

Don’t lock them out –
they won’t come in if you leave them be.
Don’t let them sell you a solution
to a problem they created.
Don’t let them trick you
and fall for their salvation.
False prophets will not
lead you to God.

I had to reconnect
with those around me,
had to draw on their strength,
wondering:

What is it like to be
gravity?
Keep me grounded,
please.
What is it like to be water?
Keep me flowing,
keep me going,
guide me through the months
ahead.

Conversation
like sunlight illuminates
the different depths
of the mountains
of my mind.

Down below the mountain,
the waves lap
forever
or as close to forever
as I can reach out to touch
without falling.

I keep the waves at bay,
at least for now,
daring God to strike me down.
No hiding place, no exit game,
no escape route out.
One false move could send me
spiralling.

Apocalypse

We sat in a dimly lit dining room,
waiting for the apocalypse.

Someone
dialled up the static,
turned down the saturation,
changed the channel.

I didn’t know it could feel like that
until it did.
Like standing on the train tracks,
bracing for the impact.
Like watching a distant wave
wash away a city and knowing
you’re next.

It felt like dread:
impending doom.

When it came,
the palace walls crumbled
and my eyes were prised wide open,
forced to gaze upon reality
for the first time.

I realised
that I was not immune
and that anything was possible.

Soon,
late night dystopian visions
played out on a projector screen
in my head –
war, famine, suffering, death:
everything was on the table.
Distant possibilities appeared
magnified, filling up my
worldview.

Sanity is a tightrope
and bad news broke my balance.
Stray comments sent shockwaves through me,
feeding the fear of a bleak future.

But slowly,
superstition and solipsism
seeped into the mainline,
insisting that everything would be fine.
I blocked it out,
synthesised happiness,
treasured rare moments of peace,
realised it was too large a part of a life
to waste wishing I could
move on.

The dream became normality
and normality became the dream:
a utopian fantasy.

A year later,
we’re in that same dining room,
waiting for normal service to resume.
We sit like survivors,
hoping the light at the end of the tunnel
isn’t just the flickering of false hope,
a faltering torch light,
or the fading embers of a fire,
threatening to give in to the gloom.

The panic subsides,
new problems surface,
old demons rear their head,
time trudges on:
tedium.

The background hum of a humdrum existence
is a death by a thousand cuts.

In what we hope is the final leg
of the interminable slog,
the track stretches straight ahead
toward a future that approaches
inevitably, inexorably,
no matter how deep our rumination
or frantic our inner anxieties.

Our knees may buckle but we must walk on.
The day will come.

Disco Volante

On a saturday night
it feels right
to let the top drop
on the disco volante,
the getaway car,
the ticket out of my head.
I take a trip
to the mountains
to let the cold blackness
swallow me whole,
and it feels good
to disappear.

Godlike I arise
and stand on high,
clutching stone tablets
while watching the waves
eat cities alive.
I raise my hands
to the heavens beating
rain down upon us
and beg to be stolen
from existence
for some precious
seconds.

I pass a few days
in a haze,
addled with anxiety,
choking on fumes of
polluted thoughts.
And at breaking point,
I find the biting point,
that sweet release,
and let the smoke chase
the disco volante
up into the mountains
again.

Adept I step
back into the depths
of my cryogenic capsule,
isolated, insulated
from the miasma of hysteria,
that heady cocktail of dread
and fear.
And when I stop to draw breath,
I steal a furtive glance
at the world beyond the frosted glass
and I see that
everything is the same.

Neighbour

My dear neighbour
bangs on doors and skates in halls,
his protestations penetrating
thin as paper walls.
Sometimes I cup a glass to listen
and find his rhetoric
convincing.

My dear neighbour
starts a riot in peace and quiet
and stands among the ruins
pouring gasoline on dampened fires.
And when I hear his call to arms,
inside my head resounds
alarms.

My dear neighbour
sparks a light on dynamite,
illuminates the bedroom
where I toss and turn at night.
Sometimes I look through cracks in plaster
and glimpse a forecast of
disaster.

My dear neighbour
infiltrates when I’m away
and leaves the carcass of a ladybird
upon the fireplace.
And when I see the mangled limbs,
the light below the mantel
dims.

My dear neighbour
takes his leave beneath the eaves
and disappears for weeks on end
if only to deceive.
But I know that he’s never gone:
he always turns up
later on.