poetry

~ Shackled ~

~ Shackled ~

Like a seabird in oily water
Or a turtle stuck in plastic
I want to rise up from this mess
And break free from this muck
That the world has poured onto me

I know these wings can flap
I know my soul can sing
And that my spirit can soar
Into skies of light and life

But here I am:
Caught like the rest
Cemented down and
Starved of something essential

I have become like so many on these streets
Trapped in an unfulfilling life
Weighed down by something silent
No longer hunting what is mine
Or doing what comes natural

Now I sit in traffic jams
And stare at electronic screens
Now I collect my prey in plastic
Packaged for me on supermarket shelves

Now getting out of bed in the morning
Seems like a pointless task.
And my greatest endeavour
Is buying discounted food.

God, give me some wilderness once more
Give me the sunlight rising over the mountains
Give me the sound of rain on the forest canopy
Give me the eagle circling high above the canyon

Just give me something pure
And untamed
To awaken my soul
Loosen my shackles
And bring me back home
To myself.

thoughts

~ The Hidden Cracks ~

~ The Hidden Cracks ~

‘Appearances can be deceiving, so they say. And you look at those cities from above and what do you see? You see everything standing straight and upright. Everything is organised, cemented down, and fixed into its correct place. There is a perfectly-engineered quality to it all. But appearances can be deceiving and in those neatly-lined houses what do you find? You find people. You find people who are not as strong and sturdy as the cities they live in. You find people who are slowly breaking down, disintegrating, being held together by the smallest things; little vices that get them through each day without collapsing. Drugs. Alcohol. Therapy. Violence. Many of those people on the surface, just like those cities, look stable on the surface. Their clothes are neat, their shoes polished, and their hair straight. But take a careful look and you’ll often see the hidden cuts and cracks behind those shiny appearances. Open your eyes and you’ll see the self-harm scars of the girl serving you coffee in the cafe; you’ll see the trembling hand of the alcoholic businessman on the train; you’ll see the bloodshot eyes of the smiling mother at the school gates. Wipe off the makeup of the modern world and you’ll see that under its surface, many people are slowly crumbling under the pressure of it. Every day the slow demolition of many people’s souls is happening all around us. Meanwhile, the city stands strong; the traffic lights flick from red to green, the bins are emptied, everything is in order and running smoothly. But as this civilisation continues to do its thing, a continual sickness pervades among its populace. This empire of sand is somehow held together by hoards of people suffering in whatever way imaginable. From one week to the next, they are slowly going on while dealing with their demons, fighting their battles, journeying through their darkness. In workplaces. In homes. In spaces so lonely that even with a million people around them, they still feel like they’re marooned on some distant planet.’

thoughts

~ And Now What? ~


~ And Now What? ~

It was sometime around my 31st birthday when my youth came to a natural conclusion just as I knew it always would. Suddenly the idea of jumping on a plane halfway around the world to go backpacking seemed beyond me. I couldn’t imagine having the same needs and desires as I had just a few years previously. That life now seemed like a foreign thing to me. The disappearance of enthusiasm had left me like a walking shrug of the shoulders. And standing on those nightclub dancefloors was now a sobering affair; I listened to the music and looked at the bright young faces with an ache in my heart. They were people that I now didn’t belong to. Their eyes were full of wonder and they were walking a path I had already walked; living a life I had already lived; feeling things I had already felt. But now in my 30s what was I supposed to be doing? These were the years when you settled down and established some sort of base and routine. Mortgages and marriages; contracts and careers; security and stability. All of that was just as foreign as those young people now seemed to me. I was a man caught in nowhere and I knew the next stage of my life would be a bewildering one. All stages of my life had been bewildering to some degree – and I guess I was used to sailing through some sort of foggy sea – but at least my ship was powered by some sort of existential fuel. That inner fire was now almost completely out and I had nothing to throw on it to make it burn again. My vigour was gone and I was now at the mercy of the indifferent current of life’s great ocean – a waiting shipwreck drifting towards the jagged rocks of inevitability.

Such thoughts can almost be too much to bear, so naturally I tried to console myself by considering that things in my life weren’t so bad. I told myself that I had now reached some sort of important intersection where I simply needed to reset and recalibrate. I considered that for once having someone else to share my journey with could be the way forward. Twelve years into adulthood, I had still never really shared my life path with anyone else for more than a few months. Maybe sharing this human experience was what I finally needed to find some meaning in my life again? Perhaps even dedicating myself to a singular task in one place would get my inner fire burning again? The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t shake the thought that this was just the tiredness talking. Such weariness was what I figured got many people sinking into the grooves of middle-aged mediocrity. Pretty soon you’d be sucked into all the usual traps: putting on weight, loss of creativity, consumerism, bad cholesterol, aches, pains, stress, road rage, credit cards, and close-minded thinking. I imagined sitting on a sofa and staring blankly at a television screen, my belly protruding out ever further year by year as my mind became stale. It seemed to me that so many people seeped out in this middle stage of life; wounded or exhausted by the first part of their lives, they settled down into a space where their spirit slowly seeped out of them until all that was left was a hollow shell. I didn’t determine myself to be melodramatic when I thought of the same thing happening to me. In fact, at that moment in time, it seemed the most likely outcome.

No, if these things weren’t the way either, then what was? Buddhism? Stoicism? Adventure sports? I wanted to keep my soul full of fire, but I just wasn’t sure of the ‘how’ now that my interests were waning. In a time of perpetual confusion, I returned to the keyboard to strike out a few sentences. Something about it was pleasurable – like spitting in the face of someone trying to kill you. Although my connection to other things in my life was fading, writing was still always there like a constant companion in a world of transients. I guess every man had his one medicine that he could always turn to. But when I thought about it, it was even true that the amount I wrote now had dropped drastically in the last couple of years. I recalled the moment after publishing my first book at twenty-six – me telling myself that I was going to publish book after book, at least once a year for the rest of my life. I’d travel and write and chase my desires until the setting of my sun. Now such a feeling seemed like blind optimism. Worst of all, it just seemed like plain hard work. Things I once did for fun, or because I simply couldn’t stop myself, now seemed like work. It was that very feeling which spelt out the enormity of the spiritual crisis I was facing. 

Indeed, it’s a constant spiritual battle. Living a life worth living and staying true to yourself in this world, in this society, is something that does not come easily. I knew from what I had observed that living without will or conviction will very quickly result in you being lured into places where you will be lessened down. The temptations, escapisms and addictions find you quickly. Such things lure the passive man into a trap from which he may never escape throughout his whole journey upon this earth. In some way, I knew who I was and what I stood for. But maintaining that self always and existing in society was a perpetual battle – especially when my mind was in this foggy and confusing state. I knew solitude served me well from experience; in that sanctuary of isolation, one could not be corrupted by the voices of others and gradually tune into the inner voice. But as always, the human desire for interaction would force me back out onto the streets, into the bars, into the beds of women who would twist my mind up. They would make me lose whatever self-assurance I had and leave me once again a confused dumb kid with pain in his heart, looking for something to alleviate the eternal sadness.

On top of this, I knew at the age of thirty I was not even halfway through this struggle of living a life worth living. But I found some solace in the memories of the past; the fact that I had walked my own path after university, that I travelled to the places I wanted to travel, wrote in a way I wanted to write, that I had experienced blissful states of consciousness and found some deep inner truths. But yes, finally the wave had crashed and I lay dazed in the sand wondering ‘and now what?’ Oh god, I didn’t want to end up this way. I always thought I was strong enough not to be slain by the pitfalls of older age. I always thought the fire would flicker forever in my heart, laughing its flames outward in defiance of ever being snuffed out. But it appears to be dwindling. The only thing for me to do right now is to face the issue and recognise that something has to change. 

Something,

Has to change.

poetry

~ Something Has to Change ~

~ Something Has to Change ~

Out on the streets, I see them
The drunk students partying
The skaters flipping their boards
The young people doing their thing

It only seems like a couple of years ago
That I was one of them
Wide-eyed and reckless
Careless and confused
Excited to be alive

Well now the years have gone by
And I approach the age of thirty-one
By no means an old age
But for some reason, I feel old
Older than one should feel at this age
Looking at them jovial kids
I just can’t help but wonder
What has happened to me

Nowadays I don’t dream of something ridiculous
Nowadays I’m not bursting with vigour
Nowadays I don’t get hurt like I used to
I don’t feel the thrill like I used to
I don’t chase desires like I used to

A mist has descended; the hunger fades
The fire that I thought would roar forever wanes

I guess this is what they call growing up
I always knew it would have its downfalls
But this total apathy with existence
Is something I didn’t quite anticipate.

I know the story:
Getting older
Losing the spark,
Your energy dwindling
As the quiet desperation of
Middle-age sets in.

Is this what awaits us all?
Is this why they say youth is wasted on the young?
Is this why we have children?
To give ourselves another chance?

Naturally, I consider the alternative: not growing old.

Most say growing old is better than dying young
But who can be sure?
At the very least,
Checking out early feels like a cop-out
Although I understand how such weariness
Can turn a person toward it.

I can’t keep fading out like this anyway
I’ve decided that something needs to change
I won’t try to force myself to be young again
But something needs shaking up

I’m not hoping for angels or epiphanies
Or to feel excitement like I once did
Or to dance on dancefloors like I once did
Or to flip skateboards like I once did

But something has to change

Something,

Has to change.

poetry

~ The Collapse is Coming

collapse 2

~ The Collapse is Coming ~

It’s all coming to an end anyway

Civilisation and late-stage capitalism

These methods of living will soon be the past

I’m not sure on the exact details 

but it’s clear to me that the collapse is coming.

.

Things people believed in will be shown

For the mere illusions that they are.

Their mansions of security will crumble into dust

Their pensions will be redundant 

Their jobs will be no longer exist

And the whole house of cards will come falling down

In one great disintegration.

.

Due to this looming fact I’ve decided 

To no longer participate in this circus

I’m going to work a part-time job

Low-status and zero stress

I’ll live like a hermit and buy only what I need

I’ll conserve my mental and physical health

While building myself up like a skyscraper

As everything else falls apart around me

.

If I still need money then I’ll find alternative ways to get it

Without subjecting myself to their circus

.

I’ll do whatever it takes to stay disconnected

Those morning traffic jams will not feature me

Those tedious meetings will not feature me

Those therapy sessions will not feature me

Those petty arguments will not feature me 

.

I’ll be too busy experiencing a simple bliss 

While just sitting and staring into space

Practising meditation and sleeping well

Writing poetry and not caring if anyone reads it

I won’t need a television when I’ll be entertained enough

By the obvious beauty of the world that nearly everyone misses

.

My only goal is to be myself;

To be nothing but my total self

Living with inner wealth

In a developed state of being.

.

Because the time has come

And the collapse is coming

So I’m creating my own civilisation

A utopian town with a population of one

I’ve given up on anyone else populating it with me

This is what all the philosophers found anyway

All the sages like Thoereau and Nietzche

Like Buddha and Bukowski

.

It’s better to be alone

To cultivate your own happiness

To not depend on another’s acceptance 

Or on shiny cars or green lawns

.

It’s better to turn your eyes inward

To take the journey to the self

And become a free man

Unshackled by a society

Whose failure is evident

On every street

In every tired face

In every sullen eye

In every angry voice

In every honking car

.

Let them shout and strain

Let them beep and bark

And continue in their doomed circus

Totally unaware that the collapse is coming

.

And my civilisation is being built.

thoughts

~ A Voice from the Wild ~

Photo by Okky on Pexels.com

“These days I’m a little more settled and stable, but I’m still shaking ideas out of my head that ‘shouldn’t’ be there. The voice of logic and reason is as clear as ever, the way forward so visible like a well-marked path through the forest. Meanwhile, faint voices whisper through the trees, calling my name, daring me to veer off-track and take a tumble in the wilderness. I look into that foliage and see the crooked branches, the thorns, the nettles, the slippery terrain, the red eyes peering at me from the shadows. It is the path of one who wants to be devoured and consumed by the unknown. Most would never even consider venturing into such an area, but it seems I can’t shake those voices tempting me in. They are there whispering to me as I go about the daily grind, as I put on my socks and shoes, as I attend to the tasks I am required to do. I can’t shake them out of my head as I look up to the ceiling at night in bed, as I brush my teeth in the morning, as I pick up things from supermarket shelves and place them in my basket. I look around at the others following the set path of sensibility with apparent ease. Do they hear the same voices too, I wonder? It doesn’t seem like it as I watch and listen to them. They are seemingly content people of stability and sanity. I know that their path can make my hair neat and my sleep undisturbed, but a vacant space in my soul tells me something is missing from such a life too. After all, what is this human experience without mystery and madness? Without adventure and exploration? Without risking it all to find gold in the darkness? What is this human experience without being totally alive to each and every moment?”

thoughts

~ Thoughts of a Bum ~

Photo by Thuong D on Pexels.com

~ Thoughts of a Bum ~

The days of waking up and doing as I pleased continued on. As an unemployed person, you were supposed to feel down about your lack of contribution and participation in society, but there were often moments when you thought otherwise. I lived nearby a river and on a sunny day, I’d walk there to go sunbathe and watch the rowers go by. On the way there – just on the street off beside the river – there was a big office building for some sort of German bank. Often I’d stare into it and see them all through the windows: rows and rows of people sat at computers, boxed into cubicles, working under artificial lighting. I’d look in at them and suddenly feel better about my situation. Sure, I was without much money or security, but in that moment I was at least able to live my life how I saw fit without any controls or confines. I didn’t have to watch any clock or chase any deadline. And there was no boss or supervisor to answer to.

It’s common for unemployed people to feel down or pitied by other people, but at times I looked in those windows and saw some of them sat there looking out at myself without any pity at all. I walked by so often that I was sure that a few of them recognised me and probably wondered how I was always out there strolling freely in the middle of the day. Maybe I was deluding myself, but it was not pity that I saw in their eyes, but envy – envy mixed with a wistful look of boredom. I’d then carry on walking, find a nice spot on the grass beside the river and park myself down. I watched the ducks also living freely, the seagulls flying above. I’d then watch the rowers go by and the sunlight glint off the water’s surface. I’d pour back a drink and appreciate my temporary wealth, just allowing myself to simply exist in peace like the birds around me, living in a way that felt way more natural than the once prescribed to me by my country and culture. Living in a way that had been lost post-agricultural and industrial revolution. Living in a way that at least felt like living.

Truly, time was more valuable than anything; the problem with the 9-5 work system is that you exchanged the vast majority of your days for being at work, going to work, getting ready for work, and everything that came with it. To me, it didn’t matter how much money you had when you couldn’t buy the time to use it. And often that money went on things you couldn’t even enjoy. I’m talking about the house that remains empty cause you’re at work all day, or the furniture you fill that house, or the car and fuel you need to get you to work. Sure, a person had retirement, but the retirement age was now approaching seventy – and we all knew that our best days to be free were far before that time when the energy goes and the health problems come. No, I had a couple thousand pounds in the bank still, and I was gonna make it last the rest of the summer at least. This was my time for freedom; to be alive and enjoy what was left of my youth. Sure, I knew I’d be back at work at some point, trying to spin together some money once again. I knew I’d start other jobs and spend a lot of time at other jobs. But I also knew I’d quit other jobs and never stop trying to get the most out of life without it all passing me by.  I just didn’t want to stop dreaming of freedom, or becoming the person who looks out at windows all their life, dreaming, waiting, wondering, and finally fading into a job position. I wanted to smash the glass whenever I could, to come out onto the sunny street, to sit by the rivers and watch the birds and the bees and the sun shining in the sky. I don’t propose there’s any great philosophy or strength to this thought, or to propose I am some sort of countercultural hero. I’m here only to announce that I am aware that this life is about freedom, and I intend to grab as much of it as I can.

poetry

~ Fading Light ~

~ Fading Light ~

And now the days lose their shine

This sun not setting like it used to

The birds in the sky not inspiring me

The clouds no longer dancing

Only drifting by in greyness.

What are my dreams and thoughts of late

I ain’t thinking like I used to

I ain’t seeing what I used to

Those things that once brought fire to my fingertips

Now do little, if not nothing.

I tell myself that all go through this at some point

The spiritual drought

The rivers of blood in the heart drying out

The spring in the step gone

Nowadays I stagger and stumble

With eyes not seeking anything

A passive journey to whatever

Which is usually self-pity

Or a bar entrance.

Meanwhile I look out and see the courage of other living things

I tell myself that the same energy exists in me somewhere

One day I’ll wake up to brighter and better days

The sunlight will penetrate my soul again

The flocking birds will lift me up

And inspiration will return.

But for now I sit alone in my bedroom tonight

And I can’t help but look out at the city lights 

And think of all the others starving and surviving

Drifting and wandering

Not even dreaming anymore

Just staring up at ceilings

Watching the lights go dim

And getting lost in the haze

Of being human

short stories · thoughts

~ Wandering the Darkness ~

~ Wandering the Darkness ~

At times I knew I was falling too far into the pits of depravity and insanity. My drinking became heavier and my behaviour more outrageous. I wanted to come back to some sort of peace and tranquillity. I always thought it was there, like a bridge I could cross whenever I got tired, but one day I considered that maybe that bridge had collapsed and I wouldn’t be able to easily return to that steady state I was once in. I was stuck in the lands of madness, where the crooked tree branches surrounded me, where wild-eyed vultures picked at carcasses, and dark spaces held hidden terrors. There was no clear way of going back so onward I kept walking into the dense foliage toward whatever fate awaited me. 

On that path I thought of all the others who had gone crazy and lost themselves completely on similar journeys. I didn’t want to be like them and I knew I still had the light inside of me – the light that could lead me to the lands of peace once more. But at that moment a great doubt settled in my head and I couldn’t help but wonder whether destruction and disaster was my inevitable destination. My drinking continued to become heavier as I felt more and more distant from the people who stood in front of me. I was losing touch with reality at times, drifting away in a room of crowded people, fading out from my surroundings, losing my mind while wandering in the darkness.

I wouldn’t be the first in my family to have wandered down such a path. I thought of my uncle who died alone in a room of sadness and alcoholism. They found him amid the empty bottles, unresponsive and not even fifty years old. He had been living in that apartment for some years, separated from his ex, rarely seeing his son and drinking heavily. I remember my father first telling me about his problem. “You have to understand that he can’t stop himself when drinking. Most people can have a few and then stop themselves, but he can’t. When he drinks just one, he carries on drinking until he passes out. That’s why he can’t drink any alcohol at all.” 

At his funeral I looked around at the forlorn faces of my relatives. Funerals were always sad occasions, but when they were for someone who had passed before their time, then there was an extra bleakness in the air. My other uncle got up and told stories of his life before breaking down in tears. Listening to his words, I reflected on the last times I had seen him, usually in passing in the city centre while he was on his way to his job serving meat on a deli counter in the market. As a teenager, I had failed to spot the pain in his eyes, but now I was older and the sadness of the world had made itself home in my heart too, I looked back at those occasions and understood things a bit more clearly. I think about the situation he was in, barely surviving off a cash-in-hand job at the local market, living alone in a small flat, failed relationships and rarely seeing his only child. Like many hurting people, he turned to the bottle to numb the pain of his reality. And now I see his face in my memory; the bloated face, the red cheeks, the lost look in those eyes. The reality was always there in front of me if only I had the awareness to see it.

As a child, I didn’t understand how someone couldn’t stop themselves from drinking. But now I have reached a time in my life where I start to see the darkness in which my uncle lost himself within. The demons lure you in, and it becomes so easy to spiral off into a storm of self-destruction. There had been too many times that I had gone on reckless benders, drinking myself into oblivion, sedating and medicating through the bottle. When your world feels a bit empty, it’s a quick fix to migrate to a different land – a hazy land that may feel like heaven in moments, but is really hell. You make a trade to distort and suppress your senses, but life loses its shine until the darkness is all you know. Slowly you become comfortable in it as it surrounds and engulfs you. You don’t even struggle against it; you like the feeling of seeing yourself slip away in the distortion. That blur of new faces, the hedonistic excess, the reckless and wild behaviour – the brutal hangovers only cured by picking up the bottle again. It’s madness. Pure madness. And you get sucked into the vortex ever more rapidly until that chaos is all you know and understand.

Despite currently drinking heavily and being out of control, a part of me believed that I was able to put the bottle down if I absolutely had to. I had a period every year where I stopped drinking for two or three months in the autumn. I also knew the happiest I’ve ever been were those stages at the age of 26 and 28 when I went sober for a few months. I exercised often, ate reasonably okay, slept well, meditated and didn’t go near the bottle. Even just staring at a drink made me feel nothing at that point. There was zero attraction. I knew it was poison to the state of consciousness I’d acheived – that all the gains of happiness I’d made would be dragged back and taken away from me. But despite those periods, I still find myself here I am a few years on drinking more heavily than ever before. There are reasons for this I suppose. The loss of time and frustration that came from the covid lockdowns; the fact I’ve just turned 30 and want to make the most of this very last bit of my youth. I’d had fun in some ways, I suppose, but these latest benders fill me with almost a fear that perhaps I really have lost my mind; that I have lost control; that I will never return from these woods of madness and find my way back to the lands of peaceful light. It fills me with a fear that I will not be able to stop and they’ll find me one day in that room of isolation, unresponsive on some beer-stained sofa, amid the bottles and beer caps – another soul taken by the need to try and find some shelter and escape from life’s unrelenting storm.

thoughts

Piercing Reflections

‘One morning I awoke in a strange room with a foul taste in my mouth. My date from the previous night was still fast asleep and I figured it was easier for both of us if I just left before she stirred. I had no battery on my phone and wasn’t sure exactly where I was. I walked out of the house which was on the top of a hill. From the doorstep, I saw the city centre in the distance and realised I was on the opposite side of the city. I then started making my long way home through unknown streets and neighbourhoods. I could have gotten a bus, but I had always resented paying for public transport, so I kept on walking – tired, hungover and even more of a daze than usual. I looked at the people walking past me, wondering which of them was also doing a walk of shame. My stumbling continued until I had made it back into the city centre when I caught my reflection in a shop window. For a minute I stood there staring at it. It seemed that on every street a window reflection was there to show you to yourself and suddenly make you question what the hell it was you were doing on that street, in that city, in that life. Did your path have purpose? Were you a good person anymore? Were you even a sane person anymore? Looking into my tired eyes, I could see I was just another messed-up young man, entertaining myself and keeping life interesting in whatever way I could. I was no different than the drunks and druggies; than the addicts and adrenaline junkies. I found my solace in the thrill of casual sex; my shelter in the tangled limbs of a stranger. It was a depressing reality and my reflection continued to stare back at me almost in disgust. There was only so much of it I could take before I had to look away and carry on along the avenue. This is what life could do to a man. He enters it with wide eyes ready to discover and explore, and then thirty years later he stands staring at his reflection in confusion and consternation. The only thing to do was carry on walking and try to avoid that reflection for a little while longer.’