The Stand. A poem.

Just one tiny moment of her time.
Just one glint in her eye.
Did she look my way?
Is she thinking about me?
A lifetime of insecurities,
rearing like some untamed bronco,
kicking my ass before I’ve a chance to tango.

And now, here I am,
stupefied and indignant,
wondering what do I do to impress her next?
Maybe I could put myself down again,
or perhaps be less vexed.
Or maybe I could just retreat
with my tail between my legs.

No.
Not this time.
Time to make a stand.
Let me just catch my breath,
pull on the gloves
and listen for the bell,
before I go down for the count again.

For one more little glimpse of heaven,
and one more
tiny moment of her time.

The Fault in Our Stars. A book review.

It seems I can’t stop reading profoundly affecting books.

A friend of mine loaned me John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, the mega-selling young adult novel about two teenagers in cancer remission who fall in love. “You’ll need some tissues,” she said, and she wasn’t wrong. This book brought me close to tears on a number of occasions.

The Fault in Our Stars is about 16-year old Hazel, a far too smart and interminably sassy girl permanently attached to an oxygen tank since her thyroid and lungs were attacked by cancer. She’s on an experimental drug which prevents her tumours from growing, but like many victims of the disease, she is somewhat cynical about life and her place in the world. Augustus Walters is a 17-year old interminably good looking ex-basketball jock who also happens to be smart and sassy, who lost his leg to cancer. The two meet at the local support group, hit it off and gradually Augustus’s positive world view starts to rub off on Hazel. They have a shared love for An Imperial Affliction, a book about a teenage cancer victim who dies abruptly leaving the ending up in the air. It was written by a retired author now living in Amsterdam and a big part of the story sees the two teens travelling to meet him to learn what happened to the book’s characters (An Imperial Affliction is a metaphor for The Fault in Our Stars’ protagonists and their yearning for something meaningful in a world that seems and often ends uncaringly).

I won’t spoil any more of this wonderfully written novel. John Green deserves the praise—this is a literary achievement, something much more than the average YA contemporary romance. It seethes with pathos. It’s sad, fast and funny. The characters are well developed and incredibly engaging. It’s a celebration of living for the here and now, because you never know how long it’s going to last. I found it hard to put down.

I guessed two of the major plot points—they weren’t telegraphed at all, but I knew they would happen (and no, I hadn’t seen the movie or read any spoilers), so I guess in some way perhaps those two elements bordered on cliché (or perhaps I’m just good at prediction). But other than that, this book was like a breath of fresh air (and that’s not a pun about Hazel’s lungs).

If you like tragic romance, you’ll love this. To paraphrase a line from the book: reading The Fault in Our Stars is “a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

Dust and Rust. A poem.

Take down the green,
straddle the Earth with
the carbon footprint of giants.
Every tree felled, another wooden nail
in our meagre wooden coffin.

Let the next race be won
by whomever loves this
planet more than
humans being,
who in our rush to claim the prize
have won nothing but
dust, rust,
and forgotten lies.

Thor Ragnarok. A movie review.

By Odin’s shaggy beard, there shalt be no spoilers here!

I’m one of those moviegoers who felt the Marvel formula was getting a bit stale. Well, Thor Ragnarok hasn’t varied it too much, but has added enough humour and lasting change to a major character and setting that I’m still interested. 

Thor Ragnarok is a fun ride. Thor has always been a bit, well…boring. Compared to the rest of the Avengers, anyway. Director Taika Waititi has added his quirky comic flair (and propped up the NZ film industry, judging by the number of Kiwi actors in this) and allowed Chris Hemsworth to display some impressive comedic chops (expect to see him in lots of romantic comedies over the next few years). 

The supporting cast are great, even if they are given little to do (although Mark Ruffalo as Hulk gets more space here than ever before. And it’s about time). Cate Blanchett as Hela, Goddess of Death, is a bit of a missed opportunity to add real gravitas to the Asgard story (the film’s humour tends to overshadow any of the implied tragedy), but I think she’ll be back to link up with Thanos in a future movie (he’s all about hooking up with Mistress Death, after all, and I’m sure it won’t take Marvel much to tweak that and change it to Ms Blanchett. You read it here first).

The special effects of Thor Ragnarok are impressive as always and the designs and bright colours really capture the Kirby-esque feel of the 60’s and 70’s Thor comics. As a lover of all things Led Zeppelin, I enjoyed the inclusion of their Immigrant Song. Jon Bonham’s drumming rocks!

Whilst I liked the lighter (and oddly, heavier) themes of Thor Ragnarok, I’m hoping Marvel doesn’t go full on camp with future outings. I love my superheroes and occasionally I like them taken just a bit seriously. But in the meantime I’ll enjoy the bright bluster of this.

Rating: B

Phantom Limb. A poem.

I’m forever haunted
by this

phantom limb,

writhing in my sleep,
guilt stricken for my
sins.

I see you in every couple
on the street, and at the
coffee shop,
where we drank each other in.

It feels like you’re still
across from me;
the conversation,
imagined and forlorn,
accusing
eyes that follow me
no more.

Your ghost absorbs my
days and nights,
a peripheral blur,
just out of
sight.

Time
heals all wounds;
such perfect sense,
but not in my
experience.

You’re the limb I lost, that still
persists.

A phantom limb,
my will insists.

In The Winter Dark. A book review.

I read a lot of books, but don’t often get the chance to post a book review. Then along comes a book that stuns me into submission, like a two-by-four wielded by some grinning, dream-fisted maniac.

“If only we hadn’t had so many things to hide, so many opportunities for fear to get us.” Tim Winton’s In the Winter Dark is a short (132 pages) suspense novel. It’s about an aging couple and two strangers, who live in a country valley where their farm animals are being mutilated by an unknown agency. All four are brought together by circumstance for the first time; all four hold dark secrets that are played out slowly and succinctly, a tragedy in the making.

As with Winton’s other books, it is superbly written and paced (for more about Breath, click here). His prose is like liqueur: it’s smooth and warm and something to be experienced patiently and magnanimously. There is no rushing a Tim Winton book, even when the suspense is building and you can’t put it down. Unlike some novels, which can be overbearing to the point you skip sections parsimoniously to move the story along, Winton’s stories make you savour every moment. Every turn of phrase and piece of imagery is like dark chocolate, melting insipiently on the tongue and in the brain.

The theme of cats as a symbol of our darkest secrets and fears plays a big part in this book. I’m not going to spoil the story, especially one that demands so doggedly to be experienced.

Beg, borrow, steal (or better still, purchase) a copy of In The Winter Dark. If you love a thriller and love masterful writing, this is the book for you.

Cheers

Steve 😊

Let down. A poem.

I’m let down, again.

Every letdown compiling
like a coded compunction,
in synapses despoiled
by repetition and disfunction.
Swarmed and overloaded,
categorised and goaded.

Too many times to make
sense of it all.

Letdown, like so many times before.
Who has any tears left to cry?

And why bother
to even try.

Through His Eyes. A poem.

See the world.
But not through your own eyes.
Try his.
Try seeing and yet not seeing,
failing to understand
what they truly perceive.
Messed up signals,
like a traffic jam waiting to happen.

Open your mouth,
like his mouth,
and watch the words tumble out:
unannounced,
tactless and indiscreet;
a crossword of errors on a big broadsheet.

Walk alone,
not by yourself,
but like him:
truly alone,
like the world has eaten you up
and spat you out.
Deserted, when you truly needed love instead of doubt.

This is how he feels.
So extend a hand.
Feel with him.
Don’t let him misunderstand.
Don’t let him be alone.

Time to prove your worth, and atone.

The Novel-writing Locomotive.

My novel is (once again) back on track.

How many times have I said that? It seems every time I slip the rails I have some new excuse (for a list of the latest ones, click here). Coupled with my short attention span, my novel-writing train has jumped the tracks every few weeks, as if it was passing regularly back and forth over the NSW/Queensland state border where the rail gauge changes*.

My rescuer (or track repair crew, depending on which metaphor you prefer) is my delicious new iPhone (even though it’s not edible, it’s the next best thing. If they introduced edible iPhones I’m sure I’d be first in line to buy them and ravenously consume them**). I’ve downloaded MS Word onto my phone (which is an iPhone 8 ‘large’. Or ‘big’? Whatever they call the giant version. I personally like iPhone ‘humongous’, but that sounds both compensatory, and a bit too Mad Max, I suspect). I’ve moved my novel’s Word files to the cloud and now I can write anywhere. Yes, even in my favourite writing venue, the water closet***.

I admit this is not particularly innovative—I’ve been writing poetry this way for months, using the notes facility on my phone which auto backs up to iCloud—but I just wasn’t managing my time effectively enough to write on my laptop (I use it for my uni work, but I generally need a break afterwards. A looooooong break. Longer than a Kit-Kat, anyway).

So, I’m back to writing in small doses (that’s generally how I best interact with anything and anyone—you can only take so much manic or morose Steve at a time. That includes me dealing with me). And small doses is better than no doses.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

PS Why use Word on iPhone in place of Apple’s Pages or a writing-specific app? Because I already started my novel in Word, it retains all the formatting without having to convert it between apps, and it has a neat little ‘fit-to-screen’ word wrap button that Pages doesn’t. Technical Steve 😉

*Yes, in Australia we have different rail sizes. Yes, it’s stupid.

**Mmmmmm…I’m patenting that scrumptious idea.

***Dunny, loo, crapper—to all you uncultured larrikins.

Invincible. A poem.

I’m alone against the storm,
wearing custom-fitted armour,
courtesy of the Lord.

I’m a lone wanderer in form,
but my way is assured,
courtesy of the Lord.

I’m a fighter on the boards,
wearing gloves of solid steel,
courtesy of the Lord.

And I’m invincible,
a man of principles.
Courtesy of the Lord.

.
I haven’t written a Christian poem in a while. It’s about time I did. 

Here’s one for the big guy upstairs.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Heartbreak. A prose poem.

My heart was broken, and the pieces lay
scattered across the floor like so much
fractured crystal. It lay where it fell for
days,
weeks,
months.

I fixated on my shattered heart for
a long time. Everywhere I looked,
everywhere I walked, I was in danger
of cutting myself on a fragment.
Visitors and friends stepped delicately
around the shards like navigating a
minefield.

Every once in a while I would think about
tidying up. But the strewn slivers were a
reminder both comforting and saddening.
One day, I awoke to find the pieces were
gone, as if they had never existed; never
split and skewed, never callously been
torn out and flung aside.

I walked out into the fresh air, the hum
of the world around me. I still remembered
my broken heart, and the pain of
every
little
piece.

But it was time to move on, and face
another heartbreak.

Maybe this time I’d find some glue
to hold my heart together.

Haiku Friday. Three freaky haikus.

Message
I got a message,
anonymous, confusing.
“Don’t wait up,” it said.

Nerd
Glasses, weird hair cut,
quirky disregard for all.
“Grab a seat, player!”

Dog
All dogs love me so.
Must be my cool aftershave.
Or meat in pocket.

.
Haikus, those wonderful little 5/7/5 syllable Japanese poems, are usually serious.

I decided serious is not for me, today.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Guest Post: Mind Matters 

I’ve never had anyone do a guest post before, but I was chatting with my sister-in-blog Donna, of mind matters, and asked her if she’d like to write one.

Donna and her family were traumatised while living with a religious cult, and she works through her issues in her blog, along with providing snippets of her photography and poetry. Sometimes she’s a bit controversial, but she’s always interesting.

So here is the first guest blog! Enjoy.

Steve 🙂

I Beg To Differ

Is chivalry dead? Should it be? A lot of people might say yes.

Sometimes certain issues seem to illuminate themselves in me. The other day when I was heading into a store, a man who had already walked out of the store turned around and grabbed the door for me. It was kind. It was an innate response. He didn’t even pause. He just did it. Then, when I was leaving the same store, a young male teenager whose hands were loaded with cartons of napkins, reached out–causing his load to teeter–and opened the door for me.

My point is: maybe a cause can begin in a legitimate way and then morph into something it was never meant to be. By then, it’s too late to back up. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be kept down by the opposite sex and stripped down until I thought I was nothing. But I also know what it’s like to fight my way through raising five kids and getting a degree in my forties.

I know I am not inferior to any male. But everyone is uniquely endowed by God, who equips us all differently for purposes and roads that lead in many directions. Is either sex inferior? No. But generally a man’s body is built differently than a woman’s. If we are at war, who would I want at the front lines in battle? A man. Does that make me sexist? No. When it comes time to do one of the most important things in life, who does it? A woman. What am I talking about? Giving birth. We as women are equipped to grow a human being in our bodies. No inferiority complex here.

Anyway, back to my original point of a gentleman opening a door for a lady. I love it. My husband opens the door for me. I am grateful that the women before me fought for the rights that we didn’t have before and I am in no way disagreeing with that; I just wanted to give a little food for thought.

You can read more from Donna at mind matters. 

Dead Men Deep. A poem.

Hulls of broken ships,
scattered like white noise.
The sea bed, as black
as a charcoal cellar.

It welcomes sailors
to their ends,
bloated corpses sleeping
in hammocks of crusted ribs,
drunk on briny, antique wine.

Coral wreaths
and sawdust mouths;
barnacles, the new tattoo
that marks the passage
from man to martyr.

Here among the starfish
and crustacean shells,
unworried by the weather,
seabed tales in whale song
punctuate their empty dreams.

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