For You – N. E. Skull

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I don’t want to write about him.

He doesn’t inspire me like you used to.

There were sonnets in the arch of your back.

Your lips have been written about a thousand times before.

Damocles’ blade was in your shoulder,

And Samson in your hair.

If you are a painting,

He is negative space.

In him, I see only your absence.

In me, he sees it, too.

The Artist – N. E. Skull

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Picture 52

I waded through heavy air on way to the post office that morning.

I took the scenic route, which was only worth taking on a day like that.

The heat was a welcome stranger for the time of year,

but even the most unusual weather feels primordial after a day or two,

and glistening brows had already started praying for restoration.

The sun saw me intermittently as the leaves overhead drew back with the soft breeze,

casting shadows which made the pathway below ripple like the surface of a lake.

The woodland was painted with flowers whose names I will probably never know,

and there was an unspoken amity between the wildlife and I.

For miles each way we were alone,

and I believed this wholeheartedly,

until, in the corner of my eye,

perched on a byway,

I saw an easel.

Meeting Place – N. E. Skull

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Picture 47

Let us get our stories straight,
I saw you there across the bar.
I dared to ask you on a date,
And six weeks later, here we are.

I met you at the driving range.
You marveled at my swing technique.
You said you found it rather strange
And now we play four times a week.

Or maybe on a busy train?
I stood so you could have my seat.
We both stepped out into the rain.
Such a romantic place to meet.

When people ask us how we met.
we won’t say “on the internet.”

Poetry 101 – N. E. Skull

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Picture 170

A lecture hall filled with eager ears,

And fingers rushing pens across pages

Like inkwell olympians.

The professor tells his students what the poem is about.

And what it is not about.

And what to think.

And what to feel.

And what the right answers are

For when those thoughts and feelings will be graded.

The ghosts of Keats and Shakespeare

Are in the front row,

Rolling their eyes.

First Draft – N. E. Skull

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Or is it draught?
No, it’s definitely draft.
There’s a draught in here,
Better close the window.
I should close the curtains, too,
So as not to get distracted by the waves outside.
Is that a boat?
It’s surrounded by seagulls –
Must be a fishing boat.
I wonder how far out the boat must go
In order to yield such an impressive catch?
I wonder what kind of fish they are.
I should know, I’ve lived here long enough.
First Draught, first draft, first raft…
I wonder if I could build a raft,
If circumstances needed me to.
I doubt it. For some reason this worries me.
I’ve never been much of a craftsman.
I search “How to build a raft”.
It feels important to me now.
More important than this first draft.

The Church Of Saint Margaret Of Cortona – N. E. Skull

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Picture 167

Our Father, who art in heaven,
The sacraments – why only seven?
I could think of three or four
To even out that sacred score.

Lipstick on his Roman collar,
Befitting of a holy scholar,
Three years since her last confession,
“Forgive me for my indiscretion.”

Bum implants beneath her habit,
Should Father Whitely think to grab it.
Thank you, Lord, for life’s sweet splendours,
Thigh high boots and lace suspenders.

4am – N. E. Skull

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Picture 97

I dove into my wardrobe to rescue
The Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg
From the the pile of books that it
would soon cease to anchor.
The haggard bedside lamp pointed
towards the book, summoning
a ray from heaven itself as I opened it
and waited like a devout believer awaits
shepherding to a passage or a verse
when they find themselves turning
shoulder to shoulder in the heart of night.
I waited for Allen to give me the answer
in the form of some untoward rhyme
that would have meant nothing to me
had it not been for my desperation.
And shook him though I did,
I could not bring myself to wake him.

Irish Summer – N. E. Skull

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The waves rising from the melting tar were deceiving on that cruel July afternoon. Unable to muster the strength to shuffle along the footpath at a human speed, the tourists grew increasingly displeased with our helplessess. They had the arrogance of experience on their side, our little heatwave was but an average day on their shores. With stares that penetrated the dead heat, I wondered if they could see each new freckle planting its flag on my face.

“Go around!” we told them, the task of shimmying out of their way was far too painstaking to even consider. We had already accepted defeat in the face of the rising mercury. Now it was every man for himself.

Almost there, I told myself.

Almost there, Mike told himself.

He didn’t say it aloud, but I heard it nonetheless. You can hear a man’s thoughts when sheer determination is encapsulated on his face.

Up ahead in the distance we saw a shimmering light. Somewhere, I’m sure, The Eagles played a tune just for us as we laid our eyes on the holy grail, our raison d’etre, the very purpose of our hike through Hades; the 3-foot HB ice-cream. In that moment, no plight was so strenuous that it was not immediately justified by the promise of a 99. Every decision we had made in our lives had led us to this, and it was all worth it. Adrenaline rushed through our veins and emanated through the cracks in our sunburn.

Almost there, we told ourselves.

Almost there.

The only thing standing in our way was the busy street. Luckily, the heat has a way of bringing all traffic to a staggering halt. We fickly thanked the gods for this.

No need to part the Red Sea today, I told Mike.

Mike told me nothing.

We made our way through the three-laned street, feeling unduly superior to those trapped in their steel prisons. A man in a Mercedes was steam-ironing his suit through no fault of his own, the black leather interior doing no favours for him. The taunt of an open window proved fruitless in such a dire situation. I Hailed what I could remember of Mary for him.

The corner shop had never looked so inviting. Inside was dank and shady, but deliciously cool. A wandering fly met its end in the fluorescent light above the magazine stand, making nary a difference to the myriad of flies that remained.

There were two people ahead of us in the queue. The first bought a Euromillions Quick Pick. The second, coffee and The Independent.

Priorities, I thought to myself, for no real reason. My impatience thrived in the heat.

Our turn.

Two 99s please. Yes, with flakes. No syrup. None of that fancy stuff. Yes. Perfect.

Mike paid for mine. The dole hadn’t come in yet.

Morning – N. E. Skull

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Picture 86

The sound of waves crashing against the pier is strong in my memory,

Although I am sure the tide was out.

Perhaps it was the alcohol reeling inside my head

Seeping into my memory and pandering to the

Sentimentalist in me.

We lay there until dawn, determined not to leave

Until the cold set in.

The cloudless sky was a perfect canvas for the airplanes

And we made plans to be in one of them together someday,

The kinds of plans that never make it past the haze of wine.

We allowed ourselves the novelty of honesty,

Unaware of the sobriety of daybreak,

Confessing things we wouldn’t dare say

Over the breakfast table, if we ever got the chance

To share one.