Punch Drunk

He could feel his fists clenching automatically. The first sign of the desire that was swelling up within him, a physical reaction accompanied by vivid memories of his own time in the ring. Flashes of a long surpressed satisfaction found in the first flurry of thudding punches – a distillation and simplification of everything he was into one pure and comprehendible moment of action.

It had been a bad idea to come along tonight. Already he was feeling oppressed by the triggered ressurgance of everything he’d spent so long training himself to manage without giving in to the impulses which used to dictate his entire life.

He should have guesssed what his reaction would be. No, he’d known what his reaction would be, he should have accepted the truth rather than ignoring it for the sake of self-indulgence. For six years he’d lived out everything he was as a fighter, touring pubs, barns and carparks to serve an audience of barrel shaped drunks who barked at the entertainments of bare knuckle boxers. A form of sanity, he’d always told himself, a release for that large part of himself that he couldn’t manage internally as a violent expression to an approving crowd.

He remembered the force of that life with crystal clarity – how could he have fooled himself, even for a second, into believing that he’d conquered that drive for release in and from himself? No amount of therapy, self help books, meditation and positive thinking could drown out his nature. He could only even restrain it with almost obsessive focus.

Within the improvised ring of hay bales the night’s first fighters were enthusiastically dancing around each other. Neither of them yet rattled into punch drunkenness. It was a poor bout though. They were big men, solidly capable of doing real harm, but they were both playing roles. Neither of them willing to stop looking like a fighter for long enough to lose themselves in the glorious release of the moment, if they even knew what that would feel like. The crowd could see it, see the restraint and paranoid control. No one was here to see a parade of controlled skill or style. They came to see what they wanted for themselves, an absence of control, an unthinking release of all there was to give. They wanted someone like him, someone who wanted to be as consumed by the violence as they did themselves in their unmentioned fantasies.

A few token cheers went up as one of the fighters gained the upper hand, a chain of punches to the head sending his opponent staggering away in confusion. Drunken expression more than anything, even with the blows this was still a bout managed by fear and self image. Steve realised he was on the boundary, leaning forwards into the ring, muscles tensed. One step more, one punch and he would be free again. Liberated form all the bullshit ideas about control he’d covered himself in so he could walk down the street without guessing at who was judging him. They’d applaud him for it too. They’d welcome him back to the violence, not caring how or why he’d returned but eager to sink themselves into the chaos of it.

He held himself back, forcing his fists to unball with more strength than he’d ever put into using them.

He had to leave. He had to gulp down fresh air and let his head bathe in silence. He had quit. He had spent years trying to find control for a reason. If he could get far enough away from there then he’d remember what it was, sweep away the heavy fug of almost drunken addiction. For now though he just needed to run, to sprint away from the beautiful promise of stepping back into that ring.

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Shattered Idols

As the room filled up they could feel the chasm of their loneliness expanding. Words were spoken, seemingly endlessly but none really seemed to be directed at either of the parents. Not personally at least, but perhaps meant for them, as mantras and prayers of condolence. Voiced with grimacing faith towards two figures frozen in grief to the point where they appeared more carved idols than humans.

She thought back to the point four months ago where a similar ceremony had been played out. More words, more mantras, only then they’d been joyful ones, paeans sung to life and creation. Ready congratulations to what they had brought into the world together, received with burning, living pleasure. They’d been as united then, with the newborn held close, as they were divided now without it.

He broke first. An idol crumbling before a pitying congregation he turned and fled. Escaping the sterile, beige hued temple of their decline. She felt nothing, their duality already shattered she could only wonder if it was her weakness or strength to have stayed fixed in place as another wave of mournful and sympathetic laments were delivered by the faithful.

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Loving Foundation

I promised your love
an offering to myself
which you said was true

I feasted my soul
on that loving foundation
safe against tremors

Secure in my gift
I felt no fear in your doubt
I saw only security

And so I built on
extending towers of self
with us at their core

And as the earth shook
I refused to see downfall
tied to falling spires

Though the rocks did shake
stones fell, towers collapsed
I sat still, serene

That love, once gifted
still held, immovable
for you could not lie

Even as limbs broke
and as dust obscured sight
I swore I could see

As collapse echoed
and silence fell on my mind
I swore I could hear

As rocks scoured skin
and my nerves became numb
I swore I could feel

And only once dead
lost in the rubble of life
did I know the truth

I was forgotten
with your love you had long fled
leaving an empty heart

My foundation decayed
my tower a fool’s triumph
a folly to love

So with fading time
I found only my own self
muted and destroyed

But even by then
I took nothing back from you
for my love is yours

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Decaying Idea

Funeral

The eulogies were beautiful. Weeping and barely controlled mourners outlined a saintly life, the sort which only ever really existed post-mortem and whose loss devastated individuals and diminished all else.

Tyrone struggled to look on passively. This day belonged to grief, to sorrow. The anger he felt had no place there. Not that that did anything to ameleorate it of course, if anything the struggle to surpress his reaction heightened the feeling that demanded it. A price to be paid though, not a high one either given the costs already incurred by the person that body in the ground had been.

He knew why they’d invited him of course. Duty. They felt a duty to let him know about the funeral, he’d felt a duty to attend it. In the small talk surrounding the event they’d all been aware of their ignorance as to what more could be expected from the experience. He’d been tempted to cry to break the awkward silences. Not for himself, but for them, to give them some hint that their sorrow was his too. The lie of it would have hurt him more than it comforted them though, or so he told himself, not bothering to question his own selfishness.

In truth he knew he’d never cry for the dead man. How could he? In life they’d hardly known each other, the finality of the grave didn’t alter that fact even if he’d wondered before coming whether it might.

The dead man was his father. A technical label more than anything else. In life they’d had no relationship except perhaps for a distant awareness edged with ill defined and vague feelings. A pattern both men had been seemingly content to let endure. Death, though, had issued it’s own demands. Hollow labels had been reasserted as biological fact, ceremonies of grief had laid out patterns expected not just by society but also by the individuals who felt themselves beholden to it.

Beside him a woman let out a tear fuelled yelp. Tyrone felt himself visibly tense up. She had loved the dead man, that much was obvious although he didn’t know her connection to him. His first thought was to comfort her, a human thought, a natural one, but following it came the truth of uncomfortable apathy. In the sea of grief here he was the only one not drowning, to offer her a shoulder to cry on would be a lie in itself and if she didn’t notice it he certainly would. So he ignored her, half watching as a flock of friends and relatives swarmed over, tears in their own eyes and sorrow obvious on every face. Tyrone stepped back, clearing ground for the grieving. With awkward looks they both condemned him and showed a painful awareness of his reasons for holding back, not willing to sympathise but not quite ready to condemn either.

Later on Tyrone cried. Alone and hunched over a bottle he shed the tears which he knew would have been an unintended lie to any observer. Still, he knew the honesty of them, in solitude he could accept that the tears were his own and not the work of real sorrow delivered by death. That body in the grave was just that and no more, inert matter left to fade away beneath the turf. A tragedy for those who saw more, but nothing to him. He wept for his own loss, something separate from the rest, the departure of something far more simple than flesh and blood. He cried for an idea, a hope that was now interred six feet under. The idea of a paternal love never known and now never to be known.

For an instant he hated the mourners he’d ignored. Detested their hold on the dead, their existence as a barrier between himself and what might have been if their own grief hadn’t screamed so loudly over his repressed sorrows. But how could he resent such feeling? In life the dead man had never won such disdain from him, to let him send waves of it out in death would be a needless defeat. No, his loss was of something that had never existed, a man that never was, an idea that had no right to spawn living reticence.

Still he cried. The idea deserved that much if nothing else.

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I Wrote

I was not alive
until I wrote my own birth
to start writing death

I was not yet dead
until the pen left the page
and I found silence

If nature made me
then I will remake nature
and claim my new birth

I grew to fill pages
and shrunk to become a word
yet never changed

I learnt cruel freedom
and loving cages barred
all fearful, unknown

I drew my own map
devoid of directions home
but all seen was mine

When I returned
the ink was stained to nothing
and I found no path

I found a new page
still blank and all unmarked
but I had no more

Confronted with space
I wept deleting tears
and lost even hope

I prayed and hoped
for new words you would bestow
but we both lost faith

We had no story
but in time we told ourselves
a new type of tale

For more from me you can check out my collection No Cure for Shell Shock – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks.