Cliffhangers

jake burgess a comfortable moon story

Some stories start out softly. With languid strides they circle around, sharing whispers for your attention. They build slowly, a steady marathon your brain tries to sprint.

Others explode. Out the box instantly: racing, raving lunatics clashing swords with spears, drunk on fear or lust, adrenaline courses through veins as scenes flash, flickering before our eyes.

You want the best stories, and I know the formula.

It’s the Grand Unified Theory of literature and I give it freely away. Whatever the character, give them purpose and flaw; sharpen the tool, cut the readers and addict them to the pain. Step 1.

The rest is plot and setting, dialogue and metaphor. They’re blocks which build faster now as we approach the last. Time for your ending.

Center stage, a resounding crescendo of anticipation, of ifs and buts and how’s. A final smirk or tear, the last reveal seals the deal and pays for all: the secret to your ending, my friends, is

Knowledge

When you penned your number,
the nib scratching away
ink willingly bleeding,
that napkin became a trophy.

Worried that it might be lost,
I stole a pen, three glances
and let the ink seep into my forearm.

I put the napkin somewhere safe.
Wait one year
you said.
One year, then pick up the phone

Grass limped into being,
grew tall under a glorious sun,
wilted beneath bitter winds
and drowned under cold snow.

Every day I stole another pen
and traced,
ever so delicately,
those eleven digits
long memorised.

Finally
as the spring grass stumbled
onto colourless parks,
a year had passed.

For the final time I wrote it down.
In the seconds before dialling
I checked the number,
then hit call.

It rang,
but no voice ever answered.
I cried,
and knew you’d lost to cancer.

The Babysitter

eyes

So, tell me about your son.

He’s a mildly wild child, my child.

Haven’t you tried hiring a babysitter to help?

Yep. My desk holds piles of files,
going for miles and miles
of gentile, stylish, beguiling smiles
claiming their profiles are all worthwhile.

So…pick one?

What?
A juvenile ‘phile on file
with that hostile, exiled
jeremy-kyle smile like he can be trusted even though anyone who sees that moustache knows he’s on the register?

Think I’ll pass.

Harold the Small

harold_the_small_giant

In a faraway town, in a silly little story,
lived rosy-cheeked toddler, not destined for glory.
His eyes we bright green, shining like springtime,
with small squishy hands – at least, for the meantime.

The townsfolk were pleasant, with light feather caps
and warm knitted jumpers for winter, perhaps.
They wandered and roamed, living small little lives,
Driving small little cars, with little babies and wives.

Molehills were mountains, with raindrops big as melons
and our story begins, with a sweet girl called Helen.

She was brazen and strong, with a mean furrowed frown
but her heartbeat was loving, and that was known through the town.
The boys swooned and they sighed, tried to harpoon her heart
all but one fell and faltered, and the miller filled the part.

They married and loved, in a cosy little house
where soon came a child, squirming around like a mouse.
They aww’d then they ahh’d, at the light of their hearts,
a little bundle of joy, loved for his laughs, cries and farts.

Barely three weeks had passed, Helen was shocked to see,
her babe had outgrown his clothes, standing ‘nigh three feet three.

Helen sweated and slaved, making bread with her husband,
but his cravings were endless, his clothes always burst-buttoned.
At ninety days young, with a crisp golden beard,
Harold stood tall and proud, though the older kids jeered.

Upwards and onwards, till his head kissed the sky,
Harold never stopped growing, but waved his family goodbye.
He’d eaten the cows, snacked on pigs, chicks and fishes,
but the townspeople hungered, so he left with best wishes.

He wandered and roamed, through the night and the day,
scarcely tired, often frightened,  the people kept from his way.
One night he gazed at a church on the mountain
and it made him feel so small and tired all of a sudden.

He lay down his head, and for an hour he slumbered,
growing 13 feet more, as the bells tolled like thunder.

Layover

 

airport
Spending the night in an airport
with 8 hours to kill,
hundreds of Krona we can’t spend
and bags under our eyes.

The blue budget-airline signs are dull.
A lonely, morose smalt and
the crowd control barriers rest,
awaiting the crowd the morning brings.

We make camp
staking claim with
towered cases,
lumpy rain-coat mattresses
and a guarded silence.

Ripples of Spanish flow from over yonder,
drifting with a resigned slowness,
immune to the glares of jet-lagged Russians
and the throaty laughs of the French.
A single Italian lady,
a journalist perhaps
or a student,
sits perched and alert,
tendrils of steam spiralling up
in the ghostly half-light
of her MacBook.

I spot maybe nine different countries
by their dress, accent, manner.
I smile that we’re all sharing the same room.

Except that we aren’t.

We’re all stuck in this place,
waiting for the same planes
to take us East,
or West or Home.
Clutching our passports
with a desperate fervour
as if we might lose ourselves,
or our heading,
should it slip from our sight.

We represent the four corners of the world.
Bursting with stories
and exotic names,
card games and drinking songs.
Each of us an untapped source
clean and fresh,
of life and love and
laughter and tears.

And yet here we sit,
our silence a wall.

I pull out a hackey-sack
from my bag
and ask a girl to throw with me.

Her name is Erika.
She’s Swedish.

Soon we’re 3, then 5
and now a dozen
suddenly bonding
and spilling our marvellous stories
like a freshly pierced cask.

We’re finally asked, politely,
to “please stop”
and so we sit together
and the murky blues
are sapphires.

The Landing

falling-man

Falling is an odd one.
For some it’s the very idea of freedom.
Synonymous with flying,
soaring
and reaching towards plateaus undiscovered.
It can be a gentle glide
or the laboured climb of eagles
in a storm
fighting for their lives
a thousand feet high. But when the gales clear
life blooms
under the new sun and a great,
warm peace might flood your heart.

Falling also means failing.
It’s the declined extension request
or the anniversary party
for the oldies,
out of town,
when you’re covering that shift.
You fell when the mud,
thick, and gloopy
left you stranded for hours
on that backroad
taking the short way home.

Whatever it means to fall
only one thing,
inescapable,
is constant:
the landing.
Your feet might kiss the sand
softly, a warming embrace
or maybe it’s your wrist,
then knees,
then that fresh ice cream cone
when you clip the kerb.

If you’re lucky,
they’ll put you back on your feet.
If you’re truly lucky,
you won’t need that help.
You’ll shrug,
mourn the ice cream
and move on, smiling before long.
For some that final trip
is too much. They don’t get up.
It’s no longer about trying.
Not about will
or refusal
but cold, honest,  can’t.

I stand here,
gazing down at the city where I’ve fallen.
Where I’ve stumbled,
tripped,
scraped knees
and opened old wounds.
The wind rushes through my hair.
I close my eyes and hope,
sincerely
and truly,
that no one tries to help me up.
That they’ll let me lie,
broken,
where I chose to be,
where the help was never offered
living.

Snookered

[sat down to write and after 4 minutes had produced this. thought i’d keep it in its rough, coarse-edged state up here. i mean who has time for proofing, really? 😉 ]

So it begins.
You and I
on a field of green
staring. You stand in formation,
proud,
and ready
protecting the real prize:
my black enemy.

The ice cracks,
stalemate becomes engagement
as we collide.
I glance off you,
a minor scattering
and return,
reeling
behind mine own shields.

Slowly, deftly I pick away:
first one, then another.
Fifteen by the end
succumbed to my touch.
Five more in succession
quick,
and unyielding.

So it ends.
You and I,
on a field of green,
staring. You lie helpless,
naked,
and alone
with your end
inevitable.

We collide once, hard
and all is silence.
I slowly stop rolling
and come to a stop,
dead
and still, waiting.

Next frame?

Comfortable Moon

moon1

And here I am, stood before you,
staring.
Your face a reflection of my own
as I struggle through uncharted lands
with no sun,
nor stars
to guide my tongue.

My eyes find yours and all else, is
darkness.

I’m buried, drowning in all the words
unheard,
unspoken as I store them in bottles,
waiting.

Your smile matches mine.
Gleaming,
shining and the dam cracks,
thoughts splutter and words burst forth
a torrent.

I promise you the moon. It’s clichéd,
irrational,
unattainable and something no one
else will endeavour to you,
your heart.

But the moon is cold.
Let me spark a warming fire
burning,
coloured by the dying embers
of sunset and heated with the passionate
fervour
of reconciled lovers at dawn.
I’ll sing and regale you stories
telling
tales and my breath will stir up a breeze
to give it life.

But its days are short.
I’ll make you a watch, giving us
time.
Tanning the strap from the silent moments
where we wish we’d taken a
moment
to hear, to listen.

But the moon is dark.
I’ll build you a lamp always
glowing
of glass with blue flame,
Matching those eyes,
bright
which so ensnared me.

But the moon is lonely.
I’ll give you my ears that you’ll
talk, be heard.
I give you my voice to console
and my eyes to behold
any – and all – that you’ll show me.

Dare they make us leave,
I’ll cast the watch to the fire,
burning,
bringing  a time that stands still.
I’ll-

Overhead the light flickers. I glance up and in that moment I lose you. Gone. The face staring back from the mirror is only my own. You’d never been so close. The words die in my throat and I know you’ll never hear them. With a heavy sigh I turn and leave my dreams shimmering in the mirror hoping, praying for the courage one day to tell you I care.