Black Dog


Black Dog

Hunt me down then,

Stalk me, track me,

Pin me down and corner me,

Pursue and torment me.

I’ll fear your shadow

Even in noonday sun;

Scrape of claw on stone,

Fetid breath, panting tongue.

The silent nights

When I wait to hear

The footsteps on the stair,

And know you’re there.

Black dog, you worry me.


Cry Havoc

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

That’s what’s going on in my head right now: war, of sorts. The dogs of war are great snarling beasts, all white flashing teeth and raging red eyes, straining at the leashes, the deep, spiked collars digging into the heavyset necks. You can hear them growling; the low angry rumble of anger, rising slowly into as close to a roar as a dog can make. You could imagine this is the sound  the soul of a volcano makes before it blows its stack.

Can you smell their fetid breath, feel the sprays of spittle as they shake their heads in an attempt to slip their collars?

I can.

Those who think being creative is NICE should meet my dogs some time. The temptation to really let them loose is huge right now. What havoc they would cause if I did. What wanton destruction and violence….

I’m a Viking really. No horned helmet or sword or armour but a Viking all the same. A Berserker, one who gave in to the battle madness and would slay friend and foe alike without caring who they killed while the fierce battle joy flooded their veins with its power, laughing as they cut a bloody path through anyone and anything that stood in their way and weeping just as madly when they came to themselves later and saw what they had done.

That’s who I am.

One part of me anyway. The part I keep safe and silent and chained up. My Hyde side. That’s the side that comes out and rattles her chains when I write. It’s not that I mind as such, in the writing, but it does sometimes threaten to spill over into what we stupidly call real life. I go into a sort of trance, become a berserker with a pen, and I lose track of who I am and what I am doing. I mutter when I walk, I react as if I am in the story and I stop seeing people as real physical beings. 

Pain anchors me. The pain I suffer as a result of illness may be a gift from God to keep me from going wild completely. When it isn’t enough, I chose to create it; the feeling of knuckles bruised and bloody from hitting a wall reminds me that I live in both worlds, but one world collects the rent and that is the physical one. Everything we do, we pay for. Everything I write has cost me, in blood sometimes.  

This is my gift to the world.

Nice doggy.

Mud and Tears

Mud and tears.


After the snow: the rain.

After the rain: the flood.

After the flood: the mud.

Snow imprisons me

And I dread the thaw:

Tears, anger and the mud.

What a mess!

But the black Nile silt

Laid thick across the plain

Made Egypt once

An Empire’s breadbasket.

Let then the ice melt:

Welcome the dancing torrents

And await the healing mud.



Singing the Storm

I’ve been struggling to put into words how I am feeling. Me, struggling with words. Me, who is often described to others as a wordsmith. Me, who is seldom at a loss for words and never for long.

I trawled my archive of poems and found nothing. I had a little rummage in the mindbox where I store half completed poems. Nothing. I wanted to add a photo but it seems almost impossible to add them right now.

I’m feeling frozen inside, numb, without feeling. All my responses are slowed down. It’s taken me two days to wrap, pack and send the presents for friends and family outside the UK. There were only four. I’m trying to get ready for this seasonal event that comes every year and yet I am never ready for. I collected together all my Christmas and Solstice related music CDs and started playing them as I was getting on with the chores.

One of my favourites of all time for this time of year is Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band’s Gold Frankincense and Myrrh, which has some real earthy and hipshivering stuff you could bellydance too. I found myself dancing. Now in some this is normal response to music. In me, it’s highly unusual and rather worrying behaviour and nor did it proceed out of joy. The dog got anxious as I pranced around the living room, bubble wrap in hand. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on in me and I was far from happy about it. Imagine the scenario of the Red Shoes…

One of the songs is a real belter about the Queen of Sheba. I wish I were a clever bugger like J and could work out how to put a music link on here. I was washing up by this stage, and waiting for the washing machine to finish so I could hang out the clean clothes. My daughter came down and I said, rather to her surprise “I wish I could have met the Queen of Sheba” but then that’s a fairly normal thing compared with some fo the things I say. And then, though she didn’t see, I burst into tears because….well, I don’t know why. Because I will never meet the Queen of Sheba? I don’t know. Probably not.

I think it’s down to the fact that as I have written about before I can’t seem to get the hang of feeling the good STRONG emotions. I don’t really recognise them; they’re painful in so many ways.

The music I was playing is very lively, very sensual and emotive music, with intelligent and thoughtful lyrics and it was singing up a storm in me that I just couldn’t deal with. The chaos of emotions got channelled into a familar path, that of pain and longing and disappointment, and I lost the joy and the freedom that the music held. If I go now and play it again, the same will happen. I’ll get swept along for a short time with the buoyant wave of feeling before the dark comes to claim me again. I don’t know how to do it differently. 

I changed the CD after that and put on some classical flute music recorded by a very talented friend of mine but while beautiful, the music was cold and silvery, like icicles chiming as the winter wind blows them. It calmed me enough to compose myself and put aside the inner chaos. I can’t afford to let myself be swept away. I have things I must do and to break down now would be stupid.

But one day I want to sing up the storm myself and ride it out, like hitching a lift on a hurricane and see where it drops me.

I’d be willing to bet it won’t be Kansas anymore, Toto.

Limited range

I’ve been thinking today that I have something missing from my range of emotions; I have trouble both feeling and expressing or responding to good things. I can’t express joy or happiness. I don’t know how to. I don’t know sometimes how to feel them or in fact what they feel like.

It’s hard to explain. I’ve had a sick headache today but I didn’t realise quite how bad it was until I took some painkillers and it started to ease. Until that point I hadn’t realised how much it had been affecting me; oh, I’d known I couldn’t think straight no matter how hard I tried. But the difference between having the pain and not having it was quite profound; but I can’t say what the difference between say, feeling ill, not feeling ill and feeling actually well might be. I think it might be like this with my emotions: I know what it feels like to be depressed and to be NOT depressed but I have trouble with the state of being beyond NOT depressed. I can’t actually imagine it right now and in my memory, many of the days of my life that ought by rights to have been blissfully happy, I can’t recall any emotional state beyond feeling OK. I’ve gone through much of my life with a So what state of mind and I am ashamed of it. Occasions I can remember feeling something beyond OK, I can also remember not knowing how to express or to celebrate whatever it was. When I finally passed my driving test, all I did was punch the air and say, slightly loudly, “Yes!”

I’m not sure if I am capable of deep positive emotion or whether I am just so far down the emotional range that I simply don’t have a means of expressing the good stuff. I envy people who can go round with a big grin and so on. Maybe I’ve just had too many disappointments and disasters to really allow myself to hope for better.

I don’t know.

Anyway, I shall try. Next time something good happens i am going to try and explore what it feels like and will report back.

New Lamps for Old

New lamps for old


New pain is shrill:

Screaming sirens and squealing tyres.

It thunders in the ears

Pulsing with passion,

Crimson coated across the retina:

The loud insistent throb

Of deafening music.

It hammers at your door,

Shrieking like a demented lover

Demanding your attention.

Old pain is quiet,

Lodged in bones and gut,

Buried in muscle

Hidden by fat.

A constant ache,

Dull but bearable.

A sudden scent, a forgotten face,

A careless chord and then,

Pain pounds, a brief flare

Of hot remembered hurt.

by Viv

Love and Hate

“Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.”

(I hate and I love. And if you ask me how, I do not know: I only feel it and I’m torn in two. Penguin Classics translation)

These are the words of Roman poet Catullus (c84-54 BC).

I first read this epigram when I was 14 and frankly at the time I didn’t have a clue what the poor sap meant. Surely love and hate are polar opposites, and it is impossible to feel both at the same time?

It wasn’t many years before I began to get the guy’s drift.

You see, love and hate are two sides to the same coin, if you like. The opposite of love is not hate but indiference. You know how you feel when someone treats you badly, that passionate flaring of pain and atavistic desire to get even, to right the wrongs and make them hurt? That’s Hate, ugly stepsister of Love. They’re closely related, because they both demand passion.

Indifference is the lukewarm emotion when you’re not even terribly interested what happens to the former recipient of your affections after you go your separate ways.

I’d rather be hated than have someone not care much one way or another. At least hate proves you are alive and capable of fire. If you can hate, then you can love. While your emotions are neither one nor the other, you’re in a No-man’s-land and living a half life. It may hurt less, but that’s because you feel nothing much at all.

The gold standard is to love and be loved, even if it’s just your cat…