Sunday, 20 May 2012

Windozelle and Windosil


(an entry in the English National Opera Mini-Operas script competition; inspired by Neil Gaiman's The sweeper of dreams)

WINDOSIL's flat. Curtained window, with some light beyond it. Kitchen counter, with kettle and loaded toaster; table with cereal-and-toast breakfast setting for one. On the floor, the detritus of Windosil's dreams: toy dinosaurs, model railway tunnels, books with titles like The book of nasty photographs and 101 reasons you should commit suicide.

WINDOSIL sits at the table and stares glumly. WINDOZELLE stands, enjoying her complete mastery of WINDOSIL's life.

WINDOZELLE: On sister duty. I'm here for Windosil,
sticking up for her when the Sweeper of Dreams
arrives to take her nightmares. He's a bully.
I despise nobody more than him.

WINDOSIL: Oh Windozelle, you can't control the fall.

WINDOZELLE: The things he said drove Windosil
to drink and then it made her ill,
mad. She downed fifty of her pill.
She jumped from fifty feet and still
it wouldn't end.

WINDOSIL: Oh Windozelle, you can't control the fall.

WINDOZELLE: You never listen to me, Windosil,
and now all this. Do as your sister says
to keep the Dream Sweeper in his place –
five fruit a day
no travelling
no cheese at night
no tea at night
no wine by day
no consecutives
no adjectives and adverbs
no colour on colour
lie on your back, head to left, knees to right
avoid using the word got
don't talk to people you can't see
pull yourself together like a pair of curtains
dip the powdered bandage in water, every hour on the hour
reset the risk thermostat every night
and leave the morning reset to the Dream Sweeper.

WINDOSIL: Oh Windozelle, you can't control the fall.


WINDOZELLE: Yes, you. I'd like a word. It must be dull
for you, monotonous, that broom.
I want to give you some variety,
make your life useful. That is why I told you,
when you come here, don't just sweep, but reset
Windosil's risk thermostat. The poor girl
finds it difficult, another cause of worry.
I told you this three months ago and yet
each day she has to make her own reset.
Not what I'd call too big a thing to do
for somebody just sweeping trash like you.

The SWEEPER OF DREAMS stops sweeping.

WINDOSIL: Oh Windozelle, you can't control the fall.

The SWEEPER OF DREAMS attacks WINDOZELLE with his broom. He knocks her over. Then he sweeps her, with the dreams, the entire length of the kitchen and out of sight.

Musical crescendo under the remaining action?

WINDOSIL goes to the window, opens the curtains, opens the window. Sunlight, birdsong, traffic noises. WINDOSIL moves over to the kitchen counter, and switches on the kettle and the toaster; then to the table, and pours some cereal into the bowl. You can't eat and sing at the same time; let's end there.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

A sonnet and a villanelle

These two poems are six years apart.  'The exorcism of limping' was written in 1998 and published in The Poetry Now book of villanelles, edited by Heather Killingray (Peterborough: Poetry Now, 1998), p. 10. 

I appeared in a number of Poetry Now anthologies in the 1990s.  Be it admitted, I sometimes felt a tad embarrassed about the company I found myself in.  But there was good stuff there as well.


Three things will soothe my twisted ankle best,
soothe it and strengthen it, if not repair –
massage by Clare, turns on the bike, and rest.

Since the chiropodist – please be impressed –
said "Crikey!", waived the cost, and stood to stare,
three things will soothe my twisted ankle best.

Clare lays in it her lap with manifest
enthusiasm to fulfil her share –
massage by Clare.  Turns on the bike, and rest,

happen at other times.  The bike's a test
of sight, quick thought, and turnings yelled to Clare.
Three things will soothe my twisted ankle best.

Rest blurs the role of invalid and guest –
a fault to keep in mind should I compare
massage by Clare, turns on the bike, and rest.

Rest's the most trouble, bike's the readiest,
Clare brings most happiness.  But, to be fair,
three things will soothe my twisted ankle best:
massage by Clare, turns on the bike, and rest.

Another admission to make is that all those three methods of soothing the ankle had to yield place, shortly afterwards, to physiotherapy.  I am ashamed to say I have forgotten the name of the medic who gave me a set of exercises in April 1998.  Their application brought the ten-month agony of my left foot under control in a few weeks.  But massage by Clare, turns on the bike, and rest still have much appeal.

'Take' was written in 2004 for the Spire competition on the theme 'Welcoming strangers', and published in Poetry Nottingham 62(2), 2008, p.3.


So take Aziz – Christian in flight, with grounds
for flight – and think of how he used your phone,
unbidden, to run up eight hundred pounds
of calls to Tehran in one bill alone.
Take Charles and Sharon, whose bizarre eloping
stretched a tea invite to a six-week stay
in a North Midlands vicarage, and hoping
goodwill had somehow not been worn away.
Or take the woman who told everywhere
that everybody hated me.  I waited,
anxious, and hoping she had not been fair,
to see if I’d drawn hate for being hated.
All these were welcomed strangers once; but so
were you, was I, was everyone I know.