Poem: Rewind Me Back To The Nineties

Rewind Me Back To The Nineties

If I search the recesses of my memory
I can recall a time before childhood trauma
was all the rage and we were blissfully
ignorant of how those we looked up to
as mavericks and rebels with or without causes
who opted for the crazy life suffered genuinely
from one or another personality disorder,
a schizo-this or complex-that, and the substances
they helped romanticise were really just
non-prescription meds helping them regulate
wild emotions or sedate their inner demons.

A time when each of us felt empowered to
do as we pleased and to go our own way,
not knowing how these choices, in truth,
were the dictates of neurological damage
or that our carpe diem paths were actually
well-trodden tracks leading to reservoirs
of shame which would overwhelm our mid-
life sense of self-worth while contributing
to the freakiest nightmares and breakdowns.

Today there are more than two hundred
classified forms of mental illness – so many
you feel like if you’re not getting with the whole
credential-accumulation game with your
little Fitbit and ultra-woke attitude then
you have a responsibility both to yourself
and others to reassess your life or get used to
being told you’re in denial.

Oh, rewind me
back to the nineties, when dysfunctional
was so much better than just functional,
critics didn’t begrudge artistic catharsis
and to be an in-your-face fuck-up –
yeah, nah, that was sweet as.

THE CLOAK OF ART (poem)

Sure, there’s worry,
there’s the inevitable fate
of pain, disfigurement
and withdrawal.

Then there’s
the weight of numbers
and of future shame to bear.

However, when I wear
this cloak of art,
to my mind’s eye
it’s all so beautifully
transformed.

Poverty becomes
a constrained palette.

Hunger becomes
sustenance.

Cold and discomfort
become chisel and hammer
with which to sculpt character.

Idleness becomes a delicacy
best consumed slowly
to inform the taste.

This cloak of art
is what Otis was wearing
on the dock of the bay.

You see,
it offers a different
kind of warmth,
not by keeping
the weather out,
but by inviting it
to focus one’s intent
on rubbing together
the sticks
of complex longing
and simple play
over the paltry kindling
of an audience
which is yet
to catch on.

~