We currently have ten poems by Lloyd Rees. You can listen to them all one after the other using the playlist below or if you prefer you can click the links further down to read a specific poem whilst listening to it.
Copyright © Lloyd Rees
Read and listen to Release Date
I called her ‘The Mother’ as if it were a title,
but ‘Ma’ to her face because it sounded harder
than mam or mummy – she was too brittle
and she came and went more like a warder.
I only muttered the odd word, as little
enough, in truth, as I could afford her,
and then beneath the scream of the old kettle.
Anyway, I was only a type of boarder.
Till one day, eighteen, clutching a UCAS letter,
I touched her arm. ‘I’m in,’ I said, ‘I’m off.’
She looked sick-delighted; I’d caught her
off duty apparently. She gave a sort of cough
and said, ‘That’s good, son.’ She wasn’t bitter,
nor, as I later saw, anything like tough.
Read and listen to The Wreck
I called her The Kipper – a simple pun –
because she always seemed to be asleep.
I watched her drowning in her meagre life,
disappearing into some impassive deep.
Sharp poverty had whittled her to bone
and dazed her eyes and slacked her jaw.
She rotted in the doldrums of her days
as if there’d never been a life before.
She’d slump there in her chair – moquette –
as if discarded by some other.
She was a too deep valiant wreck
even before I knew she was my mother.
Some storms come silently, it seems,
and crack the sides of thoughts and dreams.
Read and listen to The Old House
Light, paper-thin and blank
lies down in the old room.
There are china ornaments to mime
some false bucolic past
but all that’s really here is dust
and the wreck of a life sunk.
And this space seems smaller now;
the yellowing ceiling lower;
the years have shrunk even air
and the house’s worn ribs are tight
with the tightness of a hospital sheet.
Here a life went stale and slow.
The veneered door to the kitchenette
is open – linoleum and tiles
and empty cupboards, smells
of ancient parazone and lard.
Here the old ghosts remain unheard;
her life was a pointless habit.
And yet, in this living room
there’s an ugly old upright
where she used to take her seat
and hammer out a slow waltz
that clunked against the papered walls
of her simply furnished tomb.
She learned to play too late;
her fingers struggled to reach
the keys that were meant to catch
the melodies she heard inside.
I try to close that grim lid
but I still hear her waltzing heart.
Read and listen to Going Back
At thirty, say, or even twenty eight,
I’d go round once a week,
relate the happenings, or what
might pass for them. I’d seek
out anecdotes or funny quotes.
She’d listen, eyes sagged shut,
and murmur that I shouldn’t fret,
it would all turn out alright.
The room, much smaller than before,
was dusty dark and cold;
two chairs, a piano and a two bar fire.
‘I don’t need any more, I’m old,’
she’d say. I’d try to stay an hour,
each minute ticking slower
as the evening drained both me and her,
and another cup of tea would be no cure.
I’d ask about an uncle or an aunt
(she didn’t know the people next door).
but there was never news. They weren’t
in touch, she’d say, not any more.
I’d go to water her one rubber plant,
‘Don’t do that.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Just don’t.’
she’d say, ‘It’s not something I want.’
‘Okay,’ I’d say, ‘I won’t.’
And then it was time to go.
Somehow the hour would pass.
with all the little we had to say.
An hour exactly, I couldn’t do less.
And I would rise reluctantly
and we would say a fond goodbye,
though never hug or say, ‘Love you.’
This was our way to try and stay true.
Read and listen to Sailors
I always hoped you’d be the same as me;
but better, more omniscient, less in doubt,
although I feared you’d turn inexorably,
reject my so called wisdoms and sail out
to seas and worlds beyond my harboured life.
I wove long tales and painted dreams with you
of how, as sister, one day mother, wife,
you’d do everything you’d ever want to do.
You tell me now I shouldn’t have told you lies;
you never had that sailor in your heart.
I know how failure leaps up to surprise;
I see it in my own dejected art.
We are not different at last, it seems;
so much for navigation and for dreams.
Read and listen to Lost
Never so filled with despair
I ran through that concourse
as if I was on fire,
a father filled with a father’s force.
She was gone, some savage
had dragged her to a cubicle in the gents,
to be left, left doll-limp and ravaged.
It made no other sense.
You do actually tear at your hair;
I could feel the clumps in my palms,
I pleaded with the surly officials there
as I pulled at my own empty arms.
What she look like? they said.
They were bored, didn’t care,
She could actually be dead!
What you say she wear?
A dress, a sari, I corrected myself.
Colour? Blue. Light blue. Sapphire.
She’s very pretty. And she’s only twelve.
She looks almost oriental, has jet black hair.
We were in Changi, Singapore,
the world’s largest airport
and every girl suddenly looked like her.
Knowledge is the cruellest part.
An hour flashed by, the sun fell outside.
The concourse is over two miles long
but I ran it twice over, dying inside,
hoping and screaming to be, for once, wrong.
Then they found her, asleep. She’d crawled
underneath a row of red plastic chairs.
I let my heart slow, as I stared, appalled
at what might have come to pass.
I was broken by my own fears.
She smiled benignly. I hope we don’t miss
our flight, she said. Then she saw my tears.
There there, she said, and gave me a kiss.
She didn’t get raped or die,
as I was always afraid she might.
She woke to her own life and oh I
miss her on her different flight.
Read and listen to The Artists
One thoughtful day I asked my painter friend
about my daughter’s artistic genius:
‘She’s got great skill. D’you think I should send
her to a tutor? He frowned, all artist-serious.
‘How old is she now?’ ‘She’s four.’
‘I’d beat it out of her,’ he said,
‘And let’s hear of this no more.’
Rightly or wrongly, I encouraged her instead.
She drew me autumn scenes and flowers,
tried to paint Still Life with Breeze;
I watched her as she spent long hours
willing her crayons to inspire those trees.
She’d scribble a cartoon that just missed
the essence of the subject, but only just.
‘You have to practise,’ I’d calmly insist.
She’d look at me gravely. ‘You’re right, I must.’
Later, I studied the self-portrait in charcoal
she’d done for school, a worthy piece,
but without her life, her éclat, her soul.
Lamely, ‘Could you do one of me now please?’
‘You’re always too still.’ This seemed perverse,
but I kind of knew what she must have meant.
And now there was homework, a play to rehearse,
e-mails to write, money to be spent.
‘Shall we try a joint effort?’ I said at last,
hoping beyond reason it wasn’t too late.
‘I’m far too busy,’ she said, aghast
at the prospect of such an embarrassing fate.
Nowadays we talk, and talk endlessly,
of what we both were trying to achieve;
me, with my maudlin comic poetry,
her with her paintings of what she wished to believe.
The artists. Such a grandiose conceit,
as if showing your mind to the world
was such a big thing. Such self-deceit.
It was always just a father and his little girl.
Read and listen to The Bear, Cowbridge
10 November 2006
It’s winter and I’m here once more at The Bear,
gazing at careworn wood and stone.
I’m drinking latté, not Guinness or beer,
and I’m tranquil enough at being alone,
though I wish it was summer and you were here.
The years pass by like motorway signs
– high-sided urgencies hide them from sight –
and it’s good to pause for this moment in time
to think about us, our winter nights,
but I wish it was summer and you were mine.
We’ve been alive in pubs and free
in Cheltenham, Chepstow, Worcester, Hay,
racing down Cointreau, rum, G & T,
but this is a moribund sort of day,
and I wish it was Summer and you were with me.
It can’t be all Budapest Rome and Paris:
at times we smile and jointly know
that it’s good to stretch out on our settee terrace.
I’m glad of Winter’s dark and snow,
but I wish it was summer and we were in Arras.
I’ll be home tonight for the weekend’s haze,
to our own good wood, our time together,
our football, our peace, our laughing ways,
and I’ll love it all madly now and forever,
for it’s always Summer these brilliant days.
Read and listen to Actually
You ask me what I love, apart from you.
Now, there comes it flapping
at my swollen heart. Here,
and no step further in this sand.
I love, of course, the thrill
of winning, and if not me,
the team I decided would be mine,
whoever plays for them.
I love, like breathing,
my children’s oval smiles,
their human curiosity at being alive,
their utter sense of right.
I love, but hate, each cigarette,
each half-baked, half-born poem,
each dusk that breaks the bloom
and blankness of each day.
I quite like trees, their ambiguity,
and water, with its swirling permanence,
and houses, though they swear
and lie they’ll never leave.
But all these things are loaned to me;
I love them, though they will not last.
I’d let the lot of them all go
for you, your smile, your kiss, your sigh.
You ask me what I love apart from you.
There’s only you.
You are what makes me live and love.
Apart from you, there’s nothing.
Read and listen to The Two of Us
I, that entity I half know, half don’t,
am more than that, that one bare thing.
I’m two at least, the will, the won’t,
the parts that fight to cleave and cling.
A bifurcated brain and heart
that find it hard to comprehend
divided loyalties, when we’re
both shuffling to one united end.
An outer shell that laughs in derision
at other’s follies and pecadilloes;
an inner softer muscle with no vision,
in thrall to worries, fears and woes.
One self rushed off to seek out fame,
or something of that nebulous sort;
the other hid its head in shame
at such unconscionable sport.
The two of us, the I, the me,
we should have resolved within the womb
the lifelong struggle, the mystery
of how to fit into the tomb.
But on we go on our different roads
staggering or strutting, according to taste,
struggling to adjust our aching loads,
trying to salvage good from the waste.
My shadow throws some spiteful shade
at all the juvenile impertinence
and all the promises we made
when we danced as youngsters together once.
But we’ll waltz again one blazing day,
gripping each other by the fist;
the shy, introverted, sad gourmet,
the garrulous, egregious egotist.
Lloyd Rees describes himself as a sit down comedian, bon viveur, raconteur, poet, sage and gourmand.
He has had three novels and five volumes of poetry published and has also written three plays, one of which was the first artistic work to be performed at The Dylan Thomas Centre during Swansea’s Year of Literature. He has appeared on radio and television in Great Britain and the United States. His first novel was shortlisted for the BBC Book of the Year in 1993.
The Two of Us - by Lloyd Rees
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