THE PROBLEM WITH WORDS by Barrie Purnell

THE PROBLEM WITH WORDS

I met her in the long hot summer of sixty three
On a surfing beach in south-western France
I wanted to grab her attention with my poetry
I just hoped it would give me a chance

The words I needed were there in my head
But were cryptically concealed in my mind
They were words that I’d heard or words I’d read
But those damn words were so hard to find

I needed to write some lines to give to Nicole
That would tell her I wasn’t a naive hanger on
Words to pick the lock letting me into her soul
I needed to strike before the moment was gone

Words those lyrical poets seemed always to find
Words to tempt her away from the glitz
To persuade her my love was worth leaving behind
Her hedonist friends on the beach at Biarritz

Why is it when you try to write what you’re feeling
The words are never what you want and you know it
It was never an ace that I seemed to be dealing
But the joker mocking a wannabee poet

Like drunks my words staggered and fell off of the line
Forming a jumbled lexicon piled at my feet
My pen itself appeared to be hostile and malign
Leaving me staring at a pristine white sheet

Too late I found the words that I wanted to say
Another troubadour had enraptured her heart
My love turned to malice when I heard her say
That I was not in the race from the start

So in place of verses that were full of love and desire
The words were those of resentment and spite
I ignored her contrition and appeal for a ceasefire
Because I was totally absorbed in the fight

I dealt out my words like sharp stainless blades
Each syllable became a barbed arrow of pain
Each sentence simply one more heartbreak repaid
For that love lost down in Aquitaine

It was so much easier to find words for my malice
Fired like bullets from a gun onto the page
My jealousy proving a willing accomplice
For my humiliation, frustration and rage

Too late I realized some of the words that you write
Can fatally wound without leaving a trace
Each word is forever and lies there in plain sight
You cannot recall them or have them replaced

I wish I hadn’t wasted my words on anger
But then what is life without any regret
For a poet each word they write is a failure
There are so many failures I need to forget

This poet sees life as a glass that’s half empty
I don’t look for the silver linings on clouds
Life’s disappointments and tears I find aplenty
You’ll find me hiding at the edge of the crowd

So if you are trying to win yourself a new lover
Don’t try ensnaring her with eloquence and rhyme
When you find her just tell her simply that you love her
Using poetry will be just a waste of your time

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Excuse me while I kiss the sky by Kevin Murphy

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

by Kevin Murphy

The year of the Summer of Love didn’t even afford me a kiss. After eight years of yearning I had arrived: I had a new habit and a new name: Brother Bernard. I chose both over pretty frocks and the love of a good woman. I loved the life, but celibate throughout my teens, did I really know the choices? Before taking vows, I left to discern my true vocation.

Over almost a year I chased the back of two pretty heads. I couldn’t get a look in. Now I had a date with a real woman. Lizzy Lafferty was a looker (her parents had not anticipated a lisper for a daughter), but possibly fed up with handsome guys hitting on her she picked me. The Super – the flicks – what to see I have no recall – at the time it was of no consequence either.

My coaches in the courting code were three younger sisters and even the thirteen year old had tips. I don’t recall any sartorial suggestions – things were on the turn. I had my last ever short-back-and-sides a month after I left the monastery. The look to go with it was a sports jacket and drainpipes with a cravat. ‘Nice’. Jimi Hendrix had intervened – I probably wore a tie dyed shirt and the buff cords that I had carefully flared by the insertion of a tapestry chevron.

As indicated by her formidable mother, Lizzy’s formal costume did not inhibit her lovely bottom from sashaying in the pleated skirt, or her ample bosom from challenging the buttons of her blouse. My siblings’ pep-talk joined Lucy and her Diamonds in a purple haze.

She resisted but I insisted on buying our tickets. I was then strapped into the electric chair for three hours: my heart pounded; my hands were clamped; sweat dripped; toes tensed; teeth clenched; the screen fixed my head. My sole point of vision was the corner of my eye. Lizzie moved occasionally. I saw her flash a smile at me and I know I moved my lips. Her hand moved from her lap but, elbow contacting elbow, my heart shot through my brain and her hand returned. My mind failed against the matter of the restraints on my arm – I must put it round her. No good.

‘Good film wasn’t it?’ we lied. Walking for the bus, she relieved the hand nearest me of her bag. The Code! The girls hadn’t told me that. The ‘Z’ was all I memorised: ‘When you get to her door, you can kiss her; if she lingers, you can try tongues; if she lets you, you can ask her out again – she’s your girlfriend.’

At the Bus Stop I was the look-out of a desert island. On the top deck my hands were jammed between my knees – my knees. The short path to her door was across a desert. But her door was not opened – she was. Forty years later that kiss is the best I ever had.