Driving through the city’s streets I pass by people bathed in lights
from poisonous neon signs that sell false dreams and false delights,
their complexions made pallid by the growing malaise
that infects the mind and heart and soul in a thousand subtle ways.
Real life is relegated to the TV screen where nature films show scenes
of life on earth as if to ease our guilt and paper-over what it means
to live in cement and glass and steel, never thinking to ask why
we’ve killed half the species known to man, their habitats destroyed thoughtlessly.
Neil says it so succinctly: “And the buildings scrape the sky.”
A mother holds her daughter’s hand as they enter a fast food store;
both are slim and beautiful, one in her prime, one promising more.
I watch while traffic holds me there, a voyeur of affection shown,
I think of my own daughters, now women fully grown.
I look back for one last gaze, a little jealously;
my moment’s passed, my girls have gone, living independently.
The young girl’s hands wave in the air, fluttering like dying birds,
I recognise the tragedy of beauty with a damaged mind,
“Only love can break your heart,” Neil sings with well-timed words.
I loiter with a hundred other travellers, controlled by destiny
encased in caskets of glass and chrome and synthetic upholstery.
How many nights erode like this, nothing to show after wasting time
sitting in a traffic jam, wondering where the hell I am, even less inclined
to run this treadmill for another day with no direction, no life plan,
drifting between disconnected thoughts, pretending I’m a thoughtful man
when the truth is I’m lost like the rest spinning in this endless dance.
Neil sums it up when he sings:
“While the lonely mingle with circumstance.”
The endless stream of traffic fills my blackened world with blinding light
that pierces to my secret core where memory’s unfailing sight
picks out faults in stark relief and holds them up for me to see.
At times this world within my head is where dwells my reality,
not these roads and cold asphalt with houses laid on either side
with plastic bins and plastic boats and plastic bags that float on tides
of refuse thrown by folk who sit and sun
their Botoxed smiles under UV lamps while Neil laments,
“Look at Mother Nature on the run.”
My happy country used to be windblown beaches by an effervescent sea
where toned young girls in crocheted bikinis, adjusted exquisitely,
sunned themselves on clean white sand and, smelling of Hawaiian coconut oil,
waited for their bronzed Ozzy boys to return from swoop and flick and coil
down pristine green-glass curling waves still free from detergent foam
that would kill the rock pool life that I explored as a small child near our home.
I never thought that change would come so rapidly to erase the past;
Neil’s warning rings prophetically,
“Southern change gonna come at last.”
Procrastination was the game; it’s still being practised today:
We kept digging coal and kept building cars, kept burying our garbage away.
“The sins of the father” no longer applies; this world is of our own making,
even a planet as abundant as Earth will bleed dry from our taking.
I took from the world and gave little back, took love and affection, gave little respect,
I thought that people should listen to me, that my opinions were always correct.
I didn’t wake from this dream until all had been thrown away.
Neil must have been reading my mind
When he said, “See the things that never come today.”
For twenty years I did my best to kill off all the love she had
(or maybe it was more than that), I was so warped within my head
I couldn’t see the blazing truth that stared into my eyes.
Too much pain to heal the wounds, too much vanity to excise,
too much angst and too much guilt feeding one upon the other
poisoning a once fertile bed, my offspring and their mother.
(Recalling Macbeth) this stain won’t fade away no matter what I do,
I’ve only half done what Neil sings to me:
“Forget about the past, find someone new.”
It only took a score of years, added to twenty wasted ones
for me to recognise the crime, how I’d treated everyone;
I had literally walked with both eyes shut through my introverted life.
The greatest tragedy of all this was my failure to appreciate my wife,
the woman with whom I should have grown, maturing into dotage,
our marriage begun by a simple dream of a picket fenced white cottage.
What we cast away we lose,
God help me if I fail again! Neil echoes my own trepidation:
“It’s the second half of the cruise…”
I recognise that these confessions can leave some people cold;
“why can’t he leave well enough alone, does this tale need to be retold?”
Through no credit of my own a woman came into my world
to rescue me from all the rage and self abuse I hurled
in pointless repetition, another aspect of my obsessive introspection.
She listened with uncommon patience and changed my thoughts’ direction
until at last I saw through eyes that looked blessedly outward.
Neil and I asked rhetorically:
“Now that you’ve made yourself love me…”
Nearing my lonely journey’s end, 200 Ks of black and rain
thinking of that empty house where she won’t be again,
I peer through pixelated glass at gems of red and blue and white,
not a scene I like to see when travelling at night.
Smashed vehicles and families, ruined lives across the road,
blocking off my exit ramp where I could have been a moment ago.
I’ve seen this violent sight before, someone else instead of me,
I’ve travelled this road a hundred times,
I’m still alive, “Tell me why?” Neil asks plaintively.
I’m lying in my empty bed. God knows how many nights in store
there are until at last I’m whole with the one whose love means more
to me than all else life can bring. Even to a premature end
would be a price I’d pay, rather than lose this Godsend
woman who saved me from myself and my bonfire of the vanities
which almost led to my demise and rocked my fragile sanity.
Each dark night while I’m alone recalling where I’ve come from
I hold my fragmented self together with the mantra Neil gave to me,
“I’m only waiting until the morning comes.”