Richard Atkinson – Poems


the gates of hell and the blue balloon

two dogs
as fierce as a
tunundra waterfall

stood guard by
the gates,
going down.

someone came with pram,
the push chair not the overlooked group
with a blue balloon tied on to it, floating above.

one of the dogs
tried to smell
the blue balloon.

as their
snout touched
and nudged

both the balloon
and hound darted back.

the hound jumped up
pulling at the lead,
causing everyone to be alarmed,
then laugh about it.

it made me feel
easier about things.
at least I wasn’t
afraid of a
blue balloon.

I knew
we were all going

why do they need security here!
if they don’t let in drinkers

who will they let in,
even with a blue balloon.

I’d figured it out,
all I needed was a blue balloon!

or it was all a con
and I was really going up
instead of down.


the poet

there’s a man, lives in my street
who lowers the tone of the neighborhood.
me dad says so.

he lives on his own and wears fifties suits
without a tie, which is a bit odd

always looks like his mind is elsewhere
on holiday, somewhere raining, maybe.
which is bit odd.

and does not work and does not even own a car
just a cheap tatty bike
which is bit odd.

he even plays classical music and sings to himself
sometimes, which is very very odd.

I know he lowers the tone because I’ve seen him
going out, furtively, in a big black coat
and black woolly hat in the small hours

cycling to the neighborhood tone volume dial
at the end of our street.

he turns it right down, the blighter!
when everyone’s asleep and not looking.

see sparks fizzing from diodes
hear a distant crackle and hum
and crazy man laughter.

me dad says, they should keep it padlocked
or house prices will plummet,

which is not very odd,
but understandable, really.


the seagull

a seagull was at the window
looking into the hospital,
as my mother lay dying.

it moved from the left to right,
closer and closer to my mother.

seemed to be looking in on how humans die,
love and grieve.

had a Prozac dream last night,
a seagull was outside,

I pressed my hand up against the pane,
as though I could feel its feathers, through it.

the seagull as if knowing this
pressed its body up against the glass

as if it wanting me to touch it, feel it,
feel its living feathers.

maybe it was seeing the seagull
as my mother lay dying

that lodged in my mind, as an image of death waiting, watching.

my mother is now someplace else
where I can not touch her

or see her flying as free as a sleepless bird,
as free as the last death.

toward the end of the dream the seagull put its wing
through a crack in the window, a small gap
and I touched its long wings.

it was like touching death
and feeling its flapping wings
trying to escape, trying to come home.

as if my mind could finally
feel the reality of the situation.

the reality of death along with its beauty.
it was as though the glass that separated us
was not just physical but mental

as I have not cried yet, the funeral is still to come.
I pray and hope that I will cry then,
even with my Prozac mind.

feel very alone, because she was always there,
no matter what the hell
I was going through, always there.

if I could put my mothers love into a box
it would be Tardis like

there would be some winning betting slips,
red wine included

along with lots of love, hope, empathy and humour
and a strong desire
for a better world,
still to come.


black lace

we sat opposite each other
do you believe in god she says

well there must be one
but only shows herself when drunk
and at end of tether like most of the time
and has a sense of humour and pain

how long have you been afflicted she says
hell, I don’t know I say, it’s always happening to me
like something stuck in the head
that needs to come out

do you think you can be cured
she says

well hell yes, there must be some way I say
but you always seem to drink
when the affliction hits she says

yes I say
the drink seems to help it come out

like a waterfall in the spring
sided by stiff moss
but soft to touch like a woman’s skin
smelling like a brand new sepia sandalwood
newspaper you have not read
but know already what it says inside

ok ok she says I get the picture
do phrases come to you upon sleeping
she says

yeh that’s the worst time
I say

do you ever get images
in your mind she says
yeh, all the time I say

is it to do with authority she says
hell, everything’s to do with authority I say

you don’t like authority she says
hell, I just ignore authority I say

how did you feel as a kid she says
little I say

do you think your affliction comes from pain
she says

yeh drunk pain, love pain, grief pain
maybe they’re the same pain I say

I mean we are the only animal that knows
it will die, apart from elephants I say

has it to do with conforming she says
yeh conforming stinks I say

are you worried about love she says
hell yes I say love is suffering
love is pain

love is dreaming about the same
person every night

even though you have been apart
for 24 years

always dreaming the same type of dream
like she was dead and you want her back

but the dream keeps on saying the same thing
that no matter how much you dream
the love is a spent force
between the two of us
while also screaming

you miss her
like you will miss breathing

so the two of you were close she says
for eight years we were like Bonnie and Clyde
on a crime free love spree, inseparable
like fish and chips with
salt and vinegar I say

apart from when she
went over to Russia I say

so what happened she says
she wasn’t happy with my affliction I say
so she realized she says

yeh, but it had not gone fully blown
by that time I say
fully blown she says

fully blown I say
so I let her go I say

you let her go she says
she used to wear these gloves
these black lacy gloves I say

black lacy gloves she says
yeh I say


Richard Atkinson is the writer of Two full stops from gravity (Pretend Genius). He can be seen in and around Newcastle performing at different open mics, taking pictures of pigeons and humans as well as picking timely fights with the police. 

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