Monday, 30 January 2017

The Stars Want Her Back

When I first got to know her,
She was fully formed.
A woman with life, and humour and
Dreams.
And in the gaps between the dark times,
She talks about her dreams,
And all the reasons they never happened.
But now we have a fight on our hands,
For she is slowly leaking back
Bit by bit, thought by thought,
To where she came from.
For the stars want her back,
And there is nothing we can do.

bobby stevenson 2017

The Man Who Knew Where Love Was Hidden



There had always been wars. Even in the times of love and hope, there was always a reason to kill.

From the 17th century onwards, wars got more complex: families fought families, brother against brother, rich against poor.

If you were to ask when love started dying, it was probably at the dawn of the 20th century. For that was when Captain James Sandford, a man who had seen too many battles, began to notice the increasing coldness in hearts, and the dullness growing in people’s eyes.

It was only little things at first. Small, insignificant things. A gentleman giving a beggar a farthing instead of a penny. A landowner hitting a servant twice instead of the usual once. Even the poor were not exempt; folks stole more from other poor souls and yet they could still sleep at night.

So, it was, in the year of our Lord, 1903 that Captain Sandford decided to do something about it. From his travels in Afghanistan, he has spoken to medicine men, men who had talked with the Yeti (at least, that is what they claimed). In the years that James visited their homes high in the mountains, they taught him magic and sorcery (at least, that is what he claimed).

But the greatest of all tricks was the dilution of love into a potion. One so strong, that it could stop wars in an instant. The medicine men called it ‘God’s Tears’.

In the Spring and Summer of 1903, the Captain travelled the world, catching the tears of children for their mother, and the laughter of friendship, and the sweat of one lover for another. After diluting the liquid, he placed it in a large bottle, and placed this container in the highest building that he could find.

That was at the top of the Flat Iron Building in New York City. 
As 1903, became 1904, and then 1905, the world grew darker and colder and soon the world was at war. All wars are bad, but this was an evil war which believed that humans were divisible into the great, the good and the dispensable.

There were more wars that century which became more about what the enemy were – about religion, about race, about the destruction of people.

And so, the world came to the 21st century and by then love was a scarce commodity. Soon love would be no more.  

The problem was that our Captain James had fought one more war in France in 1916 and had fallen there, never to return.       

And with him, he took the secret of God’s Tears to his grave. But somewhere out there, perhaps hidden on top of the Flat Iron building, there is a safe which contains a bottle where all the love in the world is stored - waiting to be uncorked.

It just needs to be found.

bobby stevenson 2017

Saturday, 28 January 2017

TO


 
 
To all the love
That died unspoken,
To all the hearts
So quietly broken,
To all the tears
That fell unseen,
To all the things
That might have been.
 
 
bobby stevenson 2017

Friday, 27 January 2017

That Perfect Moment



When I was a kid, my whole world was Hell’s Kitchen. Heck, it was my whole universe too – because that part of New York City was all I needed, and to be honest it was all I ever wanted.

I was about ten years old when my brother, Archie took the photo. He had swapped one of his medal from the war for a color camera. He said it was worth it but my daddy thought he was a fool.

“You can’t eat the medal, Pa. So, what am I supposed to do with it?” Archie would say when my father tutted or cussed every time he saw the camera.
I guess he was right.



Jeez, in just writing this down I’ve just had a sad wave come over me – I’m realizing how much I miss my brother. Wishing he could come back from that place he went to, but it’s a one way ticket. That’s the bad part.




Anyways, the three girls at the back of the photo are my sisters, then there’s my cousin Irene, who you can’t see and standing next to her is Mary-Lou her best friend.



That photo was taken in that real hot summer of 1950, and everyone on our street tried their best to keep cool. I did it the only way I knew how, using the hydrant like my brother and my pa, had done before me.
 
Usually my eldest sister, Becky, would give me a dime for keeping them watered down, but since she found me smoking one of my brother’s cigarettes in the back yard, she was blackmailing me into doing everything.

“See if I don’t tell Pa about your smoking and all, see if I don’t”.
 
I couldn’t take the chance, so I had to believe her, which meant a Saturday watering was theirs for free.1950 was a lifetime ago, and I can still smell those summer days in the best city in the world.


A couple of years after the photo was taken, Mary-Lou and Irene moved into a cold-water apartment down near Washington Square. My Ma said she thought it strange that they never had any gentlemen callers around their place – but me, I like to think that the two of them were happy in their own company. Weren’t no one’s business, anyhow.



Becky went off and married a guy from the navy and they ended up living in Alaska. She keeps saying she’ll make it down one day, but I haven’t laid eyes on her in over fifty years.


My other two sisters followed my brother to that undiscovered country, and I guess I miss them all just as much.


I hung around the city doing all kinds of work, until one night I walked into a bar and heard a kid singing and then my life changed. The boy was Robert Zimmerman, and he could speak for a thousand angels. The way he used words ain’t worth thinking about. He changed his name to Dylan – after the poet – and I held on to his coat tails and followed him to the Catskills, where I still live today.


If you’ve read my writing, then you know that I’m always harping on about the perfect moments in your life. The real problem is you never get to realize what they are, until they are gone. Now ain’t that the kicker?


But that photo, that color photo taken on a camera worth a man’s medal, was probably the most perfect moment of my life – everyone I knew was laughing and healthy and as for me – well I was going to live forever.
 

bobby stevenson 2017


https://thougthcontrol.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/that-perfect-moment/

Thursday, 26 January 2017

I Am So Proud Of You



I am so proud of you,
In so many ways,
Proud of every sinew in your strained body,
Proud, that with even a fractured heart,
You can still stand and smile,
Still look the world
Straight in the face.
I am so proud of you,
For although you ached for love yourself,
You gave yours away to those who needed it,
Proud that when it took everything inside
Just to get to midday,
You got there and you survived,
And  still you remembered and still you cared.
I am so proud of you,
That while you drag all that darkness with you,
You can still make it to the end of the day -
Whatever
Is at the finish of all this,
(Perhaps we’ll knock on that final door,
And no one will be there),
Just please, please remember this,
With all your heart,
I am so proud of you.

bobby stevenson 2017

Monday, 23 January 2017

My Uncle Bertrand's Dream



The year we moved from the 1800s to the 1900s, was the year that my Uncle Bertrand came to town. That man was larger as life and twice as bold.

He’d made all his money in some venture in Morocco, Africa, at least that’s what they said about him – you could never tell about my uncle what was true and what wasn’t.

Except maybe that he was the kindest man who ever walked the face of the Earth. When I was down, and maybe crying, he’d find me in the back yard – he’d say:
“Robert, there are more good things in this world than bad, and there are more good people than wicked ones,” then he’d pat me on the head and smile, one of his famous smiles. That usually did it for me, and I could feel a little warmth coming back to my heart. Man, my Uncle Bertrand was good.

I ain’t sure if you can see the picture and all, but if you can - my uncle is the gentleman standing proudly next to his horseless jalopy, in front of our house. It was the only carriage in Saratoga Springs, and he’d steered it all the way up from New York City. Just in case you’re asking, the picture was taken by my good pal, David Kodak, who was always experimenting with things like that. He was going to be a scientist one day.

As for my uncle Bertrand, he was scared of nothing.

“As long as I’m breathing, my fine young nephew, I will keep on making things happen. Many times, I’ll fail, but a man who ain’t failed, ain’t lived.”
Amen to that, I say.

Then one day it happened. One sunny day, when the world was warming right through to my bones, my uncle Bertrand called at our house, and asked if it was okay to take the ‘young rascal’ – that being me – on an adventure. My mother said it was fine as long as I was back by dark and we didn’t go in that ‘godless contraption’ of his.

The thing is we did. I sat in that machine, like I was the king of everything. Man, it felt good, and my uncle steered and steered all the way to the Niagara Falls.

I mean the actual ‘Falls’ – we had lived in Saratoga Springs for ever and no one had ever taken me to see the Falls. Man they were a sight, I can tell you.
“Let’s take a walk,” said uncle.

And we walked right to the very edge of the waterfall.
“Taste that,” he said, grinning.
I wasn’t sure what it was I was supposed to taste, but I nodded any way.
“That’s the taste of freedom, and that is what is so great about living. Anyone can almost do anything and I plan to do that.”

So I asked him what he meant and he pointed out there, to the Falls.
“That,” he said. “That’s where freedom lies, I’m going to walk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope.”

Well, if I had thought about what my Uncle Bertrand was going to say, it would not have been that, I can tell you.

So at least once a month, me and my uncle would head out to the Falls and we’d sit there and smell the freedom. And me and him would look at each other and we would understand what all this freedom meant.

One day, my uncle said to me, “Robert, I want you to promise me that if you ever have a dream, then you chase it, and chase it and beat it down until it’s got no choice but to do your bidding. Then you sit on the back of that beast and you ride it for all it’s worth. No point in being alive, otherwise. All those folks who died a long time ago and just move about until it’s official.”

That day I promised him.

It was a train that killed him, in the end.
Some cargo train from Ohio, caught my uncle and his jalopy when it got stuck on the rails at a crossing. ‘Never stood a chance’, the Sheriff said. The train just kept on riding the rails, not knowing that they’d brought my uncle down. Still, it was a kind of adventurous way to go. He would have approved, I know he would have.

So I’m writing this story in 1925 and I’ve been overseas. I’ve been to Belgium and I’ve watched people die in wars.

And maybe we all heave dreams, and maybe most of them do die or get suffocated by life. And sometimes – well sometimes, maybe you pick up another man’s dreams and carry them on.

And that’s why today I am getting ready to walk across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Maybe I’ll make and maybe I won’t but at least I’ll have tried.

I mean, what’s the point of being alive?


bobby stevenson 2017

Friday, 20 January 2017

We Walked A Path Once

 
 
We walked a path once,
You and I,
And shared some gentle time while basking in the sun,
We walked a road once,
You and I,
Fighting with the storms that blew upon our way,
We walked a highway once,
You and I,
And dealt with all the loss and hurt that fell before us,
We walked the Earth once,
You and I,
And broke with everything that Heaven threw in our direction,
But now the time has come for the parting of the ways,
And you will take one path and I will hold the other,
And we will walk the Universe,
You and I,
But with other souls as company.
 
 
bobby stevenson 2017

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The Boy Who Lost Himself




The boy looked younger than his age, but for all that he was still full of the life force. 

The kid loved nothing better than running to the top of a hill and shouting out – ‘This Is Me!’.

On one very sad and bad occasion the world tried to smash his little heart into pieces, and although there would always be a scar – he healed enough to keep on running and shouting.

As a teenager, he screamed and laughed and ran with his heart on his sleeve. Then one day, through fear or ageing, no one was sure which, he started to quieten his heart and his little soul.

His friends told him that his hands were not the hands of a friend of theirs – so he pulled his hands up inside his sleeves. Then his friends told him that his shorts were too short and not the kind of trousers that they would expect a friend to wear: so he wore trousers that were more akin to someone who was their friend.

Then they told him that his smile was too wide and gave away too much of his heart, so the boy closed down his smiling and eventually his face.

By the time the boy was an older man and had reached the age of thirty – he had all the friends he needed in the world – but his heart and soul had completely disappeared and he could have been anyone and everyone.

When he looked in the mirror, the face was the face of everyman.
One night, on the way home, when he was perhaps a little drunker than he should have been, he looked across the street and from the corner of his eye, he saw a strange man wave and shout. He didn’t recognize him at first, until the man on the other side, shouted:

“It’s me, I’m the man you should have been. See, I’m smiling.”


bobby stevenson 2017

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Captain Oates' Last Walk


 
"Captain Lawrence Edward Grace "Titus" Oates was an English cavalry officer with the 6th Dragoons, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died during the Terra Nova Expedition/ Lieutenant Henry Robertson "Birdie" Bowers was one of the polar party on the ill-fated expedition. Bowers was born 29 July, 1883 in Greenock, Scotland."

"On 16 January 1912, as Scott's party neared the Pole, it was Bowers who first spotted a black flag left at a camp made by Roald Amundsen's polar party over a month previously. They knew then that they had been beaten in the race to be first to the South Pole. On 18 January, they arrived at the South Pole to find a tent left behind by Amundsen's party at their Polheim camp; inside, a dated note informed them that Amundsen had reached the Pole on 14 December 1911, beating Scott's party by 35 days."


---------------------------------
 
There wasn’t much he could see ahead of himself. It was cold and it was unclear and that was his future; he had never been more certain of anything in his life.
Before he’d set off, things had been good, probably better than good. They’d spent time, all of them, together on the west coast. A small Scottish town called Greenock, the birthplace of Birdie Bowers.

They’d got drunk, had punch ups with the locals, but most of all they had bonded. Perhaps that was why he was doing what he was doing, perhaps only God knew the answer to that question.

The beautiful River Clyde, had been spectacular on that last day. The sun had been setting behind Helensburgh and he could see the Arrochar Alps as the ship turned to head towards the Irish Sea.

What a life it had been; a life of laughter and a few tears but always full of adventure. Always on the edge, always completely alive. He felt the toes on his left leg grow cold.

It was hard to breathe but then nothing that was worthwhile was ever won easy. Life was hard but friends, companionship, and family took that particular sting away. That made it all worthwhile; love and adventure was everything.

I suppose, he thought, that he could have done things differently and not ended up here, not ended up in this predicament - but then, the ending should never over shadow the living of a life.

He’d never settled for what had been given to him. He could have lived comfortably and gone to his grave, relatively unmarked and unremarkable.
Yet, that was not what his heart was satisfied with. He’d had to climb the highest, run the fastest, jump the longest. That was the way he had been set to live in this universe and there had been no going back.

There was a price for everything - if his life had taught him anything, it had taught him that. He’d paid for his life of movement and achievement by never finding a place to belong. It did bother him, everyone should belong somewhere. He looked up at the little number of the stars he could see and wondered if one day a man would stand on the moon and look back at Earth and feel homesick. That was the best he could do – say that this planet was his home.

He was dying from the inside out and yet he felt more peaceful than he had ever done before. There would be something, he was sure of it, on the other side.

He started to smile, he had no idea why, but suddenly his life seemed simpler than it had ever been. What he was doing seemed natural, the right thing, perhaps it had all been leading up to this point.

He thought of the lies he had told all of them as he left. He hadn’t believed it and neither should they. But there were things that were better left unsaid, unspoken. Those things were shouting the loudest in the silence. He loved them all, that was the only reason he was walking in this direction.

He had written letters to those who mattered and one day they would find them. He wondered if he’d ever be found, ever be seen again, ever be held by a warm hand.

The coughing made him lose his breath and he bent down. Soon the pain would all go. Soon it would only be sleep. Soon it would all be over.
The wind was picking up and he pulled the woolen hat down over his ears. There was a whistling in the wind and he was sure he could hear choirs. Maybe there were angels after all, or maybe it was the cold and hunger.

Not long now, he could feel his time coming. He had to do this. There was no room in the tent for all of them to survive. So he’d crawled out, turned to the rest and said:
“I’m going outside and I may be some time.”

And this is where he was going to rest, and at least he’d got to stand on the South Pole.

He thought of his sister and he whispered, ‘goodbye’ and of his time in Putney.
He said ‘thank you’ on his frost-bitten lips and then his heart stopped.

bobby stevenson 2017

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Strange Day



November 22.

The strangest goddamn thing ever, and I mean ever, happened to me this morning. Jeez, my hand is still shaking as I write this even although the boss told me ‘no notes, no traces, no records’ but hey, it’s only one little bitty diary.

I had got up this morning, had breakfast and kissed my wife and prepared myself for what I was going to do, today. ‘Change the world for the better’ is what the boss said to me. So last night I double checked everything and the equipment was all ready. I’d taken it out to the Plains last weekend to make sure everything was A, okay. It was.

So I took all I needed up to the top floor and waited. I kind of guessed it would be a long wait but I was ready. ‘You’re the man’ as my boss told me last week.
Jeez, I nearly died when those folks turned up right behind me. I kid you not. One minute I was alone, the next they were standing right beside me. I didn’t even get a chance to reach for the rifle.

“Did you do this on your own?” Asked the man with the grey suit.
I asked him what he meant. I mean were they Feds or what?

Some guy shouts in a strange voice that they weren’t meant to get involved, that they would have to abort the trip and everyone was to return. Sounds crazy? That’s what I thought. When I got myself together I started to chase after them as the disappeared around the corner. Then I felt real weird and blacked out.

When I came to, I heard one of them say that I would have to be dropped off later. A kind blonde haired girl, a bit like Marilyn offered me a drink, smelled like coffee but I turned it down.

She asked me how I was doing and I said fine, she said that we’d need to wait till the bomb had gone off before we would return to get me home.

I know this is going to sound crazy, if anyone reads this – but she said they were time travelers, that they were on a tour of the big ones: The Crucifixion, First Man on The Moon (I’m tellin’ you that’s what she said), The start of World War 3 in 2021 – apparently a dirty bomb went off in….no, I’m going to stop there you wouldn’t believe me if I told you and the Assassination of the President – J.F.K. and that was why they were visiting me. I asked her how she knew and she said she was from the future and that she knew everything about me including Jack Ruby. Wow, my blood ran cold when she said that name – how did she know the Boss?

She said that I would be given a drug or something to make me forget so she could ask me anything. ‘Did I work alone?’ – I asked her what she meant. Did I shoot JFK on my own? I haven’t done it yet, I told her. Well are you working alone? I told her of course I’m not, I am only up in the Depository to make sure there are no loose ends. There are two guys down on that grassy knoll that will do the shooting.

She seemed real puzzled at that. She left me for a while but she returned after she’d seen the city blown sky-high. She told me that the world would be at war within hours. She had been crying. She’d been on this type of tour before but never to Dallas or to the bombing.

I’ve no idea what went wrong but if they did give me a drug to make me forget it didn’t work ‘cause next thing I know I’m waking up in the Depository again and I’m wondering if I had taken a stroke or something. Anyway, things are back to normal, as I write this the time is 11.40am and the President is late.

bobby stevenson 2017

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Man Who Bought Hair

 
Now I isn’t here to argue the toss about, Robert Holloway. I knows what folks says about the fellow, and I says they are all wrong. Robert is my friend - well probably my only friend in this world – but what I lacks in quality of companionship, I makes up for in quality.

Yes he can be trouble - but then I got to ask you and Good Queen Victoria – who ain’t in these deplorable times, I mean who ain’t?. We all got to live. Can’t avoid it – ‘cause, as my dear Aunt Fanny used to say, ‘if you ain’t living, then you’re dead. Simple as that my boy’.

As with most things, my Aunt Fanny was always right (or there and thereabouts).

Now to get things in order, I have to tell you, my lovely readers, that I lives in the little place above Robert’s shop. From my window, if I dropped something heavy out of it, it could easily go right through the shop roof and hit someone (I only mention that in passing, ‘cause it actually happened).

Apart from my good self, (Zachariah), my pal Robert had two other acquaintances in his life. One was his boy, Albert, who had scarpered to the Americas on account of the Peelers looking him for some misunderstanding or another. The other was his wife of thirty years, Maisie.

It could be that Maisie was misunderstood or it could be that she was just as lazy as everyone said she was. The name the neighbours gave her up the street was the ‘Coat-tail Hanger’. On account that she was too lazy to walk up the street, and so she would grab on to a passing stranger’s coat-tail and get them to pull her up the hill. Now I know it is a steep hill, but still there are limits. When she got to the shop, she’d let go, and shout some complaint or other after the poor soul. Either that he was too slow, or too fat, or even too quick: ‘’E nearly took me breath away’ was one of her favourites. She was one of those little soul suckers who thought the world owed her a living, and that all she needed to concentrate on was breathing. We all know them. We all got them.

Locally, Robert was known as two things – 1. The man married to the coat-tail hanger, and 2. The man who bought hair.

For that is what he did - among other less lucrative things. The poor and the hungry would cut off their lovely locks and take them into my friend’s shop in exchange for a measly farthing or two. Some folks sold the hair from their recently departed (or Heaven forbids – the less than recently departed, if you gets my drift).

It was then my job, Good Zachariah of this parish, to wash the hairs, then stick them on to cloths, and shape them into wigs that could be used by gents and ladies of this fair town. Sometimes, you spent the whole day just killing the things that lived in the hair. Me and Robert would split the money 40 for me, 60 for him, on account of him acquiring the hair in the first place.

We used to keep the wigs in my house as Maisie sometimes took a fancy to one of them and would decide to place it on her riddled head and that would be that. Money lost.

The weirdest wig I made, at least so far, is one I made for a rather rich Gent who knocked on me door one Thursday evening.

“Just coming,” I shouted expecting that to hold the knocking, but instead it just kept on coming, harder and harder.

“What!”, I shouted as I opened the door, ‘cause I don’t like to be put upon, I don’t likes it at all.

“Well blow me down with a feather,” is what I says when I sees who it is at the door.

“Come in, come in,” I says to him.

Now I’m trying to act all……….well you know whats I mean. Here in my little room was Mister Charles Dickens – greatest writer alive – well that’s what me and Robert says.

And here’s the strange bit – he wanted a wig to fit him, but not a gentleman’s wig but one closer to a lady’s. Yes, you did read that right. He had a second request: if there was by any chance a lady’s dress that he might acquire, he would be ever so ‘umble. He really would.

It seems (and this is only between you, me and the Bells of St Mary’s) that he has a young lady companion who he is utmost fond of, and would like to travel in her company incognito. Can’t blame a man for that, can’t blame him at all.

So I go downstairs and ask if Maisie has any clothing that she doesn’t need. ‘All of it’ was what Robert said, but I took a little number I thought might go with the wig Charles was going to wear. Robert didn’t ask why – which in itself was a bit strange.

Anyway, within the hour Mister Dickens (or Toloola Bell as he asked me to call him) was on his way and off to meet his little concubine.

The funny thing as I was taking him down the stairs, Robert was on his way up with new hair, he said, ‘Evening Zachariah, evening Mister Dickens’. So much for the disguise I thought.

‘Does all the time,’ Robert told. Last week, Mister Dickens was a red-head called Cheeky.

bobby stevenson 2017
https://thougthcontrol.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/the-man-who-bought-hair/