Three years is not long in the scheme of things and yet there is something significant about it. When I started Roath Writers three years ago I could not see beyond the first session, could not imagine people coming again and again – the early mornings picking poetry, the late nights at the pub. I could not fathom the friends I would make or the people who would serve to inspire me. I also never dared to hope that we’d publish three books together and that our group would become part of such a supportive community. But somehow, we have.
Across the street from our home at the Gate, lives Rhyme and Real Ale (RARA for short). It is a poetry and a short story-telling group originally created by Julie Pritchard which is now hosted by various enthusiastic members. RARA welcomes literary lovers the second Monday of each month to recite their words, drink, listen, laugh and mingle. And, on the 14th I was invited to co-host (with the always exciting Dave Daggers) an evening launch of the new Roath Writers anthology as well as open the stage to new and seasoned writers alike. It was brilliant.
One of the many hosts of RARA, Will Ford, has written a thoughtful and detailed rundown of the evening here. To compliment this, I’d love to share some work that was read on the night which I hope will serve to celebrate the coming together of these local groups.
The first is a prose piece written and read by Sean Wolfendale which can be found in the Roath Writers anthology, To the Pub and Back Again: Volume III. The second is a poem written and read by RARA member, Christian Searle, who was kind enough to gift it to me during one of the breaks.
In addition to these kind writers, thanks are owed to Dave Daggers and Paula Hughes whose lovely photos I’ve included in the collage below. I hope the combination of photos and writing will prove a good representation of an excellent evening.
Finally, thank you to everyone who came along to read, listen and support both Roath Writers and RARA. We are one lucky bunch.
My worst break up was with Grace. It was by far the most devastating, because I confront it frequently and feel that I have changed for the worst. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me start with what I lost.
Grace was the centre of my attention and focus of my affection to the displeasure of the women around me. I would spend time gazing at her while her ginger hair would slip out of view as I tried to draw her attention. She would be often fickle, but when she was attentive, deeply loving.
I’m not going to lie, she spent a lot of time trying to get on top of me, which I allowed, or more truthfully, invited. She would purr to my caress and forget herself as I ran my fingers through her hair, over and over until we were, together, mesmerised.
This went on for years. I was forced into her company frequently, though it wasn’t a chore as I moved to her and felt her slink around me, her hair gently caressing my skin.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. I become allergic to fur. For my own good I had to not only stay away from her but be wary of the space she was in, the places she had been. When I saw her I had to now ignore her, despite my feelings, or else give in to her and end up in tears and pain. I tried to tell her it was me, not her, but in truth it was her, and me both.
This was bad enough, as we always saw each other when I was with my girlfriend, and she would still come running to me, not understanding why I couldn’t love her. For long I was heartbroken too, until one day, not with her, I struggled to breathe. Asthma. I’d never had Asthma. I’d never been allergic to anything either, but at least I could avoid that. This followed me around affecting everything.
‘How?’ I asked.
‘Likely active by allergies,’ replied the bad news man.
So I knew it was her revenge. She would never stop loving me, but she’d still try to kill me with every chance she gets, just so I can’t forget her, can’t move on with my life.
Why couldn’t she just burn my stuff?
Penarth Pier 264
Behind me, green hills are ground to death
searching for red gold dust,
the Vales hawk up lungfuls of black anthracite,
soft sea creatures imprisoned in stone
now escape from the cliff face falling fossil by fossil
until neap tides of ideas escort trollops of stories
between the piers open legs
wishing lines of statues stream off the railings,
lungs perambulate in the wheelchairs of their days
painting bright watercolours into panting dark landscapes
at the end of the pier? A firmament of dreams
Souls – lost at sea amid the semi solids
merry-go-rounds of dark thoughts clutching
the stripy dancing poles of fairground horses
cradle to grave. Womb to tomb,
babies, orange juice, wee-wee.
Or in reverse smell
wee-wee, orange juice, elders,
a sweet rash of teens
popping Ego’s pimpled bunting.
Alarm clocks of walking wound up relatives
ticking hours, minutes, holidays
tocking funerals and birthdays
their latest Box Brownie
freezing constipated smiles
with black and white sunbeams
seaweed Siblings, Coconutty Aunts,
Cousin kissing crystal balls.
Sunburn screaming with laughter
tattoo’s cancers into innocent skin
parents wince as ultra violent glove puppets
burn into young minds cardinal sin,
and squwake – that’s the way to….
When the pier had a shilling telescopre
I saw once – the Severn Bore rising –
the rings of Saturn, illuminations over there
on the Southern shore, Weston-Super-Mare
the phenomena of dust in the universe.
The old paddle steamer crumps into the pilings.
New cinemas lights flicker over the strand
walk the plank you pirates
piers free from lungs in wheelchairs,
walk over water, walk over castles of sand
every tide brings appetites for lust
on the pier tomorrow you’ll be young forever,
tomorrow you’ll be cosmic dust.