Hemingway is Fishing for ‘Something’ …

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The seas were too heavy to sail again today. Anyhow, Papa was exhausted from months of fruitless fishing for Marlin or U-Boats whilst the Brisa wind walloped his beloved Pilar off the coast of Cojima…r in the Gulf stream, so he headed east. To the Milk lagoon. An oasis of calm in the wetlands where the trade wind would blow itself out by nightfall. And he found his little blue flaking rowing boat safely nestled amongst the flocks of pink flamingos and bright white pelicans with their inky black wingtips. Gliding across the expanse of calm cloudy freshwater, a spray of fine rain brushed his face. The clear Bunsen burner flames of light from the village’s bars on the far shore became a blur of dirty yellow, no longer able to guide him towards warmth and hospitality. He released both oars, removed his glasses and wiped the lenses dry. It was difficult, since the rain, though soft, fell towards him. The boat wobbled and he struggled and cursed. On his way again, he noticed a movement from the shoreline. Running along a path by the side of the lake was a pale thin horse. Like an arc of crystals, its mane gleamed under the moon-lit sky. Behind its tail trailed a line of dust as fine as smoke. Its head stretched forward as though it too were journeying towards the village. Papa laughed. Ha! Only from the lake was it possible to see that the path would soon suddenly drop into a forest of spiky rocks. Then the rain picked up and he grew so weary and felt so utterly desolate that he lay down on the boat’s damp wooden floor and fell asleep.



Displacement is an acrostic poem about how the varied and various symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  can manifest themselves. It is also related to the repression of trauma, be it from torture, war, or otherwise.

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Dreams, darting through a noisy mind,
Insensible, and in disguise, they are surely benign.
Shackled in a stream of warm air,
Pillowed from despair, means
Literal lies will remain in lieu
And there’ll be no wild field of all things taboo.                                                        
Can you imagine otherwise?
Eyelids fluttered as you’re ravished by his vacant smile.
Mangled limbs as he muscles in,
Eyeballs somersaulting.
Now you’re tangled within, and it’s
Too late to dissociate in that bloody ring

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life



Lieutenant Joel Graves snapped his eyes away from one of the department store’s magazines to inspect his wife. She stood in front of a gilt mirror, carved deeply with love birds.

‘Well?’ she said, …keeping her eyes fixed on her reflection, pointing her stilleto clad feet towards him, ‘Will these do?’

As he craned his head forwards for a closer look, a waxed lace brushed his brow from above. He glanced up to see a row of heavy black boots, hanging from a steely rod. Then the store began to close in on him like the walls of a stalling train inside an unlit tunnel. He stumbled, struck by an unexpected memory. One of soldiers. Hundreds of them. Limping in leather and compressed cardboard boots. Boots that were biting into their feet as they fought the furious, freezing squalls that belted across the pampas of that wretched colonial hangover.

Laden with 100 lb Bergens, and General Purpose Machine Guns, the men tabbed eastwards. Grey-green grasses gave way to tussac clumps and fields of granite rock punctuated by the stark beauty of arctic poppies. The distant mumbling of exploding mortar shells drifted across the winds. Flocks of Upland Geese, unaccustomed to such unbroken tranquillity, wheeled restlessly above.

A river needed crossing and Joel urged his platoon to tap dance over any stones visible beneath the heavy mist of dawn. Then they hit the lower ground of marsh and peat bog and their feet began to slide around inside the sodden boots, leading to the itching and tingling of trench foot. They had been marching for weeks, sometimes in complete circles since although routes were clearly marked on maps, none of them were visible on the landscape. Often it was not until someone spotted a scar in the marsh from tractor wheels that they could find their way again. Otherwise they relied on peaks, rocks or a line of fencing indicating settlement boundaries, to navigate.

The weak winter sun began to rise, and Joel ordered his men to rest up on a small hill. Mimicking their trusted Sergeant, Gordon, the men carefully sunk between clusters of dripping gorse and heather and used their ponchos to shield them from the rain. Some of them attempted to patch up their feet, retching at the odour of decay if narcosis had set in, before fumbling for damp matches and cigarettes.


Joel moved away to check on the remainder of B Company, strung out in a meandering line along the valley below. Like an army of doped ants, they snaked up the hill. He wondered what they could be thinking. Before they had begun the seven week voyage from England, few of them had even heard of this splattering of small islands in the middle of the south Atlantic, let alone been able to find them on an atlas. And despite all the training, he knew they hadn’t developed an ear for the sound of artillery, and most still couldn’t tell the difference between outgoing and incoming fire. He himself had what felt like a life time’s preparation for an opportunity like this, and he cursed their seeming vulnerability.

By nightfall the platoon had reached the steep slippery hillocks by Mount Longdon, the site of their forthcoming battle. They shifted their fearful but eager eyes up to the splintered spines of rock stabbing the clouds from the summit.

Joel ordered them to ‘dig in’, and clean their guns and bayonets. By now, if anyone found a corpse or severed leg, he would gratefully squeeze out the foot from the superior boot of the young dead Argentine as though it had been toothpaste from a tube.

Awaiting further orders, they sat around in the sleeting rain. Then Gordon began to sing a song, one from Monty Python’s Life of Brian: ‘Always-Look-On-The-Bright-Side-Of-Life’. Sensing the start of a forthcoming unspeakable bond, the others gravitated towards him, their eyes softening with laughter and affection. Joel observed each of their faces from the sidelines. His smile flickered from amusement to anger. Paras should love no-one, he thought. Not here. Not now.

Back in the store, his wife interrupted his reverie with a sharp cough.

‘I was just remembering our boots,’ he said finally, as some form of futile explanation for his dissociated state. ‘Even these are better than the ones we had out there.’ He reached up to slap one of the dangling black boots with the back of his hand. The whole row began to sway, creating a soft THUD, THUD, THUD.





Calling the Faithful


Calling the Faithful

The man located the outline of a figure hovering in the brightly decorated minaret that towered the village of Teznat. He fitted his telescopic sight and zoomed in on the muezzin sipping mint tea before he began adhan…, the call for prayer.

The man had always found its haunting sounds soothing. He remembered his first visit to the Ameln valley. Then he had thought the reason he heard each of the dozen villages calls for prayer a few seconds after those of their neighbouring village was because the muezzins’ had not set their watches in unison. When he realised it was because they were listening out for their neighbour’s crier’s chants as a signal to start their own, the man had felt deeply comforted. It meant that every village was in a regular stream of communication prior to Salat, the five-daily prayer, in a way that a set time could never produce. The first crier’s opening chant of adhan acted like an oratory version of a flickering beam gradually lighting up the whole valley.

It was exceptionally hot for a May morning in southern Morocco and a stream of sweat stung his eyes and obscured his vision. So he settled back on his haunches to guzzle the water he’d collected from the spring during his climb up the slippery quartz mountain range. Gazing down at the view he saw that everything looked just as it had done five years ago.

In the far distance the local women still appeared as majestic insects rotating in a near perfect circle while they deposited lavender grass in baskets enveloping their backs. Immediately below him the houses of Teznat, made of layered red rock, sand, and white quartz stone, were still as haphazardly scattered on the slopes between the spring line and the valley floor. No new buildings had been built to fill in the gaps during his time away. He would easily be able to track any movement he spotted along the path leading to the orchard. Its almond trees produced a thick cloud of pink blossom – the perfect spring camouflage for courting couples or an illicit affair.


The man knew that once midday had past and the sun began its tilt downwards, adhan would commence for the second prayer of the day. By then his target would be in the orchard with Houssine. He had a while yet, but he would have to be prepared. He had not managed to get hold of a silencer, and although the call for prayer would camouflage the sound of the gun, it only lasted for a few minutes.

He re-positioned his Lee Enfield Mark 5 rifle between two jagged edges of rock, re-adjusted the telescopic sight and calculated the lines of fire. He pushed the cartridges in, pulled the bolt back then moved it forwards. The clicks were reassuring, and he sat patiently in wait.

This methodical process of loading weapons had been missing whist he served in the army. There they had primarily used Self Loading Rifles though these had proven invaluable on the streets of Belfast and the windswept islands of Las Malvinas. Exactly where he’d last fired a weapon, the man was uncertain though he had never forgotten the time he had learnt to take his first shot.

‘My little warrior’, that’s what his father had said to wake him on that special day so many decades ago, his mouth still reeking of the night, his brown flying jacket freshly buttered with saddle soap. ‘How’s my fucking little warrior boy?’ Then, on a flat frosty shooting range in rural Essex, his father had leant over his shoulders and teased his thin arms and frozen hands over the Purdey double barreled shot gun. Once his reluctant trigger finger was re-positioned, the target – a solitary clay pigeon in the form of an inverted, fluorescent orange saucer – was thrown from an airborne styled ‘trap’. The ten-year old boy had experienced an unexpected excitement and unknown urgency. With the trigger pulled clear, he’d reeled under the recoil, but kept focused, anticipating the pieces of pitch and pulverised limestone rock splintering and cascading across the milky dawn sky before tearing through the glistening white shrouds covering a cluster of elderberry trees. But there had been no cascade. The brightly painted ‘pigeon’ had continued arcing – uninterrupted. A member of his father’s entourage had hesitatingly called: ‘Bird Away’, before scribbling briefly onto a hand-held score board. The man had never forgotten his father’s suffocating sigh of despair.

The muezzin’s echoing bellows of ‘Allah’ calling the faithful finally began and the man immediately re-focused on the task at hand. His telescopic sight picked up the orange glow of a head scarf gliding through the orchard towards Houssine and the man zoomed in on the point between his wife’s beautiful blue-grey eyes. But his hands began to shake. And he could not understand why all of a sudden he felt so, so cold. Despite the over bearing heat, it was as though his whole body had become encapsulated in a coffin of arctic sea ice.

tbc …