Friday, June 17, 2016

Grave Robber

I found a grave. I came on the evidence one day, in a forgotten file, randomly numbered by my camera. 

I remember walking through white snakes of sand, lifted by the wind. It blew straight off the North Sea; ice in its jaws.

Always seeking I had strode out, looking for messages in bottles, finding only crackled plastic. Holding my camera with numb hands, it had been too cold to take many photos.

Further up the sand, I passed through the iodine egg-stink of seaweed, then, crunched through broken shells to the path, up and away from the rage of the ocean. The wooden steps were filled with sand, an oil company’s unmaintained project. Corporate social responsibility ravaged by the elements.

On the cliff above the beach, marram grass, pink campion, gorse and broom, grew, holding the sand together with their roots. The fierce wind had stolen my breath as I looked towards the new horizon.

Crumpled red and orange petals had led me through the grass, past the remains of a fire-ring of stones, charred black. Almost at the edge of the cliff, vertebrae were visible, twisting through earth and debris. The corpse lay half dragged out of its resting place. It had been chewed on, half exposed yellowing bones, dark matter and the other half, still grey furred, wet from the dew. The disinterment had been frenzied and fresh. ‘Ben’ was painted on smooth pebbles, pink and white and blue, they had been strewn, displaced from their secretly significant positions. 

Here, in sight of a closed-in coastal farm, on the high cliff, I had cried. For intentions and loss, grieving as I never could at a human graveside. I ached for each animal that I had owned; each passing, life spans unmatched.

I wish now that I had covered it up, I could have pushed it back in, replaced the earth. Panic and grief made me move away quickly, I remember the sudden sense of paranoia. 

‘Guilt, guilty, guilty’, the seagulls soared and screamed, while the sea wind blasted my tears away.

I returned, many seasons later, to find no evidence of the burial. It was as if it had all been a dream borne on spindrift and tears. I would doubt my own memory, save for the photograph I stole that day long past.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Man With The Negative Charisma

You see him now and then buying pizza
He ain’t one of life’s experimenters
The man with the negative charisma
Who darkens every room he enters

Someone told me he was married once
Now he makes no impression on life
The man to whom no one responds
Who reckons he doesn’t need a wife

Naturally his colour of choice is grey
He’ll nod a “good morning” as he passes
But he’s the man with nothing to say
Who blinks behind his plastic glasses

His name in the Book of Life’s a misprint
His face on the page a careless gaffe
He’s the man who leaves only footprints
Who takes undiscovered photographs

Though you’d notice no lack of gaiety
If he vanished in holy ascension
To another world where he’s a deity
Who vibrates in the fifth dimension

Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head
If he swooshed skyward every night?
The man who flies while you’re in bed
Who dances in the yellow moonlight

by Derek Dohren

Friday, June 3, 2016


‘You’ve got something under your nose.’

With a giggle, Trudy wiped a finger under her nose, inspected the white powder there and sucked it clean. ‘I always get a bit nervous when it’s live.’

Hamish smiled thinly. He didn’t like live tv either but didn’t need any stimulation to get through a ten minute slot in the Blue Peter Garden; his ambition was enough. Ambition which would take him, if all went to plan, to Hollywood within five years.

They straightened as the director, a terrifying platinum blond with ambitions to move into Sunday night drama as a stepping stone to HBO, arrived. ‘Right, let’s get on. Where are the brats?’ Half a dozen small children, all wearing brightly coloured wellies and Blue Peter cagoules, emerged from the shed, led by a production assistant.

‘That’s no good! Give them shovels, or hoes or something. We need them doing something useful in the background. Hurry up Sally, for God’ sake!’

Sally rushed back into the shed, emerged with a handful of shiny new tools, appropriately sized for small people. She handed them out and arranged the children vaguely around the bare soil. ‘Dig, or something. Whatever. Look active.’ She hurried back into the shed, where a Hazelnut Latte and Steve, the production assistant’s assistant, were waiting.

The Director surveyed the scene. ‘You children. Dig harder. Swing these shovels. We’re about to start. Right. Places.’ She consulted her watch. ‘Trudy, Hamish, you ready?’ They nodded, and shuffled into place beside the runner beans. The red light on camera one blinked on. Trudy gave her trademark smile, and Hamish launched into his spiel. 

Behind them, unseen by the presenters, unnoticed by the director, but preserved forever by the all-seeing eye of the camera, a small girl swung a sharp, triangular shovel down on a small boy’s foot. They both looked, amazed, at the bright red blood and the neatly severed toecap of the boy’s yellow wellington. Another child picked up the little piece of rubber. Five tiny toes fell out. She screamed. Everything stopped, with the exception of the camera; the cameraman had his own ambitions, to have his own YouTube channel.

The next day, Huw Edwards looked solemn as he told the world about the demise of the most beloved children’s show in the world, as he portentously put it. Behind him, on a loop, the viewers could see Goldie, the Blue Peter Labrador, enjoying an unexpected meal.