Alone At Last
When you die you discover that actually, surprisingly, there was only ever you. You were your own mother, your own father, your own siblings and your own best friend. You were the person off the telly and the king of Indonesia. Everyone you knew, everyone you didn’t, everyone you’d heard of and all the people you hadn’t, every last man, woman and child of them, were all you.
This doesn’t all occur to you all at once, of course. Initially, even as the shock of dying is still wearing off, you apply to the life you thought was you. The solitary you. That’s when, one person at a time, you begin to see the connections: your Mother, your Father, your sister. Then from there you discover the others. The people you knew, the ones who talked to you, the ones who didn’t; the ones who helped and the ones who hurt.
Somehow, you can’t help thinking in terms of you. It’s still your experiences that spread out, like fingers touching across a table; one you to the next. You think on how you grew up, left home, got a job, made lifelong friends and fell in love. With yourself. You think of all the joys and all the pains and begin to understand it was you all along. That’s why, you muse, you felt so sad when loved ones passed away; so angry when you were powerless.
But even as the you you thought you were, you did well. That friend who went on to be so happy and own such a lovely house. That was you too.
Give yourself a pat on the back.
You by you, life by life, you see how you made your own way, walked your own path, formed your own opinions and came to your own decisions each day in a billion different ways. You did great things, terrible things, ordinary things. You ate breakfast and went hungry. There were rewards and punishments for being you.
You populated your own world.
From the beginning of mankind, you looked up to the sun and counted the stars. You were the people who broke records with their longevity and the babies who barely broke the surface of life. These were, you realise, all your moments. They were strong ideas and brief ideas as you moved from one distraction to another, starting wars and making love.
Looking back you wonder what would be different had you known. Would you have allowed fewer of you to be hurt? Taken more time to enjoy your own company? After all, you had that time, you had all of history and you had every person who ever lived. Time was yours to fill and waste. And fill it and spend it and hoard it and savour it and waste it and stretch it and squander it you did.
I mean all of this literally. When you die you do not meet your loved ones because they are you. I am you, writing these words. There is no oblivion either, just you shaking your head at how obvious it was all along.
You could wrap it up right there and then but somehow you don’t. You look at the lives you are still living and want them, to carry on without you because without them, you are nothing.
Dom Conlon is a creative partner at Head First – an advertising and design company. He likes to write fiction and poetry and keeps track of most of this on his blog www.inkology.co.ukRead More
Veronica Von Pegg is a mixed media artist, a photographer and writer, who expresses a past life through images and words. She collects second hand items, and is a firm believer in reincarnationRead More
On Friday, US poet Charles O Hartman (current Professor and Poet in Residence at Connecticut College) contacted us to let us know that the poem ‘Dead Wife Singing’, posted on IS&T on 8th April, is virtually identical to ‘A Little Song’ which he wrote more than three decades ago and subsequently published in his collections of 1982 & 2008.
We quickly removed the poem from the site and have also sidelined any further contributions from the plagiarist (who, to his credit, has apologised) after it was revealed that his practice was widespread. We will do the same to any contributor found to have committed extensive plagiarism even if IS&T is not initially affected.
We do not take plagiarism lightly. Actions like this devalue our webzine, hurt the reputation of poetry in general and are an affront to the creative efforts and emotional experiences of the plundered poets. As frustrating as it may be to be at the end of constant rejection slips and emails, please believe that your worst poem is far better than a cut and paste version of someone else’s. And there are any number of residential weeks, courses, surgeries and on-line feedback services (including our own) to help hone your craft.
From now on, we will be conducting random checks on accepted submissions. However, we cannot catch everything and we therefore encourage anyone who suspects that one of our posts may be ‘borrowing’, in whole or in part, to let us know immediately.
Professor Hartman’s original, emphatically superior and quite breathtaking ‘A Little Song’, can be found in his collection The Pigfoot Rebellion archived in the Contemporary American Poetry Archive (CAPA)
Kate Birch Publisher IS&TRead More
Doorbell; the first guests, an hour
early for dinner. You’re not ready.
Hair still damp from the shower,
table devoid of plates and cutlery,
oven pre-heating, wine uncorked.
You get into character, fix an easy
grin on your face, open the door
to the soft minefield of the evening,
its nuances and niceties, small talk
and smiles. And this is the thing:
it must remain perfectly civilised
at all costs. You’re the custodian
of blandness, a jailer in disguise
rattling the keys of middle class
decorum; the guy whose job it is
to keep this joint clean, to police
the cellblock of the dinner table.
So you make sure nobody carries
a shiv of opinionism or is able
to distract the guards (i.e. those
droll and endlessly repeatable
golf and cricket club anecdotes
you trade on) with a whip-smart
but loaded remark that provokes
debate. God forbid guests impart
sensible perspectives on politics,
morality, religion … or even art!
Be alert for these kind of tricks;
recognise warning signs. Frown
on disrespect: any of these pricks
talks smart, you take ’em down.
Neil Fulwood is the author of ‘The Films of Sam Peckinpah’ and runs film review blog Agitation of the Mind. He’s a member of the Alan Sillitoe Committee, who are raising funds towards a permanent memorial to be sited in Nottingham. Neil co-designed their website www.sillitoe.comRead More
I went around the neighbourhood collecting bits of string. I tied them together until I had a long enough piece then attached a tin can to either end. I gave one to my brother, who was going to India for a year. When he arrived the string just reached, and our voices travelled sharp and clear across the continents.
He said he’d forgotten his reading glasses so I hung them on the string, raised my arm and they slid down the line. He sent us packages of incense, sweets and a teapot in the shape of the Taj Mahal. We would sometimes get interference when birds perched on the line or someone walked into it. Once a knot came undone in the middle and I had to walk half way across Europe to fix it.
Patrick Widdess is a Cambridge based poet and broadcaster. He has lived in Greece, China, Japan and Poland and his writing has appeared in publications including Orbis, Cake and The Guardian. This is is website:
of purple buzzing bumblebees
and tigers laying on the ceiling
they ask me how I’m dealing
with this stressful
what’s with their morbid fascination?
these purple buzzing bumblebees
and tigers laying on the ceiling
they were here
before i bought the house
they just wont disappear
O mother moon
vicious eyelash in velvet
I can stare at you ‘til morning makes you crayon
I can hide you in a forest by moving an inch
Don’t think I have no purpose or beauty
You make monochrome
I am colour.
Catherine Ayres is a teacher, who is currently recovering from serious illness and taking a break from the “normal” world. She’s enjoying being more thoughtful, observant and quiet than she’s allowed herself to be for years. She has recently had some of her poetry published in Firestorm Journal.