It Was I

‘Twas I who nailed you to the tree,
Mired in muck, unable to see.

‘Twas I who flayed your sinless back
With my shattered soul, sin-black.

‘Twas I who shaped your crown of thorns,
I, so lost, alone, forlorn.

‘Twas I who hurled abuse at you,
My own self-loathing, gladly spewed.

‘Twas I who lanced your heart divine,
In doing so, I’d broken mine.

And, through it all, you never ceased
To love and so my shame increased.

But when, at last, I too was crushed,
So gently to my aid you rushed.

How could I have been such a fool?
Ne’er again let my pride rule!

Stephen Tomkins
11 April 2016
Sydney

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Happy Anniversary!

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
– John Lennon et al.

We had made it! We’d reached twenty-five years of marriage! My wife, co-conspirator, leading lady, best friend, confidante, advisor, instructor, superior officer, lover, patient and long-suffering companion, and bride and I were still together despite everything life had thrown at us! And that we’d thrown at each other!

In this day and age, that’s quite an achievement.

To celebrate this momentous event, I had organised a few days, away without the kids, in Adelaide – a place Monica, my wife, had never visited. We managed to escape from home without any major disasters. The flight to Adelaide was pleasant and uneventful. We were picked up promptly at the airport by the limousine I had arranged and taken to our hotel where we were upgraded to a luxury room for no additional cost.

Things were proceeding better than I had hoped.

The gift I had ordered online arrived intact and was as lovely as advertised – and arrived on time! She was suitably surprised.

We spent a lovely afternoon exploring Glenelg, by the beach.

On our return to the hotel, we were both a little weary so we decided to have a light meal from room service. We had booked a car for the next day to go wandering through the Adelaide hills. What could possibly go wrong after such a wonderful start?

Food poisoning, that’s what. Monica spent the night back and forth to the bathroom and the next day, our twenty-fifth anniversary, clutching a bowl, a towel and hovering near the bathroom. I spent the day tending to my poor bride’s needs. There was little I could do really.

It struck me that this is exactly what marriage is like. Beyond the glitz and dreamy-eyed romance of the early days together and the hype of the wedding day, marriage is just life, but in larger font. You make your plans, dream about what you will do together and then reality steps in.

It’s how you deal with derailments, disappointments, pleasant surprises and other unexpected eventualities that will determine the success or otherwise of a marriage. Or, indeed, a life.

Stephen Tomkins
27 April 2017
Sydney

I Love the Heat

The Sun, it seemed, had moved in right next door –

Never had such heat been felt.

Covered in sweat from my head to my toe,

I was sure I was ready to melt.

The aircon was going full tilt on the wall,

Its innards were glowing bright red,

The fan was ready to lift off the roof

As I slumped in a pool on the bed.

The air was thicker than treacle, it seemed,

And I hung ‘tween the next world and this.

I must have dozed off ‘cos the next thing I knew,

I was floating ‘midst icebergs in bliss.

A seal bubbled by with a gleam in his eye,

Said “It’s quite warm today, don’t you think?”

I nodded assent to this maritime gent

And then he was gone with a wink.

It started to rain on my feverish brain –

In the shower, I then found myself.

The water was cold and I felt very old

As I reached for the towel on the shelf.

I looked out at the sky while I rubbed myself dry,

And prayed for a breeze or some rain.

The aching blue sky looked me right in the eye,

Said, “You’ll soon need to shower again.”

It was then that I knew, despite all I could do,

That my new next-door neighbour would win.

So, as I got dressed, while he set in the west,

I showered in sweat with a grin.

Stephen Tomkins
18/2/17
Bangkok

 Sydney had a very hot and humid summer this year!

How Did I Wind Up Here?

In days gone by, we’d wind our clocks

And they’d respond with ticks and tocks.

Nowadays, there is no need:

The sun or battery does the deed.

I wondered what the reason was

And figured it may be because,

Instead, we wind ourselves up tight,

And text and email through the night.

Instagram and Snapchat too,

Facebook – what’s life without you?

We live in fear of missing out,

Post our meals and goings out.

Perhaps with less time spent on screens,

Our lives could very well then seem

A lot more real, fulfilling too.

You see, that’s why I’m here with you.

 

Stephen Tomkins
12 August 2016
Sydney

Hamburger Hill

Hamburger Hill is my target tonight

And the thought of my mission just fills me with fright.

At the top of the ridge, I will rendezvous there

With my contact whose blue eyes and long, brunette hair

Disarm in an instant with effortless ease,

A hint of her perfume floats soft on the breeze.

Despite the attraction, we’ve work here to do:

It’s time that huge ammo dump finally blew.

We slip down the hill and dissolve in the dark.

It may seem like fun but this isn’t a lark.

Explosive and fuse are the tools of my trade –

You don’t last for long if you don’t make the grade.

Many the friend who’s been captured or killed;

You’re better off dead if they start with their drills.

A pat on the back and a day or two’s leave

Is the best I can hope for, there’s no time to grieve.

The cost of this victory, if one day it comes,

Can never be counted – see what I’ve become!

Stephen Tomkins

3 August 2016

Melbourne

So, How Are You?

 

She sat alone on a seat at the bar,

Her legs crossed and rhythmically swinging.

She glanced one more time her watch and then jumped,

As the phone in her hand started ringing.

 

The radiant smile on her face lit the room,

A snapshot of ecstasy captured.

But nothing remains the same for too long,

Especially a moment enraptured.

 

Her face then fell with an audible crack,

The phone became quite unstable.

The tears welled up and spilled down her crushed face

And formed a small pool on the table.

 

How quickly a world can change for someone,

Without warning or solace or season.

The fool who now seems a bit short on the phone

May just have a very good reason.

 

Stephen Tomkins
21 June 2016
Sydney

photo credit: 2.bp.blogspot.com

Hail the King!

He knows what is what

And he knows who is who

And, if you’re not careful,

He’ll do who to you!

‘Cos by putting you down

He can build himself up

So he’ll offer a refill

From his poisoned cup.

 

He walks down the hallway

All strutty and cool.

It’s clear to all passing

He’s nobody’s fool.

Opinions don’t matter

When he is around –

Each word that he utters

Is clearly profound.

 

But past castle parapet

And his thick walls,

Behind the array

Of his huge cannon balls,

Enter the Throne room

And you’ll find the King –

He’s just a lost boy

And not wearing a thing!

 

Stephen Tomkins
5 October 2016
Perth

Deeper

Two eyes, a nose, a mouth and chin
Set in endless shades of skin.
So different and yet still the same,
Each mix a chance genetic game.

And though I look a bit like you,
We may not share a common view
But still we both laugh, smile and cry,
Feel tired and hurt, with teary eye.

Yet so important are our looks,
The subject fills a million books.
The shape of my nose, the shade of my skin –
Really? Must judgement here begin?

Stephen Tomkins
5 July 2016
Sydney

Bourbon Dolphin

bourbon-dolphin5

Mum said when I turned fourteen years,
She’d put aside maternal fears
And I could go to work with Dad –
My dream, a dream so long I’ve had.
My Dad’s the Captain of a ship,
And I’m to go on his next trip.
Excited? Yes! You bet I am!
At last I feel just like a man!

Dad’s ship supports the North Sea rigs:
Supplies them, moves them, helps them dig.
He shows me the survival suits,
All in one piece, complete with boots.
We check the vests and radio;
The lines are in! Away we go!
I’m so excited I could burst;
Mum always seems to fear the worst!

Soon a massive chain’s aboard
And, on the bridge, no one is bored!
The work continues through the night.
By late next day something’s not right.
The ship tilts sharply to the left,
Then rights itself –  we all draw breath.
Suddenly, it’s on its side,
I’m on my back and terrified.

The ship continues over now,
We’re on the bridge but upside down!
Dad pulls me close and hugs me tight
And says it all will be alright.
The water takes my breath away –
It has such force, we can but pray.
The last thing that I ever hear
Is Dad’s love whispered in my ear.

Stephen Tomkins
23 December 2016
Perth

Author’s note: On April 12, 2007, the Bourbon Dolphin, an Anchor Handling Tug Supply Vessel, capsized while working in the North Sea. The ship sank three days later. Aboard were Captain Oddne Remøy and his fourteen-year-old son, David, who was on work experience. They were among the eight persons who lost their lives that day.

While based on media coverage of the event and the official accident report, the above is a fictitious account of what may have happened. Above all, this poem is a tribute to those who lost their lives.

The Festering Season

It’s the Festering Season all over again:

A most joyous time for all women and men.

Passed a whole year has for old wounds to mend

And breed the good will that such healing attends.

 

But old wounds are good wounds and this time of year

Is perfect for festering with wine and with beer.

A thought may be thought but it’s best not unleashed

Unless thought right through, lest the tension’s increased.

 

Still, why spoil the fireworks of family and friends –

So skilfully opening those old wounds again?

So, sit back, enjoy this year’s floor-show and dinner.

Just stay on the sidelines and you’ll be a winner.

 

Stephen Tomkins

10 December 2016

Singapore