Friday, 6 April 2018

Two Kingdoms ~ a poem

A ode to the few true match sellers I have been privileged to know

I once lived on Kingdom Street and used to walk its path
As I made my daily journey into the worldly wise
And on either side, speaking brimstone and oncoming wrath
Where the match sellers trying to offer their little fires.
Their lights were bright, their voices were crying aloud
And one by one, they struck and lit the matches before me
They were but a performance to the disinterested crowd
For their desire to sell made them absurd to see.

They danced before me every single raining day –
Telling me of how this little light could change my soul
They lit and flung the drowning matches into my fixed way
While they spoke to me of fires, and lamps and coal.
They lit bright fireworks to blaze upon our dark sky
They wrote songs like the tavern lyrics we sang each night
And yet while they sang to me of a life both bright and dry –
Their houses behind them were devoid of warmth and light.

The windows had once seen some golden sunrise but forgot
The doors were muddy from their own damp tavern shoes
For the light was not there in deed, but only thought
The only warmth these people gave was to wooden pews.
To strike the matches to their own lamps never crossed a mind
For what real part ever had this day with their night?
In their choices, they were the blind leading on the blind
Their kingdom had no place for this intrusive light.

What if it shone upon the places best kept deep and dark?
What if it urged them toward a greater, martyred goal? 
What if their lives became a bonfire to this immortal spark?
And what if they were called upon to pay the final toll?
No, it was far better to sell this brightness quickly on
Then ever engage its pure practice upon themselves
They disapproved of our beautifully perverse Babylon
But they wanted to live in our world, not us by ourselves.

There were other match sellers on that fateful street
And they were mocked by all who passed them by
For they did not shout and dance, only quietly entreat
That they might show us the reasons why to buy.
Their backs bore the mark of another’s heavy lash
Their hands were those of a soldier’s, fighting long at war –
They did not stand together in a pile of smoking ash
But held alone one glowing torch before an open door.

The stained glass glowed stranger than any rocket’s glare
And the candles lit the rooms for all inside to see
There was indeed human weakness and old evil there
But it was painted on the walls, a portrait of who they used to be.
I watched, as painfully, they lit another lamp to consume
The dark, and heard the mocking jeers of the sentimentalist,
“Light not the side issues, our only purpose is their impending doom –
If you care that much, then here! The mark of the fundamentalist!”

For many years I watched them both as I walked their way
And saw a heritage rising strong before my eyes
For many children stood in the doorways of the day
And yet pattering feet soon left the homes of harsh cries
To seek out warmth and light, they ran to Our Woman’s arms –
Babylon the Great welcomed them with a luster never known
For unlike their parents, she could read their palms
She saw that their hunger, she could feed to make Her own.

And in the doorways of the light, silhouettes there stood
That few were changed through many passing years
The souls that left departed as they would
But few they were, and forever mourned with bitter tears.
For to the third and fourth generations of those who loved Him
To those who truly burnt for the torch could not help but light
Those little ones following on behind them
To also burn themselves alive in pure, flaming fight.

One day I could not help but stop, and ask one bent old man –
“What is the reason for this light? This light your grandson is holding there?
Sell to me, I wish to know if, indeed, there is a greater plan –
You are the reason that I have stopped, by the mark you bear.”
The old man’s brand shone with pride another world must give
While his scars dimly mirrored greater ones above
He drew me close, and lit my match, “My son, you live!
We here, we burn and struggle in true testament of love.”

“For if this world keeps turning, we must turn along with it
And seek out souls to guide them to the Way
These matches in our hearts must be forever lit
By the actions that we make, and the words we must say.
And if we do not light our lamps with the words we sell
Then how can we ever halt this sun in its flaming sky?
Unless we struggle to a great goal, never shall they tell

That we change the course of nations by the dark we all defy.”

Monday, 29 January 2018

I am a Black Cloud

Posting this here as I highly doubt that this would be ever publishable in a poetry magazine due to the worldview that writing can often betray/faithfully portray.


I am a black cloud in the rainbow storm
I am the cool rain in the deathly warm
I am the falling gently down your back
And not the cusp of gold you lack.

I am the floating true above you
Brought by how the wind blew
I am blowing the sky to shreds –
We are the wind the rainbow dreads.

I am the storm the violet fears
I am the water of sweet salty tears
That washes the earth from far away
And cleanses the sins of yesterday.

The rainbow needs me to shine
Or what would they take of mine?
The rainbow needs the Sun to glow –
But He brings the winds to blow.

I am a black cloud to weep for you
I am fleeting, I am through –
But I am of the storm everlasting –
We will water the earth from fasting.

Monday, 21 August 2017


Feet treading mute on thin will
I fell, and hit the net below –
To dance that dance, my ledger nill
For my pain – no gain to show.

They told me the ropes constrained me
They said it was Lucifer who fell
Called blind so as not see –
Fear as running blood within their shell.

Weighty their yoke upon my head
To tread that tightrope of time
Equal parts both joy and dead –
A marionette of the strings of mime.

Let your feet still limp on single strands
I will traverse the sky on a net of stars
My feet will tread through promised lands
My freedom bound in a rope burn’s scars.

Lucifer fell because he was proud
Too proud to tread the firmament below
And you – too cowed, you follow the crowd
Too proud – their threads your status quo.

I fell so that the noose slipped away
Tightropes – they turn us to prey
But heaven forbid I speak words true –
Lucifer is holding the strings that bind you.

SK Downes 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

~ An Ode to my Generation ~

Some scribblings recently found in the back of an old notebook. Not Byron or even remotely good, but it make me laugh to read it again.

Oh young woman, on the corner's street,
Why does your laugh sound so fake?
Your eyes be long with blackened paint
Your hair be straight, of unnatural make
You squark and strut like that rooster's mate
With ruffled feathers and an injected hide- 
You are like the chickens stuffed with paste
That at my grocery store are daily fried
And consumed, as part of Sunday lunches
Devoured by culture with many munches
Meat broken off and bones thrown away-
My dear, is that not you today?

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Returning of a Child


The Returning of a Child

The old man sat alone by hearth, hunched toward the ground,
While his voice softly rumbled and his forehead deep and frowned
"Where are all the children? Why don't they come and see?
I've been all alone for years- what has become of me?"

"For I know I am a simple man, but still I would have thought
That an old man is a father, and a father's love is wrought
Through years and tears of guidance, and is not turned away
By an easily made decision - 'Oh, we'll go another day.' "

"I know I love this country and they have moved far on
The city, it has called them, and now I am forlorn
They've traded in their bushman's blood and it has served them well
But still I wish they'd ride these tracks and help me trees to fell."

But on the fire crackled, and no one did reply
Only the old sheepdog raised its head and gave a sigh
And the wind, it howled harshly and rattled through the pane
While the old man kept on sitting and the clouds began to rain.

The hours ticked by slowly, and hope began to fade
So the old man rose up slowly and on the pillow his head laid
"Lord, if you be listening, please send one home tonight
I've never asked you much - I beg, look upon my plight."

It wasn't till the morning when the cock began to crow
That hoof prints quickly thudded and packed the falling snow
And through the morning glow, a horse came into sight
Carrying a man, crouched in the morning light.

Bleary-eyed and weary, the man now struggled down
Dressed in garb and grime of a man about the town,
And as he thudded on the door, hope showed on his face
And when the father opened it, the son began his piece.

"Father, please don't spurn me, I know I don't deserve
You to help me out, I know I've got a nerve,
But you see, I've lost the business and I've nowhere else to go
You are my last hope; help me though my woe.

I don't wish for charity, I know you've none to give,
But I ask to live with you, the way we used to live
I know it's been a long time since I've worked this land,
But heart to heart I'm like you - I bear the bushman's brand.

But the old man did not listen, to the speech so carefully planned,
He pulled the boy toward him in his strong and gnarled hands, 
And as his son stood hesitant, unsure to stay or fly,
His father pulled him closer, and then began to cry.

"My boy, how long I've waited to hear you say those words!
Wishing, praying, hoping as I rode among my herds.
'I do not ask for charity'! I am your father, son!
You know I'll always care for you, no matter what you've done.

Your mother is not here but this is your childhood home,
And always will remain so, though the city you did rome.
It was my greatest dream, that we be reconciled
I have always wished to see the returning of a child."

And so they stood together, locked in an embrace
As tears of joy and happiness washed the toil from each face
Two bushmen reunited, a father and a son,
A child returned home, and a new beginning won.

Sarah Downes

Monday, 3 October 2016

I have learnt


I have learnt so much this year. Now I know the why and what and when of what I never needed to know, as well as the deepest hidden secrets of the world that every human being should have to chance to understand. 

How the colours of the wind are written in the sound of silent words as people hold deep conversations without even saying a word.

Why eyes really are the windows to the souls.

What it means to be finally complete after years of unawareness as to who you really were, who you really could be when you thought yourself complete.

How a whisper to the ear can be the lifeblood of a thousand humming heart-beats.

What it means to read for pain and not for pleasure except the pleasure of saying that you know what you never needed to know.

Why people think that they really matter when we all know they are only kidding themselves into a sense having to belong, somewhere, somehow.

That often life catches you in the middle of a epic plot twist and throws you in the air and then catches you, giddy and breathless on the way down, while you try to understand how and why and where.

I have learnt what it means to take control of what you decide with your life, while still remaining within the boundaries of commitment.

That to be a lover of people does not mean that you have to love people themselves, do not have to condone the wilful stupidity that they drown themselves in. You only have to understand why, or at least try to.

Why children make a house dirty and a home sing.

How it is possible to have a thousand memories carried on the single scent of a long reaching dream that has come true on your doorstep.

How to cry in silence when your feet are ripped out from under you and you still have to go on, press onward on your bleeding stumps of self doubt, while the smile plasters onto your face until it becomes your true expression.

I have seen the fire, held the hands, cried the tears and beamed the smiles.

I have lived this year.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Man on the Bus


I can't help but stare. As I wait in line for my bus, he shuffled past and asks the lady first in line if she minds if he cuts in. She nods ok, and he gratefully positions himself in front, his vivid blue hair peeping out from under his greasy cap. Like ancient leather, his face tells the tale of a harsh life tainted by constant drug use, while self-neglect and anger are written in the hollows of his cheeks and a scraggly beard tufting out from his chin is a sharp contrast to the Bahamas blue on his head. He looks like the kind of man who wanders the streets, muttering to himself while greedily burning tax payer's wages into cigarette smoke. I quickly turn my eyes away, as feelings of pity and slight horror rush over me, but mostly because I remember that day when I was a tender child on the way home from church. Out of my car window, I watched two policemen struggle to pull a man across the hot tarmac towards the station, his wiry arms shackled behind his back. A child never forgets their first brush with the cruelness of the real world, and the drug-torn figure in front of me is an uncomfortable reminder of a memory I thought long crushed into silence.

We board the bus, and I resolve to try and hide myself in a deep corner of carpeted chair, safe in my biases and ink free skin - but fate has other ideas and he is sitting diagonally in front of me. Perfectly in my line of sight. Now, with nothing left but music to play and quiet contemplation, I find my eyes wandering over his strange, dark clothing choices. He really is the epitome of the man that our parents would tell us never to talk to. His skin is tattooed in random places, with the blurred pen of the inexperienced, and his right lower arm is completely encased in a studded leather cuff, while grease and grime seem to be slowly glossing over his pores. If cruelty could be expressed in clothing choices, it would be screaming it's heart out through the leather clad rags he is dressed in and the dark glasses covering his eyes.

The bus pulls off and rumbles down the highway. And every now and then I get a mutter of the complaining rumble of his voice cracking over the volume of my light pop ballades that sing of a world so very different to the earthy reality around me. He's half talking to the bus driver and half talking to himself. At one point, his phone is called by an insurance company trying to market a policy to him, and he spends the next five minutes abusing them to the indiferent  bus driver.

We reach the next town and pull into the stop. Standing at the front of the line is Lucy*, who I see riding the buses all the time. She's obviously stuck with the boundaries of her assumed social class, but always has a smile on her face. Her teeth are narrow yet wide and point slightly out above her lower lip, while her dark blonde blonde hair is unimaginatively styled in its' regular long wispy cut. She drags her comfortable body up the coach stairs and greets the driver cheerfully, before easing her flannel shirted frame into the seat in front of me, right across from the ocean-haired man.

They obviously know one another. He greets her by name and she returns likewise, and I am strangely sorry that I missed his name. Conversation springs up easily between them all, flowing, comfortable. They know how to talk and be friends and care. I switch off my music but keep the headphones in as I absorb every word.

He shows her his new electric guitar which he has been clasping to himself ever since he boarded the bus. It's a surprising shade of red, and they both exclaim over the price, even though he proudly states he was able to find it second hand. He's clearly excited to take it home and place it with his other instruments, and spends a long time elaborating on how it feels to play it, while Lucy listens and admires patiently.

 They ask after one another's health. Like they mean it, but like it is an important everyday factor, making up the small pieces of their lives. There is no point in asking about work, family or holidays, no point in asking about things that they don't have. There's an invisible social compass, constraint, that keeps their questions simply and general. Lucy knows it well. But the ocean haired man begins to stray.

"You never married, did you?" he asks. It's an innocent enough comment, something that has simply arisen in their conversation, a piece of thought debris caught in this section of his mind's river. They were talking about his child and this was the next logical step. But she uncomfortably shakes her head 'no' and does not venture any comment. "Never interested, eh?" he follows up, jumping to conclusions that I as another woman, can immediately tell are wrong by simply looking at the back of her head. Lucy mutters something in agreement, but still doesn't make any effort to start a conversation about this topic. There's a sense of bitterness, longing for something that never happened that is evident through her demeanour, yet he still continues.

"I'm afraid of men."

This jerks me out of my seat and has me on the edge, listening intensely to what he has to add. A man like this? Stained and tattooed and dark and studded and worn? Afraid of other men?

"I've told you what they did to me, didn't I?" he asks Lucy. If she was uncomfortable before, it's nothing compared to now. She almost squirms and looks away.

He clarifies, "...when I was young."

"That's why I dress like this. I dress and act all big and tough so that they leave me alone, but I'm not really like that. I'm like a big, squishy marshmallow inside."

And my heart breaks. A window's opened onto something that I'll never be able to see and understand. His tone is so even, measured, calm. It could have been the most mundane of everyday comments by his tone, and yet those words hold a lifetime of fear, a lost childhood. And my heart breaks that I could judge him.

How could I shrink from him in distain? How could I ever begin to understand what this man has been through, what has brought him to this place. My Saviour ate and talked and laughed with the whores and the tax collectors and the poor. But I could not see past one man's appearance to see beyond, into the soul behind, scarred and broken and harshened by the years.

H and Lucy are talking again. They are on safer ground now, safe within the comfortable, constraining dimensions of what they've always talked about. But when the bus pulls over for me to descend the stairs and open my gate, I resolve never to forget. Never to forget that I learnt about myself and most of humanity that day. Never forget by writing it out, even if it would trickle out as distant memories over the course of several weeks while I juggled life and study. Never forget that I will fail, and fail again. But most of all, never forget what an un-knowing man on a bus taught me that day.

*Names have been changed to protect identity