Burn The Censors

Dear Despot, I began, before backspacing over it. Too emotive, too direct. Too grandiose a title.
Dear Anti- no. He hates being called that.
Department of Infernal Affairs. No.
To Whom It May Concern. Yes.
I resign.

You can dock my wages or refuse to give me a reference. I know I run the risk that you will crucify me in the media. Go on. Tell the world I’m a terrorist or a paedophile or a disgruntled civil servant. It doesn’t matter. I am gone. I cannot work for you another day.

I have carried out every instruction you have given me. Written every letter, doctored every file. I have used children and pestilence and bombs but what you ask of me now is wrong. Our partnership is over. I ask only that you consider my service to date and allow us to part ways amicably.

Perhaps because I am a man, I did not take issue with your obvious hatred of women. When you instructed me to condemn, I created products to flatter. I filled every billboard and web page in the world with the message that beauty is worth. I created magazines that wrote the rest for me, filled with adverts and reviews that never told what I was selling. Every purchase reinforced our message. I worked and worked, coming up with new ideas every day like self-harm, eating disorders and so-called sexual revolution. I made sure the men believed it first. Never did I rest. I wrote the gender pay gap into law, filling the gaps between the statutes with unrepealable silence.
And it worked. Nation after nation exchanged their glory for nakedness and covered their nakedness with shame. Then feminism came and you blamed me for that.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the wars. Those bloody wars. So much paperwork. How difficult they were to devise. Target the poor, you said. Children if you can. And I could. I forced people to believe their very survival depended upon providing me with weapons to kill them with. “Forced”! I only showed them the faces of their brothers and sisters, they spat in them themselves. I gave them the chance of brotherhood, they supplied the fear. That’s what I love about free will. It turns science into art.

You always told me I was being too obvious; that I would be found out eventually. I wasn’t. I used their own frailty against them and always covered my tracks. I used intermediaries. Bankers, politicians, clergymen, celebrities – not you obviously, I would never use you. They really can’t see it, you know. They always think the corruption is isolated to just one group. How easy that makes it to simply move on to the next. No, you cannot fault me. In everything I have done I have always been a credit to the service.

All this to say nothing of my work on mental illness, censorship, masculinity and the Middle East. Or on democracy. I doubt I will live to receive a pension but I fail to see how I could have done anything more. Except this. Except this.

You asked me to vote for you. I won’t do it. I won’t. Your request is denied. I will happily proclaim to you the finer points of my work. I am proud of the great skill required, proud of the beauty achieved. As a profession, certainly, but as a choice, a way of life? Do you expect me to close my eyes and call it true? I will not be made a fool of. I will not build my own prison, step inside and give to you the key.

I know I haven’t long left. I know this letter will get to you eventually.
That’s why I’m not sending it to you.

I’m sending it to them.

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Merry Christmas Callum

This is just a shout out to my favourite 9 year old, Callum, who is SO cool that we might just need a new word for it. I don’t quite understand how it is possible for someone to be so smart, funny, charasmatic and fun to be around by such a young age, but somehow Callum has done it. Well done Callum.

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Cafe chat

At first it’s one noise.
Then sounds, one after the other.
Machines and voices. Plates collected. Laughing. Change in a jar. Repeating words.

Table eight.
Repeating words. Rottweiler.
Aye, Rottweiler.
Who lets a Rottweiler near kids.
Terrier aye. Friendly lab or retriever. Mongrel even.
But a Rottweiler.
Around Kids.
Do you want to stay for a minute before-
Aye, just a few minutes.

Typing in the corner, mouthing out the words.
She’s too close to see that he feels the same way.
You can’t tell if it’s an essay or a song. Just two people sitting, hunched over a screen, the last ones to leave.

She is sitting in a café in a town that calls itself a city with big open streets and strangers who say sorry. She is full of Hong Kong traffic, sparkling night times, bright urban temples, the smell of street food, foreign airports.
She’s sitting in a café, sipping coffee on her own and she loves this feeling.

They sit in silence.
Arms folded. A father and his daughter.
Sitting for an hour or more, pretending they’re not alone.
They’ve covered college. And that business with the car.
They don’t mention Heather and they don’t mention the wedding or the house or why he left or why she stayed. He doesn’t ask her what she’s thinking and she doesn’t ask him what he was thinking.
He misses her, and she knows. She needs to hear it and he knows.
Plates away.
I’ll pay.
Jackets on.

Along the walls are paintings, each with a face looking back.

In the back there’s a writer, sitting on his own with his earphones in, obsessing over words.
Something is missing. Somewhere.
Something in the ‘and’.
Somewhere in the ‘for’. And the ‘with’.

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The Answer

Came to me in tides.
Water and dirt.
A rush of noise then                silence.
Sound and wait.
Just wait.

Standing too close.
It ebbs and it flows.
Silence is song. And water is prose.
And wait
and wait
and wait.

The sand empties and fills like a lung. Like the land is sighing. Like the land is waiting.
Instead of jewels, I have stones. Instead of youth, I have time. Instead of soldiers, I have seashells.
I came for an answer. Not to shout or to throw myself into the water and say that I am done with trust.
Instead of noise, I have truth.

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Spoken wording


I couldn't sleep so I decided to make a wee video. If you've ever been abroad for charity work or aid work, you know the feeling when you come back and people ask you 'how was it?', as if you can sum up the most intense experience of your life in just a few words.

I was too tired at the time to get the irony of the title.

Posted by David Forrest – Writer on Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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I can’t write a poem about love. Love isn’t poetry.
You don’t find love washed up on the Seine or hung like branches from the Eiffel tower.
The love the poets know won’t float through the air, touch your forehead like a leaf…it hides in refugee camps and food banks.

Love puts on a jacket, walks past the night clubs of Sauchiehall street, finds you, kneels down beside you and says “you’re worth more than this, you’re worth more than this”.
And if he can’t see it he has nothing.
And if he speaks in tongues of men and angels but has not love-
Be quiet, Aphrodite whispers. Don’t tell the prophets.

Love is an offering, emptied of everything, heaven made humble. God wept, the deity bled, our rejection held in like nails He wouldn’t let go. When we were never so far, He was never so close. When love was summed up in three words the second was forgive.

Don’t give her your love, give her that love.
Don’t give him what he deserves, he’s worth more than he deserves.
Take this vow and make it real. Fill this ring with promises, hard and true.
Like I promise I won’t fail you…and pick me up when I fail you.
Like I mean it when I say I love you and I mean it when you say it too.

I can’t write a poem about love. Because poems end. Because words and knowledge pass away.
But love stands.

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The Question

I want to find love, she tells me, looking straight into me but not really seeing, I think. I want to be loved, she says, and I told her that she was loved, like I was passing on a message.

I see history in her eyes but she never speaks of it. The same girl in another country. Her hands are clean but stained. There are few tents and little rain. The money has run dry but she reaches inside for kindness and treasure. She gives and gives. And never speaks of it.

I want a family, she says and I want that too, I said, shivering. I wasn’t in love, I was pretending to be cold.

There is a quality to her voice when she speaks. I can hear emotion, a long e, when she speaks it sounds like she is listening. I remember how I felt when I first met her. Now I feel that even more. I say nothing and hope she isn’t listening.

She cries and I cry and the perfect time to hold her comes and stays. I let it pass. I tell nothing, speak a little. We argue, flatter, offer each other words of comfort and pray to the God I hold most precious.

What could be so important
that I would leave that room silent
with no regrets?

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The Great Invisible

You closed your eyes and didn’t tell me what you saw.

Every feather on every bird. You saw every dream. You saw every sunset as it was meant to be seen, through every eye and mouthed the words ‘I love you’ as though you were repeating someone.

When you closed your eyes your family were all around you, whispering in your ear, good words and bad. I saw a sleepy looking girl in a brightly lit café. I tried to get you to hear me, I saw an absence that wasn’t there.

You heard every conversation, saw the words that were missing, you were exhausted with love. You saw the beauty and the wonder of the man we passed on our way here, sitting on the street. You unsaw his dirty clothes, I unsaw his face covered in sacred purpose.

You closed your eyes and you saw
a hundred poets reaching out to the great invisible
touch it, pull back suddenly
suddenly love is a face, a place, a feeling.

“What’re you thinking?” I asked.
Nothing, she said. Nothing important.
So I stopped. I stayed quiet. And I listened.

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He was in a court room, cold wood every side, jury in the foreground, I hate Mondays, twenty thousand words behind him, of evidence and argument, of black on white.

Last night he was in a bar, she was there and he was there. It was painful.

He had lived in this case for weeks now, knew every word and number. He ushered the jury by the facts. It was pre-meditated. The e-mails left unread. The blocked calls. Early signs. It wasn’t a difficult case but it was a well prepared argument. He was eager to prove he was right.

He was eager to disprove he was drunk. Because he had moved on. Emails. Calls. He had moved on, and he was probably with someone else. He definitely, definitely didn’t look drunk. He looked like he had moved on and she had missed her chance and he didn’t even think about her. He knew exactly how that looked.

The CCTV footage, placing the defendant at the scene. An involuntary glance to the side followed by another. Defendant. Wishing. He was anywhere but. The knife near the body. Cuts here, here, and here. Couldn’t be self-defence.

Couldn’t be. He glanced at her. Twice. Three times was hard to explain. He wished he hadn’t seen her, wished she hadn’t seen him. Wished he was anywhere but now. Felt every lapse in judgement. Felt his conviction slip away.

To hold her. The jury gone, feel the rush of the wait. Arms back, feel her weight. Innocent or guilty. Innocent or guilty.

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In the beginning there were no words. Formless, empty, the earth had no sigh. The world spun, the trees swayed, the waters waited for their first kiss. I slept on, I wasn’t born yet, I missed it. There was dark, there was light, on the first morning.

Man begat man begat man and there was love, I assume. What did the first man think of the first woman, was it love at first sight? What did man and woman tell their children love was? What did they say to each other when they met and was it good?

I walk through Glasgow city centre, late on a Saturday night, thinking about the first morning. The first sunrise, gasping for air. The first rush of fingers through grass, first touch of footsteps on sand. I imagine the sea hushed before the moon, the bright, bright green of the first flower, a blank page horizon. Glasgow wails like a newborn whose cord has been cut but in the beginning it was silent. In the beginning there were no words. I wonder what the first words were.

Now the pavements are crowded with new creations, a shadow leans across the street. I squeeze past, whispering to myself, a man shouting in my ear about something, I’m not sure what, just keep walking I guess. More shouting, more voices all at once:


Glasgow changed its clothes, its friends and the colour of its skin, tried to fit in, be accepted, be a type. A teenager ravaged by heroin sits folded into his t-shirt, soaked through and begging for change. Unaccepted, but feet still moving to the beat of the music blasting out a message from every wall and window. Girls stagger through the cold in high heels and high skirts, men shout through them as they pass. Lads and lassies, man created them, in its own image it created them.

There was dark and then there was light, on the last morning. In the end there were no words. Litter scarred the streets, heartbreak and headache bit through every flat and tenement. Man had begotten man who had begotten man and there was love, I assume. What had mankind told their children love was? What did the last man say to the last woman when they first met and was it good?

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