The other day I went to go and shave.
And saw my face had started to grow and change.
My stubble was silver.
This was a low blow and no token phase.
Cos lately, ‘I’m getting old’ has become my go-to phrase.
But left me wondering, what the hell happened?
Is just over a decade in London enough to leave me battered?
Exhausted each day so I collapse all knackered.
I mean, what gives?
It’s not like I have kids.
What’s that phrase?
Something about if the cap fits.
Cos I probably say ‘I’m getting old’ enough each day to score a hat trick.
So yeah, I can’t ignore the matter at hand.
Is there a way to halt the process?
Should I start to fathom a plan?
Put the word out and gather a clan.
Build myself a team of guys in their 30s and 40s.
Kinda like The Expendables.
But young dads with steady jobs.
We can be Team Sensible.
Or Team Dependable.
And meet up to discuss when we became so terrible.
And work out the point at which we turned spherical.
Or maybe talk about how, on nights out now, we decline those chemicals.
Cos drugs aren’t for us.
We’ve got enough aches and pains.
If we add a comedown on top we won’t escape for days.
Cos it’s the little things that amuse me now.
Like how I put my hands on my knees (with a sound effect) to get up from a chair.
Makes me think life should come with a clause.
A Buyer Beware.
But it’s not like we can trade in our bodies when we’re under fifty.
For me, it’s all about that afternoon sleep.
I get a sick kick when slumber hits me.
Probably the same kids get watching Disney.
Or a cowboy does when he necks a whisky.
But aside from naps, there’s other things to mention.
Like they say sport’s supposed to give you energy.
Get you high on adrenaline.
But don’t listen to the lies that exercise is peddling.
Cos I’m knackered after a workout.
A broken specimen.
Should have trained harder till my muscles were armour like a Trojan regiment.
However a lot of the time, I wish I’d stayed home.
As nights in are the new nights out.
But ‘Netflix and chill’ should not mean sex.
Instead, why can’t we talk?
There are plenty of subjects.
Or instead sit in silence like inanimate objects.
Letting TV numb us as paralysis onsets.
Yeah, that sounds good to me.
But while I’m at it, here’s another thing.
Somehow, still, I get labelled a millennial.
To get down with the kids, I could backtrack and use snapchat.
But this is no way credible.
Cos that group follows a path I just wouldn’t tread at all.
Which is maybe regrettable.
But that’s more than cool.
I mean, soon I’ll be 35.
I’ve got other fish to fry.
Cos often I get stuck on the side of life’s highway.
Wishing I could hitch a ride.
Or at least my brain insists I try.
Despite the fact that getting old has me mystified.
And makes me think I need to punch through to my desired reality with fists that fly.
Cos I just want new experiences.
Like, to see Versaille.
And see Brunei.
And get better at cooking Thai.
And baking pies.
Perhaps learn to stay out of trouble with an alibi.
(On a side note, someone should have said this to Sam Allardyce. But he messed up. Then they had to sack the guy).
But I’ll stop there.
Cos life’s all about sacrifice.
Or so they say.
But I like to fantasize.
And self-indulge with fantastic rhymes.
Cos it’s more inspiring than telling lies.
Especially to myself.
Which is, frankly, the most telling crime.
And, if I’m honest, is one I just can’t abide.
When I wake each day.
And think about leaving the house.
I tend to freeze up.
Cos I’m shrouded by doubt.
Forced to bear my stare in the mirror.
But all I find is a frown.
Is this it?
I say, glancing down.
Sizing up my figure like I haven’t realised it’s round.
Cos I’m tubbier these days.
Always saying I’ll hit the gym.
Get ripped and thin.
Build a hard body all sculpted.
One that’s fit for kings.
But right now I’m more pauper material.
Stuck in a dream that feels forced and ethereal.
Wanting to scratch my skin from within.
But not really sure that the cause is bacterial.
Like there’s tiny critters invading my veins.
Breaking me down and planning my burial.
More likely something else troubles me.
This is I ponder as I’m sat drinking bubble tea.
Then a thought seduces me lovingly as it’s introduced suddenly.
I want a simple life.
One that’s calm and puzzle free.
Where it’s totally normal to demand a shrubbery.
Cos there’s a lot to learn from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Like how to not charge through life on a silly quest.
Where the end goal seems to be to slowly fail.
Cos when it comes to the human existence.
My body’s more ill-equipped than I’ll admit.
All whispy, spectral and grossly frail.
At best, I’m a phantom man who can’t fathom a plan.
As I amble along this ghostly trail.
Cos words are dead on my lips from life’s perilous hits.
So my creative flow is mostly stale.
And the story I’ll probably tell at the end.
Will likely be that of a lonely tale.
But maybe I’m blowing things out of proportion?
And these words I say are a shakedown, extortion and not to scale.
But in all honesty, I have been feeling lately like I’m locked in jail.
Trapped battling my own personal monster, like Captain Ahab.
With no real clue how I stop this whale.
As it drags me down to the ocean’s floor.
Salt water in my lungs.
Sneaking in like a Trojan Horse.
Till I’m as numb and cold as a frozen corpse.
But this got me thinking.
Everyone needs an antagonist, right?
One that can fight like Tyler Durden.
Because an alter ego is probably the only thing to help me break life’s chains.
So I can be more certain and free of burden.
But whether I get one or not.
It might now be the case that I’ve lost the plot and I’m way off topic.
Spouting nonsense like a lost prophet.
Why can’t I just stop it?
And be practical for once.
So I think in specifics.
Instead of simply resorting to gimmicks.
Painting a picture that doesn’t exist.
And then persisting by forcing the image.
Which is stupid.
Because I’m a force to begin with.
And it’s time I took myself by the scruff of the neck.
Otherwise, middle of the road is as good as it gets.
And I can’t settle.
It’s just not in my nature.
I’m much better at rebelling with truth than being a faker.
But to win, I need weapons to attack my psyche.
Give me a sabre, give me a razor.
Hell, I know origami, I’ll even do it with paper.
Watch me put in work on these rogue thoughts like they’re manual labour.
Cos I’m relentless.
And won’t stop with detractors till I weed out the traitors.
Lay waste to their negativity till they’re nothing but vapour.
So at the end, in the smoking rubble.
There’s stands a lone figure, a stranger.
All lit up like a saviour.
Turns out that it’s me.
I’ve broken free.
And become stronger through failure.
Cos I’ve emerged from my chrysalis.
And I’m all the more greater.
When I started writing and performing.
I took a lot of inspiration from battle rap.
Thinking, if I could master my nerves.
Then with the rest of the scene.
I figured maybe I could handle that.
But my early material was pretty basic.
I didn’t rate it.
I just didn’t think I had the knack.
Cos crowds were daunting.
And would give me the hump like a camel back.
So on stage I’d shake.
That adrenalin taste proper prepping me for a heart attack.
So I’d try and project.
But my voice would wobble.
Like a CD that keeps skipping parts of tracks.
So I doubled down to beat the nerves.
And began upping my tempo with faster raps.
But found that they didn’t land with the crowd.
Like a baseball player finding that he’s last to bat.
So I went back to basics.
Began to tell stories that were way more personal.
Which had a reaction.
So I became more purposeful.
And my writing got tighter and practically surgical.
Cos now I was cutting to the core of the matter like I was slicing vertical.
My pen and verses now had purpose.
No longer was I writing merciful.
My emotional baggage all over the place.
Like a busy airport type of terminal.
Cos as a problem, this was workable.
Now my material leapt off the page.
But it had taken so long to get to this stage.
By never pushing myself, how was I expected to change?
Cos this situation had left me intense and deranged.
Selling myself short had become a senseless exchange.
So to preserve my sanity, I now write every day.
Flexing my emotional muscles so that they get exercised.
Purging demons with my pen till they’re exorcised.
Digging into my psyche.
Seeing which parts of me will be next in line.
Cos it’s amazing how, with words, you can get this high.
Although the process kind of has me petrified.
Not long ago I muddled along with the masses.
Now I feel like I’ve left that tribe.
In uncharted territory.
Wondering if I should dive in properly and test this vibe.
Is it worth it, this poetry?
Should I invest the time?
At this point your guess is as good as mine.
Because our complex emotions are as deep as the ocean.
They ebb and flow.
And if you fight and suppress them.
You’ll fast discover that they’re a worthy foe.
Feelings will peck at your mind.
Taking flight when you reach for them like a nervy crow.
It’ll be like you’re lost in a blizzard.
Trying to see your way through blurry snow.
Yeah, this is how your journey goes.
Maybe you’ll turn to religion.
This is probably what the clergy hopes.
Just don’t make snap decisions.
Thinking you can strengthen your position with an early vote.
But I’m making it all sound like a murderous chore.
Is expressing myself really worse than before?
It’s like pre-poetry I was trapped in a room.
And writing has helped me burst through the door.
So now my language has tactics.
Like scrabble, my words do backflips.
Cos all I’m ever doing is learning to score.
So each time I put pen to paper it’s a game and cathartic.
Every day, I get better with letters.
Cos I’m just taming my artist.
In a state of psychosis I explore my neurosis.
Cos I’m a Doctor at this and my mind is my TARDIS.
And as I get more bold and evolve, I’m proud to say that my resolve is the hardest.
My imagination infinite.
Like space, with its cold and its darkness.
It’s where I find my creative place.
And reveal my true face.
It’s where I’m the calmest.
Remember when smoking was the way to be seen?
Back when all our idols did it.
From Sean Connery to James Dean.
A cigarette hanging lazy from their lip.
So cool it made me wanna fake scream.
Or get all starry-eyed and daydream.
Then the world changed, and our bodies became temples of health.
Now I could live longer.
And perhaps play a different hand to the one I was dealt.
With quinoa and wheatgrass and gluten-free bread.
I could be better.
But a voice inside screamed to be shot in the head.
Cos I missed the days of whisky and decadence.
Where I twerked in clubs, my body all twisty and elegant.
And the way I flirted had a kind of trippy intelligence.
But now I just spend my days in health stores and coffee shops.
It wasn’t long ago when Friday night dinner was one that I double dropped.
But even back then I was burning out.
And needed a plan to stop the rot.
Cos this lifestyle couldn’t last, and before long would have to stop.
So I ditched the night-time narcotics for fitbits and yoga mats.
With weekends spent browsing for more wholesome hits.
Like curtains and cushions and toaster racks.
Knowing this was way worse than my youth.
But somehow, now, I was kinda trapped and loathe to act.
Cos my joys, it seemed, were cups of tea.
I had to grow up and face that fact.
But life is never as black and white as people say.
Sometimes, when you clear an obstacle, you still get wet like a steeplechase.
But this is the glory of the human existence.
And shouldn’t be a lethal race.
So if I’m having a good time and not hurting anyone.
Should I be punished for my ‘evil traits’?
Right now, on the table, lurks that cigarette.
Its rush of calm is in my grasp.
So where’s the harm if I go ahead and take that bet?
Look at it, laying there all seductive.
The sunlight framing its silhouette.
With witnesses around I try and ignore it.
And attempt to casually feign regret.
But in reality can’t hide my dismay.
As I put it down so it’s laid to rest.
Cos frankly, I’ve been racking up debt for decades.
So maybe now it’s time I paid that cheque?
Cos ribbons of impurity continue to unravel in my mind.
And get me thinking, should I save these threads?
Cos I need both the rebel and the sensible.
And if I don’t feed them equally.
Then I may as well be as good as dead.
So… you gotta admit.
Theresa May’s snap election is about as underwhelming as a crap erection.
Cos when it comes to picking compelling leaders.
It seems, as a country, we lack invention.
Now we’re stuck sweating over our future with apprehension.
I mean, take the farce that is brexit.
Ooh. Can we change our minds? Do we have to leave? Is there a way we can test it?
I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND!
I wasn’t fully invested.
And somehow, now, we’ve taken the red pill.
So down the rabbit hole we go.
But who leads us? Jeremy Corbyn?
Does he even understand Wonderland?
Or under him will we be stuck endlessly falling?
Either that, or in fact we’ll be trapped with a mad harridan in a dead dream.
Aka Theresa May, the Red Queen.
But wait, maybe it’s better we just stop and do pot with that caterpillar.
He’s liberal and likes to chill.
And knows how to counteract the red pill.
Plus I bet, hanging with him, we’ll realise Wonderland ain’t all that bad.
If only we had clocked earlier.
That everyone trying to influence us was no more than a passing fad.
I swear the other day I was the age of twenty.
Endless queue for some shabby club.
Chancing my crappy luck.
At the very last stage of entry.
Cos back then I was a child.
Bouncing around in a state of frenzy.
But in the last decade, I gotta say, I’ve evolved.
So to figure out my goals.
I’ve got to understand how this change affects me.
Because back in the day… I felt shackled in chains.
But now if you look, you’ll find that cage all empty.
Cos life’s weird.
Keeps throwing up ways to test me.
Plus I’ve got an expressive side that’s kind of shy.
So to lure it out, you just gotta persuade it gently.
Because… the soldiers of conformity NEVER sleep.
But work to keep my self-expression at bay like age-old sentries.
However, they sing a dangerous song.
With each note playing out a painful medley.
So we remain in a stand-off.
Both parties packing weapons that we cradle tensely.
Yet each day I listen to the soldiers less and less.
And yeah, in the past I would tend to stress.
Fixating on issues like a man possessed.
Palms clammy as I get the sweats.
But now I’m more strategic.
It’s like I’m learning to defend at chess.
So when I get carried away being creative.
And people say I should take a rest.
The first thing I do is pause for a minute and suspect a theft.
I mean, someone is trying to rob me of my life force.
Ok, I’ll admit, I’m reciting this whilst wearing a pair of tight shorts.
And yeah, they’re bad ass.
But probably better worn at the gym, pursuing a range of nice sports.
Yet they’re my magnet for wonderful queers.
Helping me attract the right sorts.
Cos it pays to surround myself with people that’ll help me flourish.
Friends that back my weirdness.
So when I start to doubt they’re the first in line to encourage.
Waving their flags and singing my praises.
Keeping those conformists at bay as I skip past their cages and dance around naked.
Ignoring their rules with insolence as I laugh in their faces.
Cos I’ve transcended their mundane existence.
And now fight compliance with defiance and consent with dissent.
No longer do I bottle up feelings.
I’m way more skilled at learning to vent.
Reacting with righteous indignation to being controlled.
Like it’s some sort of cataclysmic and disturbing event.
Cos if I stay silent.
Then I’ll just be filled with burning regret.
So I need to be stronger and make clear my intent.
To avoid these waking nightmares.
Freaking others out when they see what I’ve dreamt.
For when I’m true to myself my words are never frivolous.
So when it comes to courting creativity I’m forever chivalrous.
Encouraging those in my orbit to blossom and rebel and break out of their shells.
Leaving us at risk of being branded heretics and collosal infidels.
But I have no fear.
My mind is clear.
Cos all I’m doing is learning to excel.
As I buck the establishment with impunity and lunacy and spiral straight to hell.
But I’m OK with that.
So those soldiers can go ahead and lay their traps.
But they’ll never snare me.
Tunnel vision is how they’ve been trained to act.
Man, I wish I could jolt them into life with a major slap.
But people have to want to break free on their own.
So all I can really do is show them the way and pave the track.
And that’s that.
They drift in and out of my life each day.
Their faces adorned with stark, lurid colours.
Warpaint, as they go about their business.
Are they even real?
These automatons. These androids from outer space.
And whilst their expressions are seemingly blank and impassive, they are also revealing.
There’s a crack or two beneath their cool facade.
But what does it mean?
Are they just lost in thought or, almost imperceptibly, communicating with me?
Do they even see me?
Or am I just grey background? White noise?
Perhaps I’m the ghost and they’re the most tangible thing in this world.
Wearing their warpaint proudly, like armour.
For each day, to them, must surely be a battle against the grey ghosts of patriarchy.
The menfolk who leer and lust, all licentious and salacious with their gaze and their thoughts.
For I am one. I should know.
Maybe as men we should paint our faces, too.
For our own insecurities are buried, perhaps even more so.
Hidden behind layers of bravado and testosterone.
The knowing nod to a fellow male.
The slightest of hugs.
The tough guy handshake.
For we are men.
And we’re out of our caves now.
Our spears have been replaced with smartphones and laptops.
We’re just a few clicks from killing that woolley mammoth. That saber-tooth tiger.
Or ordering some more crap on eBay.
(assuming we can stop watching porn for more than five minutes)
So maybe colour is what we need?
Brush strokes of empathy across our face. The eyeliner of compassion.
The mascara of understanding and acceptance.
God, this is starting to sound like the weirdest fantasy game ever.
But there’s hope in these ramblings.
There must be.
For these painted ghosts and forgotten men.
All trapped in the ether between realities.
Drifting through life with abandonment.
I’m not sure when they started to get worse.
But nowadays, the sly pain of a migraine burns through me quicker than bright flames.
Leaving me looking at life.
And wondering how I might change.
Cos it’s only over the last year that it’s become a problem, you see?
Now I often find my head pounding.
Like I’m smothered, drowning and longing to breathe.
My features vexed and grotesque.
Like the poster boy for a monster retreat.
With the veins in my temples straight up stressful.
As they thump out a rhythm and foster a beat.
I wish this was more of a game, you know?
One with an end-of-level boss to defeat.
Cos battling headaches are a mystery, like smoke and mirrors.
And fighting tends to leave me broke and bitter.
Am I being punished?
I mean, granted, I’m no token sinner.
But to me, this game feels rigged.
So if we changed the rules, I wonder how these votes might differ?
Cos the white noise in my head is just a deluge of distraction.
Honestly, as a headline its caption would be ‘mostly filler’.
So I gotta fight back, Tiger style.
You know, like Wu-Tang and Ghostface Killah.
But first I must breathe.
Lest this pain suffocate me, and then I’m liable to choke way bigger.
But it’s dawn now, and the sun is piercing warm clouds like broken grey glitter.
So if I can be more mindful and avoid my moments that trigger.
Then I’ll stand a chance at this dance.
As I navigate fast down this potent, dark river.
Lately, something’s been bugging me.
Why won’t the Lord of Dreams just come and take me lovingly?
Has he forsaken me suddenly?
Cos I just want a sleep that’s trouble-free.
I mean, he should just let me slip into his warm embrace.
So we can intertwine and fornicate.
Until I all but collapse like a fallen state.
Cos our union needs to happen.
And we need to accept our foolish traits.
So if he wants, he can be shy and coy.
And tease me slow with that lying voice.
But an open mind is all it takes.
And sleep WILL claim me.
But I’m not gonna force this race.
Because a slow seduction is what works best.
I mean, everyone knows it’s what good form dictates.
But right now, insomnia beckons.
As I grudgingly turn my back on the Heavens and stare each night at Hell’s rapidly falling gates.
Cos I know if I beat this, I’ll probably be dubbed one of the lauded greats.
But tonight, I’d love my mind to get just a few seconds swimming in a sea of calm darkness.
Drifting serene in a simple dream.
Through space and time like the Doctor’s Tardis.
Instead, my boat of thought is getting battered by this storm.
So I’m kept awake by whatever wave rocks it largest.
And lying here, in the early hours, I’m amazed at how the mind drifts.
Thoughts pinging like an arcade machine.
Bouncing around in fractured time shifts.
Striking at will, like an assassin set to kill.
Destroying me softly with hundreds of fine hits.
But this rough patch won’t break me.
Mentally, I’m cold fire lately.
Cooking dishes better than those Rick Stein gives.
Cos this is war.
So watch me attack in a power stance with a primed fist.
Until I obliterate unwanted thoughts with positivity.
Hell, I’m going to kill my mind with kindness.
For years I’ve harboured a dark secret.
That I’m an extroverted introvert.
This is my confession.
I know it’s a daft weakness.
But I need a good way to convey this to people.
Maybe with a smart leaflet?
Nah, scratch that, I need more passion.
Someone get me a charmed priestess.
One for casting spells and raising hell.
And setting out my manifesto like she’s writing her stark thesis.
I mean, I need something radical.
Because when people say I’m confident I panic.
And find my mind racing but hidden behind calm features.
Maybe it’s because I’m like an IT nerd, focusing on the detail.
Coding my life in a vast sequence.
But for the most part I avoid my flaws.
In general for a host of large reasons.
But none are valid.
Which means this approach I just can’t give credence.
But in reality, the main problem I have is that I wrestle a dichotomy.
My mind torn between outgoing and withdrawn has my head a ripe vessel for lobotomy.
Am I normal, or the next Jekyll and Hyde?
Walling off emotions because my gut heckles inside.
Bending under duress as I’m put to the test.
Like a blacksmith beating at metal that’s fried.
Which is debilitating, and kind of makes it tempting to hide.
Cos even though my mental state is under threat, I’m not done yet inventing these lies.
Using the introvert as an excuse to keep saying I’m shy.
But when I do get out there.
The extrovert gets swollen with pride.
So maybe I should take a step back.
And be at peace with both sides.
Because my mind is a blessing.
One I should really grow and invest in.
I mean we only get one.
And mine’s a treat in disguise.