Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, June 20, 2009

So Many Different Lengths Of Time, By Brian Patten

For my late Dad, on Father’s day.

How long does a man live after all?
A thousand days or only one?
One week or a few centuries?
How long does a man spend living or dying?
And what do we mean when we say: “Gone forever”?

Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.
We can go to the philosophers
But they will weary of our questions
We can go to the priests and the rabbis
But they might be too busy with administrations.

So, how long does a man live after all?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret and ask so many questions –
Then when it comes to us
The answer is so simple, after all.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us
For as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams – 
For as long as we ourselves live,
Holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch:
His children will carry the weight of his love
One friend will carry his arguments
Another will hum his favourite tunes
Another will still share his terrors.

And the days will pass with baffled faces
Then the weeks, then the months
Then there will be a day when no question is asked
And the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach
And the puffed faces will calm.

And on that day he will not have ceased
But will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live after all?
A man lives so many different lengths of time.

posted by Kirk at 11:40 pm  

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I love the sound of rain. When you hear it pitter patter on a leaf canopy it feels, instinctively, like a giver. A nourisher. Something which, despite the occasional display of anger, is essentially benign.

In the humidity and while alone on the verandah I sit in pre-dawn light as clouds frisk one another, firing off electric spears. Barbs that illuminate the grumbling backdrop with flashes of pure energy.

Now, in the steamy heat of a tropical morning, the romance of rain is all too evident. Who among us could fail to be moved by this magical scent? It is nature’s musk.

But this rainstorm also intimidates, as if in rebuke for the fact that we ignore it.

It is a sleeping giant; a force that waits for us to wake and praise its importance, while we, in our ignorance, fend it off with cheap umbrellas.

posted by Kirk at 11:29 pm  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Apart from the smile that lit up his handsome face, it’s his hands that I remember the most. Strong hands that were always warm, except sometimes during winter, when two of his fingers would turn white – a sign, perhaps, of bad circulation.

These were the hands that held mine, forty years past, as I reluctantly trudged my way to school on a crisp winter’s morning. The hands that pushed sweets through the playground fence when he’d arrived home too late from a night shift to accompany me on the short walk from the house where I grew up.

And it was one of these hands that he laid upon mine as I drove him to the hospital for that last dose of chemo.

The smile was there that day, too. Courageous yet wan, and saying many things. A knowing smile, offering all the love he could muster from a body he knew had let go.

My mother told me they had held hands throughout the last night he was with us.

I screamed myself awake last night; recalling those awful images of his final hour. I’ve picked myself up off the floor before, but this feels like basement – level 4 – and the spiral I took to get down here has left me bruised and chafed at the sides.

posted by Kirk at 10:26 pm  

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I Miss You

It happened
On the journey –
A waft of melancholy
Evoked in me a memory
Of being there with you

I miss you

Wherever you are
I hope you’re not cold
And your smile warms the hearts
Of those no longer old

I miss you

It is not if, but when
And if you love me as I know
Please now let me go
For I have much to do
Till we meet again

I miss you

posted by Kirk at 11:06 pm  

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Kaptain’s Kicked It

(The grog, not the bucket, mind.)

The easiest thing for me to do right now would be to cave in and ask the stewardess for a glass of neat gin. I crave it. And it’s “free”. The fact that I can’t even remember boarding the plane doesn’t come into it.

But I won’t. I won’t take that easy route, because that would mean letting people down. People I love, respect and care for. Myself, even.

No: it’s time to scare off the demons with a simple act of bravery. Rare for me, but something I’m finally going to accomplish.

It’s fucking hard, mind, but there comes a moment when you somehow know that this is it – it’s now or never. It has ceased to be something you can put off till tomorrow.

I could go on living a lie, but I won’t.

Whatever the consequences, the Kaptain has kicked it. Has put the grog behind him.

When my wife drapes an arm across me in bed, I ask: “Don’t you want to keep waking up next to her?” The answer, naturally, is a resounding “yes.” “So why are you killing yourself?” I continue.

This silent conversation I’ve been having – for ages, mind – is incomprehensible. Absurd. Such is the wickedness, the sheer treachery, of the poison we call alcohol. My kidneys will testify to that.

I think of my kids and ask: “How long do you want to be around? Don’t you want to see them grow, develop and flourish?” Of course I do.

But I’ve continued needing to get back on that plane: different, in every aspect, to the one I’m factually sitting on, but a place that exists only in my mind, where reality is always suspended. In practice, a good way to accelerate death.

I look at my face and wonder why a great big strawberry has been planted right in the middle of it. Have I morphed into Brian Clough?

And I can only imagine that my breath stinks (yes, a suitably horrid word.) It’s capable, surely, of overpowering any bystander with its toxic miasma. Of felling a rhino at ten paces, even.

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy,” someone once said. I think it was one of the Marx brothers. I couldn’t agree more. Recently, I’ve been applying the “up and down” principle to my drinking habit: I’d wake up, and down a gin. Neck it, straight from the bottle. Every hour, day or night.

Those of you who know me intimately will agree that I have never been someone who could be described as normal. Sad to say, much of my exuberance has been fuelled by alcohol. Gin, particularly. I have used it as a device to liberate myself from the reserve that comes naturally from being of “English” stock.

But it’s time for me, finally, to say – with conviction –

“I don’t drink.”


posted by Kirk at 5:19 am