Doubt Builds a Prison


Time fades

in long lines on stone

through saline excrement excreted

from passive pores of the porous walls

of the cell I created.

Doubt and fear have built for me,

constructing high upon inept aptitude

with coarse mason-work and fetid fungus

of oozing puss, the putrid ache

of nothingness captured serenely, sublimely

by the wet walls of grey-washed servitude

to learned failure, of self-loathing,

of blunder and dreams asunder

under the thunder of guns calling

from hills afar, remote,

beyond my reach and my ken while I rot

in that den of my own insipid erection

where no-one sees, no-one knows,

because no-one comes.

Because no-one cares.

Because in the corner of my existence

stands the festering slop bucket I piss in

daily, hourly, pouring out my heart

in yellow streams of pointless, un-aimed

vitriol of hatred directed at my battered soul.


Life fades

to pale blue, to a vacant hue

of wistful waste,

of wanton lust unsated through

the rust bucket iron-clad door

of a whore who pins me to a hard-board

mattress lying flaccid on grating springs

where even the cockroaches impale themselves

ending their pointless lives.

Through the blackened bars

shuttering my pitiful window,

a tired sun, waning

after a billion, trillion years of brilliant light

illuminating my golden shining path,

blinding my idiot blood-shot eyes, feeds me

my last supper of liquid luminescence

over a straw-strewn floor.

The constant spring of my existence fills my lungs

with buttercup air

and the distant chirp of lovers

I might have felt in naked slumber

humbles me, crumbles me

with their sweet wet harmony.

The key to my locked heart is lost in the vast ocean

I was too scared even to dip a severed toe in as its waves

lapped my sheltered shins with blood-red darkness.


Hope fades

but only styles remains.

Every end

once had a beginning,

and in the middle, we came together.

We came, we saw, and I doubted.

I doubted beyond all doubt

and lived the fear of all fears

in my shrunken marble heart, unable to tell

friend from foe since my dearest beloveds

taught me one bastard lesson:

That they both wear the same facile mask.

Yet I have things too: tools and spades and weapons

and knives coarse in their design and

spineless by nature but study through experience

and not lacking in fortitude built on floundering hope

for here against my wall stands my desk

as I sit upon my seat

with pencil in hand

and writing paper at the ready,

and my lead draws lines of a new kind of hope.



Malek Montag

Rochester, 2017


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Stealing glances from undulating water

beyond everyone’s sight.

When no-one else is watching.

Those proud parental eyes fix on your charge

as you snatch by the pool a blur-image of Him.


Another age saw a love you held unrequited

for a thousand, and one night.

Another Older Man, wedded to a woman’s face,

makes you dream of roses is snare-wire, and yearn

for the unobtainable, for your unholy grail of desire.


Did you suffered that pain as a daughter

in a classroom den gloss-bright,

in a silent scream schoolgirl fantasy, scratching

secret nihilist notes while bleeding tears in large

pools, always hoping no-one would see your sin?


O, to feel on your neck His breath heated;

to have Him hold you tight;

to kiss your cherry-red lips in moist embrace.

Seize something to ease the pain, temper the burn,

of your intemperate heart and its unforgiving fire.


Steal now His body and His soul: give no quarter.

When, later, under your bedside light

no-one can see you quietly, desperately snatching

His heart from that other, and you answer the charge,

if given any chance, could you show yourself to Him?


Malek Montag

Rochester, 2017


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Slim Streak



Eager feet splash through waste water slapping

cold old tired tiles, veterans of thousands

upon thousands of corns and bunions,

of verrucae, of toes and heels, of shouts

and screams and nervous chilly chatter.

Into the blue he climbs, my little fish, my slim

streak in a pool of pale blue and refracted light,

and he paddles away, a duckling submerged,

thrashing, splashing through the coiling surface

of the pool, pushing himself from side to short side,

and end to long end with constant effort

and endeavour to be a swimmer…


Malek Montag

Rochester, 2017


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“Puis-je aller plus loin quand mon coeur est ici?”


(The Dude is not included here… this is another bunch of thespians)

After I attempted to poison myself on Friday evening (by allowing re-heated tuna to cool too much), and then nearly suffering the embarrassing ignominy of finding out I was poisoned while walking to The Dude’s place the next morning, I found a rather inspiring Saturday awaited.

Prior to my mobile discomfiture, it was half term week here in old England (and much of the rest of the UK too). This period is usually accompanied by parents tearing their hair out wondering what to do with bundles of bored energy. However, The Dude’s mother came upon, perhaps, a perfect solution.

There’s a small interactive theatre company based at the Kings Theatre in Chatham called Spotlites. These folks are always putting on fun activities for kids of all ages over the holidays. The Dude has attended many. Last week, they organised “A Play in a Week” course of activities. It did exactly what it said on the tin. A bunch of kids, of varying ages and abilities, and acting experiences, gathered in the theatre and learned a play – Tom’s Midnight Garden – from Monday to Friday, and performed the play on the following Saturday evening (the day of my almost…).

Joining this ad hoc company meant doing a lot of reading and work for the wee nipper during a week he was not at school. Still, it beat doing homework. When I got to the script to help The Dude, I found he was playing a twelve year old boy and a twenty-two year-old man. He’s only nine. In practice, he struggled with the lines of the latter and I told him, so long as he got the gist of the speeches and maintained the flow, he’d be fine.

I recalled my last forays onto the stage in Russia and at the University of Leeds, learning lines in Russian: the first, just after I got off the plane at Moscow airport for a performance in just over a week’s time. I had one of the lead parts.

Needless to say, during that Saturday, he was a touch nervous. So was I. How would he react? Would he lose his nerve? Would he forget all his lines? Would he miss his cues? Would it make or break him? His mum and I both wanted this to be an enjoyable, fun experience for him so that it would build his confidence and self-belief. We paid our £12 ticket money and duly waited for the performance.

“Theatre is a voyage into the archives of the human imagination” (Natasha Tsakos)

And like the theatre, life is a journey, and our experiences are the archives we create. We each contribute to that archive, to that story for the imagination.

The short journey The Dude embarked on began promptly at 7.30pm. The first boy out, I could see, lost some nerve as he looked up and saw, what must have been to him, a sea of faces. I felt for him. He stuttered through his lines, but all credit to the chap, he kept going. And I wondered, I feared for The Dude, would he fall the same way?

My concerns and my fears, I found in a short while, were utterly baseless. The Dude was brilliant. I’m not just saying that because he is my little boy, my kith and kin. He was really good. He came on stage uninhibited, full to brim with confidence and vigour, and he delivered his lines clearly and fluently. There were one or two mishaps, all in keeping with the rest of the cast, but he definitely made a contribution to a good overall performance, a solid contribution.

I left that theatre on Saturday evening proud as peacock for my little guy. And The Dude left filled with the energy that comes from a job well done and a risk superbly taken.

Long live the theatre, that’s what I say.


Malek Montag,

Rochester, 2017


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Title Quote: William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet (I preferred the French translation)

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Promises – Haiku 1802


Warm air wafts over

Me walking home Saturday.

Sweet promise of spring.


Malek Montag

Rochester, 2017


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Je t’aime: On Sale Again


It’s Saint Valentine’s Day… again… and that must mean we’re here in Consumerville spending heaps of money on worthless tat.

Well, almost everyone. But certainly not me. For the second year in a row I find myself devoid of the necessary incumbent for the kind of romantic accoutrements that impede my progress through the supermarkets of Kent: I’m single… once more. And, to be honest, quite happy to be on the side-lines of this year’s love-fest.

Every middle of February (Why February? Why the heart of winter? Surely, May would be a better month?), we are suddenly allowed to get mushy, slushy and gushy with our significant other. On this day we have permission to give each other (providing, of course, you’re with an other) tacky cards, out-of-season flowers, over-priced chocolates, and, for the daring among us, sexy lingerie. (Yes, that’s where the daring comes in.)

For just one day of the year (okay, two – with Christmas), we’re allowed to do this. Which means it’s frowned upon for the other 364 days?

Come on. How much does an I love you cost? Saying that any time, regardless of the day, the month, the year, will cost you nothing, but it will be worth a great deal. Seriously. If you love someone, say it or show it everyday, any day, and you will see the benefits. I’ve found, in my limited experience of long-term relationships, that spontaneity coupled with a constant drip of affirmed affection, goes quite a long way in this love game.

If you insist on spending a small fortune on informing your significant other how much you love them, please be original and try not make it look like you’re making up for the next 364 days. And, please, don’t propose to her or him at some sporting event in front of thousands of spectators. Please. I’m still haunted by the image of a young man in the US who proposed to his girlfriend at a baseball game (I think); live on TV, too. The girlfriend was clearly not ready for such a step and courageously declined the offer. Annoyingly, the crowd booed the young woman as she left the stadium very upset. Then the producer took great delight in watching the young man following solemnly in his (I presume now ex-) girlfriend’s footsteps and under a cloud of utter embarrassment. Let this be a lesson to us all!

In the 1970s and ’80s, in the UK, lots of cars carried stickers saying: A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas. For many reasons a good love should be considered in the same (or similar) vein. Love is for life, not just for the exclusive exploitation of Saint Valentine’s Day. (Life here means that period of time begun when one looks at one’s heart’s desire and thinks, Corrrr, she/he’s gorgeous.) And so, too, are chocolates.

So, have a happy Valentine’s whether you’re with or without, and I hope you experience many, many warm and love-filled cosy nights in through-out the year.


Malek Montag

Rochester, 2017


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The Sweetness of Bitter Lemon



Winter; from the North, from the East.

Chill frigid frozen wastes of weather.

The weight of a season’s death hangs

over our shoulders, in our hair, on our breath

breathing out, breathing in

our own death-like state of being

of burning heat with a touch like ice

with temperature raised

from a deep glacier’s heart

and rivers running south

and the pounding, pounding

of incessant drums of a fell foe

besieging your beautiful fortress

with cloaking, choking vines of aching agony.

O, for the sweetness of bitter lemon

mixed in dripping honey from a sturdy spoon

in the heady steam of solace

and the dream, delirious dream, of spring.



Malek Montag,

Rochester, 2017


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