All posts by bernardtso

Poems about the ordinary

After watching Jim Jarmusch’s amazing film Paterson, where the main character writes poems about the ordinary and mundane, I was inspired to have a go at writing my own. Enjoy!

Monday morning
Another week
I’m at the edge of the platform
The tracks dull and still and suddenly
A rumble
A clatter
The rails creak as headlights flood the station
An iron behemoth charges into the station
Full of power
Full of anger
Brakes grind and the beast has stopped
The great behemoth tamed by us

The road stretches miles and miles
The road erupts like a hose following the bumps and dips of the land
The land which is a garden that blooms and decays
The water splashes and winds until it collides with another stream and then
The hose stops and what has been sprayed is what we walk on.
Sometimes the road is straight
And you know that the gardener had a steady hand
I cross the stream, careful not to get my feet weT

Powerlines strung up between poles
Sagging under the weight of a bird
Or a pair of sneakers
Sometimes when I’m in a car, I watch the powerlines from the window
Sometimes they cross
Sometimes they never cross
Will they?
Won’t they?
But they’re just powerlines. Does it really matter?
I like to think they have something to say about relationships and love


Bernard Tso 10H


Paintings of the West

In our last session, the prompt was to generate a book title and for you to write about it. The title I generated was “Paintings of the West,” and this is what I came up with, Hope you enjoy!

I wander through the sprawling hallways of my father’s castle and am entranced by the paintings lining the walls. My father has a long lineage dating back thousands of years and every grandfather, father and son who had ever had the duty of the Western throne stares down upon me. Their gazes are steely, eternally frowning and judging me as I walk though the halls, they are my past, and I their future. The faces all blur into a mess of colours, nothing more than vain attempts to preserve their legacy, a long line of imitators and frauds descended from Akron, naming every new suckling babe after him, as if that changed the greed in their hearts or the disaster they had brought the kingdom. Men of my family, they are all the same. Wine drinkers, and deer hunters. Gluttons and unlawful fornicators. They are the reason the Western kingdom yearns for the golden age of Akron, the real Akron while the pretenders all defile his name, claiming to finally be Akron reincarnate. The Lord’s servant come to bring the rains back. And every time the fools listen. The masses swarm to the coronation and pray that maybe for once, this King will be worthy of Akron’s name. Seventy six times their hopes have been crushed, and they return to their fields, praying the next King will be the one. Tomorrow, my brother will become King. He is Akron the Seventy seventh. King of the Western Kingdom and Lord of the West. Long may he reign.

There are no paintings of women, we do not have that honour. We are inferior to the male sex, and therefore unworthy of having our image preserved. That’s what my father always told me, and I had believed him. How could my father, Akron the Seventy Sixth, the one who was prophesied, be a liar? He protected me from the cruel peasants outside, and always gave me food to eat even in our Kingdom’s famine; my father was a provider and a righteous King. I still look back at that naive girl and wince, no wonder she has no painting on the walls. The walls which show every failed king and ruler. They are the paintings of the West.

Writing Prompt- Trapdoor

This story was written during one of our sessions based on a writing prompt. I’m not exactly happy with the ending, it feels a bit rushed, but here is the story nonetheless. Disclaimer: A bit graphic, but nothing too intense.

The tail lights of the taxi disappeared into the fog, leaving the twilight moon as the only source of illumination. I had know idea who I was, only that I felt drawn to this place and needed to find answers. The house loomed in front of me, but calling it a house would be an understatement- it was more akin to a mansion, rising up into the night sky, obscured by thick fog. Pulling the iron key out of my pocket I walked along the footpath to the iron door. Despite the eeriness of the mansion, the pathway clear, the grass recently cleared, probably the work of a machete rather than a mower. I turned the key and pushed the iron door open. Darkness greeted me as a I entered the house, so I pulled out a torch. The light flickered a few seconds before the warm globe of the bulb filled me with relief. The air was stale in here, but disturbed. I felt a presence in the room, somewhere in this darkness there was life.

I heard a bumping from underneath me, the sound of wood creaking breaking up the serene silence. I shine my torch downwards and gazed at what lay in front of me- a wooden trapdoor. I heard a muffled groan, too soft to determine the speaker. I heaved with all my strength, my muscles aching with the effort, but at last the trapdoor gave way and it burst open. “HELP,” the voice screamed, this time louder and clearer- the pitch indicating it was likely a woman.

I shone my flashlight down and yelled loudly
“Don’t worry, I’m here to help you!” I said, slowly descending into that musky cellar.
“Oh thank God, he’s had me down here all week, I don’t know why, help me help me please…”
She stopped suddenly when she saw my face-
“No please, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to. Please don’t hurt me. I’ll be good. I’ll behave. I won’t try anything. Please don’t make me do it again. Please I’ll do anything…”
She sobbed loudly, bawling out tears, shaking uncontrollably.
“Hey don’t worry, I’m not here to hurt you. I’ll get you out-”
“Is this some kind of sick test? You pretend to be my friend then subject me to whatever sick pleasures you desire.”
Her tone shifted completely as she yelled out the next sentence,
“Let me go I’m not your plaything, you sex maniac. I know what you’re going to do to me.”

I backed away slowly, bumping into a shelf and a scrapbook fell to the floor. I pried it open and looked at it completely confused. It showed photos of her, naked, oppressed, tied up and forced to perform bizarre acts. I would have turned away disgusted, if not for what else I saw in the photos. It was me, smiling deviously, holding various objects designed to humiliate her. I tore my eyes from the photos confused. And then I remembered who I was before I arrived at the house.

I was Jack Walker, kidnapper, sex offender, prison escapee and I was back.


Staring aimlessly at the flickering light
The night’s illumination.
Isolated and cold in this prison,
Bracing myself for the dawn
Hoping it never comes because
I’ll have to face what I did, what I’ve lost and
The realisation that you’re gone,
Gone from my life
And I was the cause
And that I’m the reason I’ll never wake up beside you again
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

I still remember our first date.
The way the corners of your mouth rose
And you laughed at my jokes.
And laughed at me.
But it was okay, because I laughed at myself too.
I remember the way you cut your steak.
How you used your left hand to hold the knife-
The knife…

Four years we lasted, together, as one.
One body,
One spirit,
One mind. Four years until I found
You unclothed in my bed
With another
With your feeble excuses
Desperately scrambling for your clothes
And I stormed out.

Alcohol fuelled my rage
Head was spinning
Wasn’t thinking straight
Anger bursting like a wine casket
With anger
With anger
Brandishing a knife
Blade piercing your soft pale skin,
You hit me, desperate to escape my wrath
It was all over in an instant

I still hear your laughing
I still hear your screams
I still taste your lips
I still taste the booze
I still smell your perfume
I still smell your blood
I still remember you. I still remember us.

Tomorrow when the dawn comes I’ll face the music
Face the courtroom and face reporters
And journalists. They see me as a monster.
I am a monster.
I deserve this. I accept this.
I’ll plead guilty
For your sake
In memory of you.
In memory of us.

Bernard Tso 9L

Natalia’s Night

The freezing winds heralded their arrival and their arrival meant death. The winds were always cold this time of year, but these winds were far more ominous, bringing polar temperatures that the north had not seen in centuries. The fields of barley had stood no chance, each stalk ripped from its home and cast into the night. Starvation had begun to take hold of Natalia long before the first signs of them had approached their cottage. The locals called them frostmen, beings that walked silently, the cold was the only omen of the frostmen’s approach. They came in the night and her mother’s screams reverberated in the confines of their small cottage. She didn’t run to save her. Instead, she hid under her thin blanket until she was sure all that remained in the cottage was her mother’s frozen corpse.

She found her mother panting heavily on the floor, her skin deathly pale. Pale, but alive. Her mother gasped when Natalia’s light footsteps approached her, but smiled a weak smile at the realisation that her daughter was safe.
‘Natalia…my flower, safe and… and all alone in this world now…’
‘Mama, I’ll get you warm! I-I’ll s-start a fire and we’ll be w-warm and…’ she stopped when she realised her mother was crying. She reached for Natalia’s face, gently caressing her cheek and sliding a lock of golden silk behind her ear.
‘My flower…leave me, Mama will be fine. Run Natalia, they’ll be back and-‘
‘I won’t go Mama, I won’t leave you, please don’t make me run,’ she whispered, clawing at her mother, desperately clinging onto the life she had known for nine years. Her mother smiled and her eyes drifted shut, tears frozen on her face as a silent prayer formed on her lips and the cold overtook her.
‘Run Natalia…’ She murmured as the ice overcame her face and she lay still, limp and cold and dead.

Natalia ran into the night, panting, her breath condensing as shimmering vapour streamed from her mouth. She stopped and looked back at the cottage, the sight of her mother’s body still visible in her mind, branded into her memory. She wanted to go back, to hide herself in her mother’s arms, to hide from the cold and the ice but she knew better. She knew they would catch her like they caught her mother so after a final glance at her security, she whimpered and bolted into the forest of larches.

Freezing tendrils grabbed at her, spreading a plague of glacial dominance over the lands. Their winds chilled her, ice creeping into her bones. It was cold. It was so very cold. She had wandered down the path warm, heat in her soul, warming her like a wildfire blazing through a forest. She had to run, she would always run, but her fire was dying and those frigid fingers would not release her.

She gained sanctuary from the winds as she stumbled into a cave, blinded by the snow whipping around her face. The sight of the dull embers burning in the cave made her rub her eyes. Could she be so fortunate? Natalia crept towards the flames but the sight of a figure resting against the wall caused her to jump back. She shrank back but the fact that the figure was wrapped in furs made her realise this was not a frostman. It was a human.

She inched closer to the fire, warming her palms, the heat filling her up, and she greedily accepted it. The figure was forgotten and all Natalia could think about was this relief from the cold.
‘A child should not be running around in the night.’
Natalia spun around to face the speaker. It was a woman, wrapped up tightly in furs. Brown strands of hair poked out from under her hood, which covered up most of her head. A pair of gentle brown eyes observed Natalia, welcoming and kind.
‘It’s cold out there, take this to warm yourself,’ the woman said, as she threw a cloak to Natalia. Natalia buried herself in the cloak, grateful of the stranger’s kindness.
‘Th-thank you. Please don’t l-leave me, my mama’s gone and I-I have nowhere to go,’ she sobbed, her small eyes pleading for the woman to stay. The woman smiled a reassuring smile and reached for Natalia’s hand.
‘You’re safe now, little one. Don’t worry, I won’t leave, I’ll protect you,’ the woman repeated into Natalia’s ear as she drifted off to sleep. She was tired, she had run for a long time. But now she was safe, she was safe. Her thoughts of home and her mother and this kind stranger dissipated as she gave into her weariness.

Bernard Tso 9L


Quick, someone approaches. Hide it. Conceal it.
That was close, remember why you’re doing this, remember what he did to your father. The screams and the splatter, oozing redwater over the chalk white floors. Never forget. Never forgive. His empire built on suffering souls, screams drowned out in the quest for progress. But you don’t forget, you never forget. Every time your vision fills with his coal powered dragons, roaring through the streets, blowing their grey flames over the lost and the helpless, the hate resurfaces. Murderer. Murderer!

No more.

His day has come, no longer will he live in the hall of heroes, like a wolf among sheep. No longer will the demons of hate starve in their hellholes, the hand of fate points its writhing finger. Judgement day has come for Aloyious White.

The decadent slug oozes from its foul den. Ready your weapon, the thieve’s-silver barrel weighing down on your fingers. Weighing down like the scales of judgement tipped against this murderer and his empire built on suffering. Never forget.

One clean shot through the head. No. Death would be the mercy of a mother’s love. Make him suffer. Suffer like the enslaved, the poor, the poisoned, those poisoned by sin, those men who have no home but hell. Men like Aloyious White. Men who act as if they had the slightest chance to earn God’s favour, but prey on the weak like a catcher in the night, its beady eyes stalking, its intense fixation on the hunt.

But no.

Even a wolf belongs in a pack, a place of acceptance. Even you, once had a father, a sense of belonging. But it was taken. So take it back now. That’s it… feel the trigger in your fingers, like your father’s touch.


Thud. Such is the frailty of life, a billionaire gone, a company fallen like the Kingdom of Babylon or the Empire of Rome. Never forget, that when the fog clears, even a blind man can see the truth.

Well… fancy meeting you here. You’ve gotten yourself into a ripe mess. My fault? No. All this falling apart is on you.


Perhaps your delusion has clouded your thoughts so badly that even simple truths fail to be perceived. Not unlike your father, whose only source of comfort was the bottle and the bongs. Even when Aloyious offered to pay for his rehabilitation did he not relent. Perhaps the sight of seeing him passed out lifeless in a puddle of his own heroin-laced vomit shut down your ability to rationalise. Never forget that like a coin, there are two sides to every story.

Aloyious was a good man, not unlike the saints of old. The values of honesty and charity carried him through his life, his noble deeds bringing hope to an otherwise bleak world. Now he has gone to the true hall of heroes, a hallowed place not even the highest of demons could reach. Let their hatred starve, there is a reason they prowl in their sootblack pits.

Were you so blind to the fireflies illuminating the cold emptiness in the absence of the sun? Or the lime pioneers rising majestically from the devastation of an arsonist’s red hot passion. Hope exists where all seems dark and Aloyious was that hope for the masses of powerless. In a world ruled by capitalism, who dares to stand for equality? Who risks their status, family and reputation for the crowds of the faceless? Who in their right mind chooses them over me? What motivated this man to be different? We may never know.
Spring follows every winter, like the youngmen follow the pungent aroma of pastry. Time is the mistress of all and in a few lonely moments all that will be left of a great man are his ashes, finally floating free in the world he so longed to better. Except, he has left something lasting-his legacy. The legacy of a single rose in a field of weeds. Never forget. What will your legacy be? Murdering a righteous man and wasting away in a padded cell? Today the world mourns the passing of a hero, tonight they sleep knowing he has gone off to a better place.

Bernard Tso 9L