No autumn this
chill and solid rain
no mellow fruitfulness of fruit
already fallen shrivelled in the heat
the brusque shift brutal

the slope too steep
we shiver
no autumn flame fading
from fierce to mild memory

leaves blown already brown
sink beneath the torrents
to an ignoble end
sludge beneath heavy boots.

The ocean rises these days
to wash away the sun
the dust of summer
with melted ice in its breath
the ground bones of glaciers

and the world changes
the rough beast we have woken
slouching not to be born
but to devour our prattling
and sabre-rattling idiocy.

Under the influence

Aren’t there a lot of people out there (here?) donating free advice on how to be happy/successful/lovable to the rest of us poor miserable sods who don’t know how to put one foot in front of the other without help? If I read one more time, the important thing is to just be yourself, I swear I’ll slap someone. Who did Goebbels think he was being then, if not himself? Or Idi Amin?

There are people who are making it their business to persuade others that happiness is a commodity that we can all acquire by sheer bloody perseverance, by smiling at strangers, wishing them a nice day, not swearing, and most important of all, by not having any problems. It goes without saying, you have to ignore everything unpleasant around you, like dirty people, abandoned pets, wars.

Essentially, it’s all about you, the unique and wonderful you. The uniquely wonderful being that is you could be happy walking through the ruins of Oms because you could give a biscuit to a starving kid. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful gesture? And you could get that warm, fuzzy feeling of self-satisfaction seeing their little starving faces light up with happiness.

And it’s all about beauty. If you can’t be twenty, rich, with the body of a super model, you can still have a beautiful mind. Which means suck up your mediocre looks, physique and bank balance and smile at people.

The basic message from all these helpful people is that to be happy, you have to ignore the other bitches. Just be yourself, and only you know what that means. Sorry, you have to help yourself just a bit here. Just make sure that yourself conforms to the young, beautiful, trouble-free, financially secure segment.

Happiness is shopping, beauty, skin care products, exotic spots to take selfies, a healthy diet and regular workouts in the gym, but failing the body beautiful, you can still think nice thoughts, or have nice hair, or something. Happiness is that glow inside when you’re okay though the rest of the world is wallowing in misery, and it means that you have learned to love yourself.

And what if happiness wasn’t about you at all? What if happiness was about contributing to something in the course of your life that made a difference to everybody’s well-being, about being part of a cause, speaking up, taking action?

Just a suggestion. I’m not an influencer. I don’t have any skin care tips or advice on shopping or where to go next when you’ve taken your selfie outside the Taj Mahal. Maybe I just don’t know how to enjoy myself. And if learning to love myself means giving myself a big hug of commiseration for falling so far short of what I ought to be instead of a kick up the backside, then I’m afraid I fail on that count too.


For the dverse open link.

Photo ©Felix Uribe1600px-Bubulcus_ibis_Garcita_bueyera_Cattle_Egret_(6549249775)

Up in the field behind the plough
that chops and churns the heavy clay,
the egrets flock, a snowy storm,
bird-blizzard, feathered phantoms walk.
Heron-tall, but not so still,
they stalk, stork-white amid the clods
and stand like sentinels in white,
beneath the sky so burning bright.

Slow-flapping wings where tractor plies,
this autumn ploughing, out of time,
the crisp air, leaf-fall, hawthorn red,
is just a wish, a memory
of other times when ploughs would climb
the hill amid a cloud of crows,
so long ago, another world,
I scarce recall how north wind blows.

Here where pink hibiscus blooms
and regal purple, roses climb
where lizards fly like dragon birds,
and dragonflies skim swallow light,
I count the egrets on the hill,
the snow white birds beneath the sun
and wonder if white grace will run
in feathered streams when summer’s done.

Three Line Tales: Anonymous

For Sonya’s prompt.

photo by Sunyu via Unsplash



I can’t write your story, but it’s written in your eyes, the days of tracking, the fear, the fatigue and in the end, the men with spades.

They dig until they reach the heart and drag it out, still beating.

I have seen them, the cubs still blind, tossed in the waste from the cowshed, and whenever in the cool spring night, I hear a vixen call, I think of them, and all the others.


For the dverse prompt, a prose piece of 140 words including the line from Mary Oliver’s Death at Wind River:

In their dreams,
they sleep with the moon.

All night they rustle, the night folk, creeping stealthily through dry leaves, keeping out of the pools of moonlight, stalking though the thickets, nibbling around the edges of the meadow, racing beneath garden bushes. They have their tracks and their highways, more and more of them, as the daylight grows too noisy, too dangerous, too populous. They take to the night paths while men and dogs sleep, twitching legs and trigger fingers in their dreams.
They sleep with the moon, the night folk, though some once ran beneath the sun, curled beneath brambles and in the dense thickets of elm and hawthorn. They sleep while the day grows bright, the dogs sniff and whine, and fear creeps beneath the leaves, driving them out of sleep and secrecy, driving them, on and on, into stark winter and its treacherous naked light.

Three poems

Three ways to say the same poem. Or is there just one way, and the others are facets, shadows that it casts?


The world has shifted, all the summer gone;
The swallows that turned sky to ocean flown,
Turned wind to waves the length of summer days,
And with the turning wind, like dry leaves blown.
Beneath this sky of knotted winds and drifts
Of cloud, we stand our faces to the west,
To bathe in sunset’s fire, as summer fades,
And put the light half of the year to rest.


gone, swallows flown
that turned the wind to waves,
and with the turning wind, like dry
leaves blown.
Beneath this sky of knotted winds
and drifts of cloud, we stand
as summer fades
to rest.


Gone summer,
swallows and their wind-waves
blown leaves in the knotted sky.

We raise sun-fired faces
to the coming dark.

Prose in Visual Verse

The images proposed by Visual Verse are usually the kind that make me tiptoe around the edges before I have a clue what if anything, the image inspires. This one though, by Helen Marten, seemed to shout at me. I knew his story as soon as I looked into his goggly middle-aged eyes and his outsize jam-jar.


You can read my interpretation of this painting here.

And you can read the story so far here.

Swallow song

I have been rereading Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and have found myself as enthralled as Stephen Dedalus and Joyce himself by Yeat’s verse that Stephen quotes, Cathleen’s last words from the play, The Countess Cathleen. The whole chapter is full of references to the swallows. The words have stayed with me, and I am reproducing Cathleen’s short speech from the play. The fourteen lines that follow are my own.

Bend down your faces, Oona and Aleel;
I gaze upon them as the swallow gazes
Upon the nest under the eave, before
She wander the loud waters. Do not weep
Too great a while, for there is many a candle
On the High Altar though one fall. Aleel,
Who sang about the dancers of the woods,
That know not the hard burden of the world,
Having but breath in their kind bodies, farewell
And farewell, Oona, you who played with me,
And bore me in your arms about the house
When I was but a child and therefore happy,
Therefore happy, even like those that dance.
The storm is in my hair and I must go.

W.B. Yeats: The Countess Cathleen Scene 5.

Swallow song

I watch the swallow swoop above the grass,
Their wings as sharp as spearpoints, voices shrill
As children playing at their thoughtless games,
And wonder will they call back from the sea,
When storms sweep, tossing waves and bringing night
To hearts that only ever knew the summer sweet.
Will they call back to what they left behind,
The meadows rich with sun, the light that warmed
And danced with them the days the summer long,
That slip to autumn now that they are gone?
The wind wails cold among the darkening trees,
Cold the days to come, the candles dim,
When swallows flock to fly the waters loud
And leave me empty-eyed in this wild crowd.

Bird word mother

For the dverse prompt.

There is the desk and the words
that clip clop, a trotting horse
(blue probably),
on a paper trail of stories and I seated,
creator or transmitter, who knows?
Wrapped in silence and the swaying of trees,
I pour out the trop-plein of images, sailboats into
green and blue seas beyond the window

~lapping shores where a hundred birds call~

is where I walk, leaving footprints
for those who choose to look,
a mother with a hundred worries muttering,
yet catching clouds and stars,
drifting where the wind blows,
and at her heels a tall dog, a cat sometimes,
and in her head, hands, heart, blood,
the one who understands it all, always.