Mme Cluny

For the dverse prosery prompt. 144 words.

Mme Cluny

I had always admired the garden, the way it held the old house in a gentle embrace, the sentinel trees, and the way the borders grew up from small-flowered creepers, through lilies, irises, hollyhocks, alliums to the climbers, woodbine, jasmine and clematis. Pergolas of wisteria and roses made a second rampart and the sky-blue paintwork of door and windows against the orange brick called back to the joyous flower pageant.
She was always outside, from first to last frosts. Always adding new plants, splitting and replanting. Like a painting, or a tapestry. I asked her once how she kept the plan in her head.
‘Everything I do is stitched,’ she said, ‘with its colour, the thread holding the pattern together. There’s no mystery really. The plants all know their places.’
As did the rabbits, the birds and lizards, the small dogs. Even the unicorn.


Rionnard (rinnard)

This was last week’s poetry form chosen by Paul Brookes. You can read the contributions here.

I almost didn’t attempt this one, a complicated Irish form with rules I didn’t understand at first reading. I let it simmer overnight and woke with a first line and an idea of the first stanza. When I wrote it down, it turned out not to work, but I thought I could see how to fix it.

First, I wrote down what I knew about the form in simple terms: quatrains, lines of six syllables, rhyme scheme abcb, end rhymes bi-syllable words, consonance in lots of places, alliteration in every line, and it ends with a dunedh (opening line or word ends the poem).

Constructing the poem was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I started at the end, picked a two-syllable word that could both open and close the poem, then wrote a six-syllable first line. Second line needed a two-syllable end word that would rhyme with the fourth line, so I chose two words, filled in the second line with alliteration, wrote the fourth line with its rhyme, consonance and alliteration, and finally filled in the third line.

The third stanza had to end on the opening word, so that was the end-rhyme sorted out. Alliteration and consonance are easy to play with so it ended up not being the monster I had anticipated. I derived a lot of satisfaction from working at the puzzle, and I’m glad I took the time.

When will winter

Water, wild wind again,
gun-grey this cold dawning,
such a damp, dull refrain,
no frost, mournful morning.

Pure snow should be falling,
thick the fast flakes flying,
cover with cold fingers,
fields of green grass dying.

Fill, ice ferns, the meadow,
summer’s snow-white daughter,
teeming spring’s sharp shadow,
whose breath stills well water.

Spring a-coming

Flowing fast the stream now,
drowning dead leaves, swelling
buds. Bird tongues sip sweetly,
their spring stories telling.

Beneath brown leaves billowed,
piled pillows, so lightly
tossed, brisk wind-turned, burgeon
spring spears, budded tightly.

In the hedge, blackbirds furze-
fuss, fierce wind still blowing,
but briar-bound hare sits,
sniffing spring air flowing.

Re-mundaning the wild day 15

A short piece for Paul Brookes’ December challenge.

Patron saints and magpies

Her mantlepiece was a gallery of saints, each one with a specific job to do. There were statuettes of various sightings of the Virgin Mary, and a sheaf of Mass cards ready to be consulted and invoked with the prayer written on the back.
Her favourite idolatrous image was Saint Martin de Porres, in the form of a statue I was convinced was Cy Grant in Dominican robes. She loved Martin because he loved animals, and he had a position of prestige on top of the cabinet in the front room from where he could beam over at the Infant of Prague in his glass case above the gas fire.
Saint Martin was brought out mainly to bless eyesight, in particular my youngest sister’s. She had perfectly good eyesight when Saint Martin was ministering to it, but later she needed glasses. He was never asked to look at mine, thank goodness.
The saint most often called upon though was Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes. My great-gran didn’t want to bother Saint Anthony, though in theory, it was his job to find lost things. She reckoned he had enough to do holding onto the baby Jesus. She went straight to Jude, most people’s last resort.
My great-gran also had excellent eyesight but in her nineties, she couldn’t always find a needle if she dropped it on the floor. When we were there, the four of us usually managed to find it, without, as far as I could tell, any intervention on the part of Saint Jude. Given that the search always turned up other tiny lost things, I doubted he was much help ever.
I wonder now if she wouldn’t have found it more practical to have kept a magpie instead. She always had a houseful of birds with broken wings or legs she was patching up with the help of Saint Martin, matchstick splints and doses of sugar and brandy (whiskey was never used for medicinal purposes. That’s what brandy was invented for), and I saw several jackdaws over the years. Never a magpie though. Maybe jackdaws aren’t as interested in tiny bright objects as magpies, or simply Saint Jude made sure, in connivance with Saint Francis, that no bird was going to do him out of a job.

Re-mundaning the wild day 9

For Paul Brookes’ challenge, still thinking in iambs. A sonnet with erratic rhyme (non)scheme.


When winter settles cold across the fields,
and even roses fail to open buds,
when petals pink and blue are long since brown
and damp-dead, jays hop now where once they bloomed.
When sky is hid behind grey mists of cloud
and falling rain, its patter dull on leaves,
a sodden carpet specked with acorn cups,
the house seems sad despite the glowing stove,
and even mouse scratch, ash sigh echo loud,
I watch the pheasants in their gaudy plumes,
uncaring of the rain, the lack of light,
knowing only that the cage was sprung,
the broad day full of life and dark the night.
I listen for the ghosts of summer done,
bee-hum that fills these rooms with scents of sun.

Grey not tender

For the dverse prompt, using the line from Celia Dropkin’s poem, Sullivan County:

In the tender gray, I swim undisturbed

Grey not tender

Sky is full of clouds above the cliffs, where gulls hang in the tender grey. I swim undisturbed in water that is cold, grey, not tender. The light is cold, grey, harsh for this end of summer. The gulls don’t care and laugh as they dip and glide, masters of the wind.
These are their elements, wind and water, not mine. They embrace the soft grey, the wind that ruffles feathers and the dark swell. They dive, splash, scream, rise and flip with the wind, while I plough a ragged furrow laboriously. The water furrow becomes shingle and grey pebbles, and I plough ahead, suddenly heavier and the wind colder.
You’ll be there up at the house, reading or doing some useful job. Not looking seaward. Not looking for me. You’ll have lit the stove in the kitchen, it will glow red and comfortless.