Writing exercise: Repetition

Issa Dioume posted another writing exercise from the great Ursula. This one, to write 150 words using at least three repetitions of key words appealed to me. It’s exactly 150 words with quite a lot of repeated words.


Pigeons litter the sky as cartons litter the pavement and cars litter the kerbs. She takes out her phone and checks the time. He’s late. He’s usually late, doesn’t seem to care if he keeps her hanging about in unsavoury places like this tatty square full of life’s litter and grubby pigeons. There’s a fountain somewhere, across the cobbles. Not that you can see the cobbles for the cars. She’d like to see the street sweepers come along with hefty brooms and sweep them away, like the cartons.

Pigeons flutter down with a rattle of wing feather and strut around her feet, pecking at pebbles and ring pulls. Some people would sweep them away too, with their deformed feet and lice-ridden feathers, she thinks. Yet they’re just cleaning up our mess. She looks up at the sound of footsteps. Someone squeezes between the parked cars, grinning.

“You’re late” she says.




On Saturday, the Ekphrastic Review published a short piece of mine based on this painting, Schöpfungsgeschichte II  (Creation Story) by Franz Marc. He painted it in 1914. By 1916 he was dead, killed by a shell at the battle of Verdun.

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Thank you Ekphrastic for giving my poetry and prose a home with a window.

You can read it here

#writephoto: Up the leafy lane

Getting in early with this one for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. Nor sure what it’s about, but does it matter?

It doesn’t fit with the WIP — signposts weren’t invented then.

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I’m sure this is the place. I remember the path that wound its way first through cultivated farmland then abandoned fields and young woodland. There was perhaps less unworked land then, and the trees were slender saplings. Now nature has marched into the fields, and hazel and birch grow where barley was once sown.

The path winds higher, and trees arch overhead. This I remember too. The crossroads was at the top of this hill where the trees thinned, and in the valley beyond, ordered fields took over again from the abandon. I hold my breath as the lane curves to the crest. Beyond the screen of trees is the sky and below it, the place I have been looking for. Blood pounds in my ears. I stop, take a deep breath and silence falls. Such a small sound, my footsteps, is enough to mask all the tiny sounds of nature in this quiet. I listen and gradually the songs of thrush and robin fill in the gaps, a woodpecker cackles, something scuffles through last year’s leaves.

My breathing returns to normal, I walk the last few yards, forcing myself not to run. Round the oak tree that spreads vaulting boughs across the lane, the sky bursts through the leafy shade. And beneath the sky, the signpost, the crossroads, hands pointing back to the place where I was born, onward to the town that is the hub of this country, right to a farming hamlet, and left…There is no left.

There was once a crossroads here, and now there is only a junction with a lane that leads nowhere. Yet I remember the path that led down into the valley, into the rising sun. At the bottom lay a river that meandered through willows and alders, and no one ever went there. No one. Only the fox after the mallards and moorhens, and the shy deer to drink. No sign points that way now. No path remains through the tall grasses, salsify and ladysmock. I leave the lane, stand at the place where it lay and listen. The sound of running water comes to me. I hear a deer bark, and in the next breath, I hear your happy laughter. My feet move into the swaying green, finding the lost path. Lost to the world, perhaps, but not to me.


The Daily Inkling prompt today is ‘skimming it’. Not exactly what the prompt suggested, but a different slant on the idea.


You chose me for the cover, skimmed over the first impressions. Easy, you thought, undemanding, something to pick up for the beach. Just thumbing through, you never noticed someone had been here before, made notes in the margins. You never noticed the scorings and underlinings, the angry red marks. You read the blurb and thought you knew me cover to cover. When the plot twisted in a way you didn’t like, you gave up, posted a one star review and moved on.

I never had to read between the lines, I knew you from the word go, the inattentive and superficial kind, looking out for typos and plot holes, ignoring the poetry. You didn’t understand pathos or tragedy, not even drama. What you looked for was a thrill, a frisson of excitement; you weren’t interested in depth, in savouring nuance. Once the novelty was over you had no intention of revisiting the same pleasures. You think you were the one who ended it, closing the story decisively, putting me back on the shelf. You couldn’t see there was so much that went over your head. It wasn’t that you had lost the plot; you were never in it.

I see you sometimes, flipping idly through magazines, your attention span of the average goldfish tested to the limit, while I am clasped firmly in the hands of someone who has the sensitivity and patience to smooth out the dog ears and mend the tears, someone who doesn’t need a dictionary to get past, hello.


A piece of flash fiction for the Daily Inkling prompt—beaming.


Why does she smile at me so broadly, the woman on the tram? She doesn’t know me. Is it to disarm; is she short sighted and fears offending, stepping on toes, not recognising a friend?

She showers her sunny beams on anyone who catches her eye. I half expect her to get out a tambourine and start a sing-song for Jesus. She smiles as though her good humour will make the rest of us feel better. It doesn’t.

I guess she smiles because it makes her feel good to distribute her largesse with such generosity. I can hear her arteries applauding. But the old man hunched next to her might have just lost his wife, the man behind, coughing into his hand have an incurable cancer. Her undiscriminating bounty is offensive to those who have nothing to smile about.

I glare at her and turn away, look out of the window. In the grimy glass, I see her face reflected, a brief relaxation of the facial muscles when she thinks no one can see, and for a fleeting moment, as her fingers fiddle aimlessly with the strap of her bag, her eyes fill up with desolation.

#writephoto: Eventide

Doesn’t fit my WIP for once. For Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt.

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The spring sun has been warm today, warm enough to bring bathers into the cove. Most have left now that evening is drawing the bright colours and the glitter from the air. A couple are still here, enlaced, oblivious of the growing dusk, wrapped up in themselves. I expect they welcome the darkness and the solitude.

The tide has rolled in and rolled out. Sun is setting. I shall wait here a little while longer, in the cool where water pools and captive fish and shrimps wait for the next high tide and release. I wait for the sun to sink behind the headland and the wind to rise, slopping the choppy waves on the sand with the sound of dying porpoises flapping feeble fins.

The caves at the far side of the cove are full of moving shadows now. The others are stirring. I will wait for the last shafts of sunlight to shoot overhead then I will join them, when the dark seeps into the luminosity of the horizon. Ink. There will be no moon. No stars. Just the wind, the waves, and us.

The couple high up above the tideline are whispering. Do they hear? It makes no difference now. Night has fallen, and we bring our shadows into the open, trailing our darkness, wrapping it around cold flesh. Perhaps they do hear. They sit up, listening. Do they hear waves or the grinding of bones? Do they hear the wind or the grinding of teeth? It makes no difference—for them, it is too late.

Three Line Tales: Ghosts?

A three line tale for Sonya’s photo prompt

photo by Ahmed Odeh via Unsplash



In a midnight basement, two boys leap to their feet while a third scatters the letters of the ‘psychic’ message in an attempt to make the apparition go away.

Somewhere, far away, a girl stands in her bedroom, petrified with fear as three phantoms swirl about her in a blur of terrifying faces and flailing arms.

In a third dimension, a priest, a seer and a soldier laugh at the terror they have sown, and pull down more strings of time and light to enmesh more worlds, more planes in their game of chaos.