Thoughts perhaps

For the last ten days or so I’ve been struggling to find a reason to keep on writing. It’s the time of year when death is uppermost in my mind, my mother’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, the festival of the dead and the start of the dark half of the year. Thanks to a friend insisting (nagging) that I don’t give up, I went back to the Oracle. I think the message is that some things don’t need a reason.

Forgive me if I don’t feel like ‘joining’ though, and have bowed out of the interactive scene. Hanging around on the margins is enough.

What follows starts with the eight square poem I wrote yesterday, leading into the Oracle’s response this morning. I have ended it with a coda of my own.


There is no more in these hands to

shape and form into butterflies,

no more music in the flute of

the wind. There was little of worth

and nothing to match the ripple

of stream or birdsong. Now I watch

the rain, the mist rising, sunlight

falling, and that must be enough.


Listen to the words in the wind that pours,

see how the ice grows red as fire in the sky,

fly in the face of the poison men spread,

and perfume the night with the scent of roses.

I will sail into this sky wet with stars (or is it rain?),

where the broken and the brilliant fish

their slow desires in the well of eternity,

where the morning wakes like thunder,

and your soft ghost of a smile

dances blue as the overwhelming salt ocean.


Wind blows sea whispers (from rock and wave)

across the skin of the sky,

rain sings in water shadows, purple and

black as a night far from the land.

I wonder if the moon is less than the sun

when she swims with dolphins through spray

petal light and creamed with foam,

and why I can no longer hold the elusive blue

and gold of twilights in my hands.

Is red the only colour of time?


These are questions few can answer,

perhaps the black pearls sleeping in deep waters,

perhaps pearls of moondrops falling in deep waters

or rain in puddles beneath a November sky.

Perhaps there are no answers,

perhaps they are the wrong questions,

but I will paint my thoughts in the sky

at the back of my head behind my eyes,

full of this sunset obscured by rain.


The winter went

Flying geese.

The winter went wherever winters go

And left the meadow hushed beneath the breeze;

No frost will come to crisp the grass, no snow

Will fall or water running in the ditches freeze.


The winter went and left us with the cry

Of homing geese and their deep-voiced refrain.

We stand beneath the broad bird-woven sky;

Buds burst, rain falls yet still the dreams remain.

Earth ocean rolls

A poem begun entirely by the Oracle, then nudged along to an ending of my choosing.


Hearts dance to the greening,

the slow dance that never ends.

Day dawns damp, sowing spangles

to coax seeds set deep

in the dark of the earth ocean,

still in winter sleep dreaming,

but spring stirs, will roll from a light swell

to storm-roar of shooting and spreading,

unfolding and unfurling, climbing

skyward towards the unreachable sun.

Morning breaks

evening moon

Drops tremble crystal chandelier baubles

tree-hung magnify early sun Magnificat

mist creeping trailing snail blanket

of damp over spring greening grass.

Sun will come Rex tremendae with

golden promises burning with no warmth.

Here peace falls with veils of morning larks

unsinging in these fields ploughed and listless

no evening linnets laus laus but jay and crow

squabble with undertakers of magpies.

Nothing is as it seems when the gloss

is peeled back on this green and pleasant land,

dies irae in the offing, cloud-billow dark

as dungeons de profundis spewing fire

if not today then tomorrow.

#writephoto: Empires

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. It just so happens that this photograph fits my new WIP like a glove. This is not an excerpt, but a taster.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 16.56.53

Jessop told them to use the stone from the quarry. He was damned if he was going to pay to ship stone from elsewhere when he had perfectly good building materials on his own land. The foreman tried to explain that it wasn’t a quarry, that he’d never get local men to dig stone out of that hillside. So Jessop fired the local labourers and hired immigrants, half-starved men who would work for a meal a day.

The skeletal workforce dug and hewed and dragged the millstone grit up the hill to the site, through the winter when east wind blew bitter across the moors and the wind from the north brought snow. If he lost a few labourers there were plenty more. A whole country full of them, he snarled when a delegation of Quakers reproached him on the subject.

He had to bring in masons from the south. None of the northern folk would touch the stone and the work dragged. It was autumn before the house was finished, the dressed stone shining pale gold in the late sun, and Jessop, mill owner, builder of empires and mansions fit for emperors installed his family and servants in the Hall. On that first golden evening, he stood beneath the chestnuts of the alley, thumbs stuck into the pockets of his ample waistcoat and looked down on the valley town with its smoke and smells and thought himself a king.

Later, when the house was quiet, when the last scullery maid had stumbled into her attic bed, and the butler had locked every door and window tight, the quarry that wasn’t a quarry sighed a dark sigh, and through its dark entrance, the starved and the crippled, men, women and children of Jessop’s broken army of labourers and mill workers drifted into the dark. Their feet made no sound as they followed the passage in the hill that was not a quarry, that passed beneath the foundations of Jessop’s new house, and opened with a sigh into the deepest of the cellars.


Pale and gaunt with smouldering fire in their dead eyes they drifted, silent as falling snow up the stone stairs to the cellar door. The only door in the house without a lock.

Not words

For dverse. Still pondering this question.


Not words

a poem is fragments of frost

and wave-washed glass

image of sun on water tasting of spring

in rills running through new grass

wild garlic buttoned with daisies

earth shapes poems with worm casts

intricate mounds snuffled and scuffled in night dark

eyes caught in a flashlight turning away

a poem is stars

glitter sparking off iron-cored rocks

taste of iode sea-spume kelp draped Victorian crêpe

redolent of storm wreckage from the dolphin-deep sea.

Poems feel like silken threads falling

through summer air feathered and trilled with song

winging soaring falling falcon-fast

into a thought tentatively reverently

painted onto a page.

Not dreaming


I had dreams once and found them all.

Held in trembling palms of disbelief,

each one shrugged off its shimmer,

settled into habit, and on the rim of sight

I’d see another shimmer grow, tantalising and bright.


Dreaming is walking streets

where the homeless sleep, not seeing,

taking the shiny beads, not counting the cost,

running after rainbows

when the jolly red is forests burning.


I dream now of not dreaming,

not having, not treading with heavy carbon feet,

but being, accepting that at the end of every day,

beyond coloured cloud and setting sun shimmer,

night will fall, and there will be stars.