Cloudshapes day 27

A birthday, so all the clouds went into this poem. You can see them on Paul Brookes’ blog here.

Your day

It’s your day, so all this earth,
the places where I put my feet,
among new shoots pushing through old leaves,
paths, tracks and highways,
are yours,

the way trees loom through the mist,
the sweep of a jay’s flight,
red kite, wing-beating slow,
the glint of morning sun on the pond,

the way the dew silvers the meadow,
the shadows beneath the oaks,
the flocks of unknown birds
that hurry first north then south,
a cloud of indecision,

and the sky is yours with its cargo
of white ships, the wind in their sails,
on their way to Byzantium, Carthage
or Rome, or just home,
into the sweep of these arms.


I heard a father call

Today this would have been my father’s birthday. He was a poet, and I think he would have liked this one.

I heard a father call

I heard a hart bark from the wooded hill,
Where some days past they shot a gentle hind.
Is it for one he lost, he searches still,
Or does he call to one he hopes to find?
We all have lost someone we never thought
We’d learn to live without, their presence near,
Whose voice we’d know among a million, wrought
Of all the memories we hold so dear.
You had your children late, grew old too soon,
To see the field you sowed blossom anew,
Too many suns had risen, and the moon
too many cycles turned, but when you flew,
You left your love of beauty in this blood;
It courses strong as any bright spring flood.

Another birthday

Photo taken at Christmas

Today is Finbar’s official birthday. A guesstimate by the vet when he was brought to the shelter, since nobody knows when he was born. For lunch he had his usual ‘soup’ of rice, lentils, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes with a portion of minced beef. Today, his soup had an added chicken stock cube, and as a birthday treat his meal was garnished with a boiled egg and a slice of Cantal cheese. You’re not fourteen every day.

Time flows in concentric circles or parallel tracks running at different speeds, the stars we see, the stars we don’t, light issuing from present darkness. For dogs, time races in the fast lane.

gloomy day
of false summer—leaves hang
waiting for the rain

Poem for a birthday

There was no power when we woke yesterday morning and it wasn’t reestablished until 10 in the evening, so I couldn’t post this poem for my dad’s birthday. Thought of him a lot though.

Birth endlessly repeating

Another cycle completes since you began,
and in that earth that was never yours,
you sift, settle where roots break the sod,
rain seeps carrying you deeper,

perhaps to mingle with the salt waves
that pound the long white strand,
where you imagined yourself
the child who should never have left,

sitting back to the wind
face to the ocean,

wondering if the skylark’s song,
the seal’s bark was all,
and what lay beyond
the grey horizon, a beginning
or an end.

Haibun-ish for a birthday

A haibun is usually prose plus haiku. This is prose plus sevenling. Call it what you like. Today is my birthday so I do what I like.
Plus I’ll plug my chapbooks too. WP chose the layout.


It was so long ago and I don’t remember it, and those who would are no longer of this world. Yet still the day rolls around as the earth turns and the sun dims and the hours in this dark December are always shorter than a summer’s day. A birth nonetheless occurred, and if I pull in the thread it might bring me back, but I know I will always stop short of the place where I began, will not peer behind, along the untrod path of before, will not disturb the million ghosts in their slumber.

Already the dark
is here and the day barely begun;
the sun has set in torrents.

Which way the night?
Does is pass by the dawn
or the moonpath?

Ask me tomorrow; perhaps then I will know.

#writephoto: A Victorian birthday party

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. Not seasonal or even peaceful, but it fits rather well with (you guessed) a scene I’ve reached in my latest WIP.

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The dessert was a monument of whipped cream and custards, sponge soaked in sherry and dripping with cherries and plums preserved in brandy. The confection was more or less square, with a perron, turrets and towers at its four corners, doors in chocolate, and windows in angelica sliced so fine as to be transparent. It tottered over the glasses and candelabras, glistening with sweetness, and raising gasps of admiration from the guests.

“For you, Cecilia.”

After copious eating and drinking, her husband’s complexion was several shades redder than usual and his dark humour had mellowed into complacent pride in his achievements. He pointed to the gilded sugar-iced inscription over the chocolate doors.

“Fairfax Hall. Do you recognise it?”

Holdsworth guffawed, his mouth opening wide enough to swallow turrets and towers. “I should think she would! It’s all there, a masterpiece!”

ed, masculine almost, her face and throat firmly defined, imperious. Her mouth was op

Cecilia looked at the quivering thing and her throat filled with bile. She swallowed back the nausea and smiled at her husband. “You have made me something from a fairy tale.”

Holdsworth led the applause and Jessop glowed. He called for the champagne and amid screeches of terror from the ladies, opened a bottle of demi-sec, pouring Cecilia the first coupe. She turned her face from his to the portrait above the fireplace, and raised her glass.

“To Hawisa.” The hubbub died and a faintly bemused silence fell. “My ancestor,” she pursued. “The first Fairfax of all. Fairfax was her by-name, it means fair haired.” She smiled at the company and raised the glass to her lips.

All eyes turned to the painting. The subject had none of the soft boneless nature that generally portrayed femininity. Her clothes were simple homespun, not satin and silk draped archly to cover voluptuous naked curves. Her outstretched arm was strongly muscled in a most unfeminine act of haranguing or rallying.

The women’s eyes narrowed, no doubt comparing the features of the barbaric savage to their own white and fully-fleshed limbs. The men too found nothing to ogle in the portrait, nothing worth looking at at all. Even the horses, if the shadowy background really was horses in movement, were too confused and unformed to be admired. Only the dogs, war dogs with heavy jaws and heavy collars drew the eye. One at either hand of the masculine warrior-woman, they gazed solemnly out of the painting, and in their eyes was a warning.

Elizabeth Jane turned her back on the uncouth image. “Your ancestor looks more like a working girl than a lady of the nobility.”

“I assure you she was a powerful lady of her times, owning all of these hills as far north as Skipton, Holderness on the east coast and Castle Bytham in the south. She was greatly loved and admired.”

Elizabeth Jane looked at her with incredulity. “She was a great benefactress perhaps?”

Cecilia smiled, a smile that showed her small, white teeth. “She led a rebellion of poor Saxon farmers against their Norman overlords.”

Haibun for a father’s birthday

This haibun is in response to a fortuitous prompt from the Daily Inkling. Today is my dad’s birthday. The prompt is ‘I’m the King of the World.’


Today is his birthday, not was. It will always be the day he was born. He’d be an old man now, too old to remember the stories he used to tell us, the poems he wrote, the people he’d known. I’m glad he never lost any of his force, physical or intellectual. Living so far from his roots was hard enough, to dip into the sea that lapped his home shore, to feel the same bleak wind in his face. He’s there now, if only I could see him, standing legs braced against an Atlantic gale, looking down into the bay where the seals play and the gulls scream.

Wind full of voices

pours from the distant sea

salt in the wounds.

October 27: Haibun for a mother


This day is yours, always will be, forever and ever. I never knew how you envisaged it, the place beyond the veil, or if you ever did, content with just the contemplation aspect and the praising, being religious and a singer. But I have my ideas, my hopes, that your green fields will be greener, the wind carry you, soft as a spring day, and love wash you in an endless tide.

Wind blows feather soft

over these hills, these meadows,

a bright memory