Waiting for the bus

This rainy windy night I remember stars
and waiting at the bus stop on the dark lane
where nothing would pass except the bus
and no one would walk the cracked pavement
that led up the hill and across the moor.

The sky was always bright those nights
and the rare streetlamps ghostly white.
I was a child then and the monsters in the shadows
were ones I no longer recognise,
the trees wailed a different story,
and the lane and the bus ran down to a town
that has changed like a facelift changes and tightens
familiar loose features, obliterates the past
that peered from the creases.

This cloud and this rain that pelts the windows now
remind me of those nights, frost-bright and clear,
silent as countryside is silent,
and the child that I was then,
waiting for the bus that ran and ran
and never came back.

What was and what is

willow house

It wasn’t a village, just a hamlet

of five houses and two farms,

a high place of wind and snow

and tepid sunshine,

and all along the horizon the hills strode,

carrying rocks and sheep and dry stone walls

from time was

to what will be—

my childhood home.


There was peace among the hawthorn hedges

where foxgloves grew and blackbirds

and the wilderness of stream

and young birchwood beyond,

all gone now

beneath functional tarmac and four car families,

the wilderness tamed for bridle paths,

and the sheep have gone the way of the cows.


Perhaps that is why I love this place,

this here of mine, stamped out of memories,

mine and old folk’s I never knew,

still quiet and green,

the hills closer, softer and the sun warmer,

but the peace drops the same,

like honey or an owl’s downy feathers.


A quadrille for the Secret Keeper’s word prompt, for fans of E Nesbit. The prompt words:



A world slipping slowly into forgetting,

where the sand fairy hides,

never to be found again.

The river sighs into the sea,

the carpet unravels,

no jotted notes or coloured snaps

can halt the monumental slide of the great dune,

no Phoenix rises.

Blood and bones don’t change

I don’t know if this long streel of a thing counts as a haibun, but it came out in response to several prompts that have led me back to childhood haunts. The artwork ©Artist Bird 1955 fits it very well.



Thinking back on childhood times, my eye, the camera runs along lanes and hedgerows, through rabbit woods and fields where cows graze, by the side of narrow roads shaded by sycamores and beech trees. The film is in my head, nowhere else, because the town has changed since those days, moved and stretched over some of the places I played, tidied up the wild places and built over the meadows.


Tame, the trees wander,

well-marked paths through the bracken,

stream bubbles, still wild.


I loved the wilderness, the empty spaces where nobody went. In those days nobody walked in the countryside for fun. Adults wanted cars, kids wanted bikes first, later pocket money to spend in the city on clothes and records, to walk arm in arm among the crowds and talk about bands and fashion. But I would spend my free time in the woods that filled the old railway cutting, following the stream that tumbled along the bottom from one great sandy pool to the next. There were tiny fish and freshwater shrimps, and caddis fly larvae in their gemstone tunnels. Birds sang, and seeing unfamiliar plumage was as exciting as any new film. At night there were the stars from bedroom windows, and foxes playing on the lawn. I didn’t care that birdsong and foxes were unimportant.


Stars stare silently

as radios fill the night,

music for other ears.


I am older now. Life has taken me from the trackless woods along well-trodden paths of work and family, friendships and necessary tasks. I have done what was expected and required. Not very well, but the lines have been followed. Now, the path is broadening again. The trees and the birds beckon. Once again I can shun the shops, forget the theatres and cinemas I never went to anyway, the restaurants that always made me ill. I am at the age where my achievements should be visible in the way I dress, do my hair, the way I stroll around town, sit, sipping coffee in cafés when my expensive shoes begin to pinch. I should dress with gravitas and elegance, make up my face to smooth away the years. Instead I sit in the meadow, in clothes twenty years old, with the neighbour’s donkeys and listen to the orioles. Buzzards wheel overhead, searching for the quick movement of small animals disturbed by the harvester. The sun moves slowly across the sky, turning back the years almost to the beginning, and it feels like going home.


All eyes and ears then,

pool-trawler, birdsong-listener,

blood and bones don’t change.

Polished beads

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday prompt: Smoke and Veil.

The photograph ©Humphrey Bolton is of the disused railway line that ran close to the bottom of our garden. It was a favourite place to play, overgrown and mysterious. It hasn’t changed at all.


So many things jog a memory, shake it from the old biscuit tin on the shadowy shelf into the light. A word, a phrase, a hint of light on a leaf, the smell of cooking, all threads in a magic carpet that has one destination. The past is a place where nothing changes. The colours and sensations never fade—the sound of chattering voices, the heavy hand of heat and cicadas whirring, the ice cream van’s tune, the muggy smell of Woodbines and that indefinable, slightly musty, exciting and forbidden scent of drawers where secrets and souvenirs were kept. I can see and hear so many things that are long gone from this waking world, I tell them over, like polished beads in incense-sweet gloom, lest I forget.


Through a veil of smoke,

forgotten moments—a thrush

on a distant lawn.


On the edge

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday.

Photo ©Wouter Hagens


Only at this moment

and this and this

can I write of past and future, each moment ticking by, another grain of sand in the glass, adding to the past and taking from the future. I sit or stand or take a step

this way or that, back again

in that infinitely narrow strait, where all futures, all pasts, slide and pass, reach out a hand, catch a grain

and another and another

and by the light of a star already dead, imprint its shape. Memory stored, I keep it polished and bright, as long as I can see its trajectory downward, behind, stroke the memory of its fiery tail as it falls. This sun, with rays so much younger than the fiery mass, flickers in the facets before they are lost, poured through the straits into the pile of the past. So many grains, falling in a brilliant cascade. How many more are left to come?


Each moment glitters,

dark or light, by sun or moon,

a glimpse of heaven.

I taste my childhood, the scent,

floral, pungent of privet.

Red Balloon

There will always be only one balloon for me, a red one, from the film; Le Ballon Rouge.

Here are two quadrilles for the dverse prompt. The subject is, of course, balloon.


Lonely child dreams

of fat trout streams

and wild moonbeams.

In his hand, the string

tight holds, stars sing,

in the night sky ring

the songs of spring.

Balloon pulls high,

with birds into the sky,

he laughs, he can fly,

will never die.




Clutch the string tight,

like the moon in the night,

balloon in its flight,

absorbs the pale light,

red glow turns white.


Cast wide your dreams,

let flow the sunbeams,

that fall in bright streams,

burst at the seams,

with life the earth teams.


Is there happiness?

Painting ©Bernardien Sternhelm


Is there happiness to be found,

to be picked up for the asking,

plucked from random moments

and the bustle of other people’s lives?

It used to be there,

I remember,

packed in books and chocolate,

and sauced with the scent of Christmas pine and pudding,

or filling the hours spent sifting pebbles and pond life,

while the world stood still and held its breath.

What remains of that wonderment

that filled to the brim the vessel of content?

Cloud hangs now on the horizon,

fear of tomorrow at every fiery sunset.

Grains of sand in the machine

grind and grumble through the blackbird’s song,

once beauty pure enough to stop the sun in its course.

The world is full of shadow,

and the limpid mornings,

the golden afternoons,

the birdsong of another time,

an echo growing fainter by the year.

When the darkness gathers

and the ricochets of broken dreams

fall thick and fast as bullets,

and the veil of fog on the river will not lift,

I reach out and touch your hand,

the pivot, the centre that must hold,

however thick the darkness grows

and the sunlight cold.

Microfiction challenge Childhood: the entries

So, my first microfiction challenge and I’m already late. Sorry about that, but I’ve a list of excuses as long as your arm (mine’s too short). I hope the next one won’t be quite so shambolic and it will do you all justice.

Here are the links to your stories. As with the poetry challenge, there were as many different viewpoints as there were writers. Proof positive, if any were needed, that you are all unique in your creative imagination as well as in everything else.

Many of you were trying out fiction writing for the first time, and I’m proud that you decided to take the plunge for this challenge.

Sarah is a case in point


Michael is an old hand.

Microfiction challenge #1: Childhood – Maise and Peter | Morpethroad


This one’s from Phylor’s blog. Shout out your real name if it isn’t Phylor!

Childhood. Yesterday — Microfiction challenge #1: Childhood – Phylor’s Blog


Ken’s first time too

No Childhood Here – Microfiction Challenge #1: Childhood | rivrvlogr


And Merril’s

The End of Childhood | Yesterday and today: Merril’s historical musings


Ms 10000 hours left. Sorry I don’t know your name. And don’t say it’s Louise!

Childhood | Work in Progress


Carole, who is another poet branching out



Hugh a real proper author

Angels Of Heaven And Hell – Hugh’s Views & News


MariJo a first timer on my blog, and very welcome

Behind Her Eyes – The Journey of a Million Miles


Nice to hear from Bill whose writing I admire



Sri turning her hand to fiction for the first time



First update, a pingback failure from Geoff slips in under the wire (sort of). Off to read it now.

Waifs and Strays #shortstory #microfiction


This was a great experiment and a challenge for me too. Time has been too short to add to the comments I left on your blogs, but I was very impressed with the response and so pleased that poets are having a go at prose too. In short fiction, there are a lot of similarities of approach. Bravo everybody! There’s a new picture prompt tomorrow. I have a few lined up, just can’t decide which to plump for. Find out tomorrow.

Microfiction: A portrait

This is for my own prompt. It came out at exactly 200 words.

1280px-Alwin Arnegger_jpg

The elderly gentleman stood ramrod-straight, hands clasped behind his back, heels perfectly aligned. A military training lasted forever. He admired the portrait in the shop, turned it over, looking for a price tag.

Fine-looking children. The thought popped into his head without warning and he shook it out again.

A finely executed work. He corrected himself and turned his head, searching for the owner. The eyes of the little girl in the portrait followed him. Her brother had nothing in his head; that was clear. A perfectly ordinary child. But the girl…He frowned.

Wrenching his attention from the painted gaze of the child, he walked stiffly through the shop, and asked, almost angrily, the price of the painting.

“The children? Not mine to sell, I’m afraid. The heirs are picking it up tomorrow.”

“The heirs?”

The question was out before he could call it back. He guessed. Didn’t want a reminder.

“The Rosenthal family. It was stolen. Nazi loot. You know, usual story. Kids went to the gas chamber, poor little sods.”

Reluctantly, the elderly gentleman took a last look at the painting.

She knew, he thought, recognizing at last what he saw in the child’s eyes. It was pity.