The nestlings bicker
until one by one they test
new wings and fly

not far
not out of sight
not yet.

And returning one by one
in twos or threes
they fill the old place

and we pretend
that nothing has changed
the call the ties

but each time
the leaving launch is smoother
the flight further

and the heart clutches
at the trailing thread
grown so tenuous
almost one with the blue.

Roses in the blood

A poem for OctPoWriMo on the theme of mothers.


A mother is in the blood,

a flowering urge to root and shoot,

bud-burgeoning into blooms.

A mother blooms and falls,

her memory fading only slightly,

fuzzy at the edges, hard lines softened,

and the seeds set remind

in their bright laughter

and the way they hold a pencil

or turn a phrase,

that though the petals fell,

the rose remains.




Haibun for an enfolding


It is a strange sensation, a first time experience, looking forward to this short trip tomorrow. They have not all left the nest, my offspring, and only one has started her own nest-building. We are in a limbo of sorts, separated by distance, not so great for most people, but a world away in terms of lifestyle. I know the city, can (almost) still hear its din and gag on its smell. Here is quiet except for birds squabbling after seeds and the pheasant chortling. I see lush green after the frostmelt and tree branches silver-grey in the sun.

It is a strange sensation, to be flying (metaphorically) back into town, to see children not quite left, still looking forward to seeing their mother, to treat her as I used to treat them, with care, and gentleness, as if she is fragile and might break.

Frost melts in the sun

life goes on as usual

for seed-seekers.

She sees five faces

This poem, for the Secret Keeper’s five word prompt, is inspired by yesterday’s get-to-gether.



Into the mirror pool upon the shore,

I dip my hand to catch the prize,

Of pebbles smooth as a child’s sweet face.

Children of mine,

With eyes as blue as drops of wild October sky,

You paint a picture with your smiles

That shine as bright as this rock pool beneath the autumn sun.

Children of mine,

With eyes that glow as deep as chestnuts in red drifts of leaves,

I scoop a nut from our dark-scented earth,

To warm my hands with memories of laughter.

Could I stretch back desire until that distant point,

That speck in time when our grand schemes were born,

I could not have dreamt of such a harvest

As I find in this bright pool or in these fiery drifts.


Bittersweet thoughts of how gaining an adult is losing a child.


Childish laughter echoes in the night,

It fills the morning with its music bright,

Paints a thousand hues in crystal light.


For a time we two walked hand in hand,

Two sets of prints in the mirror sand,

Tides swept them smooth, empty now the strand.


Memories cascade in golden streams,

Dance like dust motes in the sun’s bright beams,

Happiness is never what it seems.

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.

Haiku challenge: Year & New part II

Couldn’t resist having another look at Ronovan’s prompt. Here is a trio for the collection.


Many years growing

the child unfolds, rose petals

each new day brings hope.


Each year the roses

their perfumed flowers unfold

a new joy each one.


New life rises—spring

dancing in the wind—year’s end

spear points pierce cold ground.


This short story is too long for Sacha’s challenge, I know, and I usually don’t have any trouble writing very short pieces. But this one needed a bit longer.

photo ©Martin Bodman


I’d never much cared for what my mother did to the cottage she bought after our dad died. I didn’t like the way she’d stripped down the interior, opened it up and let in the light. Cottages are supposed to be dark and poky, low beams and paint the colour of pub ceilings. I didn’t like the way she’d brought only her favourite bits from the old family house. What about the rest of the stuff? All our memories were in that house. I couldn’t take it, not with our décor. Old, worn-out just wouldn’t fit in. Without Dad, surely she should have hung onto as much as possible. His old chair with the bottom that sagged on the floor, the wardrobe with the broken hinge he was always going to mend, the rubbish he collected because ‘it might come in useful.’

I resented what she’d done, what she’d let go, what she had made of her life after Dad died. Because she did make a life, let it take a new turning. It didn’t seem fair. She did new things, took up painting again, joined a choir, did voluntary work at the wildlife sanctuary. All things Dad would have pooh-poohed. She got rid of the car, Dad’s pride and joy. Said she didn’t need it, went everywhere on foot or took the bus. And she planted that blasted holly tree in the driveway, right in front of the kitchen window. It had just been a big bush when she put it in, but after ten years it was quite a size and it was impossible for us to get the car in when we visited. Dave grumbled every time when he had to leave it on the side of the road. He’d get up every fifteen minutes to check it hadn’t got a scratch.

Dad would never have let her do such a selfish thing. Even if she didn’t need the drive, couldn’t she see how inconvenient it was for the rest of us? Jim might say he quite understood that Mum preferred to look at a holly tree rather than his old car, but that’s because his car is old. Another scratch or dent wouldn’t make any difference.

When she went, we had to decide what to do with the cottage. Jim said he was attached to the place and wouldn’t mind living there. His Sharon liked it and it was convenient for her work. But he didn’t have the money to buy my share, and is never likely to either. We had to sell. There was no choice really.

I’ll give Mum that at least, she made tidying her stuff away easy. Not that there was much left of the ‘clutter’ as she called our memories. Getting rid of the tree blocking the driveway wasn’t an option either, whatever Jim said afterwards. Dave wouldn’t do it so we got a professional in. He got the stump out too. Jim threw a fit when he saw the tree lying on the ground. He bent over it, parted the branches, not caring that the leaves were scratching his arms bloody. When he found the nest, I swear he had tears in his eyes.

“Mum loved watching the birds in this tree,” he said. “She could see them when she was in the kitchen. Her eyes weren’t good enough to see much further than this.”

I looked at the woven tressed twigs, the downy feathers sticking to the inside, Jim wiping his eyes. I imagined Mum washing up, gazing out of the window, that dreamy smile on her face she always had when she was thinking her own thoughts. She would have shaken the tablecloth out of the door and watched the birds come down, stood so still they’d forget she was there.

“In the winter, they liked the berries. That’s why she planted a holly tree.”

But sentiment doesn’t sell houses. We’d never have sold the cottage so quickly with that tree stuck in the way.

Jim hasn’t spoken to me since.

Witchwood part two

I was asked for a bit more of this story, preferably with a cheerier ending.
The painting is by Alwin Arneggar

1280px-Alwin Arnegger_jpg

They stopped, frozen with terror. Feet sank into the mud. Leeches fastened tiny jaws on exposed flesh, drank the strength from weary limbs. The wraiths, yellow-eyed and hungry crept closer, the circle tightening. Thorn bushes rattled and reached out their talons.
“Make it stop,” Billy whispered, clutching her hand tight. “I want to go home.”
She breathed deeply to calm her racing heart, tried to empty her mind, to concentrate on painting a new canvas. But her eyes refused to close, locked into the evil slanted gaze. So she stared back, turning the bilious yellow to golden sun. The beams softened, falling soft and warm about them. She heard the change in Billy’s breathing, coming in quick gasps of anticipation. Where the beams fell, the grass grew, glowing green, and she began to hope.
“The sky, Madgie, make it blue,” he urged, tugging at her hand.
The yellow sun that poured through the slanted eyes, slanted through the trunks turning gnarled, rotten wood young and silver-smooth. A squirrel darted out of sight into the foliage. Billy gave a quick, nervous laugh. She squeezed his hand and thought about the bluest sky she had ever seen, making patterns with wisps of white and pink cloud.
“There,” she sighed. “Nearly done.”
The yellow eyes were lost in the day dawning. The death song sank to the murmur of the breeze. Faint, but growing stronger, the breeze carried the sweetest sound of all, and as the blackbird’s song filled the air, Madgie made the dream end, and they woke.