The painting is Franz Marc’s The fate of the animals.


Among the trees a flash of russet red,

The gentle sound of sleepy bird-chirrup,

And insect voices throbbing in the heat.


Can I take this earth into my hands,

These roots and rivers take and twist, and light

Among the trees a flash of russet red?


Land can be stripped and bridled like a beast,

Branded deep; its roar of suffering drowns

The gentle sound of sleepy bird-chirrup.


Among the trees, red greed devours the heart,

The only sounds the shriek of flames, last cries,

And insect voices throbbing in the heat.

The custom of the country

For the NaPoWriMo prompt, looking at a meadow not with the eyes of a developer.



bounded by hedge and stream

and tall trees swaying

not grass, not much,

but flowers

buttercup dandelion vetch flax bugle salsify and orchids.

So many orchids.

Pasture never worked

never ploughed

a piece of ancient farmland

untouched except by hoof,

and the swift pads of hare and fox.

Rodent-burrowed and fissured by contraction

into tiny tectonic plates

running with water

seeping hollows full of marsh plants.

History treads here

silent as nightfolk

holding its breath

for the future is coming.


The future sees building plot

house in breeze blocks and pvc

swimming pool and shaved lawn.

Does anyone care

if the nightingales will still sing

in Monsanto-perfumed air?

A smell of burning

A poem for the dverse prompt that honours Dylan Thomas’s creativity with the language. Still not able to shake the burning of Notre Dame out of my thoughts.


Last night the wind blew

organ-blasting through the trees

pelting the shutters with rain.

Winding cloth-wind

wrapped itself round the chimney

and felt beneath the trembling tiles

for hidden relics perhaps.

I lay midday-awake

and listened to flames roaring

lick-spitting flames devouring wood and lead

dripping comet-streamers

from roof ribs open to the sky.

Bells rang in their Sunday-holy voices

intoning a dies irae

that shook these rafters into dawn

and the mournful light


of this dog end of existence.

Tame love is like wallpaper


Tame love is like wallpaper

I said

ripping through painted flowers with sharpened nails

and only when the plaster lay exposed and scored

pale and livid grey beneath

did I see the red tears

running down your face.


In these hooked and barbed hands

lies no tender strength

to stitch back the shreds of what was

only a certain rough skill

in daubing the memory

of red flowers.

Sun-charred laughter

Photo©Arun Kulshreshtha.


Sunlight roars with a fiery voice,

Beneath its claws red stone flakes fall,

Your laughter breaks like charred black twigs.


As summer crawls from beneath the shade

Of spreading trees, silent and grave,

Sunlight roars with a fiery voice.


Harsh, it tears the walls, the heat

That pours from roof tiles, dripping gold—

Beneath its claws red stone flakes fall.


Limp the poplars, their voices hushed,

Where birds in thoughtful silence perch,

Your laughter breaks like charred black twigs.

An island garden

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem about a small but important place. This is a haibun about a short-lived, tiny project.



The ranks of slender metal posts along the kerb stop street parking. When you unscrew the top, they make ashtrays for the street-smoking residents. He filled a dozen of the posts with earth, the boy on the second floor, and planted them with seeds—sweet pea, nasturtium and cornflower. Because he hasn’t got a garden.

Every day I walk this street, past the posts on either side, and I have watched the seeds sprout and push above the narrow edge, leaves uncurling, bright and green.


In poor earth they thrust,

any shoots, roots fed enough—

sun draws them higher.


There were twelve at first, tiny gardens bounded by a rim of dark metal, a small world raising a miniature forest of leaves. Healthy little plants they were, spreading broad leaves to catch the afternoon sun. The kids dug some out; some are once again ashtrays. Only one is left, the leaves a little weary, a little scared at the desert around them.

Every day I pass and wonder if the last island of life will have been submerged in a sea of dog ends, or grubbed out by careless, idle fingers. It was such a splendid idea, snuffed out by ignorance and the wilful destruction of potential beauty.


Crushed beneath the weight

of ignorance life dies back—

cold spring, no summer.

Microfiction: Too late for regrets

This 99 word story is for Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse


She volunteered to go down and take a closer look, not simply out of curiosity, but driven by the nagging fear that they had done something dreadful.

The lieutenant whistled in the terrible silence.

“What a mess! We really wiped them out. Not much of a loss to the universe though.”

He pointed at the still smoking mountains of concrete rubble that stretched as far as the eye could see. But her eye was caught by the shadow left by the heat of the blast on a piece of wall.

“They had bicycles. Just like us,” she said softly.


For the Secret Keeper’s writing prompt, using the words:



Each one of us brief moments lives,

That nature gives

To shape our world,

Beauty unfurled.


Deep in the bones, ancestral land,

By thought and hand,

Its contours changed

And rearranged.


The fertile plain, the blasted heath,

Above, beneath

We scourge and steal:

The wounds don’t heal.


For the Daily Post prompt: Punishment, a slightly different interpretation of the fairy tale prince.


In a fury, the prince stormed into the stables and ordered his favourite horse to be saddled, the horse that rode the sky. Grooms and stable boys fell over themselves to prepare the horse, terrified of the prince’s anger should they keep him waiting, or should he find fault with their work. The prince had barely time to tap his foot with impatience before his horse was brought out, shining and brilliant in his finest trappings. Thin-lipped and white-faced, the prince snatched the reins and, without a word, leapt into the saddle.

He dug the spurs savagely into Skyrider’s flanks, and the horse soared into the darkening sky. Already the first stars were shining; soon it would be night. Mercilessly the young prince urged his horse on, further and higher, higher and further, until the roaring wind of their flight blew white foam flecks from Skyrider’s flanks to join the waking stars. At last, his horse tiring, and when even the spurs could make him go no faster, the prince found what he had been searching for.

He reached out a jewelled gauntlet and snatched it from its velvet bed—the star of destruction. His face, white with anger, grimaced as a mirthless grin of victory spread across his face, and he balanced the star in his hand, testing its weight. When his father raised his face to the heavens and saw the red star of death streak across the sky and fall upon his palace, his city, his realm, he would regret bitterly his refusal to name his youngest son as his heir.

Microfiction: Guardian

For the Daily Post prompt: prophecy.

I’ve used the photo from this week’s microfiction challenge, but I’ve written myself out of it with 500 words.

Photo ©Jimmy Fell


The invaders set light to the sculpture, screaming ‘blasphemy’ or some such word. They took the blind man who tended the source and lightened the long winter evenings with stories, and they threw him into the inferno, screaming even louder about demons and devils. We could do nothing for him, fled to our hiding places on the mountain and in the forest. He had warned us that they would come, and they would be merciless. But he would speak to them and warn them to leave us well alone. Alas, they hadn’t listened. The invaders seem to know a lot about the demons and wicked things that live in their imaginations, but little about peace and friendship. They pay much attention to what these demons say and want, and it has made them cruel and heartless.

The sculpture burned angrily all night, the flames raging at the senseless murder and mourning with us the loss of the voice the blind bard had given to the waves, the wind and the birds. As the hours of darkness wore on, we saw the expression on the invaders’ smooth faces turn from hatred, to worry, then to fear. From our hiding places, we heard them murmuring that the fire was as cursed as the sculpture, that is was fuelled by evil and devils’ black magic. We didn’t understand their obsession with demons, nor their fear of the fire. Could they not feel the guardian’s anger, that the flames were their work and the murder of the bard was their evil? Why did the invaders see wickedness and devilry in the offerings of flowers and songs that we had prepared for the guardian?

By the grey dawn, the invaders were silent, and anxiety was etched into their features. They did not look at the sky. They did not see the moon set and the morning star shine out bravely. They did not even see the sun rise. All they saw was the fire, still burning, though the sculpture was consumed. The flames took on the form of the guardian and that seemed to terrify them.

The sun has risen now over the rim of the ocean and pours fiery rays to join the flames that swell higher and wider. As the guardian spreads her fiery wings, the invaders cringe and back away. We hear their voices rise in a terrified plea to the ‘Avenging Angel’ and we look at one another in surprise. Have they at last understood?

The guardian’s wings spread and spread, hovering about their ship, dropping veils of flame to envelope the sails and the rigging. The invaders see the danger, but too late. With their ship, their easy escape, an inferno, they look what they are, pale, maggoty cowards crawled out of a rotting fruit somewhere beyond the ocean’s rim. The guardian has found her voice in the crackling of dry canvas and rope, and she calls to us. Sadly, but with determination, we nock arrows to our bows and step out of our hiding places. The holy ground will soon be cleansed.