For today’s OctPoWriMo prompt. The first broken heart. The lurcher pup in the photo isn’t the one we had briefly. Our little lurcher was grey-black but her face was the same.

Photo©Yohan euan o4


Like bitter beads

strung on a chain

the first, the bitterest,

taste lingers still,

the dreamed of puppy,

too bouncy, too messy,

too demanding,

returned to the pound,

just when she had captured

my heart.


On coping with disappointment

For the dverse open link night



No longer spring, early summer sun

and birds that fill the air with song,

flood, yellow-gold and honeyed.

Grass, fat and lush seeps

with frog-leaping ditch water,

running bright as crystal beneath the willows.

And all is smocked and studded

with golden buttons of dandelion.

This richness,

this busy, bustling peace

remains when the disappoint fades

the fragile dream bubble-bursts—

life, death the cycle turns,

indifferently wheeling

like the mewling buzzard.

Flash fiction: In the boat

I found this painting when I was looking for something else, and was intrigued by the strength of this couple. Who were they and what was their story? This is one possibility.




The sun was hot for April, and she could smell his man smell over the heavy muddy scents of the riverbank. He sat in profile, his head bowed over the almanac in his hand, as he pored laboriously over the predictions. This was not what she had imagined, not now, after waiting for so long.

She had done nothing wrong. Nothing anyone would ever discover at least. The old man had been ailing for years. Gout, the doctor said, though the drunken idiot possibly wouldn’t have known gout from a broken ankle. She’d treated the pain with morphine and he’d got a taste for it. She dosed him liberally and let him swill it down with as much vodka as he wanted. Only the priest had ever voiced any disapproval, but she had listened, silent and stony-faced to his concerns, remembering his dismissal of her complaints about the beatings the old man gave her.

For months she had thought of nothing but her lover’s face when finally she was able to announce that the old man was dead and she was free. He had smiled, rather distantly, and reminded her of the mourning period.

“No point going against custom,” he’d said. “Let them see that you’re a respectful widow.”

So she had waited, even though she howled inside with impatience. Even after death, the old man was keeping them apart.

The mourning period over, she had flung the black shawl into a corner and run to him, breathless and flushed, like a young girl running to her first flame.

“We’ll talk on the river,” he’d said, in that slow, quiet voice of his. “We’ll take the boat to our place and we’ll talk.”

He’d hummed to himself as he pulled on the oars, while she squirmed with impatience, twisting her scarf in her fingers, the words on the tip of her tongue. But she held her peace. He pulled into the creek beneath the willow. The bank was wet after the rain. The smell of wild garlic filled the air, and unseen birds scuffled through the new leaves. She took no notice of these things, her eyes fixed on his face, waiting for him to tell her what they would do now. She had been making plans since she had first seen the strong, soft-eyed farmer and decided he was the one who would have her heart. But he had never told her exactly how he saw the future, and only now was she beginning to wonder if he saw it at all.

Ignoring her silent pleading, he rummaged beneath his seat and took out the almanac, the only reading material she had ever seen in his hands.

“It’s all in here,” he said. “The predictions always come out right. Just takes a bit of working out.”

He hummed. The water slapped as the boat rocked against the bank. The birds called to one another as if the humans were not there. He sat so still, he may as well have been a rock in the river. She leant forward, unable to stand the silence, the humming, his indifference.

“Well? Will you see the priest tomorrow?”

“Priest?” He looked up absently from his reading.

“About the wedding.” Her voice was loud, panic replacing impatience. His expression was mild and open as ever. He smiled, slowly and tapped the page of the almanac.

“I’ve been back and forth over the predictions,” he said. “Looks all in order to me. Says I’m to be married in September.” His smile broadened. “To a rich widow. With hair the colour of bright copper.”

His mild brown eyes, that had always seemed so full of tenderness, were like empty pools, where she saw only her pale face reflected, framed in thick dark curls.


Happiness in ripples

Photo©W. carter


When grasped too hard, joy like a nettle stings,

Peer too long into lake waters clear,

Happiness escapes in widening rings.


A dream achieved, and still the yearning clings,

Though we have touched the green light on the pier—

When grasped too hard, joy like a nettle stings.


The dawn breaks harsh that no desire brings,

Dream horses bolt and shy away in fear,

Happiness escapes in widening rings.


The way is strewn with arrows spent and slings,

The longed-for prize eludes, a leaping deer,

When grasped too hard, joy like a nettle stings.


In this bright world of myriad splendid things,

To choose one star and try to keep it near,

Happiness escapes in widening rings.


Be like the gull, content with his broad wings,

Bask in the golden light of this blue sphere,

For rose has thorns, joy like a nettle stings,

And ripples out of sight in widening rings.

As sure as the stars shine

A short poem inspired by the picture for once


On the bank by the river all day long she waits

For a sight of the one who she calls her love.

He said he would come to take her away

As sure as the moon and the stars shine above.

She waits while the sheep wander over the lee

Hears only the larks and the bees’ busy hum

For the far bank is empty except for the trees

And the song of the wind that says he will not come.


After the bitter disappointment of last week when the release of my first book was postponed yet again, I have had time to take stock. For a writer, the ultimate goal is understood to be publication, and the recognition even if only by a small number of readers, that the work that went into producing that book was worth it. But when there’s a glitch in the publication process, when something happens that pushes the finishing line further into the future, the question arises: is publication really what it’s all about?

I have one book that is caught up in the tangled web of editing to a publisher’s satisfaction. But I have others, other worlds, other stories that I have written and revised, more that are waiting to be set down and brought to light. I started a new story today and I realise that the satisfaction to be had from creating not the story, because there is nothing new under the sun, but the way of telling it is enough in itself. The satisfaction of writing that final line, when the words come just right, and the story is told, is not like the excitement of knowing that a story is available to be read by millions of people. It is a deeper, more personal contentment, and I am happy with that. Publishers publish. Writers write.