From the moral high ground

For the dverse prompt
Inspired by Thorvald Hellesen’s 1914 portrait of Elvind Eckbo.

From the moral high ground

The military man, a structure of medals, sashes,
stiff bebraided collar, booted and belted,
poses, sword in hand for a looming war.

His gaze, fixed on the middle distance,
peers through canon smoke; he listens
to the screams of men and horses.

Look harder and he vacillates,
moral contradictions rocking the edifice
held together by gold and ribbons.

Look, how the middle distance,
the bloody, screaming smoke,
becomes unbearable,

and the unflinching war machine,
white-gloved, stiff upper-lipped,
turns his head, in pity or in shame.


Haibun for then and tomorrow

For the dverse prompt.
The latest glitch with WP is that I can’t insert links. I also have to reset the font and the font size each post or it’s microscopic Times New Roman. Maybe it’s time to find a new hobby.


I remember so much that never was, childish reconstructions of stories of how it was, re-imaginings so vivid they may as well be true, of emigrating across a dark grey sea, the old house on the hill, an army of my mother’s fellow art students making it habitable, the cast iron bath with eagle’s feet and steps to climb into it, playing with fox cubs on a moonlit lawn. Perhaps some memories subsist from infant times, embroidered by repetition of stories told. But how could you possibly remember that? In the end, does it really matter?

Yesterday was spring
and tomorrow will be too
blue, bird-loud and new.


For the dverse prompt. I know this isn’t exactly what was asked for, but I hope you understand what I’m driving at.


This world of ours is full of cages,
with birds whose wings will never fly,
bears that in their madness search
horizons they can never find,
and every manner of wild and perfect thing.

Our world’s in love with cages,
filled with children we would rather shun,
their parents searching for new horizons,
freedoms reserved for you and me.

We fill our cages with the rattling of the poor,
and those we fear, the women who refuse
to hide their hair, those too desperate to care,
children chained to brothel beds,
and those who write the words
that fuel flames of change.

I couldn’t pick a lock to pick, a jail
and say, open that cell, free this deserving case,
this bird with plumage brilliant and rare,
this man who writes, this woman who was never taught.

Perhaps we should just fling open all the doors
of all the cages in the world,
and throw away the keys.

Things I will always love

For the dverse prompt. I used this painting by Paul Klee for the piece I wrote this morning. I think it needs another viewing.

Things I will always love

A mesh of stars, bright mirror-scales, a fish
of pale silver light, moon-swimming
in a silent pool, a fallen piece of sky, a wish,

your eyes that shine with inner light,
even when they close in sleep,
or weep, in the darkest tender night.

and a second one because I wrote two.

Things seen twice

A lake, a puddle, distant placid sea,
the burnished brass of a commemorative plaque,
eyes that hold mine in torchlight’s glare,
a comet pastiched in firework flare,
this world seen twice, its face tossed back,
an echo, mirror, of what would like to be.

The mill on the rock

Poem for dverse inspired by Erik Johansson’s image entitled Moulin de Mer

The mill on the rock

A house on a rock in a northern sea,
a house from a story I loved as a child,
the water of memory pours and turns
the great wheel of time that sifts the sea.

Wild puffins and kittiwakes skirl, their cloaks
as white and red candy-striped as shells,
and fly round the house-rock that mills the sea,
that sieves the pink coral wave-garnished kelp.

We came in a sea-green boat, purple sailed,
with emeralds that barnacled the prow
and we planted poppies around the rocks,
sweet indigo mussels that bloomed in the night.

Though that was a story, a dream ago,
and waves have washed all the gold threads away,
on a rock in the sea, a house full of shells,
and puffins and poppies still calls to me.

Into the dark

For the dverse prompt.

Into the dark

It will end this year, this winter that will have no spring, perhaps on this day without a date. On a back street, dusky light falls from an orange sky onto bundles of human rags. On a suburban street of luminous green grass and white houses, the lights dim and fail. Somewhere a child wails. On the back street, a cat whisks out of sight behind plastic bags of refuse, ratting, and the last overhead train slows to a halt above a silent thoroughfare.
Running footsteps echo, a door slams. Automatic fire rattles at the end of a street eerily empty, where shop fronts glisten in the leaden stream of acid rain. There is nothing left, nothing to do but wait. Between wall and pavement, a lone daisy grows. I bend to pick it, to take its beauty with me into the dark.

The doe hare

For the dverse prompt.

The doe hare

It’s over now the rough and tumble play,
Racing up the meadow down the hill,
As soon as there was sun to light the day,
At night the moon, a carefree doe until
The nestlings came, born running, quick and bright.
No burrow, just the overarching sky,
Their shelter meadow grass, and through the night
The darkness shields them from the fox’s eye.
No one sees the mother feed her young,
No track she leaves, no scent for fox to find,
And careless leaps away, soon lost among
The barbs of dog rose, bramble canes entwined.
Creature of the wind, the wild and free,
If you but thought, I’m sure you’d pity me.

I am my father’s daughter

Just for you, Punam, I tried. (for dverse)

I am my father’s daughter

so don’t touch me while I am sleeping,
don’t watch me while I am eating,
and never comment on what I am creating.

I make music from words and colour them
with found pieces of sky,
the lost buttons of cloud coats,
the sizzling sanctity of stars ,
the dripping juice of peaches.

In my dreams I make mountains of molehills,
climb to cloud cuckoo land,
weave wonderlands of speedwell
sew sequins in their tails,
so let me sleep,

and perhaps if you keep still and silent,
I will paint you the broad sea
and windswept cliffs, gorse-coloured
and scented with skylarks
and the wild songs of seals,
where I think my father walks.

Haibun for late spring

For the dverse prompt.

Sparse rainfall, little more than dew-baths, feeds shallow new roots, and colour riots, running across meadows and climbing into late blossom, bursting in the first roses, dawn pink-peach, ubiquitous yellow, blue on sunny banks. There will be nothing left for the trees, the woods and bracken, not this year, the stream tinkles in its tiny voice, its roar a memory of richer years.

Beneath parched earth
fire smoulders—last year’s blaze