All of it

Painting by Ludvig Karsten. Prompt from dverse.


It all comes back again the light that was
the flowering trees the songs that sang in bird-throats
rippled water and the lane that runs up and down.

It all comes back the daylight moonlight flamelight
of childhood bonfire nights how it feels to share with cats
blisters nettle stings and the searing cold of January frost.

Never far below concealed a dusty beast
beneath the rug it all comes back the night fears
exams homework not done a hand lost in the crowd

and when the night’s too dark to sleep the moon
too bright to hide the empty space where you are not
it all comes back.

Explanatory note

The dverse prompt tonight is fortuitous, as I was going to do this anyway, though not, perhaps, in rhyme.

I was going to write a note today
To explain why I have been away
And only call from time to time.
Why the only entries on the page
Are short, delivered, then the stage
Is empty, left to echo rhyme.

I feel the time is racing past,
The days too short and fading too fast,
And I have got a book to write
Before the baby comes and stakes
A claim to all my time and takes,
In tiny grip, both day and night.

So all the prompts are put on hold
Until I have my story told,
And I can think of other things,
Crawl back from far antiquity,
Its mysteries and iniquity,
Hold in my hands the joy life brings.

Circling back

I went today to a different place
and dug in a different soil, planting
and planning to make a different future.

I went to dig among wild strawberries
and violets, weeding carefully between
slender white stars of Bethlehem,
beneath the honey-scent of wild plum.

But can there be a different soil
a different future not set in the stars?
Are we born with fingers that know only
to dig one earth, beneath the plum-scents
of honey flowers and sweet violets?

The fault is in the stars,
the alignment of the planets,
and in this deep earth that calls us home
when we wander, the petals fallen,
deaf to the call of seal and gull,
the north gone astray.


For the dverse prompt, including the lines from The Song of Wandering Aengus by WB Yeats:

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head.

Caillou High

I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head, but the fire, I took with me, and the rushing stream couldn’t quench the flames. I listened to the blackbird, but his song was out of kilter, and the sun streamed slantwise through the pale green leaves.

They say the world is spinning to its end, the heaving oceans empty of their fish are filling with our discarded plastic. I listen to the blackbird but his song is not for me.

They’re shooting in the chase, I can hear the horns and the coarse voices shouting, coarser than any dog giving tongue. As if we needed more blood. The world is drowning in it.

Listen, blackbird, to the pale-winged moths, their song is more in keeping with these end times. Hush. I hear the ocean rushing over the world’s edge.

Perhaps not

For the dverse prompt.

Perhaps it was the endless end-of-winter rain,
the erratic sun, rarely seen, always veiled,
that started the longing.

Perhaps it’s just time,
the memories piled so deep,
growing so light and thin,
that it is time for some to rise
and be remembered.

I think of going back to those summers,
when the sand burned barefoot soles,
and the beach emptied at eleven for lunch and siesta.

Cicada-song and pine cones clattering
onto the balcony and learning to break
open the nuts like little squirrels.

Pine smelled sweet and the lunchtime soup
with a celery we couldn’t grow at home,
and through the shaded windows soft voices called
always ending on a trill of laughter.

It’s tempting to go back into the sun
and the pines sparkling with sea
and a blue that exists nowhere else,
to be cradled in that musical tongue again.

But going back is never an option,
and places that exist in the past
are coated in graffiti now,
sleeping beneath today’s indifference.

Birth by death

Another one for the fungal prompt at dverse.

Mushrooming bubbled mud pools
teeming streaming unsparkled
in gloomy rainspouts
seedsprouts and the swimming toad.

Sun went deep into the western earth
and spewed bile on these hills’
ever-slippery greenness
spread like funghal corrosion
in a rotten drainpipe.

Unlight dies eventually
it says in the handbook.
Last one out turn on the beacon.

Fungal waterways

For dverse.

House sits within its moat of rain water
where the salamander lives
and running grass green
and the cowshed where the toad
swims under the door
and the veil of raindrops dripping
from the eaves dripping in the attic
and inside the windows
and the places where it bubbles
up through the floor.

House sits full of the smell of water
cool and cold and we listen
to the patter on glass the rattle
down chimneys feel the stones slip
into some other world of water
and watery things.

Night is deep and well-dark
ditch-full of rain and the crow wind
and when the light returns
in the grass running down the green path
water-running will be the ragged
ghostly procession of white agaric
water-gorged and tasteless.

Haibun for eagles

For the dverse prompt.

Eagles are rare birds and I’ve never seen one. Their habitat is mountain, wilderness, isolated bodies of water. Like so many of the inhabitants of the earth they have been elbowed out by our despoiling of nature, our greed and selfishness.
Those who refuse to make a next generation, who would rather die, fade into the dark than accommodate our leavings, are all eagles.

sky feathered air
only purity reflects
in those amber eyes