What is a peer?

For the dverse prompt. Peer pressure. It’s a funny thing, but as you get older, it tends to disappear when you stop paying attention to it.

What is a peer?

What is a peer,
mon frère, mon semblable,
but a face in the mirror,
a likeness, a seeming,

and what is a likeness
but a superficial similarity,
a flash of recognition
in a deep pool, where

we pass without touching,
fish in a running river,
mirror scales glinting,
reflecting the same sky,

dark as the same glass,
and in the same sky, the birds flock
for me, but not for you, who squint
behind closed shutters,

and all of these peers,
who live in the same dark fold
of the same dark hills,
have nothing in common

with me.


For the dverse prosery prompt.


There is so much life around me now, so many dependent on me for food, shelter, company, a knee to sit on, a hand to hold, that mythical bottomless bank balance. There are trees to be tended, meadows to mow, roses to prune, a home to be kept open for all those who need it.
I remember how I moved away, not needing my parent’s home any longer, cutting adrift and tying up where I chose. There were so many things I abandoned on the way, friends as well as familiar objects, always moving, gathering no moss.
And I think about the dwindling years, how dogs and cats die, children grow, move away, move on. I wonder where the memories will go, the love still to give away, when there is no one left. A precious hoard. And no one to take it.


A bit of fun inspired by the dverse prompt, to celebrate. Our youngest daughter has got her degree in Political Science! Next stop, ruler of the universe!


Bray the trumpets
soldiers marching out of step

promised blood
in the flash of gentle sunlight
on burnished bronze

oriflammes and caparisons
birds of paradise
harsh-voiced as crows.

Stamp feet
dance the conga
reel among the grasses of the roadside

hoot like day-owls
sail-canvas in the wind

and rejoice
give me your horny hands
and dance

she succeeded despite the odds
so sing like bullfrogs
in the evening pool.


I saw the dverse prompt last night, to write a poem about one of the corvid family. Then this morning, I heard the news of yet another avoidable, senseless massacre in the US and I have no words for the moral bankrupcy of the/a people who call the murder of small children freedom.


Crows jays jackdaws
steal unattended eggs chicks
mob predators
soar glide chatter
protect entertain
plant oak trees
decorate cornfields.

Crows etc do only what needs doing
live their lives peaceably
clean up carrion
spread woodland

yet we call them pests
begrudge them a handful of grain
a few acorns
hate the way they warn others
that hunters are around
and we shoot them.

But then we shoot our own children too.

Ferdinand’s ghost

Yesterday’s dverse prompt was to write a sonnet or any other poetry form, incorporating the title of one of Shakespeare’s plays. Today, the NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a duplex sonnet. Too good a coincidence to miss, but since I didn’t warm to the duplex option, here is an ordinary sonnet with Shakespearean overtones.

Painting by John William Waterhouse.

Ferdinand’s ghost

An overarching of sky of bird’s egg blue,
A sward of grassy green and golden light,
All swallowed by the rising storm, the hue
Of kelp, that heaves, a restless sea of night.

Like scraps of feathered day, the crow flock flees,
Wings black as space among the swirling clouds,
Torn from the ragged shrouds of ghostly trees
That heave and sway like huddled fearful crowds,

Who watched the tempest wreck the ship that broke
Upon the gale’s dark teeth. Its timbers sank
Into the deeps; the bridegroom never woke,
A linceul now his diamond raiment, rank.

Full fathom five, your prince, the dead man lies,
No tears fall from those pearls, his only eyes.

Haibun for spring song

The dverse prompt is birdsong in a haibun. If you’d like to join in, this is the link.

The songs are short in the winter months, though the thrush thrills without a pause and the crisp air is loud with calls of crows and magpies, the chatter and clatter of woodpeckers and jays. But as the year turns the birds tune in. Great tits and warblers, chaffinches and robins, and though the mornings are for the thrush, the evenings swell with blackbirds’ song. Now that spring is full and sweet, the chorus is complete, loud and rippling, floods of notes, the nights are rocked with the cradle music of nightingales, mornings by the woodwind wake-up tones of orioles. And flickering to their own unmusical twitterings, swallows bank and weave in the first sun.
Wind in the leaves
water rippling over stones
magic in bird throats.

Leaping salmon

This is for Merril’s prompt at dverse. You can join in here.

Leaping salmon

In the pool beneath the alders,
where sun slants soft as butter through the leaves
and lies in pools of spangled light,
where midges dance, a ripple runs.

Sleek and black and quick as all wild things,
a young one swims, a coypu’s child.

I wish it was an otter,
a sleek and playful otter, never seen,
though longed for as a dog when I was small.

But this small pool and unimportant stream
could never hold the river king,
and I must make do with marsh beavers,
stolid cheerful marsh beavers, making do
with this creek that barely has a name,
paddling their roly-poly roundness,

while I wish for otters and the bright flash
of a salmon-leap, where hazels bend
over other streams, in other dreams.

Some things you can’t unknow

For the dverse prompt.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;

I snap the book closed in annoyance and replace it on the shelf. And while you were wandering so lonely did you spare a thought for the daughter you left behind in France and her mother, whose chances of a decent marriage you scuppered?
Poets are supposed to be sensitive, but you doubt the sensitivity of a man whose sister had to drag him across the Channel to finally meet his nine year-old daughter, and then only to tell her mother that all things considered, he was going to marry someone more appropriate instead.
William didn’t make it as far as his child’s home, but apparently they had a nice walk along the beach at Calais.

These days

For the dverse prompt.
Painting by Harald Slott-Möller

These days

These days, time slows to ancients’ walking pace,
with spring unfurling sails, a stately barque,
that sails these shining hills with gentle grace,
and in its wake, white plum, pink cherry spark.
I harken to the thrush at break of day,
the blackbird chorus when the day is done,
and wish the world was ordered such a way
that mornings brought no dread, only the sun
and birdsong filled the golden sky, the scream
of lightning death, a nightmare, madman’s dream.