For the dverse prompt.
Photo ©Patrick Nouhailler’s
I took the bus to Paris. I’d always said I would get there and I did. It was the beginning of July, and I arrived from London with one bag, first job as replacement staff for the summer holidays. As soon as I stepped out of the Métro at Boulevard Voltaire and asked a gendarme for directions, I knew I wasn’t going back. And I didn’t.
Heat and cafés
smells of pastis and coffee
There will be no great change, no awakening of consciousness. Was there such a happening after any of the great plagues that reduced human populations by huge percentages? Survival mattered and starting again the same struggle with the same tools in the same hierarchy.
We had no plague, only a virus that passed over most of us with not even a flutter of its black wings. We plough the shopping streets again, bars and restaurants, and our dreams are full of distant holidays and spending more and more. We are butterflies with iron wings and poison in the curled, coiled-spring tongue.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
on an empty strand
the mirror dims
For the dverse prompt.
There are four graves in the family plot in the corner of the north meadow, wrought iron-railinged and ringed with trees, in two beds, in life as in death, Georges and Henriette in one, Jean-Marie and Jacqueline in the other. Georges and Henriette lie beneath a handful of unweeded gravel bordered by rough stone, their names hand-painted on pieces of slate. Jacqueline and Jean-Marie lie beneath sumptuous red marble, weighted down with polished plaques and pots of porcelain flowers.
All the plaques are Jean-Marie’s, from family and camarades from the Société de Chasse, of game birds picked out in bronze, gun dogs, men with rifles, all dedicated to a valued member of the pack. Even in death, Jacqueline is mute, unrecognised, her sole function, to display her husband’s trophies. I don’t need to know any more, Jean-Marie. I dislike you enough already.
Light changes softly
rain falls petals even snow
the dead remain dead.
For the dverse prompt inspired by this Mondrian.
Never wandered beyond the riches of the familiarly foreign, the jewels hidden in pine-forested valleys, arid olive covered hills, slow rivers and golden stone bridges. I am the red square on the edge looking in at the seething geometric movement and quietly turning away.
a fountain in a square
a pot of basil on a window ledge
and the smell of tomatoes cooking
take me home.
Tussling with thistles taller than me, sprouting like something I saw in a black and white Doctor Who and remembered with terror for decades, in the sun too hot for spring and crickets vying with blackbirds for airspace, I feel the year running away from me already.
the Dagda stopped the sun once
for nine months
one way of hiding your guilt
and if the child turned out bad
you could always blame his mother
This is what I should have written for the dverse prompt, since the illustration was a gift.
In the house where I grew up there was a print of Seurat’s La Grande Jatte on the sitting room wall. I used to think it was Batley Park. In the hallway there was a print of the Madonna from de la Tour’s Le Nouveau-né. I used to think it was a picture of my mother. It looked like her, and she also had a red dressing gown. Funny how for children there is nothing new under the sun.
like spring flowers
I can’t remember writing an overtly autobiographical poem, and I don’t keep any track of what I write anyway. I’m happy with the general, uncomfortable with the specifically personal, so this is about as close as it gets. Written just now for the dverse prompt.
I wrap myself in the cool of tree shade, walk in rubber boots with dog and cat, stringing words. I live where I live with the one I live with and our hours roll like waves up the strand, foam-frilled and hissing. Birds sing and we hear, blackbirds, thrushes, orioles and on summer nights, nightingales. Every day there are (metaphorical) shells and bright pebbles set in the (metaphorical) mirror sand, (real) flowers that open, petals that fall, and every night there are stars even when cloud covers the sky.
days at spring’s birth
the weather is raw—cats curl
by the ticking stove
It is always quiet here, a few cars taking three people to work and two sets of children to school. An elderly couple walks past for exercise. But first thing in the morning if the wind is in the right direction we can hear the distant hum of traffic on the road that goes through the town.
Today there is nothing, only birds—singing, squabbling, chirruping, coughing. New couples feather dance. The stream babbles, the drains from the fields tinkle their steady stream of ground water, a dog barks. No fear yet; the enemy is elsewhere. We listen to the birds.
but the hush that falls
when the world of men
to a graceful halt
I couldn’t sleep again last night, too many thoughts and problems to be solved or not, out of my hands. I worried that I had not seen a single hare this early spring around the house, racing, boxing through the grass. So I put on boots and walked the course of stream and ditch, searched for signs that we are not alone.
There were tracks of deer and badger, marsh beaver, hedgehog, squirrel and fox. Holes dug in bank and earth, new homes or just grubbing for food. I walked the nursery; the new trees are thriving, ninety now—we need a thousand more to make a difference. Good signs. Perhaps there will be hares when the sun returns.
grey sky still the day
though nights are full of moon
I wish I could see the magic hares
racing beneath the stars
careless and wild
For the dverse prompt. To write about taboo subjects is difficult, because a priori it means some people are going to find what you say offensive. If what you wrote offended no one, it wasn’t taboo. If anyone is offended by what I have written, tough. I am merely pointing out a few of the subjects that political correctness obliges us not to mention.
These days everyone, including adolescents, talks about sex, swaps photos of their private parts on the social media. We can all rant and rage our political slogans, however ignorant, violent and vicious. These days, the taboos are the politically incorrect. I could cite so many that would cause offence to the people who believe they are progressive and open-minded, like saying it isn’t feminist or liberating to choose to wear a burqa, it’s retrograde and subservient; to point out the wholesale abuse of human rights (especially where human means female) in many African countries that has got absolutely nothing to do with colonialism; to say that there are more important things to worry about as the planet slips into extinction mode than the états d’âme of people who refuse to choose between M and F on their passport application forms. I could go on but I’ve probably offended enough people for one evening.
spring comes to the tree
buds burst birds sing rain falls
life goes on