Life as fish

Today, Jilly shares this Jim Harrison quote

“It is the burden of life to be many ages

without seeing the end of time.”

—Jim Harrison



We surge, like mackerel, into life, open-mouthed and angry, these first years of threshing and struggling with awkward limbs and the tyranny of tongues effaced by some compassionate freak. Perhaps the last years too, of awkward limbs and the tyranny of tongues will be smoothed away, but whose is the compassionate hand, and what is to follow, to start afresh?

I would take an oak tree, erased the bursting acorn, struggles with jay and deer, remembering only the shading boughs and nightingales singing.


Tree spreads

over wild grass

and the wind blows.


There is a road home now

One of the last Jim Harrison quotes from Jilly.

“We walk the bottom of an ocean we call sky”

WordPress is being funny today, tells me I don’t have any media and asks would I like to upload something, then tells me an error occurred, tells me I can’t upload any media, tells me I don’t have anything in my gallery, then uploads a monster version of a normal sized file. I should maybe have turned WP off and restarted.

Road home

There is a road home now

That we never trod before,

Where we walk in tree shadow

As we’d walk the ocean floor,

To woodpecker music,

And the drum of acorn rain

On the musky, minty earth,

That beats a wild refrain.

Beneath green branches scented

As any rocking sea,

It sails our footsteps homeward,

Where we were meant to be.

Where we trod

I’m almost at the end of Jilly’s Jim Harrison challenge. What’s a few months between friends?

This quote is:

“Only the water is safe” ~


Footprints in the sand left where we walked,

traces in the mud of where we trod,

and in the dust our dancesteps, all effaced,

while from some lofty cloud, the finger points

at the mess of lives, of mirror sand.

Your handprint on the handle of the door,

breath that mists the window of the train,

the word you wrote backwards for me to read—

love, it said—before you turned away,

and rolled away on dull gunmetal rails,

your perfume lingers, oil daub on my face.


I wade through water now,

my tread silent as fishes,

my passing leaves no trace,

no tears cling to this slickness.

Like sand between the fingers,

and grains of star seeds falling,

no words have yet been written,

in the story of the river.

There are nights

Going back to Jilly’s Jim Harrison quotes for inspiration. This one is

“The moon is to blame.  I am innocent”  


There are nights when there is only the moon,

No stars, no shadow-light, no scented jasmine,

And the sound of stolid breathing fills the silence.

There are nights when there is nothing more

Than the cold pallor of the moon

And the tracery, black filigree of the elms

That scratch and claw the soft velvet of the sky.

And on those nights of hush, when you are curled in sleep,

The anguish of the day all washed away,

I clench white barn owl fingers to stop the screams,

And leap into the dark, bat-whispering and soft

As a mare’s nose, and skim the hedges, then the tree tops,

Until the dawn’s grey light steals my wings.

Do you wonder that I look with cold disdain

at your pink dishevelledness

and turn for passion to the arms of the night?

Heaven’s high

This is for Jilly’s Jim Harrison prompt.

 “I’m unsure if all of me returned” ~ Jim Harrison


When we soared on Phoenix wings,

and the fire blazed, our limbs enlaced,

we lit up the night with garlands of desire.

How cold then the blue earth seemed,

how deep the glassy sea and bland the day,

full of pastel hues.

But turbulence broke the sacred link,

frayed, a ragged hawser drifting free,

the iron pull of the earth’s core called you home,

and I, a spark adrift in space,

hung out in the high of heaven, remained,

my eyes riveted on the eternal

that lies on the dark side of the morning


Mint and memory

For Jilly’s Jim Harrison quote prompt.

“Much that you see isn’t with your eyes”


There are pictures in these words, as vivid as sunlight on water, that ripple and whisper like the scent of walking on wild mint. I remember turning my head as the smell rose, drifting in crushed opulence, and seeing the white scut of a small deer dancing into the tree shadows by the stream—red deer, green shade, in a vibrant halo of mint and memory.

Summer almost gone,

tapestry unravelling,

the scent still lingers.

The scent of fiery crumbs

A poem for Jilly’s Jim Harrison bonanza. Don’t ask me why the words inspired this reaction, they just did.

“I love the tracks left by hundreds of species of birds that remain in the air like we do.”


You say you watch me sleeping,

but do you see the colour of my dreams,

and feel the wind rush through my pinions?

Would you follow me just because?

On waking you are there with breakfast and projects,

And the smile you bestow on all the world,

on me, the postman, or next door’s cat.

I stare at my toast,

for you, the most solid, real thing

in this spring morning of racing cloud

and torrents of wind, drenching the wild branches.

You stroke my hand, somewhere in another galaxy,

luxuriating in the aroma of your coffee,

the dancing treetops, whisking the clouds to creamed butter,

a peripheral distraction—

a hail of meteorites,

a cloud of midges.

I leave my toast and fly with the gusty wind,

In my wake, a trail of fiery crumbs

and the scent of boiled coffee,

And you will never know,

that when I said I would bring you back a star,

I meant it.


Beauty at the shoreline

A haibun in response to Jilly’s Jim Harrison quote:

“I’m not sure what it is, life’s puzzle.”

By a strange coincidence, I see that this poem is perfect for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday prompt too. So it’s getting a second outing.

Photo ©Dr Raju Kasambe


Life, like a river flows, whether we would or no, and pours into the leveling sea, like the tide, creeping to the highest mark, then ebbing until the slate is clear, for someone else to write the chapter’s end. I would not leave behind the common detritus, the jumble of broken thoughts and shiny hollow things, that even the turnstone shuns as not worthy of attention. The trick lies in the subtle shifts of light and shade, the glorious colours that form the silvering of a rock pool mirror, to make the stranger walking at the shoreline stop and marvel that such beauty could be.

Foam laces the shore,

ephemeral beauty fades,

leaves behind the sky.

Summer wind

These two quadrilles were inspired by the heat of Tuesday and listening to readings from Homer on the radio. The second one fits Jilly’s Jim Harrison quote.

“The violent wind. The violent wind. The violent wind.”


Summer sings the crickets’ song

to the parched earth and the dry stream,

and the brazen sky is a mirror,

a beaten shield with Gorgon’s face.

Between the brittle grass and the brittle stars,

we sail a breathless sea,

searching for cool autumn gold.


Each tree top claws the sky

and twists a howl of anger from the wind.

A wild tide roaring in an autumn storm

is no fiercer than summer’s hot breath,

victorious on the parched and broken field

in the weary evening of the day.

She asks her love to dance with her

This poem is for the dverse prompt and is inspired by Jilly’s quote from Jim Harrison

“As with dancing you have to learn the steps”

The challenge is to write a sonnet in free verse. With no rhyme or rhythm, the lines don’t fall into strict units of quatrains and tercets, for me at least, so I’ve stuck to classic Shakespearean sonnet form. A cop out, I know, but I find a sonnet quite hard enough to write without adding an extra twist to the thumbscrews.

Photo ©Tobiasvde


There is never a teacher for this dance,

No more than to guide the fledgling’s first flight,

To fly or to fall, in the hands of chance,

Sleep or the wolf may come with the night.

Will we untangle the mess that we made?

Our steps tripped and faltered, we parted ways,

Like sand castles crumbled, the plans we laid,

The dream of the future obscured in haze.

There must have been love to have left such pain,

As there must have been music to draw us on,

There must have been sun once though now there’s rain,

The piper once played sweet who now is gone.

Watch my eyes at sunset, moonrise to see,

The star-stepped path that brings you back to me.