Selkie calls

The Daily Post prompt is: smooth.

Photo ©Samratjulme


The lake stretches into the dusk, ashrill with mosquitos and pocked with dragonflies hunting. I watch for night to fall, for the hot sun to smoulder into a cool ember and drop over the edge of night. For then, in the twilight zone between dog and wolf, when all cats are grey and the moon and stars but a dreaming, you will slide, oil smooth and water-slick, from the reeds. You will rise from the smooth, waveless lake, carrying with you the salt tang of the ocean, the dark, mystery of the deep green tunnels, and I will be waiting. In your arms, will be the sealskin, your gift of a double life, and in your eyes, the light of desire. You will call me, and I will run through the shallows to join you in the great vastness of the undersea world.

Flash fiction: A few words to lost parents

Sacha Black’s challenge this week is to write a story of less than 200 words about nostalgia that hurts. I started this piece and let it run on, as, I think it is meant to. Sorry if I passed the word limit, Sacha. Maybe I’ll try again with a different subject.

The painting, by Alice Liddle is of Holmfirth, not too far from home.


You have both gone now, both buried in a corner of a churchyard that had never been yours. Beneath a tree, because trees don’t mind if you were Catholic or Protestant. Or foreign. Or if your living heart had always ached for a place not so far away, but unattainable. Trees understand and bow and bend and whisper in sympathy. You had both put down roots here, children, a scattering of friends, too much to let you pack up and leave when you retired. Too much, too late. The furthest you moved was to a small house down in the town to be close to the shops and the buses, pretending it was only temporary. But you stayed and you sighed, and eventually you died, and the setting sun carried all your longings away into the west.

We dry our tears, we children left behind, and walk up the steep hill out of the town, the road that curves and uncoils as it rises up to the moor. The house of our childhood is beyond the bend after the bridge over the disused railway, that peaceful, tree-filled gulf that has been silent since before we were born. We walk, remembering the way we poked our fingers in the holes of the millstone grit walls, remembering long-dead dogs that ran barking behind garden fences. We cross the bridge and remark how tall and dense the birch and hazels have grown, obscuring the valley bottom and the stream that runs there instead of railway tracks.

We fall silent when the road curves again. Beyond the last sharp rise we will be able to see the tiny hamlet and the house where our childhood ghosts still play. I hear the foxes playing on the lawn, see the dewy morning rabbits, the banks of opium poppies and broom, roses and laburnum, stone flags and apple trees. I hear the songs of bees and swallows and see white clouds scudding overhead in the summer breeze.

Soon, in a moment, the gentle barrier of time will fall, and harsh, brash reality will jackboot its way across tender memories. I will see what the new owners have done to the house in the ten years since you both moved out. I know, without ever having seen it, that there will be a garage now and a fitted kitchen, and your Victorian scavengings from junk shops, Dad, will have been replaced by furniture from Ikea. There will be a sterile lawn and a trampoline and begonias instead of the savage mass of vegetation you loved so much, Mum. I will feel the imprint of these unconscious Philistines like a physical violation.

I stop, we all stop, we grown-up tiny children. I shake my head and my siblings too hang back. I turn back down the hill, the last bend in the road impassable, like the entrance to a lost domain, my precious dreams, your dreams, clutched tight against my heart, safe from the shredding claws of disillusion.

The sun, the moon, and the stars

Four short poems on a common theme.


Sorrow empties the world

of the vibrancy of colour,

dousing the sun’s fire,

washing greens and blues,

with an eternity of rain.


Once the earth moved for us,

the sun stood still,

and the moon and stars

swam in our eyes.

Now the ground trembles

with the violence

of the slamming door.


You made a vow beneath the stars,

That you would never leave.

Now I hold out empty hands,

To catch those stars and grieve.

Falling, they fade and die,

Falling, I wish that I could fly.


Stars fall,

the moon spins,

the sun cools,

the earth dies,

and in the cradle of the universe,

new galaxies are rocked

by soothing cosmic winds.

Another poem of longing and yearning

Inspired by the song ‘Carrickfergus’, sung here by Van Morrison, a more sentimental, ballad-style poem about the longing for home.

I hear the gulls cry in my dreaming,

As they soar on their ghost white wings,

And I hear the wind in the gorse bush,

On the heath where the sweet lark sings.

I smell the salt of the ocean,

The roses that grew by the door,

And they haunt me the tears and the laughter,

Of a place I will never see more.

If I had a boat I would sail there,

Though the waves rose towering high,

If I was a gull I would fly there,

Though storms split the thundering sky.

But all that I have are my memories,

A patchwork of dark and the light,

They will sing in my blood while the day lasts,

Till my eyes close in death’s endless night.

1280px-Герасим_Семенович_Головков_-_Рыбацкие_лодки_в_гаваниPainting by Gerasim Semyonovich Golovkov.

Hiraeth: a longing for home

Sacha Black’s latest writing prompt is Hiraeth, which I think is a Welsh expression for a very deep longing, a yearning for home. This is the theme of the poem of mine, She longs for what she has lost, that was published last month in The Ogham Stone, Limerick University’s literary journal, so I’ll reproduce it here.

Painting of Howth by William Orpen.


Often at the turning of the year,

When the grass is bright and damp with autumn rain,

And last buds open with the failing sun,

I listen to the windsong in the trees.

When white-winged gulls blow in from stormy seas,

And the tang of salt hangs heavy in the air,

I hear the waves break on a lonely strand,

And taste the smoke and ash in long-dead hearths.

When only starlight guides the homing geese,

Their booming voices singing sailors’ songs,

I hear the echo from the vaulted sky,

And feel the northlands in their beating wings.

But when the blackbird sings his end of summer song,

And the white gull skims the restless ocean foam,

The whispering comes from deep in blood and bone,

The wind, the stars, the heart’s pulse call me home.

She wishes for a new dream


From a high window I watch the light growing
Each morning the same though the seasons turn.
The colour of hope and the colour of loving
Paint the grey roses for when you return.

Each morning I watch as the grey fills with colour,
The greens and the pinks and the palest blue.
Each morning I watch as the dawn tints the roses,
Searching the colours for a glimpse of you.

From the window I see the mist rise on the river.
The morning is chill and the grey geese are calling.
No voice calls my name, no step stirs the cold leaves,
The garden is empty and the roses are falling.

How long can I wait at the window without you?
How many dawns must break in the sky?
Perhaps when the roses, the song of the blackbird
Fill my heart with a new dream I’ll let the old die.

Train poem


On a planetary scale
The train creeps.
Fields of spring green spread, curve and disappear
Trees along roadsides
Flick past like old film.
Train sways.
From the window you watch the shadows grow
On the fields of someone else’s life.
Time crawls.
From my window I watch the shadows grow
On the stones of the wall I know by heart.
I feel with you each shudder, each lurch
Each kilometre eaten up and spat out behind.
Roads, wires, fields, cows,
Houses nestling in the fold of a hill
Sink into the past.
Train slides along shiny tracks
Like treacle.
Shadows lengthen
Clock ticks
Music plays to pass away the time
The beats tap out a rhythm
Too slow. Too slow.
I sit
The tight knot of anxiety and yearning
Filling my chest
For hours
For the train to bring you home.

Like swans

Not effusive
Are we
After years of familiarity.
A gentle contact
Of words and voices,
A simple touch is enough.
But deeper than the fiercest passion
It goes
Fused into the matter of the heart
In the unsounded depths
Of the most private places.
We live
As swans are exclusive
Needing nothing more than one another.
And I dread the one night
That will take you from my side
When I will wake and reach
And you will not be there.
That one night will be a small death.
The heart will shrink and curl around its loss
Until I see you in the doorway
With the smile that springs
from deep within the place only I will ever know
And a handful of souvenirs I do not share.
You will enfold me in the wings of your arms
And in that moment
You, I, the universe will be whole again.

©	allen watkin
© allen watkin