El conjuro

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In the dark alone with all that blood on one’s hands

and the pricking of conscience like a wild woman’s thumbs,

the night vibrates with feathered vengeance.


There is little more fearsome than the shrunken hag

that shrivels manhood with a cackle and forces him

to eat the dead fruits of his drunken sowings;


conscience is stifled in the black drapes of righteousness,

for man has his reasons that woman cannot know,

being an unfinished creation and lacking reason,


and so in the dark, alone with the tingling of the blows

showered on wife and children, and the thumbs that prick

sharp as owls’ talons, he waits for the shrunken hag.


Hold the light high, for the shadows are full of sins that

shriek like owls with women’s faces. Hold the light, for

night presses hard, and home is full of women with owl faces.

Drifting away

A second poem inspired by Barbara Danin’s painting

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Who would have thought she had so much blood

in her, the pale girl with flowers in her hair.


Who would have thought a heart could contain

so much, so many red tears.


Down the river of madness, she floats in her

dreams of flowers and freedom.


Perhaps freedom is madness after all.


Forgot to send in my Ekphrastic poems this time. This is the first one of three. The painting is by Barbara Danin

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She made my blood run cold, the girl in the stream,

all illusions washed away, all dreams.

She must have had them once, but no one ever asked.


The one who put the flowers in her hair, the same

who laid her on the riverbed, kissed her

wide eyes and open lips as the water flowed


cool and lifeless over her face. This ending,

his choosing not hers. No one ever asked her mind.

The madness too was his, hers the empty sky.


She clutched the jonquils in pale hands

and let the bottomless pit, the great black laughing O

of despair’s mocking mouth, suck her dry.


It’s a strange fact, but the emptier the heart,

the heavier it weighs. Like a dark cloud full of rain,

when once it sinks, it will never rise again.

Tragedy in many acts


The deer and hare watch the human shoot other humans, perplexed. The deer and hare watch humans join hands and say how sorry they are. They say, we are all so sorry, and we are one.

The deer and hare watch the humans break into different groups again; their hands drift apart and they dive into their different burrows, follow their different paths, waiting for another human to start the shooting again, and the hand clasping to start again, and them all to say we are one again.

The hare looks at the deer and asks, are they one? Then why do they keep apart, live in separate burrows, plot their separate paths to a place they think will be better than all the others? Where do they think they are going? The hare says, it makes no sense. I know that I am going to the same place as the hare that lives over the hill. I eat the same grass and my leverets look the same as hers.

The deer nods wisely and says, the humans of each burrow think they know a secret, that there is a beautiful world where they will live forever, where there are no guns or wolves or foxes.

But only the humans from that burrow can go there, the hare adds. Where do the others go then? If they are all one?

But they are one, all the humans, and the place they go to is the same for all of us, says the deer.

The earth, says the hare.

The earth, says the deer, and they watch the humans let go their hands and dry their tears and go back to their separate burrows to plot their secret paths to the world that exists only in their heads. And they wait for the shooting to start again.

Haibun for March

A March haibun for the dverse prompt.


Wind blows, bends the trees, still leafless but greening or white with blossom, roars in the chimney and rattles shutters. On the meadow’s edge, the hares race and the deer rest sniffing the scents of new life coming. Clouds bowl on the back of the west wind, sky washed pale blue, fresh as the salt sea, and the trailing threads of geese and cranes gone a-viking shout their joyful homecoming songs.

blossom froths

foam beaten by the wind

spring tide running high


Global warning

Call me naïve, but I was struck and dismayed by a string of articles on the social media today. First, a report of the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, and the images of dozens of men in suits…and one woman. Then the protests about said congress by Tibetan nationalists, men in orange togas facing up to men in uniforms, crowd scenes of lots of shouting…men. Then a photo report on Istanbul, crowd scenes of, guess what, men, clumps of black veiled women, cheeky children (boys), more men, more cheeky boys and glimpses of their veiled mothers in the background, but not a single girl child.

In how many countries would you expect to see the same thing, women at home, girls invisible, and all the leaders male, all the protesters in the streets male? Far too many. Women in general have little or no public face and little or no power. How many ‘old democracies’ still have restrictive laws on abortion and contraception, and a very nudge nudge wink wink attitude to rape and sexual abuse?

Where is the balance, the equality, the respect and tolerance? Is it any wonder this world is going down the pan?

Just asking.

Ways of seeing

Painting by Felix Esterl


Old lady nodding on the sill
Do you see colours in the wind,
Taste the sound of water?
Do you trip with tender young feet
Among clouds of fiery leaves?
Or are your days filled with night time
And howling tempests that once were love songs?
Do you fear the great white birds in the livid sky
And the seeping, crawling shadows?
Is it a slow-moving madness that grows
As you near the grave,
Or is it bliss you see
Beyond the shimmering veil?