What was and what is

willow house

It wasn’t a village, just a hamlet

of five houses and two farms,

a high place of wind and snow

and tepid sunshine,

and all along the horizon the hills strode,

carrying rocks and sheep and dry stone walls

from time was

to what will be—

my childhood home.


There was peace among the hawthorn hedges

where foxgloves grew and blackbirds

and the wilderness of stream

and young birchwood beyond,

all gone now

beneath functional tarmac and four car families,

the wilderness tamed for bridle paths,

and the sheep have gone the way of the cows.


Perhaps that is why I love this place,

this here of mine, stamped out of memories,

mine and old folk’s I never knew,

still quiet and green,

the hills closer, softer and the sun warmer,

but the peace drops the same,

like honey or an owl’s downy feathers.

Roses in the blood

A poem for OctPoWriMo on the theme of mothers.


A mother is in the blood,

a flowering urge to root and shoot,

bud-burgeoning into blooms.

A mother blooms and falls,

her memory fading only slightly,

fuzzy at the edges, hard lines softened,

and the seeds set remind

in their bright laughter

and the way they hold a pencil

or turn a phrase,

that though the petals fell,

the rose remains.




Friday on my mind

The dverse prompt this evening is portrait painting, which is a bit of a coincidence as I’ve just posted a rerun of a story I wrote years ago about a neighbour and his dog. Since M. François is on my mind, here is a haibun devoted to his fond memory;

Some people drift in and out of our lives travelling light, keeping only the essentials. He left wife, children long ago, let them get on with it, their noisy demands—his cats were more grateful for the quiet he gave them. He acquired a small dog, abandoned in the park, that recognised generosity, a soft touch when it saw it. Generosity was middle-aged, portly, sitting on a park chair enjoying the sun.

He enjoyed small things, like kittens and kindness, and he drifted out of my life, with his cats and his small dog when his landlord sold the building. We carried on feeding the abandoned fighting cock and the stray cats as he had done until more property developers slapped their hands together and disappeared them all.

spirits live not in the sky

but in the breath of the wind

they linger in laughter

around every street corner

just out of sight

They wouldn’t believe us

The ‘prosery’ prompt over at dverse is to write a story of exactly 144 words including this line from a poem by Jo Harjo:

“These memories were left here with the trees”

I haven’t used exactly the same words, just the sense from them. We lived for almost ten years among the French battlefields of the Great War and the atmosphere of the entire area is a very special and very melancholy one.


She had always found it a sad place, the landscape, the people—too rural, enclosed like the big fortified farms, no outlet for any feelings. There were mature trees growing around the foxholes now, and shell craters were filled with bracken. The mutilated and the broken lay almost hidden, but she imagined she heard their cries as they were blown from their roots. Men were turned to bloody soup in these woods that became cellulose soup, then oceans of bloody mud.

The fields were tilled again and flowers blew at their edges, but beneath the trees memories lingered. If she dug her hands into the deep earth she could pull them out. They whispered in the delicate woodland flowers, but it was the trees that held her in their spell, the horror of their stories, the unquiet memories that were buried in their roots.


Market memories

For the dverse prompt, Sarah is asking for a poem about markets. She mentioned Leeds Kirkgate market and it all came flooding back.

Photo ©Oosoom


I used to walk through the market on my way home from school, Europe’s largest covered market, Victorian ironwork and glass so high it was full of pigeons and the dust of ages. There were proper shops, Polish Ashkenazi Jewish bakers and grocers where we bought bread and real jam, pickles and sausages, and Sephardic Jewish fabric merchants where my mother bought the makings of summer dresses.

You could buy anything at Kirkgate from hamsters and white mice to food mixers, worsted to pumpernickel. It was rough and beautiful columned like a cathedral and candle-banked with orange and red and green, mango to orange to lady’s fingers. Loitering after school among the exotic colours and smells, the multi-coloured shout and bustle of market folk was a walk on the tender side of wildness.

Then one December night it burnt down. In the middle of a school play, and the windows of the hall, that looked down on the city blazed orange. Nobody watched the play. The child actors crowded the big bay windows to watch the flames leap through Victorian ironwork and blown out glass, as the heart of the old city burned in hushed silence. I passed the smoking ruins the next day. They said the row of pet shops had burned. I cried all day.

Iron girders

glazed pigeon swirling roof

history blazes

a child cries for

a cage of dead puppies


The NaPoWriMo prompt today is timely. A brief message out of the blue from a distant cousin and memories flooded back.


Like a voice from the past, echoing in a dream,

a dead branch broken underfoot,

trod wildflowers, petals crushed,

like the rushing stream choked by brown leaves,

sluggish with captured mud,

a dead badger by the roadside,

like rainclouds when the forecast said sun,

the nightingale still singing after the night

is done, through the dull light

that fills every hollow and fibre

and tells how the world turns relentlessly

from life to death,

as spring leads inevitably to winter again,

how you were here, then you were gone,

in the flutter of an eyelid,

in the beat of a heart.

Anchored by the river

Off prompt for NaPoWriMo today. I hate lists and my heart isn’t in it today anyway. Another puente instead.


On the right bank was home,

museums, galleries, market and school,

Sunday walks hand in hand, lovers,

later with children and changed perspectives.

There were friends there and parks

with sandpits and swings, cafés, smell of pastis,

coffee, and amid the endless serpentine streets

and right-angled, towering Haussmanniens,

the ordinary grubbiness of life


~anchored by the river~


the memories run

around the island spanned by bridges,

water and stone and iron,

intricate traceries of history, craftsmanship and passion.

Distance has enveloped memories in gentle mists,

an immutable past that remains,

though the heart is eaten by flames,

and time like the river rolls away,

never going back.

Three Line Tales: Game over

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Christopher Burns via Unsplash


The frantic roar of the crowd filled his ears, the applause and his own blood pounding with the excitement of the most wonderful day of his life.

It was a sound he could never forget, not even after the accident when everything else seemed to have seeped from his brain, memories, faces, loves.

He didn’t need a crowd, an opponent, even a ball anymore, just the court—his single remaining memory did the rest.

Polished beads

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday prompt: Smoke and Veil.

The photograph ©Humphrey Bolton is of the disused railway line that ran close to the bottom of our garden. It was a favourite place to play, overgrown and mysterious. It hasn’t changed at all.


So many things jog a memory, shake it from the old biscuit tin on the shadowy shelf into the light. A word, a phrase, a hint of light on a leaf, the smell of cooking, all threads in a magic carpet that has one destination. The past is a place where nothing changes. The colours and sensations never fade—the sound of chattering voices, the heavy hand of heat and cicadas whirring, the ice cream van’s tune, the muggy smell of Woodbines and that indefinable, slightly musty, exciting and forbidden scent of drawers where secrets and souvenirs were kept. I can see and hear so many things that are long gone from this waking world, I tell them over, like polished beads in incense-sweet gloom, lest I forget.


Through a veil of smoke,

forgotten moments—a thrush

on a distant lawn.


On the edge

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday.

Photo ©Wouter Hagens


Only at this moment

and this and this

can I write of past and future, each moment ticking by, another grain of sand in the glass, adding to the past and taking from the future. I sit or stand or take a step

this way or that, back again

in that infinitely narrow strait, where all futures, all pasts, slide and pass, reach out a hand, catch a grain

and another and another

and by the light of a star already dead, imprint its shape. Memory stored, I keep it polished and bright, as long as I can see its trajectory downward, behind, stroke the memory of its fiery tail as it falls. This sun, with rays so much younger than the fiery mass, flickers in the facets before they are lost, poured through the straits into the pile of the past. So many grains, falling in a brilliant cascade. How many more are left to come?


Each moment glitters,

dark or light, by sun or moon,

a glimpse of heaven.

I taste my childhood, the scent,

floral, pungent of privet.