The slanted light of memory

Paul Brookes is celebrating Yorkshire Day by publishing works inspired by Yorkshireness. You see them here.

Painting by Julian Onderdonck.

The slanted light of memory

In the hiss of the breeze in the poplars,
where the shadows grow hot and pale,
in the cry of the red kites out hunting,
as they glide through a brazen sky,
in the warbler’s lament for the spring green,
lost in this brittle dust,
I think I hear bright streams running,
though this clay is baked and dry.

I hear the voices of starlight,
across the years and the miles,
and remember the taste of the morning rain
and puddle-splash, cold hands, the snow,
the red-raw bite of the east wind,
and summers of swallow-soft days.

It’s the song of the north, I remember,
distant but always the same,
unchanging, like light on those far hills
where stones graze, the cow with her calf.


Ways of knowing

This is the last day of Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge. It has been a very fruitful collaboration for me, and judging by the quality of the poetry it produced, I’d say all the contributors probably feel the same way.

Thank you, Paul for all your hard work in putting this challenge together, and to the three artists, Anjum Wasim Dar, Gaynor Kane and John Phandal Law for their inspiring artwork.

Please visit Paul’s blog to read the poetry, and to see the three pictures that inspired this final poem.

Ways of knowing

Shall I paint a prism,
write a rainbow in the teeming trees?
Is the peeling silver bark a peering badger face,
the blue of frosted sky a jay’s bright-striped wing?

Last year’s leaves sift and sigh,
sinking underfoot into deep earth,
my hair caught in the frothing laughter
of new green growth.

Dull day sullen on the strand,
grey pebbles click and clack
where oystercatchers search in pied beauty
for sandy scuttling things,

one eye on the wave-curl
shaved off the skin of the sea,
waiting for a stray ray to turn on the footlights,
the sound of glitter.

Some days of winter dark,
a thrush sings high and clear,
and suddenly we remember

Green grow the ashes

You can see the artworks that inspired this san san for Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge here, and read all the poetry that came out of them.

Green grow the ashes

Green grew high then golden faced,
scratched black with eyebrow-arching crows,
a glitter in the blue then screaming red.
The scattered gold, infertile waste,
where only twisted shrapnel grows,
red-bloomed black mouths O in surprise.
Tears glint among the ashes; dead
the hope that Firebird might rise.


Today’s poem for Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge was inspired by Gaynor Kane’s photo of Salthill fairground. You can read all the poetry on Paul’s blog.


The spectacle of risk,
fear of falling, dying,
the precipice edge,
once enacted
with no blunted weapons,

is now sugared with candy floss,
children’s laughter,
the simulation of risk
in waltzing teacups,

and the prize is not glory
but a cheap, grinning
teddy bear.

When no bird sings

For day 26 of Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge, a san san poem inspired by Anjum Wasim Dar’s painting Half the Year. You can read all the poetic responses and see the other images on Paul’s blog here.

When no bird sings

We have stepped into the light,
the leafing trees with birdsong ringing,
and slanting sun is honey-sleek.
Behind, the dark year, deep as night,
and black as feathered crow-birds winging,
we sup the sun, with up-palmed hands,
forget how silent, bitter-bleak
is dawn in stark and birdless lands.


Day 25’s poem for Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge is inspired by the three images you can see here.


To see a magic galleon
(aureoled in gold
sailing a tropical sea)
in the wreck on the strand

to hear the wolf call
(dominating the night
voice full of dark and glitter
hard as stars)
in the howl of the dog chained in the garden

it’s enough to change the filters

but each new tide
still loosens the timbers
and the dog still watches
the house door with longing
in vain.

These dark days

This poem, for Day 23 of Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge, was inspired by Anjum Wasim Dar’s painting Drink.

These dark days

These dark days
I see no beacon on the rocky shore
no light at tunnels’ end

beneath the fields
forced with crops
the soil is silent.

I see the glass half-empty
where the wind whistles no turnstones
the only flood is blood

and in this tormented sky
of cold cloud cross-hatched with rain
where are the swallows?


Today’s poem for Paul Brookes’ April poetry challenge was inspired by the painting Peace by Anjum Wasim Dar. All the images and the poetic responses are on Paul’s blog here.


is one of those words
like truth and freedom
that we have twisted and deformed,
wrung out its meaning, sucked dry of sense.

was never a paradise
of lions lying down with lambs,
it was balance, harmony,
respect of the other’s needs,
trust, not to trample boundaries,
moderation, not gorging,
until vomit chokes the greedy gullet.

has only ever been a temporary thing,
ringing with patriotic music,
a fleeting illusion of an imaginary past,
when lions lay down with lambs
and the city limits were not girdled by a moat
filled with blood and bodies.