Cold, you said

Painting by George Wesley Bellows


Cold, you said,
And I was,
But not through lack
Of inner fire.
How could you feel the warmth
Through so many protective layers?
Cold I felt,
When the wind roared
Through the space
Between your hand and mine.
And the beat of your heart,
Like the distant drum
Of a retreating army,
Dies in the frozen wastes
You left in your wake.

I whispered your words

Another Odilon Redon sailboat


I whispered your words into a shell,
The lies you used to tell me.
I took the shell out in a boat
And dropped it in the sea.
The water deep and dark and green
Swallowed the echoing words,
Left me alone with an empty heart
And a sky full of mocking birds.
The wind on the ocean murmured your name,
The waves rolled the words in the shell,
The gulls called out for the rest of the tale,
But there was nothing more to tell.

Losing the north

Painting by Robert Delaunay


Hawk hanging in the blustery air
Battles the breeze
That buffets back and forth,
Abandoning the small prey
When the wind howls too high.
While gulls squabble
Over refuse tossed,
And the crow cries death
To who will listen.
Time and tides flow
In uneasy balance,
The wild geese lose their compass,
Their arrows fail to find the north,
And the over arching rainbow,
The everlasting bridge is broken,
Because we could not hold
The tender bird of love
In our uncouth hands.

Short poems for a bright spring morning

Painting by Edvard Munch


All awakenings
Should be shot with gladness,
Like the first dawn blush
In the eastern sky,
And the song of the first bird.

* * *

Rising sun reaches
Between scattered clouds,
Tears the tattered veil of morning,
Turns shadows into light.

* * *

Buds swell,
Green spring
Creeps slowly to eclosion,
And in the promise
Of blossom and summer scents,
Are all of autumn’s falling leaves.

* * *

When first we met,
And we were young,
We took life easy
As a summer’s day.
We gave no thought
How seasons turn,
And winter’s never far away.

Bare Earth

Painting by Nikolai Astrup


Bare earth,
not so bare,
bespecked with green life.
Sprouts shooting skyward,
unfolding to catch the speckled rain
spit-spatting on last years leaves.
Green grows,
unfolds and unfurls
beneath a cloud-flecked sky,
dappled light and shade.
No pixie dust scattered,
no sleight of hand,
wind, rain and the glorious sun
coax and shape,
tossing their magic in the damp breeze,
and suddenly,
the not so bare earth
is resplendent
in spring jewels.

The Sea comes between them

He beats the waves with useless fists

His little boat tossed back upon the strand.

Still he shouts her name in the storm’s teeth,

The Sea king’s anger brewing black.

Beneath the wave she sleeps now,

Eyes tight closed against the world she tried to leave,

The curlew’s sadness furrows her brow,

Her lips smile at the sweetness of the blackbird’s song,

But her lover’s call is just a fading cry,

Echoing in the sea caves of her dreams.



An Irish poem seems appropriate today. You can read Ali Isaac’s version of Ciodhna’s story in Grá mo Chroí. It’s free from today for three days.

The rainbow at the world’s end

Painting by Archip Iwanowitsch Kuindshi


Red the bloody cloud in the river,

Green the iris spears piercing the mud,

Yellow the celandine creeping so deftly

Over the orange of rusting blades.

Steel grey the rain on the trampled meadow,

Blue the smoke from the funeral pyres,

Purple the haze on the poisoned pools

Where carcasses caracole bloated and pale.

Silver by moonlight the silent lagoon,

Violet by day, a stagnant pool,

Still as the grave at the ocean’s edge,

A pewter cup full of indigo tears.

And pearl the mist that hazes the moon,

On this night of rejoicing beneath the dark stars,

The bright crystal shards rain to dead voices keening,

A myriad lives broken at the rainbow’s end.

A mother’s last thoughts

Painting by Giordano


We fear you.
Only the laughing warriors,
With their blood-bright badge of courage,
Pretend to welcome you with open arms.
It is written nowhere,
The place where the women go,
But I know,
We wait in the grey hollows beneath the earth,
Filled with the groaning of sickness and the stink of gangrene,
And the shades of children,
Starving, starving,
The unnamed, unsung dead,
Flickering at the edge of sight.
I lie on this childbed of pain,
Body filling with the white flux of birth sickness,
Holding tight to the tiny life,
Ebbing with my own.
Only endless pain awaits in the shadows,
And clutching forever this still, cold fruit of my flesh
And the stinking flux.
In the grey hollows is heard the sound
Of feasting and carousing from the happy halls,
Joy sent to torment the unblooded dead.
No justice in the world of men,
No more is there in the next.
We fear you,
For you bring only eternal despair.