This street

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a portrait poem. This is the portrait of a street in the form of a haibun.



This street is one of those where the smell is not of cars or rubbish or urine. Old and clean and a little damp, it hits the senses like a flashback memory. It leaks from beneath the lid of a plat mijoté and slips through the open window. A scent of clean linen, neatly folded in mahogany commodes, hangs sedate and comforting, amid the earthy scents of cats on window ledges, stone-flagged pavements, and pots of scented geraniums.

I walk tangled in the odours of sun on stone and rain in puddles, and the gutter runs yellow with pollen. It brings back the magic of just out of school, skipping and football and marbles, new bread and wax polish. It recalls grandparents and clean aprons, Saturday shopping, evenings sitting outdoors, a childhood of leg-swinging and upside-down hanging.

It smells of home.


Sun falls, rain patters,

years turn, the stone remembers

in case we forget.

Microfiction: A portrait

This is for my own prompt. It came out at exactly 200 words.

1280px-Alwin Arnegger_jpg

The elderly gentleman stood ramrod-straight, hands clasped behind his back, heels perfectly aligned. A military training lasted forever. He admired the portrait in the shop, turned it over, looking for a price tag.

Fine-looking children. The thought popped into his head without warning and he shook it out again.

A finely executed work. He corrected himself and turned his head, searching for the owner. The eyes of the little girl in the portrait followed him. Her brother had nothing in his head; that was clear. A perfectly ordinary child. But the girl…He frowned.

Wrenching his attention from the painted gaze of the child, he walked stiffly through the shop, and asked, almost angrily, the price of the painting.

“The children? Not mine to sell, I’m afraid. The heirs are picking it up tomorrow.”

“The heirs?”

The question was out before he could call it back. He guessed. Didn’t want a reminder.

“The Rosenthal family. It was stolen. Nazi loot. You know, usual story. Kids went to the gas chamber, poor little sods.”

Reluctantly, the elderly gentleman took a last look at the painting.

She knew, he thought, recognizing at last what he saw in the child’s eyes. It was pity.

Flash fiction: A jar of honey

Photo ©Pedro Ribeiro Simões


She plods back and forth to the market, the little old lady, as she has done for decades. First it was to feed husband and children, then just husband, and for the last lonely years, herself alone. The daily routine—three potatoes, two carrots one leek. Occasionally she braves the expense of the butcher for a chop, a slice or two of ham, and on Fridays there’ll be a bit of fish.
Back and forth, day after day, she treads the same path to the same market stall. She has always gone to the Pollo’s stall. Remembers Luciano Pollo when he was an eager immigrant, keen to get on and make his mark. Now his two sons run the stall, stepping back in their turn, to hand over the reins to their own children. She knows where she is with Pollo. The prices written in big chalk figures, and they never change much anyway.
The supermarket is another thing entirely. The isles crammed tight, crammed full of things she doesn’t recognise. Prices written so small she can’t read them, shelves too high, too full, too close. And at the checkout, the hollow fear that the bill will be more than she can afford, and no one to ask with a smile to just give her a half a bunch instead.
I often see her on the library steps on her way home from her shopping. They get the full sun and she sits, face raised to the sky, eyes closed, letting her parchment skin absorb the gentle warmth. I always assumed she sat because she was tired. I know better now.
This morning she was there, her stick at her side, basket on the ground by her feet. She’d been on an expedition to the supermarket, had the plastic bag to prove it, and she’d bought a jar of honey. She held the jar up to the light, turned it round and round, inspecting every centimetre of the label, the smooth glass, the rough stippling around the edge. Her face was alight with pleasure, her lips slightly parted, her old, watery eyes shining. She held the jar up to the sun, ran a trembling finger around the shiny gold lid. Then her attention changed, her head tilted to one side as she listened. Above, in the guttering, a robin began his song.
I waved, she smiled, and nodded her head, unable to find even the familiar few words of greeting. She still held the jar to catch the sun, raised her eyes to the bird, smile broadened in complicity, too full of joy to speak.
I slowed my steps and thanked the ancestors who made me, that I too had the eyes to see the little things, the ears to hear music on a city street, and a heart to love every feather of a robin’s wing.