Bitter happiness

July 16th is the birthday of my second child. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv.



It was hot and blue, and we walked to the hospital hand in hand to birth a baby who leapt into the world with little help. On that day, fifty years before, hot and blue and full of terror, children were sent to their deaths for no reason other than to ingratiate the authorities with the occupier. We walked in the sun and crossed the river, free as gulls, a future building one new face at a time. In the ripples of river water, silver ghosts whispered of love and sun and lost happiness. On each stone where the light fell, a smile, a cheek streaked with tears, a hand reaching out from a distant past, said, remember, and be happy, for we who were not.


After rain, the sun

shines with joy at your coming—

the river runs on.

Microfiction #Friday Fictioneers: Remembrance

This 99 word story is for Rochelle’s Wisoff-Fields’ Friday Fictioneers prompt.

Photo courtesy © Janet Webb


My grandmother’s house was full of pretty and mysterious things, coloured glass, silver and brass, lace and slightly faded watercolours. There was never a speck of dust, and each pretty object sat in the same place, catching light in the same way every day. I envied that she was able to surround herself with such carefully chosen beauty with no clumsy, disrespectful brothers and sisters to disturb it. It was only later, after her death, that I recalled the way she would stare into the garden, seeing nothing of her pretty objects. All she had ever wanted was Granddad.


To fly on borrowed wings

Painting ©Ventus55


It hangs over my head, this sky,

charged with stars and rain

and presses down, bright as diamonds,

with the force of the ocean.

If I could, I would sail away

from the grey whales of clouds,

lumbering wrecks, devourers of hopes,

or fly on borrowed wings into the light.

But only in dreams, tossed between dusk and dawn,

can I find the white flicker of feathers

in the half light and the gold rippled air.

Blood red days

PENTAX Digital Camera

In these blood red days

the moon still shines as pale as pearl,

and green waves lap upon the shore.

In these days of falling stars,

the sun climbs still with fiery strides

into a sky of brazen blue.

When will cool rain fall,

crystal clear, without a sound,

except to whisper in the leaves,

no danger comes?

So many words fall from twisted lips,

bramble-tangled, snagged with thorns,

and we drink them like the parched sand rain.

In these blood red days,

I take my chair and sit beneath the broad-leafed vine

and listen to the blackbird sing.

Into the dark we are all bound,

but I will take this sweetness,

to roll and echo,

smooth as pebbles in the tide,

and weave a web of peace among the tears.

Microfiction: Remains

This macabre photo is the prompt for the Friday Fictioneers this week. Thanks Rochelle! Word count 100.

There’s a second part here.



The house had been empty for years. We bought it through the lawyer who was disposing of the previous owners’ assets. They had gone, disappeared, leaving everything behind. There was a sadness about the house that I found attractive at first, and waited eagerly for spring when we could start attacking the overgrown garden.

Spring was late and cold. Frost clung to the north side of the house and the ground stayed hard and unyielding. It was there, much later in the year, after rain had softened the earth enough to turn it over, that we dug up the grave.

The cynic weeps silent tears of rage

Another bomb atrocity makes the headlines. This latest in Manchester where husband and I spent three years at university. It doesn’t make it worse. I don’t feel angrier or choked up because I once walked those streets. Murder is murder, wherever it happens, to whomsoever it happens. For the families involved, it’s the end of the world. For the rest of us, it’s just another nail in the coffin of humanity.


It gets harder to feel the pain; the outrage is dulled—we’ve understood, that’s what terrorists do; they blow people up. The reporters work harder, the footage is more explicit, the heart-rending accounts more tearful, because we’ve heard it so many times before. We listen to calls for prayers and sympathy and interviews with distraught people who once considered going there for a holiday years ago. Imagine! It could have been us!

Only hysteria works now, and only on behalf of ‘people like us’. It’s happening in the Philippines, all over the Middle East, Africa (do we still remember ‘our girls’?). The refugees fleeing war have seen all this too, but they don’t count. The world is sinking into murder, the food industry machine-massacres, the fashion industry enslaves, our excess pauperises.

Only hysteria brings tears. We have too much to cry for. The horrors jostle, snatching at our attention to be top horror, to make jaws drop, stir the inner ghoul, and extort more prayers. Where can I look and not feel guilt?


Wind blows sand blossoms,

parched and dry like the river,

and still the birds sing.


Selling up

I saw this prompt yesterday on the Real Toads blog but was too wearied by our first week of house visits to reply. Waiting, trying to breathe calmly before the next onslaught on Monday.

Room with laptop

I sit in this room,

in a bubble shot with rainbowed fish and fur,

scented like the rose.

Beyond, behind, above,

the house, my house stretches,

desert dry and unfamiliar,

a foreign land,

unnaturally tidy,

sparkling superficially,

prowled by visiting avid-eyed sharks and the blandly curious.

Strangers touch and poke,

to see if the glass is real,

the doors open and close as they should,

are these knotted boards really woody wood,

and I hunch among waving fronds of gentle sea flowers,

hiding from the sharp twitches of displeasure or greed

that storm the placid ocean of my house,

waiting for them to leave.

Blue horses by the sea



I went down to the sea today,

To ease the weight upon my heart,

And plucked a yellow flower there,

Gorse blossom, sweet as any rose,

Sweet as the rose, though lovers part.


I went down to the sea today

And cast red berries on the waves,

A silver fish leapt in the sun

And took them down where no tree grows,

Where no tree grows and nothing saves.


I went down to the sea today,

And though the strand was silver bright,

I saw no horses gallop there,

Free as the birds and blue as dreams,

For blue horse dreams fade with the night.

Read the story in the stars

I’m tired, not feeling too brilliant, and there are so many memories clamouring for attention that poetry today is sombre and full of massacres.

This villanelle is for the Secret Keeper’s writing prompt. This week’s words are



Read the story in the stars if you have eyes,

Follow its chain of fire, night-time’s glow,

The dawn will come too soon, on wings time flies.


With memories that dance in velvet skies,

Or slip so soft and like the river flow,

Read the story in the stars if you have eyes.


Deep in the bones is scored a life of sighs,

Where sorrow gnaws and bloody night fears grow,

The dawn will come too soon, on wings time flies.


Run into the light in sunburst’s guise,

And leave your pain and anger here below,

Read the story in the stars if you have eyes.


With a million mothers’ unheard anguished cries,

Sing the night to sleep with laments low,

The dawn will come too soon, on wings time flies.


Take the ship of dreams, sail to the prize,

Remember, but let peace fall deep and slow,

Read the story in the stars if you have eyes,

The dawn will surely come, for winged time flies.