When shadows fall

The NaPoWriMo prompt today is a ghazal. I’m the featured poet today, a pleasant surprise!


The path leads into night, when shadows fall,

I take your hand, hold tight, when shadows fall.


The owl swoops through the dark, I hear her call,

Pale wings beat through moonlight, when shadows fall.


A small death in the silence, bitter gall,

Too rapid to take fright, when shadows fall.


So many dangers in the dark befall,

For only stars shed light, when shadows fall.


Cypress boughs stretch, beams of a forest hall,

Filter a gleam, so slight, when shadows fall.


The beauty of the night will never pall,

Though death delights, whenever shadows fall.


Your eyes reflect the stars; I see them all,

On wings, fly there we might, when shadows fall.


Microfiction: Lost temple V


The shadows moved, rippled, crawled. They scurried down the broken columns, across the pristine pavement and piled in a seething, heaving mass where the acolyte had guessed the altar to be. The pale smudge moved, jerky and rapid like a giant bird pecking. A white raven? The black birds on the ruined arch cried their hoarse cry unloosing the acolyte’s tongue.

“Get back, Brother Constantine!” His voice came out hoarse and rasping as the ravens’. He willed his feet forward but the amulet screamed in his head and he could not. The sky was dark—dried blood dark, and the moon was crimson. Shadows continued to pour down the walls, through the narrow windows, the great rose window, piling on dead sills higher and higher.

The acolyte shouted again, shrill and fearful. Soon the shadows would fill the window spaces, blotting out the light, and darkness would fill the vast hollow emptiness with its shifting forms.

“Brother Constantine!”

The pale smudge shuddered, and two smaller smudges fluttered. Hands or wings?

“Back!” The older man’s voice was sharp and thin with the beginnings of terror.

Microfiction: Lost temple II


“At last,” the older monk murmured. “To have found it after so many years. And on this night of all nights.”

The acolyte gazed through the tall lancet windows, still full of light, though they seemed to let none fall into the building. Through a window of a side chapel, glassless now and empty, the moon appeared, red and bloody. The acolyte licked dry lips and tried to convince himself that this was a good omen, but his eyes were drawn irresistibly to the deep shadows that gathered where the twilight had receded. He wished that they had arrived in daylight.

The two monks stood side-by-side beneath a red sky slowly inking over with darkness, where once had arched the great vault of the nave. The older man raised his eyes and let his gaze roam among the delicate tracery of the windows, the columns and the buttresses. The acolyte knew he was seeing their former glory, not the stark ruins where no vegetation had taken hold. He looked about his feet. Not a single blade of grass encroached upon the smooth stones of the pavement, not even where they were cracked and broken. The old man was murmuring prayers. The acolyte curled his fingers round the amulet hidden among his robes.

Flash fiction: Whoosh

This is the story I wrote on Valentine’s Day and decided it just did not suit the mood.


“It was a hay loft, sweetheart,” her mother said. “The old lady who used to live here kept hay up there to feed her cows.”

“But it’s empty now,” the child said. “And I hear things.”

“It used to be a hay loft,” her mother said patiently, “so there were lots of small animals lived in it.” She smiled encouragingly. “Dormice, you know, like in Alice in Wonderland.”

The girl shook her head. “It’s not mice. It’s a big whooshing noise. And it’s angry.”

The sound of the TV wafted through to the child’s bedroom. Audience laughter, applause. The woman shuffled her feet, and the gesture of stroking her daughter’s hair became more brusque. She looked over her shoulder at the light from the screen playing on the hallway wall, reminding her that she was missing the show. The child watched her stoically, knowing her mother had stopped listening or caring. She expected no more, just a brief smile and a kiss on the cheek.

“If the mice bother you tonight,” she said, pecking the dark gold hair that lay across her daughter’s brow, “we’ll see about getting you a kitten.”


The quick smile flashed again.

“We’ll see. Now go to sleep.”

The child didn’t smile and she didn’t go to sleep. Not straight away. She tried not to think about the kitten because she didn’t believe in it. She’d been promised a cat ever since she first complained about the noises upstairs. Her mother didn’t like cats. She rolled on her side so she could see the door and the bright strip of light from the hallway. The TV laughter rolled into the room in waves of irritating jollity but she wasn’t listening. She was waiting for the whooshing to start.

The child didn’t know why there was so much anger upstairs in the house. She didn’t know what had happened to the old lady who used to live there, nor had she ever tried to understand what her parents argued about in low voices when she was in bed. What was important was the whooshing noise and why it was angry.

She must have slept because when she opened her eyes again, the strip of light had gone and the TV was silent. The countryside was full of furtive night noises, and the house answered in its own language of creaks and sighs. The child listened for the other sound, the sound that was wrong.

It started above her head. She imagined someone waving a bed sheet, flapping it to get the creases out. It was a comforting thought but not a convincing one. She sat up and felt around for her slippers.

The attic door was just opposite her bedroom door. She wasn’t supposed to open it. The stairs weren’t safe, her mother said. But she knew the step with the broken board, and she skipped over it. It was dark. The air was in movement, a whirring, vibrating movement, and it was probably filled with dust motes if there had been any light to see by. She stood on the edge of the big empty room where hay still drifted. The shutters on all the windows were tight closed except where something had pushed one open. A pane was missing in that window, and she could see the stars through the opening, clear and bright.

She listened. The air trembled. She didn’t know if she was frightened, or if she ought to be frightened. The anger was something she understood, something she shared. It wanted to be let out. The shadows moved and the slow, heavy whooshing began again, louder, rushing towards her. She held her breath and stood back from the stair. The mass of shadow flew past her, scratching her face, or was it stroking? A sensation like clawed feathers, a pungent smell of blood and animal, the noise that should not be, tumbled down the stairs.

She sat on the step and waited as the anger filled the sleeping house and dug impossible claws deep into the walls.

When the house had soaked up all the fractured sounds, and the noise that shouldn’t be had fallen silent, she skipped over the broken step and slipped back into bed. A brown feather floated onto her pillow. She held it tight in her fist as she drifted off to sleep.


Haiku challenge: Rise & Save

Ronovan’s haiku prompt this week is Rise & Save. I spent a while working out a few poems, much of it trying to blot out the idea of Rise & Shine. Again, I’ve taken slight liberties with the two words. I call it poetic licence. If you trot over to Ronovan’s blog, you can read the other entries.


Rise sun, dawn break soft,
spare the tender night shadows,
leave us our secrets.

Dawn breaks, lark rises,
sings his songs of sunlight saved
from night’s dark shadows.

Sunrise, shadows fade,
golden beams light all darkness,
save your frowning face.

Poem for my parents

Time was

Once there was a time
when a house stood on a hill
filled with poems and a deep, warm voice.
The scent of turps and linseed oil
hung heavy and mysterious
amid the comforting smell of baking pastry.
Home was a ship riding a grassy sea
and green hills ran along the rim of the world.

They are gone now, into the shadows
with the home they made to hold our dreams.
But I will keep the memory of those times,
bright as a summer morning
until I too go into the shadows
beyond the rim of green hills.