Alone in the house

Alone in the house when dog sleeps,
cats drift unseen, unheard,
the breeze in the trees,
the ticking of the clock, too loud,
the lane is too far,
the world, this tiny world too still.

Beyond the wind-stirred grass stalks,
the hedgerow sings,
distant as the far shore of a rustling sea,
yet closer than the voice I long to hear.

All within

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Every step we take, we take alone,

from first tottering to last stumble.

Every pain we feel, we feel alone,

and joys shared, ephemeral as day lilies.

 

Laughter flies on swift wings, waves crash,

colonising the empty strand with sound.

Alone we stand and fall, drink the day,

the song of birds and Mozart’s music,

sipping with a single straw.

 

Some cheat the solitude with crowds,

the sporting din, the shoulder to shoulder

with a single voice or the lights

and laughter of bars, the twittering neon

and the false bonhomie of strangers.

 

The end for all is the same,

as the beginning is the same

as the long years in-between,

the thoughts that bounce back and forth

through echoing chambers,

until they fade

into silence.

 

Peeling back the layers

 

Peeling back the layers of silence,

the silence of songbirds, grass-whispers,

and the rushy quiet of the poplars,

there is still silence.

Peeling back the layers of movement,

lizard dart, bird flash,

boughs swaying in time to the slow flap flap of the heron,

and the earth still turns.

I wonder, do I love this solitude,

the ever-changing scene beyond the window,

the summer-long crunch of dry grass beneath my feet,

the berried and bedecked autumn trees?

Walking, we start a hare.

I watch it lope away, unhurried,

while dog still snuffs the empty briar patch.

Sun washes the last haystacks,

and in the dappling of the dancing leaves,

I see the hare hop merrily across the stream.

Perhaps this is all that matters.

And that you will be home this evening

to watch the shadows creep across the meadow.

Hugh’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Week 20- “Solitude”

I’ve posted this pic, not because it’s specially good (it’s not) but because it made me smile. Solitude it is, taken at dawn this morning down on the quays at Bordeaux, with a thick mist on the Garonne. Calm and peaceful. Except, if you look in the middle of the bank of mist, you can see the Horned One making its way up from the sea…

Actually, the horns are all that you can make out of the towers at either side of the new Chaban-Delmas bridge.

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Visit Hugh’s blog for some much better, proper photos of solitude.

Flash fiction: Whoosh

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

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“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.”

“Promise?”

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.