The dverse prompt is to write a poem based on one of a list of sayings or proverbs. I have chosen to go hors piste.


We watch and wait for things to change,
for wheels to turn, the earth to shift
green days to lengthen, winter flee.

We count the days till this and that,
the birthday treat, the holiday,
and time flows by dispassionately.

Loves come and go, we rarely try
to keep them past their guarantee,
there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

The picture postcard’s just a lie,
it never shows the lives behind
the bright façades, the misery,

for what you see’s not what you get,
the eye is blind to left hand’s stealth,
the heart deceives eternally.

We choose to bask in fairy land
where thinking’s banned, the truth be damned,
in case our guilt gets out of hand.

But when there’s no more give, just take,
when nothing’s left, we might recall,
one swallow doth not a summer make.

On opening the shutters to the shoaling of swallows

From the red of now to the blue of eternity,
swallows fly, white breasted,
with the scent of meadows in their wings,

skimming the green in the mist of morning,
they are there at the rising of the sun,
the rising of gnat-flight,

and I doubt they ever wonder
if the dawn will come, or sleep in fear
that the night will never end.

Summer’s first flight


And after peering beneath the leaves
buds new-opened and all the springing earth

regretting the blossoms fallen
daffodils shrunk back to bulbous brown
the faded fringing of muscari blue
sharp shooting stalks that hide the fragile
burst of Bethlehem stars

I raise my eyes to find a limpid sky
hot-blue with sun and twittering
with returning swallows
southern sun-drenched
already in strict evening dress.

Swallow song

I have been rereading Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and have found myself as enthralled as Stephen Dedalus and Joyce himself by Yeat’s verse that Stephen quotes, Cathleen’s last words from the play, The Countess Cathleen. The whole chapter is full of references to the swallows. The words have stayed with me, and I am reproducing Cathleen’s short speech from the play. The fourteen lines that follow are my own.

Bend down your faces, Oona and Aleel;
I gaze upon them as the swallow gazes
Upon the nest under the eave, before
She wander the loud waters. Do not weep
Too great a while, for there is many a candle
On the High Altar though one fall. Aleel,
Who sang about the dancers of the woods,
That know not the hard burden of the world,
Having but breath in their kind bodies, farewell
And farewell, Oona, you who played with me,
And bore me in your arms about the house
When I was but a child and therefore happy,
Therefore happy, even like those that dance.
The storm is in my hair and I must go.

W.B. Yeats: The Countess Cathleen Scene 5.

Swallow song

I watch the swallow swoop above the grass,
Their wings as sharp as spearpoints, voices shrill
As children playing at their thoughtless games,
And wonder will they call back from the sea,
When storms sweep, tossing waves and bringing night
To hearts that only ever knew the summer sweet.
Will they call back to what they left behind,
The meadows rich with sun, the light that warmed
And danced with them the days the summer long,
That slip to autumn now that they are gone?
The wind wails cold among the darkening trees,
Cold the days to come, the candles dim,
When swallows flock to fly the waters loud
And leave me empty-eyed in this wild crowd.



Here come the swallows

as light is swallowed by night

in the half-light dusk light between

they flit



a conversation of the mad


the single-minded

mosquito hunters


light fades


then the bats


the whoosh of displaced air as they rush

brushing faces



mosquito hunters


as the light

is swallowed by the night




Why so far?

For the dverse prompt.


Watching the swallows gather, stringing their smart white shirts and dark tails along the wires, like guests at a wedding, waiting for the bride, I feel the sharp turn the wind has taken. Wires sway and trees sway and the world sways in the gusts from the north. Feathers flutter and birds bunch, leaning one against the other. Are they whispering, is it time? The sea awaits, le grand bleu, and it gets no smaller for the waiting. The south calls— is it time? —beyond the deserts, Saharan, Arabian—why so far?

Hundreds gather in black tails, itching for the off, skimming the last mosquitoes, and I watch the last, the lingerer on the telephone wire. All of summer is in those sleek plumes, sunbeams in the darting flight, the endless chatter of bird voices. Do you not wish to end the summer quite yet? Can you still feel the memory of baking heat in those long narrow wings? I sense your hesitancy to brave the broad sea, but the tingling fear of coming autumn storms is the stronger. The flock departs, in twos, threes, tens, hunting insects across the valley and over the woods. The wire is empty—a flash of gleaming black, a streak of white, sky-speck, and summer is gone.

Catching sunbeams,

bird-sleek and warm in my hand—

empty sky echoes.

Microfiction #Three Line Tales: Home

A three line story for Sonya’s photo prompt. Off at a slight tangent this week.

photo by Arnaud Mesureur via Unsplash


The night was no longer dark but bright as day and full of noise that ebbed and flowed like an angry ocean.

She shuffled nervously and huddled closer to her companions, glad of their warmth and comfort in this not-night that filled the cooling air with strangeness.

When the sun rose, the warm, round sun that drew them south into its radiance, they would shake the cold from their wings and fly through the golden beams, heading for the terrifying sea and, at the farther edge, where the friendly land began again, home.