Words and pictures poetry challenge: 1

I have finally decided to start a new series of prompts, lines from poetry interspersed with paintings. I’ll try to make this a regular Wednesday challenge.

The poet I have a chosen is one for whom I have a special affection, Francis Ledwidge, the poet of the blackbirds. He was born at Baile Shinéad (Janeville) in County Meath and killed at Passchendaele 1917 when he was 29.

My father, who was a poet, introduced me to Ledwidge and claimed some family link. Certainly my father’s mother and my mother’s grandfather both came from the Dunboyne area, about twenty miles from Baile Shinéad, and of course, that is my name, so why not a link? Ledwidge even looked rather like my dad.


This is his most well known poem, written for Thomas McDonagh, poet, patriot and political activist, on hearing of his execution for his part in the Easter Rising.



He shall not hear the bittern cry
In the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain.

Nor shall he know when loud March blows
Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
Blowing to flame the golden cup
Of many an upset daffodil.

But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor,
And pastures poor with greedy weeds,
Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn
Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.


For the challenge, I propose choosing three key words from the poem, words that strike you in particular, and use them as the end of line words in a tritina, inspired by Ledwidge’s poem. The exact rules of engagement with the tritina are here. If you want to join in, just leave a link to your poem in the comments before next Tuesday when I’ll post them all.

The words I have chosen are: sky, rain, slanting.


Lost bird


I watched a bird’s flight cut across the sky,

Above the blowy trees and through the rain;

A path it made though all the world was slanting.

What kilter was is gone, the world is slanting,

And oceans pour to drown the watered sky,

Their feathers floating through the bird-fish rain.

You are not here to join me in the rain,

To hold me when I slip; the slope is slanting,

Sliding after bird gone in the sky,


The feathered, clouded sky where rain is slanting.


Spring song source: tritina


These first pale golden days announce the spring,

the swelling of the buds and then the song

of birds and water running from the source.


A sunrise crisp brings deer up to the source

to drink, where clustered violets frame the spring

that courses through the grass with silver song


down to the willow-shaded stream. The song

That stirs the shoots and roots lies at the source

Of all this golden frothing that is spring.


All this golden spring, song is the source.


Beauty blind

A tritina for the Secret Keeper’s weekly five word prompt.



Daybreak colours, hard to place

When beauty springs in every hue

Yet fails to move hearts with its dance.


Leaf fall, bird flight bright colours dance;

Before the inner eye takes place

A pageant dressed in every hue.


I’d take a palette of each hue

And paint the feathers of the dance,

But who would see in this lost place?


Dead is the place where beauty’s hue is a forgotten dance.

The clouds are weeping

It’s a long time since I wrote a tritina, and the day is damp and grey. Again.



I wake to grey, a veil of rain,

Cold winter light streams wet as tears,

And all the world is silent weeping.


Keep your songs, too loud the weeping,

Drummed tattoos, gunmetal rain,

Perhaps spring sun will dry our tears.


Buttercup, daisy, flower tears

Spring from the grass this time of weeping;

Thrusting shoots poke through cold rain.


Rain or tears, the clouds are weeping.

Star-stitched sleep

A tritina for the Secret Keeper”s writing prompt.



Silver nets catch star fish in the night,

And lines cast from the cloudy depths of time

Ravel up the dreams that mend our sleep.


When all our loves and hopes are drowned in sleep

And drift like phantom feathers in the night,

We shiver in the yawning cold of time.


Life spins so fast and leaves us little time

To waste in the oblivion of sleep,

I count instead the haul of star-stitched night.


Night time, I will sleep amid a shoal of stars.


Tales from the mountain

It’s a liberating feeling to have got a story out. I thought I’d be able to write a poem taking me somewhere completely different. Didn’t work out quite like that.

A tritina for the Secret Keeper’s weekly writing challenge



The mountain wreathed in mist is never tame,

It draws down cloud and wraps itself in rain

While children sleep and dream heroic tales.


When winter winds blow round the fire, tales

Are told to drive away the dark, its terrors tame,

Of mountain slopes, wolf-stalked, beneath the rain.


While children sleep, outside the storm and rain

Howl down the chimney, we sit telling tales

Of heroes once could wolf and mountain tame.


We sing, tame wolves, of soft rain in our heroes’ tales.

Almost as cool as rain

Daily word count achieved = poetry treat. A tritina for the Secret Keeper’s writing challenge. The words:



No gentle downpour this, of cooling rain,

But shafts of heat, sun-spears that bring us low,

From heights of haze, the shimmer falls.


Blue, the water colour of the river falls,

Silver, sharp, a tingle on the skin, the rain,

Red-gold, the sun at evening, dropping low.


As burning day gives way to night below,

The touch of evening, gentle on skin falls,

Almost as silver cool, moon pale, as rain.


Rain, with low sounds, falls.

The motion of the stars

A tritina for the Secret Keeper’s five word challenge. The words are:



The motion of the stars sends me to sleep,

On nights when owls rush through the darkling trees,

And thoughts rain down like fish caught in a net.


I feel no pain, swept in the sky’s wide net,

Eased by the glitter into thoughtless sleep,

I let the moonlight dapple windless trees.


Silence breaks with owl cry in the trees,

Some small thing trapped in nature’s red-raw net—

She rules the scampering night while others sleep.


Sleep rocks the trees in the stars’ glorious net.

Night wind and light

For Jilly’s Days of Unreason challenge, a tritina.


“A violent windstorm the night before the solstice. from Solstice Litany


Sun-tossed sky of cloud and wind,

The day is longer than the night,

And even summer dark is light.


This eve the burden seems so light

Like leaves of feathers in the wind,

Like softest voices of the night.


To walk the lane when falls the night,

When calms the tangled cloudy wind,

Is all I need to find the light.


No wind can gutter this night light.

Heart mountain

Another Harrison quote that required a sidelong glance. For Jilly’s Days of Unreason challenge, a tritina.

“The mountains are so dominant
that some days the people refuse
to look at them as children
turn away from the fathers who beat them”

~ Jim Harrison  from Songs of Unreason


A heart can be a mountain,

Or dog, cringing, and beaten,

The world when light is fading.


What lives inside is fading,

Like the sunset on the mountain,

When our dreams are crushed and beaten.


But nothing can be beaten

out of hearts when fear is fading—

I will be the ghostly mountain.


Be a mountain, carry the beaten dog though your strength is fading.