I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world,
to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress, and may be subject to revision without notice. Completed versions appear in my books. Nevertheless copyright applies to all texts found here.

31 October 2014


On being asked to write about what this date, celebrated as 
Halloween (which is based on Samhain) truly means to me.

I would light a candle.
I would stand it
beside your photo.

I’d recall
the daily rituals
of our time together.

I’d set a place for you
at our table.
Tonight we’d feast.

If it were truly Samhain
here in the warm South,
that is what I’d do.
However, it’s Beltane.

The hot, hot summer
is coming. But
the way we ushered it in
my dear, is over.

You are ghost or angel,
more ethereal than smoke.
And I shall be lighting
no fires tonight.

Image: Beltane Fire Dancer by NataliaLeFay (free download)

Note: For those who don't know, Beltane is traditionally celebrated with sexual passion. 

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writers Resource Center). Prompt: Completion.

Also a follow-on to the previous poem, which was in response to Poets United's Midweek Motif. Halloween, or Celebrating the Dead.

On Samhain Night

On Samhain night, when the veil is thin,
I collect photos of those gone before.
I set them out for viewing,
I do them honour.

It is the time of festivity for them,
our predecessors — sires, mothers,
siblings, lovers, spouses, friends,
others even longer gone….

How deeply must we reverence
those who bestowed their love
upon us, those who were here
in their lives, living.

They were here in their homes;
they knew us.  They return
to our homes which were theirs
for one night’s visit.

We owe them this: for love, for blood,
for respect, for the proper
sequence of things, for every
bond which lingers.

This is the time which we give
to them, to remember
who they were then, once —
now only ghosts.

Welcome, beloveds. We esteem you.
Here is your spot — sit, dine!
Be with us. When you go, rest
in our love until next time.

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writers Resource Center). Prompt: Use no words with the letter a, except one word where it appears twice.

Poets United Midweek Motif: Halloween, or Celebrating the Dead; what does it truly mean to you?  (I addressed the prompt as given. However, this is the Southern Hemisphere! For what this date really signifies to me, see the next poem.)

A funny thing, grief

You think you're going along
nicely, then some little thing
triggers it and you're lost.

'Oh, my precious, beautiful girl!'
I suddenly say to the air, as
out of nowhere the thought of her
grows large. My sweet cat,
who stayed with me 16 years.

I knew it was her time. I knew
she'd been happy in her life.
Focused now on her brother,
loving him through his loss,
I imagined I'd handled mine.

I have come to bed.
He is outside,
enjoying the cool night,
sprawled on our top step
or the car bonnet.
At some stage he will come in
and settle himself
next to my pillow.
It's become his spot.

But she was always
the sleeping companion before,
arriving as soon as I went to bed
at whatever time
from wherever she was,
even outside. It beat me how
she knew, but she always did.
She would cuddle up and purr
loudly, then snuggle all night.

He has not come in yet;
too early for him.
Therefore I am not
distracted by his presence ...
nor am I distracted
from her absence.
Her absence acquires
its own huge presence.

I lie down alone
and the tears come.

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writer's Resource Center). Prompt: Write the final line of the  poem first, then work out how to get there.

29 October 2014

Visiting the Podiatrist

'What have you been up to lately?'
he asks, as he settles my feet,
and I say, 'Poetry'. It's always poetry.

The big, curved, metal clippers click
as he enquires, 'How long
have you been writing poetry?'

'Since I was seven,' I say,
and then he remembers. 'Oh yes,
You told me that last time.'

Out at the reception desk,
Teresa's typing briskly
in a staccato clatter.

In here, Justin resumes.
'Do you have any special themes?'
'No,' I say. 'There are no unfit subjects.'

He laughs. 'Except, maybe,
visiting the podiatrist.'
I tell him about today's prompt:

Include one or more sounds.
I mention the clippers and the keyboard,
and some rustling of paper out there now.

'And the low hum of the air conditioning,'
he adds with a small flourish. I tell him,
'Ah, you're writing your own poem now.'

'Do you know any poems of Kipling?'
he asks suddenly. 'I live in Kipling Street.'
I tell him Kipling wrote novels and stories too.

I tell him that Kipling's most famous poem
is 'If' and how I dislike it. I recite
a phrase or two. He Googles the rest.

We get onto war, and the state of the world.
He asks if there are violent, hating poems,
seems to have encountered only the uplifting.

I talk of ancient times, other cultures;
guess that readers might prefer gentler stuff,
so that would be what lives. Then I remember rap.

'Rap's full of all that. It comes from
the disadvantaged. They have cause.'
'I forgot that rap's a kind of poetry,' he says.

I'm ashamed that I forgot too. 'Often
very good poetry,' I hurry to say, 'Even if
I don't always like the message.'

He lets my chair down. Its a slow chair,
soundless. My feet feel so comfortable,
its as if they no longer exist.

Teresa books my next appointment.
I ask about her beautiful accent. (She lilts.)
Swedish, and she lived in Scotland.

The phone rings, loud and brassy.
I wave and walk out on to the street,
listening to my own light footsteps.

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writer's Resource Center). Prompt: Include one or more sounds.

27 October 2014

The Regimen

It’s a hot day, a very hot day,
but it’s time to swing my weights

up fast, slow down, each side
from waist to shoulder

then from shoulder to overhead
(don’t let them meet in the middle)

up and down alternately
in front of the body, seated

curling up to the shoulder, seated too,
then forward and back, on one knee

always five times each side, each set;
count ten seconds, repeat

remembering, you can go up fast,
but bring them down very slow

finally put them aside, and bend
arm over head, twice, left and right

hold each bend for fifteen seconds
and feel the stretch in the bending hip.

Do this every other day.
On alternate days, go for a walk.

I’ve always walked, on and off,
but the weight training is new.

After my mother fell and broke her hip
she never went home again.

My bones, I’m told, are brittle
but I’m not yet ready to break from life.

Also I now keep my mobile
attached, in pocket or bum-bag.

Don’t want an agonising crawl to the phone
like hers. But I’m living alone, like her.

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writer's Resource Center). Prompt: Use an inspirational tool from this list:
Call a friend and talk about old times
Collaborate with another poet
Give yourself a deadline
Give yourself permission to write badly
Go someplace new
Interview yourself
Just start writing anything that comes to mind as fast as you can
Listen to your favorite music
Look at old photographs
Read a magazine or a newspaper
Read someone else’s poetry
Read your own poetry
Review your old work
Start with a title
Take a swim, bath or a shower
Take a walk
Try another medium such as drawing or painting
Try something new
(Obviously, I exercised.) 

He Lies on the Floor

He lies on the floor at my feet
in front of his new scratching post —
which he ignores.  Lifting a paw,
he washes behind one ear.

The old post is out on the kerb
for the hard rubbish collection.
After two years of two cats
it was shredded. But change upsets him.

So at first the old and the new
sat side by side in the house.
I took each of his front paws in my hand
and raked them down the coiled rope.

I swung the dangling balls of synthetic fur
and pulled the toy mouse on its quick elastic.
He batted the balls a bit, then pounced so fast
on the mouse that he almost got me.

But playing of his own accord
hasn’t happened yet.  He doesn’t
have his sister any more
to compete and encourage him.

He murmurs and stirs, and looks up at me.
Again I see him as panther: that all-black coat.
He is docile though, and becoming happy
to hang with me in our pack of two.

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writer's Resource Center). Prompt: Write a draft in paragraphs of prose, then turn it into poetry. (Interesting! The poetry required a lot of tightening. I went from 393 words to 173.)

26 October 2014

In Soft Morning

In soft morning
memory and pain,
dying away in silent light
before the birds begin,
pretend to be dream.

I let them so pretend.
I fill up my consciousness
with tasks and simple joys
that keep the days passing.

Only when night returns
and finally I lie down,
still on my side of the bed,
a hidden door to the real
opens and lets them in.

31 Poems in 31 Days (Poewar / Writer's Resource Center). Prompt: Start and end poem with same word