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 updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

30 April 2015

Why I Am Not a Gardener

Little white flutterers,
I loved them, dancing
all over our garden.

My Dad swore at them
and told me they were not
butterflies, they were moths.

Cabbage moths, he said,
pests out to destroy
all his lovely vegetables.

I still welcome them
in their hordes, still like them
better than cabbages.


For prompt 29 of 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads', we were to write a poem about a flower named after an animal, or a bird or animal named after a flower. I hope an insect named after a vegetable is close enough!

28 April 2015

A Dragonfly on the Step

A dragonfly on the step.
Big black lacy wings.
A twisted body.

Dragonfly was the sign
to tell me, after he died,
that he was near.

Outside again
for a closer look,
saw nothing.

Well, dirt and crumbling leaves;
a caught white dandelion seed.
But dragonfly — not there.

He is free now, I tell myself, 
He is safe.
But it still makes me cry. 


For day 28 of 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads', there is no specific prompt. I decided to do an erasure poem, using an entry from my private journal.

First Catch Your Hare

My mother had a copy of Mrs Beeton, so thick
it was almost square. I wonder what became of that?
It really did contain those infamous words
about the hare. I read them with my own eyes.

She also had an exercise book
where she wrote her own recipes by hand.
That too did not survive — at least
not into my keeping. It was much coveted.

In those days a woman's cooking
was her claim to fame and status.
Mum's biscuits with the raisins
were unique. I can still savour the taste.

I recall it all these decades later!
But she never taught me, not even
her own daughter. Recipes were secret,
devotedly guarded. Oh, people asked.

And, smiling, the good cooks agreed,
and gave the seeker a copy — but always
lacking some specific, crucial ingredient.
My mother never taught me to cook.

Recipe for raising a non-cook:
1)    Never share your culinary secrets.
2)    Craft your own identity (or persona)
from these externals. Ignore who else you are.

Ignore your intellect, your love of the arts,
and any hint of self-determination.
3) Fail to look convincingly happy.
Have breakdowns. Take to your bed with pills.

4) Do all this in full view of your daughter.
5) Be pleased when your husband, her father,
reads her poems for bedtime stories. Encourage 
her own love of poetry. Applaud her for writing some.

And it's done. You are raising, not Good Housekeeping
bread, but a rebel: no fluffy, perfect loaf but hard, chewy
sourdough. It takes a long time to cook, but 
it's healthier. (Trust me.) And each one's different.

                                       ***

I don't make raisin biscuits, with or without
a secret ingredient. I never bake. I make poems.
What goes into them, I can't buy at the shop.
I'm out in the wild, running down hares.


The April 27 piece for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is supposed to be a recipe — for food or anything else.  I get there in the end, sort of.

In case you don't know who Mrs Beeton was, Wikipedia tells you about her amazing book.

26 April 2015

Georgia's Images




















Dear Georgia with the thin, strangely stern face,
you painted flowers delicate yet lush.
I love the fulsome petals, pink and cream,
whose contours look so yielding soft to touch
that stroking them would not seem out of place.

They are like magic symbols from a dream,
and yet they appear so vividly real!
With what concentration did you create
that illusion of something we could feel?
You knew both aliveness and how to seem.

You painted this the year that I was born.
You died only a year after my first
book of poems was launched. And I have
your book about your process. (See, I thirst
to know you.) You painted houses, a barn,

and bones and skulls that never found a grave,
being merely animals — but so grand
that you could not resist them, huge and white.
And you painted the red hills of that land,
the desert which you came to deeply love.

In youth your strange, remote face appeared calm.
In wrinkled age, it hinted at a smile,
at least in the photographs: just a trace
of wry amusement. But you had no guile —
uncompromising as a desert storm.


For day 26 of 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' I've chosen a series of envelope stanzas as well as being inspired by this lovely painting: 

"Hibiscus with Plumeria" 1939 Oil on Canvas by Georgia O'Keeffe (from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C.)  Photo by Magaret Bednar, used with permission.

Hot Pink

When I think pink
it's not pastel but hot,
the deep pink of hibiscus
or raspberries freshly ripe;
it edges into magenta.

When I think pink
it's a blush,
not apple-cheeked rosy, but
the flush of heightened lust,
the glow of sweet release.

Not lolly-pink
but intense —
not pale but passionate,
not soft but seductive,
not girly but femme fatale.

I think of the bright pink
of painted lips,
the dark pink
of that moist cavern
when my lips open.

I think of you.
I think to suffuse you
in deepest pink.
I think you will expand
in ecstasy, I think you'll dance.


 Prompt 25  for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is the word 'pink'.

25 April 2015

Wishing You Integrity, Compassion, Courage and Joy

I wish for you, my youngest son,
the things you had when you were young.
But you are now in middle age
and my sweet lad has been a long time gone.

The qualities that you had once —
I don't know where or when they went;
I don't know why you lost them all.
You'd think a mother should know, but I don't.

Sometimes I think it must have been
in childhood, in some gap between
day and night or school and home,
that these things somehow slipped away unseen.

Or was it slow and gradual,
unnoticed, almost invisible,
though evident later — the way that stone
erodes to dust, infinitesimal?

Integrity. You still had that
at 18, when you found out
the insurance you sold was paying for
your bosses' fancy cars and clothes — a cheat!

You visited all the clients you'd signed,
explained they'd gained no peace of mind,
unsigned them, advising that a bank
would give a better deal; then you resigned.

And I was prouder of you then
than if it was a medal you'd won.
Better than riches, the love of truth.
You own it now: truth shifts to your design.

Compassion? Even as a child
meeting smaller children, you smiled
and gently patted their little heads.
They and I were instantly beguiled.

How tender you were with animals,
how keen to help all troubled souls,
how generous. Last time we met
you alternated threats and bribes and yells.

If I knew what was good for me
I only had to do and be
whatever you dictated. Or else.
The comforter who held my hand, where was he?

You still have courage, I suppose,
for mountain heights and slippery snows.
But not enough to face yourself
without the daily dose of pills and booze.

And as for joy, I still recall
your father saying with a smile,
'Happy baby, happy adult.'
For sure you were a joyful little child.

But now there is no joy to see;
just anger, pain and misery.
What stole your joy? Your father's death?
Or something else you never shared with me?

The qualities that you had once —
I don't know where or when they went;
I don't know why you lost them all.
You'd think a mother should know, but I don't.

I wish for you, my youngest son,
the things you had when you were young.
But you are middle-aged and I am old,
and my sweet lad has been a long time gone.

Note: We are completely and permanently estranged, by my choice, and he is most unlikely to read this. If he ever does, it will be further proof to him of my evil and insanity.


Prompt 24 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to write a poem wishing for one or more of the qualities named.  (Fairytale aspects optional, but scarcely applicable here, unless in the grimmest ways.)

24 April 2015

From the Slow Lane

Well, now that I'm on my last legs,
heading down the road,
I want to stretch the journey out
as long as I jolly well can.

So never mind your fast legs,
I'll take it nice and slow.
I'll stroll the lanes and gaze about —
don't let it be said, 'She ran'.

The road could go for miles yet;
mustn't run out of puff.
I'll take a little rest or two.
What's the point of hurrying on?

Race past with sneering smiles, pet,
ambitious, quick and tough.
I'll come in second to you, that's true,
but I won't be so quickly gone.

'Last legs' is our prompt for April 24, in 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads'. Now that's a bit close to home for an old girl like me! However....

22 April 2015

An Imperfect Love Poem


I like tall, dark and handsome — Errol Flynn
when I was a young girl: that wicked grin

as Robin or pirate, his sword flashing.
For also, of course, they must be dashing.

Until, my love, I met you, when older.
True, in your own way there was none bolder,

but in manner less dashing than abrupt.
And your height had suffered an interrupt

to be on the same level as my own.
White-haired and blue-eyed — still, how those eyes shone.

With our matching heights just right for kissing,
I soon decided nothing was missing.

By now, sweet soul, though you've left me in death,
your beauty sustains me to my last breath.













Prompt 22 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with live toads' is to write a perfect love poem, hopefully in formal verse.  Mine is an imperfect Clarian sonnet, with 10-syllable lines rather than strict iambic pentameter. The title also refers to the imperfections of the beloved against 'tall, dark and handsome' standards. Lastly, I've written so many serious love poems, there wasn't much left to me now except to go a bit against the grain. The photo is from my 60th birthday party, five years after we married.

21 April 2015

The Name of God

My friend who talks to God
says we’re going to have to stop
saying The Universe
when we mean God.

I’m not sure why,
but as far as I can gather,
God wants us to know and acknowledge
that it is him, God, who is
responsible for everything,
and who looks after us.

(My friend calls God Him,
and also calls him Almighty God.)

Well that’s all right,
but I call God Her —
although understanding She’s both.
And neither.
And more, a million times more.

And I like the idea
and the image
of a great, benevolent Universe
folding us round,
cradling us,
and hearing our every prayer.

As, indeed, God does. But why
can’t God be The Universe?
Isn’t S/He everything?
I think that includes The Universe.

I don’t know
what God is going to do
if people keep saying The Universe
when they really mean God.
What will he do to stop them?
Will he cancel free will?
Or punish them? (Surely
that would be excessive?)

You see, I have to think ‘him’
when I talk about a God
who would do all that.
I just don’t think my loving Mother would.

How will we know, anyway,
when the time has come to stop?
Will there be a big announcement?
Or will everyone get a mental flash
all at the same time, and just know?

I can believe
God is more than the Universe.
Science now tells us
this Universe is only one of many.
But this is the one I know,
which has always listened to me kindly
and always delivered.
When I say the Universe,
I think of the vastness,
the All-That-Is.
But I don’t want to say All-That-Is
every time I talk to God.

I don’t want to say
Everything-Nothing
or Father-Mother-God
or anything like that,
which might be more accurate.
As a term of endearment, they all
feel too elaborate,
and kinda clumsy.

I usually say Mother
when I talk to God.
When I’m talking about God,
I often say the Goddess.
Or else, if I'm being ambiguous —
acknowledging God's ambiguity —
I might say the Deity.
Sometimes I even say God.
I admit, I often do say the Universe.

She doesn’t seem to mind.
She knows I mean Her
and I know that She knows.


At 'imaginary garden with real toads', prompt 21 for 'Poems in April' isn't specific: we can share a poem new or old. As I am writing a new poem every day this month, here is one I just finished.

20 April 2015

Remembrance

I remember my mother
on her deathbed,
almost mute

until a nurse came in
and said cheerily, 'Isn't it nice
that your daughter's here?'

(I'd flown a long way
to be with her
that final day.)

'What's your daughter's name?'
she asked, and after Mum forced out 
the answer in a strangled gasp,

'Was it a family name
or did you call her that
just because you liked it?'

I remember my mother's voice
going deep, as it did when she tried
to enunciate very clearly,

and with an obvious summoning
of strength and will and breath, she said,
syllable by syllable, 'I liked it!'

I remembered the fuller tale I'd heard
of an actress with the pretty name,
and Mum deciding then:

'That's the one, if I'm having a girl.'
I don't think God
would have dared disappoint her.

I remember being told often
how much she wanted
'a little fair girl', and the tale

of her first words to my father
after I was born, 'Oh, Rob'
(tearful with joy) 'It's a girl!'

Some children hate their names.
I always liked mine, even when
everyone called me Rose or Rosie.

I remember how pleased
my mother was, when Bill,
my second husband, said,

'She has a beautiful name.
People should use it' and insisted
no-one ever shorten it again.

Later the famous clairvoyant
told me, 'Never let anyone
shorten your name to Rose.

'That is soft; it will weaken you.
You need the Mary for strength.'
It was already done. I thanked Bill again.

I remember the children at school:
'You're a plant, you're a plant!'
But I didn't mind; I was proud of it.

I like what Shakespeare said,
through Ophelia: '... Rosemary,
that's for remembrance.'

I like being named for a herb
with a unique sharp-sweet scent.
I like to keep some growing.


Prompt 20 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to explore the meaning of one's name.

Half a Tree



















Early morning mist begins to melt,
shrinking back from advancing light.
The remnant of a tree stands exposed.

This one has survived fire and logging, both.
Its remaining trunk, very shortened, is charred black.
Around it nothing else grows.

The ground is denuded, except for the waste
from old tree-fellings — a thick litter, dead.
Further back there are trees, at the new edge of the forest.

But this one stands alone. Not worth taking?
Yet, from the truncated trunk, two branches
reach out sideways; they even have leaves.

Is half a life better than none? In this case,
life is simply life, renewing itself, and whole:
a force unspent, with no half-measures.

The black spike of the damaged trunk
stands straight against the blue, lingering mist.
The branches curl and stretch, reaching up with their tendrils.

Beauty, in the eye of this beholder,
sanctifies the surrounding space, says a defiant no
to the loggers and wood chippers. Life re-asserts itself.


The April 19 prompt for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is the idea of 'half'. Of various pictures accompanying the prompt, this one seized my imagination.

19 April 2015

Contradicting Sir Terry

 “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” 

The warm darkness sits. The light
comes rushing in, breathless.

It plumps itself down
as in an armchair, and spreads,
taking up all the space.

But the darkness has not hurried
to get there first.

It was there already, always;
even before the beginning.
It was all there was —

Nothing and Everything;
the Everywhere. 

It shaped itself.
It became a womb,
it became a cradle.

God said,
‘Let there be Light’....

And afterwards
when we are finished, still
there shall be darkness.


Prompt 18 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to be inspired by a Leonard Nimoy or Terry Pratchett quote.

Also linking to Poets United's Poetry Pantry #248


18 April 2015

Friday Haiku




Cloudy morning.
Cobwebs
across the view.

***

At the Gallery
clouds and mountains
through the window.

***

Noisy Miners*
shriek at the roof.
A cooling breeze.

***

Midnight.
My black cat
miaows.


*Noisy Miner — Australian bird.


Prompt 17 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to write haiku. Once upon a time I used to do that every Friday. I think I should start again; I've got rusty! Apparently in America the 17th of April is National Haiku Poetry Day (and therefore internationally online). I wonder if that's because of the 17-syllable rule. As we are told a 'syllable' in Japanese doesn't really equate to the English, I no longer stick to that but aim for something briefer.

This is an unconnected series, not a sequence.


16 April 2015

Visions

The Eye in the Well

















The deep eye in the well stares up without blinking even once.
Is it made of water? Like the water, it reflects the sky.
I believe it accuses me, but it may be indifferent.



The Sages Speak















We are mountains. You see us that way, for we are very still.
And we have wisdom, acquired and stored over many centuries.
This bustling angel, all light and movement, brings us a message.

You would see the angel as a cloud with stormy edges.
The whole world is alive in many ways you do not perceive.
The Angel comes from God. You too could hear if you stilled and listened.



Prompt 16 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to be inspired by a piece of visionary art. I am a visionary artist — although only as a hobbyist, not of the calibre to be exhibited; and it's years since I did anything major in that line. I thought it would be fun to write to my own art works. I chose pieces I haven't looked at for a long time so that my response would be fresh. They are chalk pastels, done approx. 1989.

I had the notion that the Korean form, sijo, would work well for this prompt, so that is what I've used. The second poem is a double sijo.

My Folly

Left alone
to find my single self,
I thought I'd need to build
a new identity.

I constructed Widow:
elderly, grieving,
coming to terms;
just me and my cats.

I called this
'learning to be with me'.
I'd never lived
alone before.

Except for those cats.
Then one of them died.
Now it was just
her brother and me.

We clung to each other,
bonded more fiercely.
I refined my construct:
old witch with black cat.

When a very nice man
spoke of new friendship,
I missed whatever hint
he might have meant.

I blathered on, about 
how my cat had become
my Significant Other.
Now that man doesn't call.

I did need time for myself.
I needed self-sufficiency. But
I never meant to construct
loneliness.


For 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads', we were asked to write about a folly — some foolish or eccentric construction to satisfy one's own whim (well, that's my definition and I'm sticking to it). 

I'm also submitting this one to Midweek Motif at Poets United, which this week offers the topic, Foolishness.

15 April 2015

Everything Went Away Through the Broken Rainbow

Everything that matters, I suppose. Or an amorphous all, that shockingly
went off into a mist? (Like the gap in the universe in Doctor Who.)
Away where? A mystery never explained to my full understanding
through all these months of being without you. Here we go again:
the recurring subject matter of my life and therefore my poems.
Broken dreams, broken relationship ... broken trust? No, not that last. 
Rainbow — symbol of hope and beauty — may be found in a mud puddle.


For the 14th day of April, at 'imaginary garden with real toads' we can link to any of our poems, old or new. I am writing new ones every day this April, and here I try another first word acrostic, as I find the form productive. The title (used also in the acrostic) is a phrase that just popped into my head, seemingly from nowhere, as lines of poetry sometimes do. I didn't consciously know what it meant, and thought this would be a good way to explore it (which it was). I might have guessed! — another bereavement poem, another step in the working through.

13 April 2015

Arguing with Joan Didion

“Grammar is a piano I play by ear.”
Best way to play it — but
there are those who have no ear.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
And in order to avoid living.
In order to run away.

“I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.”
There is writing. There is always writing.
(Perhaps there is only writing.)

“I don't know what I think until I write it down.”
Me too — can’t argue with this.

“It occurs to me that we allow ourselves to imagine 
only such messages as we need to survive.” 
If that is so, some of us clearly need 
the vast and wide-ranging, 
the wild and fantastical.

“When I am near the end of a book, 
I have to sleep in the same room with it.” 
The book you are writing, or the one you are reading? 
I always sleep in the same room as those I am reading.

 “Time is the school in which we learn.” 
Yes? … yes, I guess so …  yes, I see … yes.



The 13th prompt for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to be inspired by one or more of the above quotes from Joan Didion. They are imteresting quotes in themselves, but I thought them too prosey to use for poetry — or perhaps it's just too late at night — and I took issue with most of them. That seemed to be the only poem I was likely to get.

The House Is Quiet Because It Has To Be

Riffing off Wallace Stevens

The night is completely hushed.
House and street are still.
Is there moonlight? No, not tonight.
Quiet and darkness fold my house and me —
because this is my refuge;
it shelters me in its cloak of silence. This house
has just my old cat and me now
to stir it up, but we are not very loud. We can
be whatever we like here, and we choose soft.


Prompt 12 for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to 'write a new poem or prose poem inspired by a line, title, verse or style of Wallace Stevens'. The title of this poem is a line from a Stevens poem called 'The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm'. The line was in past tense but I've changed it to present. The poem is another first word acrostic.

12 April 2015

How I Deal

Child me saw ghosts
no-one else could see.
Night after night
I lay rigid with fear,
until at last I wrote
the poem of the ghosts.
Then I owned them.
It made me brave.

When I fell in love,
my poems were pink roses
soft with romance,
and my poems
were yellow roses
bright with celebration,
and my poems were
deep red roses rich with lust.

When love fell out with me,
my poems curled
into balls of weeping,
or shrieked their rage
or hissed poison.
Some brandished knives.
And they brought me out
to the other side.

When my first cat died —
my dearest, from kitten
through 18 fond, full years —
I made poems of her life
and poems of her death.
Readers said, 'A noble animal'
and, 'You can be a great poet'.
I was glad I served her well.

When government
betrayed the people,
and we marched
and we demonstrated,
my poems raised their fists and yelled.
The fire in their bellies
inflamed other minds and hearts —
but those poems burnt out fast.

When my first great love
died suddenly, shockingly, young,
my poems took me on long walks
to talk to the sky, to send
invisible messages aloft
and visible ones to the world.
I wrote him such fine poems
after he was dead!

When our Mother called to us
and we saw she was hurt
and could be dying,
when we knew we were killing off
whole tribes of her other children,
my poems evoked green Nature,
a blue, unique planet,
and the great love of the Mother.

When my husband Andrew,
love of my life thus far,
died at his time, old,
my poems held my hands
and mopped my tears.
'This is right,' they said,
'But you are allowed to grieve',
and afterwards brought me peace.


Prompt for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads: how to keep balance in the face of life's exigencies?

11 April 2015

Calling Into the Void

Who are my ancestors?
The trail goes cold
after (or rather before)
Léon Pereira, apothecary
somewhere in India
in the State of Orissa

or past the Colonel,
the sandy-haired Scot
with pointy ears in his one photo,
like my son's and my brother's —
the hidden ancestor, that page 
torn from the parish records.

Where are all you wild ones
further back — you rebels? 
I must have got that 
from somewhere,  
along with my contradictory loves
of tropic heat and craggy rocks.

I know the witchery came
through my mother's mother,
the Indian line; and from her
the healing touch.
But surely the magick must come 
from those pointy-eared Celts as well?

Ancestors, I can only know you
through myself and my cousins,
my aunts and uncles,
my sibling, my sons —
in us I find your faces.
But I long to know your dreams.


The 10th prompt for 'Poems in April' at 'imaginary garden with real toads' is to address our ancestors, descendants, or both.

10 April 2015

Young Lovers in Central Park, NY

Young love, first love
Filled with true devotion
  Perry Como song

After Andrew died
leaving nearly everything to me,
I didn’t give his photos to his children —
that’s an item for my own will —
I wanted to live with them still.

These which hang on my walls
he took before I knew him,
and blew them up and framed them.

We were old lovers 
(and no worse for that)
meeting late in our lives,
but our hearts were young
and we saw each other’s beauty.

The photos were 20 years ours
and he told me their stories:
how he composed or fluked them.

Young Andrew wanted to be
a professional photographer,
arranged his own apprenticeship —
but his father said, ‘No,
'there’s no money in photography.

'You will work in a shop.'
Junior salesman Andrew soon left,
became film editor and journalist.

And that was a happy working life.
But he took good photos
without any training.
I like this one for its tenderness
and the light coming through the trees.


Words vs pictures is the latest prompt in 'Poems in April' at' imaginary garden with real toads' We are asked to choose a work of art, write about why we chose it, and include a quote that 'reflects a sentiment of the art'. (I found it hard to photograph the photo, and this doesn't really do it justice.)