Sunday, 29 January 2017

Being watched

Image by Manon Bellet
Pleased to have this poem pubished recently by the lovely ekphrastic anthology Visual Verse (see links at bottom of this post)

Being watched

her chemise
lands in a whisper
        of silk on slate

clear shadows slant on the wall
where afternoon sun finds
       gaps in blinds

       she knows he watches
       so she spins

turns in a whirl
       of sun and shadows

dust motes drift
        her skirts swirl
              and fall

her hands snake in a rhythm
only she can feel

heat pricks her neck
       the blush of her knowing
       shows in her face

and sweat cools
       making a dampness
               on her back

The quickening

I love this time of year – when the darkest time is behind us and the days get lighter and longer.
At the end of January/beginning of February we are at the halfway point between the darkest days of the year and the spring equinox. This time is known as the quickening. February 1st is also Brighed’s day and the first day of the Celtic spring. Brighed  is the Celtic patron of poets, bards, healers, creativity and fire. In this poem I mention some of the traditions associated with her and with this time of year.

The quickening

Hang sprigs of rowan
from the quickening tree,
decorate the doors;
bring branches of willow
to signal this time of change –
and of dreaming.

Collect leaves of blackberry to
attract prosperity and healing;
coltsfoot to move us
toward love and peace;
ginger to raise the fire within
and guide the serpent.

Snowdrops are her first gift of spring,
the lambs’ cry the first sound.
As blackthorn blooms
and the owl’s call fades,
now comes the quickening.
Welcome returning light,

this feast of torches.
Light the flames,
set every lamp, raise all the candles.
Brighed stands at the halfway.
Cloaked in white and silver
she shimmers like a flame on the bridge –

at the precise point between
the darkest day and equal night.
Patron of poets and Bards,
she brings the fire of creativity
and stirs the serpent’s energy.
Let her dismiss the darkness.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


(January 1, 2017)

Up here on the hill, a north-easterly

with ice on its edges

                cuts through

all the way from the Arctic into my bones.

Cold bites in corners — there is no nibbling;

teeth go deep,

                clear sharp bites

sink into the core  to catch the breath.

A bitter sting in the face hardens shivers on skin,

pulls hairs on end as she hauls and thrusts

                her currents

through the layers of my body.

Fresh new air, the cool of new year air,

is driven into my lungs.

And old clouds of grey vapour

                disappear into distance.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Yarn in black

Pleased to have this poem published recently in the excellent poetry webzine Picaroon.

Black dolls

She sits in swirling dust
as she knits her dolls
with fine black yarn.
Only dolls. Only black,
even their eyes.

All day
in a shaded room,
where the motes float
in rays filtered
through tiny gaps in blinds,
she crochets around coaldust,
knots stitches in silk,
makes tassels.

Tiny fingers create the Marquesa de Santa Cruz,
covered in her mourning lace,
from her hair to her tiny, pointed shoes.

One plain one purl
and there grows Goya’s Black Duchess,
mantilla floating in a breeze,
veils and shawls, layer on layer.
A fine figure in billowing skirts,
a flash of scarlet pinches her waist
above the frills and flutter of taffeta,
twisted and woven,
where lace rustles
around the swish
of satin.

She knits and
she frowns at the little blaze of red.
Even her piano plays only in minor keys.

All day she sits in the swirling motes
as she knits and knots and twirls her yarns.
Only dolls, only black,
they sit in twilight
in perfect rows on shelves,
all around the sooty room.

While in her night time dreams a crow calls
from a lone tree,
rooks gather on great towers,
shouting their stories over
broken walls
and a raven ruffles his perfect black wings
ready to fly.

The blue-black backed gulp of swallows
swoops low
over a locked-up memory in her darkened life;
and a green sheen on the black of the magpie’s tail feather
shines bright in her closed-in mind.

Black swans gather
in their grace,
a bank of sails on a sleepy lake,
they seem made of coal,
hacked out of ancient strata,
fashioned from the gloss of black minerals.

No light escapes their slick patina,
they suck in her surprise
at seeing them at all,
and glide with it
and mill together among weeds,
trapped in tar.

Red squints of beak
show among feathers that are made by oil on knives,
and flashes of scarlet bleed under scrapes.

I am the one,
the black swan –
to my song.

But their chorus has no tune.

Necks curl and bend,
mirror each other, make hearts
in their mating game,
but she sees only the tar-backed black,
the swan black, and she’s gone back …
before she was born.

She wakes in the hour before dawn
to the blackbird’s song,
and a taste of bitter on her tongue.

As light seeps in through cracks,
she rises,
and looks first
to her rows of dolls.

Unravelled yarns,
threads of black
fall in coils,
like the soft hair of
the Marquesa,
a thousand
black strands in curls and waves,
hang loose from ledges,
in the coal-dusty cold room.

And all day she sits
in swirling dust
as she knits.
Only dolls
only black
even their eyes.