Slow your pace to a meander
that I may spread my waters
like a sheet upon your bed
here upon my mossy lap take root
and reflect as do I
on the shifting sky
while my babel tongues
hush to still
trickles through your fingers
and moves on –
a journey ended
when only just begun
I with my spate and flow
gather the rubble from a thousand dreams
pour over rock
seep into cracks
It’s in the space between my words
In the junk in my DNA
In the pause between the lub and dub
The losing of concentration.
It’s in the daydreams
The unheard echo of silent screams
The data that cannot be set
The Doppelganger unmet.
It’s in the breeze, in the sunshine
In the taste
Not the food, not the wine.
It’s in the inner outer space
Where I am.
I reach to take my jacket from the peg
and my eyes again are drawn
to the next peg just along
where hangs a collar and a well-worn leather leash
and once again my eyes begin to mist
Then I wander back in time to when my old pal Fly and I
would go to gather sheep from off the fell
I didn’t need to speak much or tell Fly where to go
for there were no hiding places – not from Fly
She knew each nook and place of shelter
where sheep huddled in bad weather
and turned their backs against the wind and rain
eyes half closed as though in contemplation
deep in thought and cheering on the cud
I did not have long to wait as I stood there by the gate
until faint bleating I would hear above the crags
below the mists that swept and swirled
up in their rocky rooftop world
then single filed they showed upon the trod.
An odd one would make a dash but Fly would turn her in a flash
snapping at her heels in reprimand –
there was no doubting who was in command
Then all were down ‘in bye’
where for winter they would lie
until Spring when they would lamb beside the farm
more sheltered in the valley
from the elements and foxes on the prowl
Then we too would go ‘in bye’
and again I’d welcome Fly to my abode –
no kennel, not tonight
for she had earned herself the right
to dine in and lie beside the kitchen fire
And never will I part with her collar or her leash
or from the friend that in memory I fondly still admire
as now lonesome and in solitude
with misted eyes and heavy heart
I sit alone beside the kitchen fire
(where no one draws breath, and you’ll have heard it all before)
Guess what Norah? there’s going to be
meringue! – ‘a nest of strawberries and
blueberries, raspberries, and rhubarb
coulis.’ Aw thump! Grandpa’s ratted and
Mam’s anxious and Granny’s weather-worn.
God, it’s hot isn’t it? Our Paula’s
nice fascinator’s wilting. Not my
choice of flowers! Who is going to
sweep up all that confetti? Verger
prefers white rice for a white wedding
‘e says. Confetti’s as daft as top
hat and tails when us lot are out in
us t-shirts and jeans, normal. Like them
bridesmaids on the hen night full of beans
and planning a dead rude speech to make
all them others screech. And now the Best
Man’s sweating. He’ll faint in a mo’ what’s
the betting? But his partner’s brought him
posh mineral water and the guy
with the camera says ‘stand in t’ shade’
which won’t make for good photos here or
at the Reception. Got any coins
for the collection? No, love. I’m broke
Hope it’ll be the old vows. We was
at the Methodist’s last weekend and
their vicar can’t half shift the trifle
Aaaaah ha ha! You know, like, worra mean?
You mean ‘obey’ and all that in them
old vows? Well, you know what? You can get
stuffed! Ey up, ‘ere come the eyelashes
All of my security is found
in the predictable ticking of the planet
As it spins reliably upon its axis and measures out the hours,
My soul responds with a sigh of recognition
To the same indicators
That chug around and pull into the station
Every year, more or less on time.
So don’t give me a balmy Christmas day,
Or a cold shower in July,
I have watched these days go by
And my heart pumped with the waning of the moon
And soared in my veins as the rays of a hot noon sun
Fall, and bake me into the ground.
Give me life, death, renewal,
Give me spring’s early wakeup call, or winter’s death.
Give me gold in autumn, give me responsive, bitter, living,
In all its fashions.
But never give me snow in Easter,
I will not have it.
We who are water know
familial communion with
pond and river
lake and ocean
and we abide and communicate
by way of ripple and reflection
warmed by amniotic held
flotation – raised from
which our primal gasp and
cry signalled alpha and omega
of incarnate gradation – and
sight of mothered Wisdom
and taste of liquid nutrition
alongside growth spurt’s
Yes: our infancy born from
someone else’s depths never
leaves us – we are forever
embraced by it and so return
to reflection and histories
and promise as though to the
breast – and in gazing into
layered depths see at the
same time the light of height
yes: we who are water know
familial communion with
pond and river
lake and ocean
and we abide through all
Where to start
My love is life itself
Favourite loves change with age
More gentle past times play a part
Music, sailing , oceans and rivers
Still stir my heart
Family – the bond of love ever strong
Grandchildren on the cusp of life
What will their future bring
I want to know but cannot
Log fires, red wine and friends
Mr Feis has a kid at home, where he’s dad,
But he was at school then, when
He was with his other children.
He put his body between those children and a gun,
The last thing he could do,
To do his job.
The last thing he would ever do.
He stepped forward, arms outstretched,
Because sometimes the heart acts,
Before the head has time to think.
In his home there is now, a vacancy,
In another place,
There will be a welcome cry.
The cooling air is clear and still
The path now knows my feet
To the beach.
Calm waters reflect my lamp
Encroaching dusk protects the boat
Departing the horizon.
The black air is clear and still.
Track and beach
Protect their secrets
Free to enjoy the on-coming day.
The warming air is clear and still.
There is a path: it can be found
A full moon or rising sun will point the way
It is a bridge that stretches across the fishy water
Spanning the distance between earth and sky
Once – love blind – I set my foot upon the way
Trusting another with my heart until
One day from careless hands it slipped
Into the sobbing sea
With each betrayal of naive trust
My heart a little wilder grew
All loving overtures I saw
Were siren voices nothing more
I scoured the deep for shells to hide
and there a mermaid self became
In feral dreams I spent my days
Safe from the lure of love’s bright flame
But time will ebb and time will flow
And something stirs within my soul
I stand again upon the shore
The grey light pearly on the sea
And all is still save the waves that hiss
And wet my feet with a judas kiss
Believe – they whisper
There’s still a chance
That love is more than fine romance
Remember Peter on the water’s face
Running to find love’s sweet embrace
I know not if such things are true
Just this; just this:
There is a path – a hard and rocky road
A full moon or rising sun
will light the way
Seasons blur into one another
Gone the clear cut lines
Between autumn leaves and snow covered fells
Daffodils and warm scented roses
Nature cast adrift
Pushed by ever changing elements
To an unknown end.
Trees, flowers, grass, crops
In constant hesitation
Gardeners similarly so.
Last night in dreams I went again to my old house in Castle Lane
I climbed the stairs up to the top, by the nursery door I came to a stop
I turned the knob and the door opened wide, I looked all around then stepped inside
By the flickering firelight shadows danced upon the walls. They leapt and pranced
Tiny footprints led from the door to the tattered rug that lay on the floor
On the window ledge sat Barnabus Bear sadly looking the worse for wear
He’d been to the opera and I think had just had a little too much to drink
His speech was slurred, his breath was beery and he couldn’t see quite clearly
But he got to his feet and with a gesture grand, bowed and politely shook my hand
A pale moon shone on the window seat where Amelia Jane all prim and neat
Reposed sedately in her outdoor clothes, coat, hat, fur-muff and stocking hose
She smiled and beckoned and I sat down, she said she was going up to town
She’d like to offer me some tea but the car was coming at a quarter to three
She tidied her hair with a tortoiseshell comb and told me to make myself at home
A light shone under the cupboard door, then a rumbling noise made me stir
The door flew open, I fell on my back as the Flying Scotsman flew onto the track
With whistle screaming and puffing steam the headlights casting a ghostly beam
Twice round the track he hurtled full pelt then back through the door, but I still knelt
As memories stirred by the pungent smell of the old transformer I remembered well
A race between trains for a tuppence bet and the Flying Scotsman is racing yet
In yonder corner something moves. I hear the thunder of horses’ hooves
With a flick of his tail and a toss of his mane old Beaucephalis rides again
I jumped on his back and took up the reins, we galloped up mountains and down leafy lanes
With the wind in my hair and my hand on the crop we rode round the world till we rocked to a stop
Just then the tramp of marching feet made my poor heart miss a beat. I turned.
It was just as I thought, a hundred lead soldiers advanced from their fort
The armies lined up, English and French, I watched them do battle and choked on the stench of gun powder, smoke, the wounded and dying, I stood there transfixed and silently crying
The room grows silent. I feast my eyes for one last time ere the fire dies
The memory has faded, the dream it has fled. I wake in the chill morn alone in my bed
With pounding heart I speed,
And with heaving chest, I gasp.
The air wrenched in,
I must endure,
Or my pups, they will not last.
The calf from the herd, we have coerced,
For his mother, his voice is shrill!
A shriek of fear, he bolts chaotic,
We shall break his will.
We move on him, it is not long,
Defeated his courage gives in.
No mother came to rescue him,
He is forsaken, it is our win.
As we bring him down I hear his pain,
His fear consumes my heart.
My pack tear at his flesh and bones,
Broken from his soul, I played my part.
I stand still heaving, for want of air,
And behold this calf’s demise.
The cry’s now silent,
The air is still,
Grey cloud of death across his eyes.
I have to choose my pups or theirs,
My chest aggrieved for his mother’s loss.
I will protect my pups, their life is mine,
I resolve to feed them – at any cost!
Yawn, stretch, a voice calls, ‘fetch.’ No not yet, I tell my pet
I’m warm and cosy in my bed, don’t want to raise my sleepy head
Sniff! Sniff! Something smells good; I’ll get up now it’s time for food
Pitter patter cross the floor, hurry up pet, open the back door
Ah that’s better; give myself a shake, now I’m feeling wide awake
Today is Sunday if I’m not mistaken, that tempting smell is frying bacon
Chairs push back – breakfast’s over, pet’s scraping plates, ‘come on Rover’
What’s this in my spotty dish? Last night’s cold, leftover fish
Congratulations to JBB upon publication of her new poem
Food all ordered, we’re at the table, Chance to talk, now that we’re able, Phone in her hand, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Connecting Mum!’ – An argument’s brewing! I’ll join her then, where’s my phone? Chatting with Mum, she’s clearly outgrown! Now I’m on Facebook – what status to post? A picture of ‘good food’, not coffee and toast. Food arrives and it looks so pleasing, Photo opportunity I’m certainly seizing! Wait! The angle, the colour, effects or not? Drinks in the picture? The cocktails we got? Picture taken, I’ll post it now, If I can just remember how. Caption? – I need words too? This is too stressful a thing to do! What’s the time? Do I call it lunch? Or is it too early, is it more ‘brunch’? She’s finished her meal, I feel old! Status is posted – but my food’s gone cold!
Beyond my cosy window lies
A monster with enormous grass green thighs
He haunts my dreams
Disturbs my waking eyes
Blotting out my skies
Furrowed, fretted, ridged his wrinkled face
Drops slow tears of frothing lace
He rears his head, a coronet of rocks
Wreathed in sunny veils and envaporous locks
Before man came or time began
God saw his dawn
A million million years ‘fore I was born
The Roman tread here spoke the Celtic fortress rose
My petty four score years he laughs to scorn
He is the torment of my dying time
The last peak I have not strength to climb.
‘the judge (poet Bob Beagrie) was impressed by the scale and quality of the entries … we were very much impressed by all of your submissions …’
Congratulations to our own Ann Miller who was present for the Northern Writes Festival Finale in Stanley Civic Hall on Saturday 18th February when the new Northern Writes Anthology was launched. Ann’s poem The Dark Walk – entered for NW’s most recent poetry competition is included.
I first caught sight of you in my wing mirror
half way up the Sma’ Glen; high place, grey rock
smoothed and polished by four clean winds,
bog myrtle, sphagnum moss, bent over bushes
stunted, blunted down the years.
You were parked up in a layby,
about to get back in your old silver hatchback,
your kilt aswirl in the breeze.
Who knew we were going to the same place?
And when you stood later by the grave,
you and your fellow pipers resplendent
in black and red, the silver pins on your plaid shawls
glistening, the sharp point of Schiehallion poking the heavens behind,
I knew you’d filled your pipes with mountain air
for you blew all the wild wonder of the glen
into your pibroch lament.
Many congratulations to Kit who won 3rd prize at the 2016 Maryport LitFest – ‘Wild’ – for this evocative poem
The first flakes of snow coldly kiss my cheek
Melt and are gone,
Replaced quickly again by others
But determinedly, head down, I still press on,
I know that snow is forecast
And quicken my stride up the fell.
I am checking and closing down my traps
Before the forecast wintry spell.
Three traps I am closing
While still the snow is light,
And in the grey of winter’s day
I strive to finish quickly
Before the onset of bleak night.
I am determined to complete the task
Before light fades away,
And lengthen my stride, collie by my side,
Constant as ever disregarding the weather
My ever faithful guide.
The task is simple. I reach with my stick
Put pressure on the treadle,
Give a firm push and the door swings shut
The trap is now disabled.
I repeat the procedure at each trap
Then Fly and I drop down the path
Through the swirling snow,
Both I am sure pleased with ourselves
As I start the van for home.
The stone bus shelter smelling of urine, a punctured football under the bench
A laminated timetable and Man United graffiti on the noticeboard
Echoes of insults and taunts bounce around its walls
Like billiard balls looking for their targets
Transit lounge in Dubai airport during the Haj
Men in white robes sleep curled round their bags next to a clacking moving walkway
Trim bearded young men who ooze wealth from their pores
Fuss over wheezing wizened companions
Whilst prayers and announcements boom from a tannoy above their heads
Packing the car for university
A sandwich toaster perches on top of a printer still in its John Lewis delivery box
A clarinet case with its indecipherable grimy name tape rests on a sticker covered laptop
A camera captures teeth clenched in a fixed grin in front of the open car boot
While a Harry Potter duvet spills towards the damp gravel driveway
When I find it hard to pray
My thoughts to music start to stray
Music soothes a need in me
It helps me form the words to say
That as a child slipped glibly off the tongue
But have been lost along the way
A life enriched with music brings
Compassion, love, a soul with wings
Music fills my heart with joy
And the power that it brings
Is more primitive than prayer
In the Valley of the Kings
A prayer at night, a prayer by day
My parents’ gift to me was music
Their legacy is prayer
A couple of quick plugs for great local art exhibitions
– in the case of C-Art at Rheged [#rheged] because time is running out fast and it’s absolutely worth a visit before it closes this coming Sunday 13th November 2016. Ray Ogden’s Fisher King (image at Ray Ogden) got a mention here – but there’s so much other inspirational art to whet a writer’s appetite too.
– and after you’ve been to Rheged and are wondering where else you could enjoy a fab teashop and take in a bit more art whilst you’re about it, our own Sylvia Stevens, gifted poet and painter, has an exhibition of some of her work at Thornthwaite Galleries [#thornthwaitegalleries] and Teashop.
My eyes flicker over yours
I capture their ocean blue
Like a giggle. I save it for later,
So I can feel it billow
Watch it soar like a kite
Dancing on a day full of yellow.
Rain weeps across the window
Creeping a diagonal path
A reminder that life is not straight
Or forward but meandering,
Slow; a sudden rush.
Faster falls the rap tap patter
Droplets dart and shuffle together
Race and slide, transparently
Slip over the edge to a life unseen;
Their fluid dance, a silent stream.
Stillness, silence, listening
Bells in valleys, warm sun.
Light on mountain peaks, on snow.
The evening light pale crimson
heather, rock, water,
large trout swimming in pools.
Scent of pines after rain.
Listening to silence
Howgills, their summits,
peace, a quietness not heard elsewhere.
Silence and peace
listening to that small voice
God, man, earth,
past, present, future.
Listen to peace, to peace, to peace.
Good counsel on this snowy – and in some other ways momentous – morning.
Alone I float upon a tideless ocean
There is no wind, no sound, nor any motion
Blissful in Summer haze I laze without emotion
Alone upon a tideless ocean
Sedated, satisfied, replete a Sleeping Beauty
Who has no cares, no conscience, and no moral duty
There is no winter here, no heat nor cold
No seasons change so none like me grow old
All is a perpetual Youth in a sunlit noon of gold
No time will pass and so no years will roll
Here I can smell the scented shores around
See hills where vaporous water falls without a sound
Furtive it glides among the leafy trees
Idling through sunny glades to soak the thirsty ground
Where Summer flowers fruit without disease
Where no lilies fester and the rose no petals leave
And in the gossamer grass the poppy nods at ease
It’s here I’ll dream within a hidden hollow
At peace and healed of every searing sorrow
The past does not exist. I fear no morrow
Hope I know not, so no despair can follow.
Peace? No, this is Hell I dream
My passions still burn fiercely my desire screams
Give me the storms, the battles, life’s extremes
Labour, suffering, pain. Yes let me weep
But save me O thou Unfathomable God
From a life of fantasy, of sleep.
last month in winter’s dog days
when light was a miracle we blessed
buried somewhere deep in our hearts
we knew that skies would brighten
and rain no more pour down
that spring would come full blast
with clear skies and the power to shock
the sun will warm us with force
piercing the cold wet of the earth
stirring the unseen seeds of hope
into life with its full blown glory
dazzling our minds with the beauty
only nature can bring to fruition
we knew … / that spring would come full blast
Now there’s a cheering thought on a chilly November night with talk of snow in the air!
Angela Locke’s poem After the Flood was Highly Commended in the 2016 Mirehouse Poetry Competition and can be seen along with some of the other entries here – which will also lead you inexorably onwards into the glorious depths of Mirehouse’s own website. Happy reading. Happy travels.
Suck down the nectar Let the sweetness register, hold it to your lips Like a dying man in the desert, Press a petal against your skin, Marvel at the silk soft summer strength of it. The pollen will stain your hands and make you sneeze, But that is what it does – it has a job to do. Remove the black shrivelled scorched pod firmly. It is full of tiny seeds – like eggs waiting to be born, Remove them, roughly. They are the threat. They must replace the snaking stem Clinging to the sun-blushed wall and the swaying pastel colours of the flowers. They are next year’s news.
The falls that carry the rains from the fell To the lake in the valley below Can be heard crashing down in the distance Beneath the palest of pale rainbows. For centuries the waters have worn away At the slate-smooth side of the fell And now from a polished rock flute they have formed Spout like a flared white peacock’s tail. It is not even yet November And bright berries the holly adorn, But without the sound of crashing falls There’d be nothing to welcome the morn. The songbirds now are silent From them no dawn chorus rings For temperatures falling with incessant rain Have dampened their spirits to sing. Whilst on Loweswater’s swollen feeder streams Leafy flotillas go sailing by, Leaves of oak and ash and chestnut Cascading from on high. And alongside the falls side by side are stood Golden fans of bracken And bright green ferns of the wood. The bright evergreen of ferns unchanging Whilst brackens change from gold to brown And will finally submit to winter Who’s sharp frosts will lay them down. Winged seeds of the sycamore too spiral down From branches that sway in the breeze, And red paint declares the sentence of death On diseased and unsafe trees. Plastic mesh across footpaths And signs to say, ‘This way is closed’ For torrential rains and gale force winds On the woods have taken their toll. Some of the older and taller trees Have been toppled by the gales And after seasoning and sawing Will become gates and fencing rails. Nothing here is left to waste, All will be gathered in, Brambles for jam, elderberries for wine, Sloes to colour and flavour gin. For after all, when gifts are free, To waste would be a sin.
When I drove west, gladly
listening, and writing,
the sun chased a cloud
across the face of
gargantuan Blencathra –
quietly present and glorious
And it dawned on me that
that life-giving source
and chase would do precisely
the same in a little
community gathered around
equally gargantuan –
quietly present and glorious
The iron clouds shake out their dust of stars, a galaxy to feather-fall and form in powder-patterns on the earth.
Slowly they pile in sleep-soft pillows on the stones, rounding the rocks, smoothing the scars. Lazily they lie on ledges and along the limbs of trees; in the settling silence as colour is covered.
The wind sweeps over the whiteness, snaking the surface in ripples and ribbons. Shifting the spaces to reshape the ridges. Sifting and circling the spindrift – high… to cover the sky.
The silver night crystals the cloaks of the moon-glazed mountains; shines in the glass-cold hollow of a frozen footprint, in the stillness in the timeless indigo under the gazeless glitter of the stars.
Almost closing time, the fag-end of a winter’s day. ‘The Goddess has left, but her Sanctuary’s still here!’ The young curator smiles. There’s an imprint on his chin, discus-shaped, as though at birth a god had placed a thumb to mark him. Copper pots, stone heads, a great clay urn, stone baths for ritual washing. Naked virgins parade unbidden in my head. We got lost getting here, had a row. I told him I was leaving. Now, sulking in the village square, he reads his maps. The curator’s black 4×4 goes past. He waves. ‘Don’t worry. I won’t lock you in!’ I’m alone. Fallen olives lie on stony ground; Sparrows rustle among dead leaves. How lonely to be abandoned by your worshippers; A beautiful goddess one minute, then cast aside for the next best thing. Among these fallen columns, olive trees in a ruined sanctuary, there are shadows, sky bruised after a storm, always the sea, undimmed.
Perhaps the Goddess still waits in the grove for Love, libations from the two-headed cup, sacrifices; great kings landing in their black ships, bees to nectar, along the golden sea-path. From me, sprigs of rosemary, picked this morning in the amphitheatre of Kourion, laid on this flat stone, are small gifts for what may be an altar, still.
Things were different then. The coal mine worked. Doors were left unlocked. Strangers welcomed. Though the eleven plus split up school friends, The National Union of Mine Workers and the colliery’s village people stood by each other. A cup of sugar easily asked for and given.
There’s not much I remember. I know I was given a mug with the Queen on it I think from school. There was a house – or was it a shop – decorated with red white and blue flags, Queen and Duke of Edinburgh statues waved from the balcony. They looked so real I think I might have curtsied. A maypole of moving patterns, the dancers shaped with coloured ribbons to music squeezed from an accordion.
I have no recognition of where this happened dad said was in the rec. with sports and games. Colliery band played dance tunes on the bandstand. Some street parties, trestles borrowed from the Miners Hall crackets and forms brought out of homes, best tablecloths spread with food.
That’s it, not a great lot to tell except – the weather was grey.