Birch trees

What could a birch tree be, except a girl?
A young girl, poised on the edge of a dance
with her arms wide, and her hair uncurled,
loose round her shoulders; and her friends
clustered around her, whispering secrets,
rustling and murmuring in their pale dresses,
telling each other which bird did this,
and what the squirrel said. Nobody guesses
how much they see, the supple birch trees,
that sway as they wait, feeling the notes
sung by the robin, played by the breeze –
they can’t resist. Even when they’re old
they sway like that, to music half-forgotten,
melodies half-heard, echoes of rhythm.

This is for Grace at dVerse, who is asking us to use imagery and/or personification. there is, of course, a nod to Robert Frost here, and I’m still wrestling with the sonnet form. The rhymes got pretty slant-y in this one.

A poem for Sherry

hard to think about gifts
and then the starlings come
scattered like letters
on a page, moving like words
forming phrases

the rustle of pages

hard to think about gifts
and then your words
like birds coming
carrying weather
on their wings,
the change of seasons
the slow roll from winter
into spring

the migration of birds
is an act of hope

A poem for earthweal where Brendan is hosting and asks us to think about gifts. This poem is dedicated to Sherry, because her comments are always so joyful and so appreciative. She always makes me feel like I’m a better poet than I think I am. I guess I’m using her to represent my online wolfpack – I feel connected to people I’ve never met, just shared words with. The international news has a different flavour now that I have links in Florida, in Australia, in New Jersey, in Pakistan, so many places…you’ve all become important to me.

This is not a coffee pot

This is not
a coffee pot

it’s sunlight
casting crisp shadows
across a square

it’s a bird fluttering
into a bright blue sky

it’s every city that
ever welcomed me
with open arms
and crowded pavements

it’s chiming waterfronts
clanging with boats
and narrow backstreets
blue with shadows
and a small square
where a child plays
with an orange ball

it’s a fountain

it’s a cool marble table
wiped down
by a man in a white shirt,
nodding to acknowledge me

it’s a painting
of a woman
holding a single rose

An object poem for Mish at dVerse. I love my little Moka pot. It’s a one cup pot, so it’s very selfish. I use it every day.

It’s raining

You’re slipping through this grey world,
as an eel might glide through kelp,
sinuous, friction-free. You’re moving,
I am still. Still here, still waiting.
Rain beads the window. I’ve no view,
only the misted glass, the empty
platform. I wonder where you are.

You move towards me, cutting
a path through nameless towns.
The world mutates around you –
fleeting images – an empty trampoline,
a washing line, a field of flowers –
freighted with meaning, vanished
in a moment. Me, I’m still.
My coffee’s steaming, softening
a world of plastic seats, bright, bitter orange,
scuffed grey floor, and sugar sachets,
split and spilling baby diamonds
across the table top. It’s raining,
and I’m sheltering and wondering.

You’re movement. A cadenza.
I’m a pause.

I’m the host at dVerse tonight. I’m asking you to have a conversation with a poem, write a response to a poem that has touched you in some way. This is my response to Laura Bloomsbury’s poem In The Rain . I loved the sense of movement in this poem, and the unresolved anticipation. I always enjoy Laura’s use of enjambment. I actually hadn’t realised until I went back to the original that I had mirrored the ending so effectively.

There are lots more poets and poems to view at dVerse. Check it out. Have your own conversation with a poem.


The first sunrise of 2021 was a smear of raspberry pink over a monochrome world that crunched under foot. We discovered a new walk, and that we have made some new friends over the last year. At the top of the hill we looked back over a landscape that we know well, made new and different by a change in perspective. I think that perspective will be the only thing that changes over the next few weeks. Our plans are blown around like so many brown leaves. We’re entering a new lockdown. It’s like we’re not moving, we’re just bobbing up and down, waiting to set sail.

new snow
old landscape

Lill is hosting at dVerse tonight. We’re at the start of a brand new year, and Lill wants us to think about new beginnings.

The magpie sings

One for sorrow. You know me. I’m the bone-
marked, evil bird. You bow to me
if you should see me when I’m all alone,
to turn away misfortune, pay the fee.
Don’t forget, though, two for joy –
you never call me lucky. Three
for a girl, four for a boy –
nest-plunderer, fledgling killer – yes, that’s me
and five for silver, all those sparkly things,
you say I steal them. Six for gold,
you hoard it up in necklaces and rings.
Seven. The song is done, the secret’s told –
Thief. Killer. Evil. That’s how you accuse me,
but all these crimes are yours, humanity.

Sherry is hosting at earthweal this week, and asks us to take the voice of an animal. I decided I would take the voice of the first animal I saw. A magpie swooped up out of the hedge, so I went with that. I rather like magpies – I am a corvid fan – but they have a very bad reputations. Corvids in general seem to attract strange stories and to be seen as evil. We are very quick to pin personalities and motivations on birds and animals, when they are just minding their own business. There’s a belief that magpies have damaged songbird numbers, but in fact it’s the anthropocene effects of intensive farming, insecticide use and loss of habitat that have really damaged the songbird population.

My other project for 2021 is to work more with forms. I have a real block about sonnets, so I’m tackling the sonnet first, to try and beat it into submission. This is my first one of 2012. Bear with.

I’m also posting this on dVerse OLN, hosted by Sanaa this week.

Day 25 – Solstice Light

We wait for the light,
that one spear of light
that will reveal it all.
What are we now?
Curled and squatting,
cramped in this narrow
space, this tight-walled
passageway. Womb,
or tomb? We crouch
between life and death,
our breath clouding,
our fingers busy, busy,
hoping for light.

Light to penetrate
this winter dark,
to seek out the carvings
spiralling around us,
to dazzle us,
our dark-widened eyes,
to show us
what we may become.

Happy Christmas. Thank you so much to all of you – poets, readers, people who made such kind comments, people who shared and re-blogged. I have enjoyed this so much, I’m so proud to share so many wonderful poems. It has been a joy.

Day 24: Pōhutukawa

On the downslope from solstice
our true December trees

are brazen, bloody-bright. You can keep
your dark, doomed pines, all smooth tradition

for the baubles – sadness-
-in-waiting beneath fake snow –

that never worked out here
on the edge. Our festive day is gaudy

with the tinsel-glare of sun, we grew up ripe
to glut ourselves on light this time

of year. The young, the old, they really crave
the exact same simple gift. And pōhutukawa,

she shows you every year how to age
shamelessly. Carried on her auntie’s back

toward the squalling new year, you’ll hear
her last dirty old laugh with your eyes

open (none of your damn grace required), flinging
all that made the new gods whisper scarlet wanton

to the hot south wind, spreading fierce
naked claim and delight. Every path,

every last road out of here, it pants
with spent red. It’s so easy

to get weighed down trying to make light
for the whole family. Oh, it’s not what you give.

It’s what you leave,
it’s how.

The Pōhutukawa is the Aotearoa New Zealand “Christmas Tree”. This poem is by Ankh Spice. I find his work extraordinarily moving.

Ankh Spice is a sea-obsessed poet from Aotearoa (New Zealand). His poetry plays with natural imagery, environmentalism, identity, myth, magic, and mental health, and insists on being written despite him. It’s surprised him continuously over the last year and a half by being published almost a hundred times, mostly in countries far away from his beloved island coastlines. Two of his poems have been nominated for Pushcarts and two others for Best of the Net. He’s a co-editor at Ice Floe Press and a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine, and was a guest reader for the Deep Time edition of Black Bough Poetry this year. If he’s not out running and brewing poems by the Pacific, you might find him online, talking in flat Kiwi vowels about poetry and goats, surrounded by his sea photography and macro shots of weeds and flowers.Twitter: @SeaGoatScreamsFacebook: @AnkhSpiceSeaGoatScreamsPoetrySoundcloud poetry readings: Linktree: At the time of writing this, he’s working on far too many collections of poems at once, recording more audio and video readings of his work (because people bafflingly seem to enjoy them) and getting nervous about his second feature poet slot at Cheltenham Poetry Festival. He’s also attempting to write his first CNF for a solicited publication, and sitting on a couple of exciting but as-yet-secret poetry-related announcements, one for later this year and one for 2021.

Day 23: Peering into the Kitchen

It’s Christmas Eve and the kitchen is a mess
everything crusted with flour as more pastry is made
because someone has eaten all the mince pies already.

The jelly stuffed full of rum soaked sponges has finally set
providing a foundation for our Christmas Trifle
and the Christmas Cake has been iced
with red rocketships rather than holly.

Meanwhile someone is melting dark chocolate
to make a Yule Log the way Grandad used to
and not looking guilty at all.

I smile and close the door on my adult sons as
their chocolate fuelled laughter resounds in my ears.
Christmas is finally here!

I think we all know that feeling. The moment when Christmas really starts! This is from Kim.. Kim Whysall-Hammond is a Londoner living in a small country town in Southern England. An expert in obsolete telecommunications, Kim believes, against all evidence, that she is a good dancer. She has been published by Silver Birch Press, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Amaryllis, Total Eclipse, Fourth and Sycamore, London Grip and Crannóg among others. You can find her and more poetry at