Poem. Or not. A quadrille for dVerse.

I’m not writing you a poem.

Don’t even ask me to.

I’m not scheming a
rhyme pattern,
and I’m not

not scanning, not
alliterating, and
not doing that
enjambment thing

that you go on about.



Victoria at dVerse is asking us to quadrille a poem poem tonight. I’m not. 



I am the queen of words,
and their slave.

You come in, and vomit
your words in front of me.
I kneel, sorting through
the sharp shards of words
that cut my fingers,
the dull, slimy words
that choke me. I construct
some kind of story from them,
we construct some kind of story
from them.

I am the witchbitch that built the tower,
and the princess trapped there,
and the wyrm that guards it.

You wrap your arms around your words
and hold them back from me.
I offer you a hundred nuanced shades
of meaning, and still you keep
your mouth closed, lips tight over
clenched teeth, words trapped
in the darkness.

I am the old woman holding out the apple,
and the girl who bites it.

There are words smeared dripping
over the walls of this small room,
there is a stink of them, rotting
in the corners.

There are words floating free
like glistening insects,
rising on shafts of light.

I will make your story.


Linked to Poets United, and to Real Toads, for a Real Toads prompt – words –

Mad Betty’s house

The hut nestled under the bank at the end of the lane. We crept towards it. We could hear her singing – a wordless song, or, if it had words, they were in a language we couldn’t understand.

Jack sniggered.

“Mad old bat!”, he whispered. “Grab some ammunition!”

The boys gathered up handfuls of stones and mud, as silently as they could. Nobody spoke. Jack led the way. When I tried to follow, he turned and stood in front of me, legs apart, hands on hips.

“No girls allowed,” he said, ginger head cocked back. “This is men’s work”.

Men! They were a bunch of smelly, scruffy little boys. They were a bunch of pigs.

I didn’t care. I wasn’t even going to watch them. I climbed the bank, and found myself a place to sit, back to the trunk of a beech tree. The light through the leaves made a pattern on my skirt. I could hear Mad Betty singing her aimless song, and I think I fell asleep.

I woke to a commotion – shouts and cries, the sound of stones pattering on a wooden roof, and the splat of mud against a wooden wall. Nothing from Mad Betty, no screams, no shouts. Not even the wordless song. There was silence for a moment, as if the world paused, and then a squealing sound, the sound of some terrified animal.

A herd of pigs went helter-skelter past me, into the undergrowth. I swear that one of them turned to look at me as he went, his ginger bristles shining in the afternoon sun. I turned to follow where they went, but was distracted by Mad Betty starting up her song again. The pigs suddenly didn’t seem important. I sat back down, and let myself drift away.

For Sue Vincent’s photo prompt.  I’m enjoying getting back into a bit of flash fiction.


Handwriting – haibun for dVerse.

I write. My words spill over pages – scrawled words, jotted down hastily; poems pencilled into notebooks; my daily words, sandwiched between first drafts and shopping lists. Endless lists.

I write in clinic. I’m not going to sit over a keypad while you talk to me. I write in meetings, to keep my monkey hands occupied. I write on the chalkboard at home. Give me an appointment, and I’ll write it on the calendar. I’m analogue, me, as well as digital. More analogue than digital, maybe. Sometimes I’ll write a word just for the pleasure of shaping it.

hawk rides the clear air
earth is a map beneath her
waiting to be read

Kim is keeping the dVerse bar, and asking us to write a haibun about handwriting. Is it a dying art? Well, mine is neither dying, nor an art…





This is my response to Louis MacNeice’s poem Snow. It’s for Brendan over at Real Toads who asks us to respond to a poem that inspired us. 


You came in, and suddenly
the room was full of roses,
as if you were the tipping point
that made it all make sense.

Inside, trapped warmth, rich scent,
and all those roses crawling up the walls,
across the curtains, and the glass vase
swelling on the wooden table,

one petal on the shiny surface, fallen.
Outside, winter,all lines and angles, woodcut.
The world turns in analogue, infinitesimal.,
but we see the moment when the load shifts.

World is evolution.

I’m struggling here. This room too
soft and fragrant. I could sink,
but there is something urgent
out there, beyond the glass.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes—
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands—
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.


Boundary – I

The boundaries are quite obvious here,

this land of deep lanes, high hedges,

odd shaped fields, that must have some story

to explain their angles.

The stream is another boundary,

between this parish and the next,

though my neighbour,

bringing up her daughters,

crossed the stream for school and chapel.

The hedges by the road

are well clipped now, holding back fields,

where there was scrubby growth,

so that I seldom see a deer these days.

The rooks know no boundaries.

Their world spreads out below them,

open wide, but then again,

I see their sentinels, on branches

or on wires, and wonder how

they mark their boundaries in the air.

So, I’ve been thinking about editing and redrafting. I mostly write to prompts, and generally post quite quickly – which is great! – lots of instant feedback, not too much to ponder over. However, I tell myself that I can go back and re-draft and edit, and I never do. I’ve decided to make that explicit. This was written for Sammi’s prompt – Boundary – and it’s a very rough splurge of words. I’m going to give it a month, have another look, and put up the next draft. Let’s see how far we can go. If anyone’s interested on linking up on this, let me know, and we can think about how we do it. 






Maud Gonne’s reply

When I am old and grey, how will I sleep?
I won’t nod by the fire, I will stride forth
In the sleet and the rain, looking north,
Looking south, looking west, looking east –

For those who love me know I am wild,
I will not be trammeled by love,
I will be free as the skylark singing above,
My old frame wil hold the heart of a child

So why should I sleep when the grave calls me to it?
There is time enough for sleeping then;
And this love of yours, that drips from your pen
Was always a cage, and I always flew from it.


Of course we all know that Yeats was a great love poet, and “When you are old” is probably one of his best known poems. If you don’t know it, what are you doing reading my stuff? Go and read some Yeats and come back later. Jilly  is hosting at the dVerse bar, and asks us to write a poem in answer to another poem. I’ve just bought a book called The Emergency Poet, by Deborah Alma, and low and behold, there was William Butler, in all his glory. I always felt a bit sorry for Maud Gonne. She couldn’t help it…this is her reply. Special apologies to Jane Dougherty…


Stone story

I’m the last one awake, now. My sister, Emerald, was admiring the snow on the mountains when the sun came  up. Standing on tiptoe. Ha! She never learns. She’ll wake up stiff this evening, and she’ll be complaining all night. Ruby, Beryl and Jasper were curled up nicely, like little piglets, while I told them a bedtime story, and they just drifted off. I could see them petrifying while I watched.

At least the days are short this time of year, and tonight the moon will be full, so they’ll be able to run around. I’ll make some tasty mud pies, and we can play some games. Dad might come home. He’s been gone a week now, and we all miss him. He went to look for mum. I don’t think he’ll find her. I think she was Taken.

Aunty Quartz got Taken last month, and the month before that it was Uncle Granite. Cousin Shale went some time over the summer. He’d moved over to sleep on the other side of the pond, but he’d wave at us regularly, and then one night we noticed he wasn’t there.

Don’t tell the little ones, but I’ve heard it’s humans that Take them. They hoist them up with special slings while everyone’s asleep and stony, and then they carve them up, and turn them into garden walls, lintels, ornaments. It’s disgusting! Emerald says she’s seen them, but she’s a terrible liar.

Dad says it’s not true. He says not to worry, but I do. I don’t want to be made into a wall. I’d love to stay awake and keep an eye on everyone.

I’m so sleepy, though, and my legs are heavy. I can’t move my head any more…yawn…I’m just going to close my eyes…



“I have seen flowers come in stony places…”
John Masefield


But really, how lucky am I?

Who else has seen what I have?

Because I have truly seen

an ocean of bright flowers,

but I have also come

by chance on beauty,

in the great, bare, stony,

unloved, un-nurtured places. 


This is another one for Amaya’s prompt at dVerse. The Masefield poem is, I think, a poem about trust and hope. It’s very short, and it’s one of my touchstones. This is really a riff on it, I suppose. 


Bold Tribute for dVerse

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.”
⁃ Louis MacNeice
from, ‘Prayer before Birth’

If I let them come, what then?
Will I not let them bend me,
Will I not let them make me kneel?
Not inside, anyway, where love
forms a stone pillar around my soul.

If I let them take me, what then?
They can bend my body, and bow
my head, and I will let them,
knowing the body is only a place
where love dwells.

If I let them bend me, what then?
They can break my body, but not
the diamond spirit I keep within me.
They can spill my tears,
they can scatter my dreams around me,

they can tear my words to shreds

and I will still hold myself other,
for the soul is wise, and the soul knows
that these things are only fragments,
and somewhere there is a whole.

If I let them kill me, what then?

I am only a dream, and dreams live on.


It is Martin Luther King Day, and Amaya at dVerse is asking us to take a quote about freedom, and make a poem out of it, as a tribute to this great man.  She offers a number of quotes, and I have chosen this one by Louis MacNeice. The words of the quote are printed in bold, and the poem is built aroudn them.