Caterpillar summer

One summer we kept caterpillars – nothing special, the green ones that attack cabbagess. Maybe I got sick of killing them, the green mush between my finger tips. Maybe I thought it would be educational. We kept them in a propagator, fed them cabbage leaves, made sure there was water in there. Not many survived. A lot were attacked by some predator that ate them from the inside. The smell of old cabbage was vile. We persevered.

Finally we had a few chrysalises. We took the clear plastic lid off the propagator, and left the base tray open in the outside toilet over the winter. We forgot about them.

One spring morning, I went out to feed the cat, and opened the door of the outside loo. There were the butterflies, finally hatched – white-winged and fluttering. I called the kids and we admired them, and then let them fly away – to lay more eggs on more cabbages, I guess. To have their moment in the sun.

souls soar in spring
butterflies soak up the sun
green leaves unfurling

Kim is hosting at dVerse tonight, and our haibun theme is insects.


I miss you – poem for dVerse

This phone’s a graveyard

of dead conversations,

an old handbag

where love rattles

like a dusty sweet. I mean

I’m sad and lonely

and I miss you

and my heart’s

a screwed up ball of paper

with a half-written poem

scrawled across it.

Bjorn is hosting at dVerse tonight, and he’s looking for metaphors. Not similes, oh no – the hardcore version. Get over there and read some poetry – or write – or both.

A cage in search of a bird…Kafka for children

There once was a cage
that longed for a bird –
it was lonely and sad,
it was empty and bored;

So it thought of the things
that a bird ought to need,
like a soft place to sleep,
and some water and seed,

and a perch it could perch on,
a swing it could swing,
a mirror to gaze at,
a bell it could ring

and a door that could close
and keep out everything
that might threaten a bird,
and could keep the bird in.

Then along came a bird,
and it looked, and agreed
there was somewhere to sleep,
there was water and seed,

and a perch it could perch on,
a swing it could swing,
a mirror to gaze at,
a bell it could ring,

and it saw it was good,
but it still shook his head,
and it hopped, and it flapped
its wings, and it said

“A cage is a cage
and the sky is the sky
and I am a bird
and a bird has to fly”.

And the cage gave a sigh.

Then it thought and it pondered
all day and all night
and it thought of a way
it could make things all right

and it took off the door
that kept out everything
that might threaten a bird,
but would keep the bird in.

Now the cage has a bird
that goes flying each day
and comes back at night
to talk and to play

and to tell it great tales
of the things that it’s seen
and the sounds that it’s heard
and the places it’s been

and it sits on the perch
and it makes the bell ring
then curls in its nest
and softly it sings;

and it always comes back
from the places it roams
for a cage with no door
has become a fine home,

for a home is a home
and the sky is the sky
and a bird is a bird
and a bird needs to fly.

This unholy mash-up was inspired by Amaya who is hosting dVerse tonight. She gives us some quotes from Kafka and asks us to use them to create a poem or story for children. I chose “I am a cage, in search of a bird.” from The Blue Octavo Notebooks – once I saw that, I was hooked. I’ve channeled Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) here, I think. I’ve read her books over and over again in my time…

I initially wrote it with gender, but I have un-gendered it. First time round, my cage was a she and the bird was a he. I wonder if that would be a different story? How about if the cage was a he and the bird was a she? But maybe it’s confusing to have two “it”s? Feedback is welcome.

It is, of course, a story with a moral, like all good children’s stories.

Heat death – poem for dVerse

The extinction
of the last light
will leave us
in the dark

we blew out each candle
each flame
each lamp
and now we reach out

fingers touching
tip to tip
and we whisper our fear
in the cold
and endless night

Quadrille night rolls round again. Linda is behind the dVerse bar tonight, asking us for 44 -word poems including the word “extinction”.

Pilgrim – poem for dVerse

Such a small boat
to set sail in, so far
across the world,
such a small cargo
of faith and hope
and not much else

and the white petals
drift like sea-foam

and such a small boat
leaving a small town,
the water shimmering
beneath the bow
and not much defence
against storms
except that small cargo
heavy with hope
weighted with faith

and the sea foam
drifting like white petals

and all the while
gazing for the horizon
and someone vomiting
and always the sound
of someone praying
and the sound of a child
sobbing, and the call
of the sea-birds
and the stink of the hold
and the salt pork
and the cracked skin
on your hands,
held up always
in supplication

and the sea foam
and the white petals

and the homecoming

Lillian is hosting at dVerse tonight, interrupting her holiday to tend the bar. She’s in Province Town on Cape Cod – head over to see a fantastic video of a whale watching trip, and some great holiday snaps. The Pilgrim Fathers landed there first, but didn’t care for it (why???) and moved on.

Interestingly, my local town has a tradition of building ridiculous bonfires, and over the next couple of years the town Cavaliers are going to be finishing off a replica of the Mayflower. You can see what they are doing here:

They’ve built various other things in the past – HMS Victory, the Great Fire of London, a castle, the local church (the one that was blown up in the English Civil War). They raise loads of money for charity. They put a huge amount of work in, and it all culminates in a massive bonfire and fireworks display. They do it in a spirit of love.

Our next nearest town, Bideford, was the port from which the first colonists of North America left to establish Roanoke.

This poem was inspired by those brave people setting out in those tiny boats to travel crazy distances, and it’s a little link between me in Devon and Lil in Cape Cod.

Waiting room – poem for dVerse

I’m good at waiting –
I’ve been practising –
honing my skills in darkened car parks,
railway stations.
I’ve done the pre-dawn bus run
for the bus that’s always late,
I’ve sat in front of sports halls,
sprawled on river banks,
watched the arrivals board
and wondered where you are –

but now, this waiting is for me –
I’m good at it, I’ve practised it –
this book, this too-strong cup of tea
is mine. The soft-soled nurses
metronoming by, are all for me,
the seats set introspectively,
the tatty-cornered magazines
that I won’r read, they’re here for me,
the smell of fear and disinfectant,
that’s for me; the clock, tick-tocking,
scalpel-handed, slicing up my time,
that’s mine. I’m waiting patiently.
I’ve practised it. I’m good at waiting.

I’m hosting at dVerse tonight, and we’re writing poems about waiting.

Prosery – the dryad

A leaf-green gown, a magpie feather cloak, a pair of birch bark shoes – these memories were left here with the trees when I entered the human world, my heart snagged by a huntsman with cunning fingers and sky-blue eyes. His kiss meant more to me than a leaf-green gown, his dark hair was softer than a magpie feather cloak. I gave him three whispering children – two green-eyed boys, a blue-eyed girl. I watched him age while I did not.

I’m returning to the forest now, to mourn him, slipping back into my woodland clothes, as if I never was away.

My kind forget carelessly, though. I’ll wander here until my heart is snagged once more, by a pair of brown eyes, a smile like sunlight. I’ll leave my secrets lightly then, go visiting the human world.

It’s Prosery night at dVerse. Flash fiction inspired by a quotation, a story in 144 words. Tonight our host is Merril, and she gives us a line from Jo Harjo, the new US Poet Laureate. She’s chosen this line:
“These memories were left here with the trees”
from the poem “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War.”  You can read the entire poem here.

The poet’s search for imagery – poem for dVerse

I’m looking for an image
that will set the page ablaze –
like petrol thrown
across a formal dining table,
draped in white linen,
set with crystal glasses
and candles burning
in bright candlesticks –

an image that will turn
the whole world over,
like an old carthorse kicking up
his heavy hooves,
tipping the load out,
barrels rolling down
some steep street,
apples bouncing –

or an image that will turn
your face to mine,
will make you think you know me,
even though these marks
scratched on a screen
are all you really see.

Frank asks us to think about imagery for MTB night at dVerse. I generally use a lot of imagery, I think, but being asked to focus on it immediately sent any kind of anything out of my head, so that’s where I started.

Antipsychotics – poem for dVerse

The tablets stop my dreams

he said

and so he stopped the tablets.

who am I,

to deny a man his dreams?

This was a tough, tough prompt for me. I’ve worked with mental illness all my life. I’ve always avoided “mining” it for material, because it seems disrespectful to the people I work with. This little comment has stayed with me for 25 years now. Thank you, Laura, for a challenging dVerse prompt.

A weathered bench – an inkling for Misky

The name half worn under the green that’s gathered here

this bench sunned in love and rained in fear

and always facing outwards to the sea

because he loved it here

and I can see him striding out

in wellies, always, coat in winter,

hat in summer – got to protect

that bald patch from the rays,

and the dog that never came the first time

because there are too many smells here –

shit and creatures and the nasal semaphore

of other dogs that come and go –

and then him sitting in this spot,

unscrewing the flask,

taking a deep breath, a lung-clearer,

and always facing out towards the sea.

Just a quick stream of consciousness for Misky, who inspires with a twiglet.