All I remember of Urbino

The stone was parchment coloured
and the shade was clean sliced blue tinted
and we ate pasta in a quiet square
as if we’d never eaten it before,
as if we were a painting of the first
people to eat pasta. We were art,
and we drank wine, impossible,
clear as sunlight, clean as water,
and the afternoon strolled by,
pausing to watch us, framed there.

Lillian is hosting us at dVerse. She’s in lockdown and she wants to travel the world on our words. In our house, we’ve been thinking about Italy. A lot.


Golden lads and girls

“Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney sweepers, come to dust.”

Walking up the lane with the kids. We can watch time pass as the flowers change. The primroses are almost over, and the bluebells are here. The last of the cherry blossom petals blow off our neighbour’s tree. The wild orchids are having a final flourish. There are dandelions everywhere – golden lads and girls – and my two teenagers still blow the clocks.

I walked late last night, thinking about this prompt. Shakespeare and Basho – such different writers. Shakespeare piling up his glittering words, creating complex cities of meaning, inhabited by dreams. Basho showing us a single flutter of a butterfly’s wing. It’s hard to see how they are linked at all.

And then Will lets the jewels fall for a moment, and reminds us that all this will fade. Only the words will be left. The golden dandelion becomes a ball of fluffy white, becomes a seed floating over the hedge.

chiff-chaff on a twig

where we once saw the full moon

caught in the branches

A haibun for Frank at dVerse. He asks us to consider Shakespeare and Basho, both great masters of their art, but so different. The starting quotation is Shakespeare, from Cymbeline – Fear no more the heat of the sun. Basho said it in 3 lines.


I think we’ve gone beyond the place

where maps will help us. From here on in,

we’re fumbling our way through. We’re using caution,

feeling our way, blind fingered. All those little caves,

those dead ends, all those burial chambers,

so small, so snug, so cold. Just fit for one.


I don’t think that there’s a way

of leaving here. Only the way we entered,

and we can’t go back. We must go on,

even though the dark is full of danger,

strange sounds that echo round,

unplaceable. We are unplaced,

displaced, dysplased. We’re looking out

for runes, for messages sent from

the deep places, from the past,

we’re searching for inscriptions,

carvings, paintings – a running bull,

a horse, a hand-print.


Words don’t work so well here.

A lizard curls, a child swings out

over a stream of light.

In every chamber,  there’s a dragon’s egg,

waiting to hatch.

For Brendan at Earthweal. Wondering how we find  our way now.

Bookshelf poem

Walk west –

exploring green lanes –

walk west again –

hidden beaches

secret water

the wild remedy

the places in between.


A poem I found on my bookshelves, for Bjorn at dVerse. 

Let’s give it some flesh:


Then, we could walk west,

exploring green lanes,

lingering. Leaning on gates. 

We will walk west again –

we’ll find hidden beaches

plunge into secret water.

This is the wild remedy

for all hurts, these are

the places in between.



She waves her hand dismissively,
makes untidiness a grace –
“Things find their own place to be

look how the leaves grow on the tree,
seek to feel sunlight on each face”
She waves her hand dismissively.

Victim of lost glasses, and lost keys,
letters that disappear without trace –
things find their own place to be –

and offer serendipity –
a photograph, a scrap of lace.
She waves her hand dismissively

as I arrange things tidily,
set every object in its place.
Things find their own place to be

I think, when it’s all down to me
to sort, and throw, and clear this space,
recall her wave dismissively,
let things find their own place to be.

Laura is hosting Poetics at dVerse tonight, and thinking about order. She has introduced me to Elizabeth Jennings, a poet who wrote in a very structure way, despite her own chaotic live. I have chosen to use a form – I think I need a bit of anchoring at the moment.

The empty platform – prosery for dVerse

He’d never spoken to her, but this time, in his uniform, would be his last chance, and he intended to use it. He patted his pocket. The poem he’d written her was there.

The train pulled into her station, and he stood at the window, looking to see where she got on. Nothing. No one left and no one came on the bare platform.

She had to run the last quarter of a mile after her bike got that stupid puncture. She was going to speak to him today. All the young men were being called up – who knew when he’d be gone?

She reached the platform as the train pulled out. She clocked his uniform and gasped, ran faster, reaching for him. Too late.

Just something white – a piece of paper – fluttering from the open window – a butterfly set free.

I’m hosting Prosery for dVerse tonight – 144 words of prose, incorporating a line that I get to choose for you! I’ve chosen a line from “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas – No one left and no one came On the bare platform”. His death at Arras in 1917 has obviously influenced my thinking tonight.

It’s never silent.

It’s never silent here.
There’s always the clatter
of crates, the clang of cages,
the voices bargaining,
the cluck of frightened chickens,
the squawking
the screeching
the flapping
the scratching
the desperation.

It’s never silent here,
though the nurses wear
soft shoes and speak
in lowered voices.
There’s always the
steady pant
of the ventilator,
the low mechanical
machine hum
the ping
the alarm
that brings them running.
The desperation.

Sherry is hosting at Earthweal this week. She writes about the connection between the way we treat the animals we share this world with, and the great epidemics we have seen. She asks us to consider this connection, but to write whatever is inspired by this.

We all have to make sacrifices, I tell him.

He’s not drinking milk
each morning. Milk’s the thing
that sends us out into the town,
and shopping’s not a pleasure now.

I plan our meals, now, carefully,
avoiding waste. We check the list
before we buy. We’re not so frivolous.

Our pleasures shrink. The sky is blue –
unmarked by plane tracks. That’s
a miracle. We journey out
on foot: the lane is longer
now. Distance is measured
in our footsteps. I have never seen
so many primroses.

I caught the scent of violets and we
spent several minutes looking for
wild orchids, on the lane
that’s usually a conduit,
just the way that takes us
to the road. We bomb along it,
hurrying – we’re always late.

Suddenly, there’s nothing
to be late for. It’s all here –
work, play, music, words.
The home we built

out of the things we loved – that
painting that you bought me,
that green bowl, the table
that we knew would scratch
and stain and bear the story
of our family life – all these things
we spent our whole time
leaving. Well, now we look
at them again.

This poem is for Brendan at Earthweal, who asks us to think about the parallels between this pandemic and climate change. I think he’s right, there are many. I guess what I’ve been struck by is how much less we are consuming at the moment, just in my small household. All those things you buy just because they were dangled in front of your nose are suddenly not there. I don’t think I’m missing them. I do think I’ll have a shopping list at the end of this, but it will be of things I need (all my socks have given up on me) not things I just kind of want because they’re pretty. We’re driving much much much less. We’re walking more. This could be sustainable.



I have been in the hands of nurses –
lost my dignity – had it handed back
like a box of tissues. I have felt
the warmth that glows through
the plastic gloves, I know their kindness –

and yet, in pain and fear,
our mammal selves seek skin –
hold my hand tightly –
we’re all that new-born baby
seeking comfort
on our mother’s belly.

I haven’t hugged my husband
in six weeks, she told me.
That’s how we show our love now,
at a time when hugging’s
what we crave. I’m lonely.

Dying, we deserve that press of skin,
that last handhold, before
the loneliness. And we deserve
to take that comfort from the dying.

We forgot that we were animals,
that we built tribes, herds, flocks.
We didn’t realise how much
we needed all those other senses,
living through our eyes,
typing our words, connecting
through our screens. I miss
your arms around me, and
the scent of you, and your
cracked laughter. Most of all,
your touch.

This is for Bjorn at dVerse– a poem written in time of plague. I’m not sure I’ve quite hit the brief. I’d like to think we’ll all be changed, that we’ll realise the value of the underpaid, under-appreciated keyworkers who keep the world running; that we’ll remember the multi-millionaires who dumped their workers in the shit; that we’ll recall which politicians acted in the interests of their country, and which ones acting in the interests of a small elite. I’m not sure that we will. I hope so.