#DeepTimeDay

It’s #DeepTimeDay, marking the publication of Vol 2 of the Deep Time poetry project. If you head over to Twitter, that hashtag will lead you to a feast of readings by a bevy of wonderful poets. Matthew at Black Bough Poetry has curated/created something wonderful here. I’m so proud to be part of it.

Halloween Haibun!

My childhood Halloweens smelled of burnt turnip – much harder to carve a lantern from than pumpkins, but much spookier, too. They tasted of wet apples and toffee. My husband’s Halloweens were colcannon and barmbrack, and handfuls of nuts and raisins. My children had a bit of all that, over-laid with pumpkins and cheap sweets and tacky costumes.

My son was never bothered about Halloween. He doesn’t like dressing up and doesn’t like sweets. He was cajoled and coaxed along by his big sister (who knew he’d hand his booty over to her). The last costume she persuaded him into consisted of his usual clothes and a single black line drawn around his neck. “I’m the ghost of someone who had their head cut off”, he announced at every door we called at.

amber light
a hand reaches out
darkness falls

Frank is hosting at dVerse tonight, and we’re writing Halloween haibuns.

Ritual

As the year turns into darkness,
I go into the cave to look at the wolf.
I am clean and hollow. I am priest
and sacrifice and cave. I’m where the wolf
lies bound and gagged.

Once I thought naming gave power –
Tom Tit Tot dances round his fire-
but now I know that power lies
in the wolf, and in the cords that bind him.

Did I sacrifice enough? The flesh.
I lie down. I lay me down on the cold slab
and let the light slice me –
the hot thrill of blood between my thighs,
the light shafting in, finding the altar.

Daily, we chant the runes
that strengthen the cords. Three norns,
three fates, three wyrdling sisters.
Tom Tit Tot dances on, and the wolf
hungers and waits and grows.

For Brendan at earthweal. We are looking at Samhain/Halloween, when the old stories come creeping out of the forest. Tom Tit Tot is the English version of Rumplestiltskin, and I was going to write about him, but Fenris Wolf sneaked in and made himself at home.

The Green Man

This valley curves, he says,
just like an upturned hand.
It holds us gently.

His hands are carved from wood,
cragged over time. They’re strong enough
to lay a hedge, and soft enough to graft a tree.
He knows the right amount of twist
you need to pluck an apple from
its mother-branch. He works hard
but he knows to pause and watch
the rolling flutter of the fieldfare
as they cross the winter ground.
He puts his head back, gazing up
to catch the fierce joy of
the wind-tossed rooks.
The wild hare knows him, meets his eye,
the deer steps daintily towards him,
leading her fawn. They’re not afraid.

And yet we know
that any day now he could just shrug off
that rain-soft jacket that he wears,
that sagging hat, reveal the green fire
running underneath his skin, and let
the green life sprout and shoot and tendril
come spiralling and spilling from his singing mouth.

This is for Brendan at earthweal. He asks us to write about the spirit of a place – and keep it local. If you like listening to poetry, there’s an audio version here:

And iI’ve linked to dVersehttps://dversepoets.com/2020/10/22/mtb-let-your-words-ring-out/

A charm against serpents and other dangerous creatures

I wake alone, too early in this pale heat,
the petalled dawn glimmers around me, and I
am fox-curled,
snake coiled,
eyes hawked,
sleepless and dreamless.

What would you have made of me?
Garnets from blood,
sapphires from eyes,
white pearls from tissue,
opals from bones?

I was your diamond mine,
your jewellery box,
I was red velvet, crushed,
I was blue satin,
torn and plundered.

The consumed moon curls like a day-old crust of bread,
and I lean back into my yellow dreams,
my azure slumbers.
I dream of lemons,
nightingales,
of broken glass and
dripping honey.

This is solitude’s wish,
this empty bed,
these smooth, cool sheets,
and these white petals,
morning blossoms
falling, falling, falling,
so tender on my fevered skin.

This is for Laura at dVerse, who asks us to look at the work of Samuel Greenberg, in particular Loose Pages. I’ve taken five of his “charms” and tried to emulate his listing poem – but WordPress isn’t mad keen on fancy formatting. Oh well, I tried.

Grown up – quadrille for dVerse

My muck magnet
mud splattered
puddle stomping
jam smeared
crumb dropping
sticky fingered
paint splashing
pen scrawling
finger printing
juice spilling
boy
became
smart shirted
svelte suited
shiny shoed
smooth socked
slick haired
sparkly smiling
sweet scented
freshly shampooed
softly spoken
smooth talking
man

A quadrille is a 44 word poem. We write them at dVerse. De is hosting tonight, and our magic word is “magnet”.

Writing the wolf

I’m writing again.

I’m writing a wolf.
I write that his coat gleams like ice,
that his eyes shine like sunlight on snow.

The wolf says “no”.

I write his hunger. I write his belly
clenching against his spine,
his teeth biting down on air.

No.

I write the scent of life
clinging to leaf and twig,
a red thread running
through a labyrinth.

No.

I write the paw prints
ink on paper
the trail cutting away
to the horizon

I am drawn to writing about wolves at the moment. I don’t know why. I’m just writing it out of my system. This is for the dVerse Meet the Bar night.

Obby Oss

Masked, I’m mayhem, mischief,
I’m grab and run, I’m green shoots rising
I’m rain on dry soil

Masked, I’m spring and leaf
and blossom opening,
and the first sip of the bee

Masked, I’m silver herring
spilling and glimmering
across the quay

Masked, I’m ridden by the goddess,
and I ride her, until we’re just
a roiling, rutting ball
of limbs and lust and dust and seed

Masked, I’m Jack o’the Green,
Jack in the Pulpit,
Jack the giant slayer

Unmasked, I’m Jack the lad,
outside the pub,
swilling a final pint,

spewing galaxies into the gutter

For Brendan at earthweal. We’re looking at the shamanic power of the mask. The Obby Oss comes out on May Day, just down the road in Padstow. May Day is a big thing in the south-west of England.

Obby Oss image from the Royal Cornwall Museum.

Portrait of a fox.

The vixen slinks from bin to bin,
drinks at a puddle. She’s as quiet
as the night itself. Her cubs are waiting.

She pulls down a chicken leg,
a split bag spilling sugared doughnuts,
but she doesn’t pause to eat. She prowls –

a copper glimmer under neon lights.
She’s motherhood, caught in a frame
of lamp-posts, pavement, columns, city sky.

I’m hosting at dVerse tonight. We’re using the what3words site to generate 3 words that will lead you to a place in London. I’ve chosen feed, quiet and copper, which take me to the National Gallery.

The Storyteller speaks.

When we look at him through the wrong end of the telescope of time, what will we see? A lazy, luxury loving coward? No – I can’t allow that. History will see a brave and handsome prince who sacrificed himself for his people. And her? A square-jawed, argumentative woman? No, a fragile flower who takes the throne after her brother’s death in battle.

I make the stories, and the stories become truth. I bend things a little here, twist them there: our last queen was rescued from a tower by the king. That’s a good story that became history. Everyone knows it.

I invented it.

I don’t care about the kingdom, or the king, or the princess. I only care about the story. The prince will die in battle, his sister will become queen, and future generations will weep to hear it. Fetch my pen. 

Kim is hosting prosery at dVerse tonight. A story told in 144 words, including a quotation: “We look at him through the wrong end of the telescope of time”.