About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.

My humorous anecdote – for dVerse

We have a funny story
that we often try to tell,
so funny, when we start it,
we giggle for a spell

We can’t remember how it starts
or recall how it ends,
so perhaps we shouldn’t share it
with our dinner party friends

but it’s really so amusing,
it always makes us smile,
so we keep on trying to tell it,
and we struggle for a while –

we argue on location,
can’t recall the time of day,
but it was so hilarious,
we must tell you, we say,

about this thing that happened,
though we cannot say quite what,
a story with no ending,
no middle and no plot:

There were definitely two bottles,
or maybe six, or four,
and we know there were two men involved,
though maybe there were more,

it’s such a funny story,
and we really want to share,
but we can’t tell you how it began,
and maybe you had to be there;

but still, for us it’s easy
to make each other smile –
we just say “Gin and Limca”
and then giggle for a while.

 

I’m not very good at amusing anecdotes. I’m more of a witty comeback kind of gal. This is what happens when me and my husband try to tell our favourite funny story. This is for Mark Walters, who is guest hosting at dVerse tonight, and asks us to tell a true life funny story in verse. 

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Rain II – quadrille for dVerse

She’s wearing faded denim cut-offs
and her hair is sun bleached, salt dried.
Oh, she glows.

She’s drinking cider, bright with
sunset, and there’s dry sand
between her toes

“I love the smell of rain” she says,
looking all around her, smiling
like rainbows

And this is the second one. Another rainy quadrille for Kim at dVerse. 

Words

Who would I be without books,
if I could only scrawl my name,

or not even that, just make a mark
thumb pressed in black ink,
writing a mystery, marks dancing
and empty masque on a white stage?

all those words unread, unwritten –
words I have gobbled up, plots
I have sucked dry, narratives gulped
and guzzled, and then my writing,
words scratched, scratched out,
scribbled, scrawled, scraped out of me,
words flung freely, words floating
in the air around me, waiting to be grabbed
and grappled, as if I’m catching fireflies
made of indiarubber.

What happened to all those “me”s?
Did we talk more, tell stories,
pull an audience in around the fire?
Did we carry the soul, the story,
the history of whatever people
we chanced among? Did we knead our
words into dough, cut our words
out of apples? Did we stitch stories
into samplers? Did we daydream
as we moved dust from place to place,
see plotlines moving in the flames?
Did we chant poems to the moon?
Did we pray? Did we whisper our words
into our children’s ears as they slept?

So many words. I have lost count.
More darkness than star, more grass
than flower, more sea than foam,
I have buried myself in them,
feasted on them,
vampire suckled myself on them.

Brand new cities:

I   New York

In Tiffany’s, the diamonds glitter
like the Milky Way. In Macy’s
there’s a perfume counter selling
true love, so they say. On
Fifth Avenue, a yellow taxi’s
pulling in. The woman climbing out
has never had to worry
about payday. In Central Park,
a soldier puts his kit bag down
to start a conversation with a cat.

II   Dublin

In Brown Thomas, there’s a man
flicking through soft bright ties,
and thinking about shoulders,
white shoulders rising out of
creased, white linen sheets.
He’s got Italian silk socks
in English leather shoes,
and he’s going home tonight
to a woman he’s betrayed.
On Stephen’s Green, a girl is lying
in the grass, watching the clouds
drift by, and wondering
if she’ll always feel this way.

III   London

In Harrods’ food department
two women meet and chat.
“Cheerio!” they say, turning aside,
the thin one with a basket full
of cheese, and chocolate, and pate:
the plump one was just looking,
totally came here for the kicks;
and in Hyde Park, a woman pauses
to watch a squirrel skip
from tree to tree, tail swaying,
and wonders if she ought to
Instagram it, but she’s left it
all too late. The moment’s gone.

This is for Lillian at dVerse, who asks us to “noodle” with brand names. See how many you can spot! I liked this so much I couldn’t choose, so I’ve done three linked poems, one for each supermarket shelf – cereals, candy bars and perfume. I’ve copied the whole prompt below, for your delight and edification. I can usually summarise, but this one is long and complicated:

  • Choose ONE category FROM THE THREE GIVEN BELOW.
  • Include AT LEAST TWO of the brands listed IN YOUR CHOSEN CATEGORY, in the BODY of your poem.
  • Use the brand name’s words as words.
  • If one of the brand names you select has two words in it, try to use the two words in the same order as the brand does.

PLEASE NOTE : If you choose the Candy Bar category, do not write a poem about candy bars, including three of the candy bar names in your poem. Instead, use the words to refer to something other than a candy bar. Noodle with the words in the brand name! 

HINT: You may find the need to use a form of the word – as in “mounded” or “mounding” instead of “mounds”. BUT – a synonym for the word will not count. IE using the word “piles” instead of “mounds” will not fulfill the prompt.

Here’s the 3 Category lists (remember to choose only one category!)

CANDY BARS
Charleston Chew
Butterfinger
Chuckles
Kit-Kat
Snickers
Milky Way
Mr. Goodbar
Mars Bar
5th Avenue
Oh, Henry!
Pay Day
Baby Ruth
Mounds
Krackel
Twix
3 Musketeers

PERFUMES
My Sin

Tabu
White Shoulders
English Leather
Ambush
Charlie
Opium
White Linen
Beautiful
Romantica
Obsession
Red Door
Allure
Insolence
Midnight Poison
Diamonds
Untold
Reveal

CEREALS
Kix

Cherrios
Froot Loops
Apple Jacks
Trix
Life
Fruity Pebbles
Total
Lucky Charms
Cap’n Crunch
Special K
Alpha-Bits
Chex
Cocoa Puffs
Harvest Crunch
Count Chocula
Frosted Flakes
Puffed Wheat

 

Birdlife – haibun for dVerse

The birds have built their nests, and are waiting for their eggs to hatch. It’s a moment of pause for them – soon they’ll be spending their time feeding, feeding, feeding, because nestlings are hungry and need constant attention. They won’t have time to watch the bluebells going over, and the blossom falling. They won’t notice spring turning into summer. They’ll be interested in food and predators – their world view narrowed down to the basics of survival. Their young will keep them busy until the moment the fledgelings make their first stuttering flight. It won’t be long then, until the young birds fly away to make their own lives, and become rivals for territory.

The rooks are different. They welcome their children into the tribe – the more the merrier. Their nests are spreading through the ash trees, an aerial housing development, with penthouse views, and excellent, if noisy,  neighbours.

 

waiting for eggs to hatch

blossom falling, spring turning

flight through the ash trees

 

An erasure haibun for Xenia Tran, who is guest hosting at the dVerse poets’ pub tonight. She asks us to write a haibun that alludes to compassion or self-sacrifice, without naming it directly. 

 

Fountain

The sun created a jostling queue at the drinking fountain. Jake stood his ground, though, gulping cool water from the spout, then filling his bottle. He’d seen the pale girl again, sitting in the shade. If he offered her a drink, maybe he could sit with her for a while. She looked thirsty.

 

Fifty-three little words for Sammi Cox’s weekly challenge. 

On the Farm – SOC

I’d like to go to Baabados, or Buck-buck-buck-ingham Palace, or even the moo-n, but I’m stuck here on the farm, all mud and squelch, and the smell of animals. I’m up before the sun, milking and minding. I’m late to bed, after feeding and cleaning out. I work in the sunshine, I work in the rain. I’m asset rich and cash poor.

I work with the basic elements of life. I’m an alchemist, weaving sunlight and water, earth and oxygen, into bread and cakes, cheese and pancakes, apple pies and beef bourguignon. Without me, you’d be a hunter gatherer. Without me, there’d be no Taj Mahal, no Mona Lisa, no Romeo and Juliet, no  Spiderman, no Statue of Liberty. I’m the foundation on which all culture was built. It was my work, my labour with dirt and muck, my grubby hands and aching back, that freed mankind to gaze at the stars and to dream of glittering cities, mirrored ballrooms, and the Ode to Joy.

I’m there beside you at the breakfast table. I’m there when you pull on your cotton socks, your woolly jumper. I’m there as you stir sugar into your latte, as you snap off a piece of chocolate, as you pull up the zip on your shiny new boots.

I’m the story under the story of civilisation. Don’t forget me.

 

This is for Linda’s Saturday Stream of Consciousness. The prompt this week is “on the farm” – with extra points for incorporating animal noise puns. I thought this was going to head off in an amusing direction after those excruciating puns, but it didn’t. That’s SOC for you. 

Fairground – dVerse MTB

I feel like cotton candy: sugar and air
You know I’ll taste of fairgrounds –
sugar, grease, too much adrenaline.
Right now, the world’s a helter skelter
and I’m just barely hanging on here.
I’m screaming. It’s all too much –
I mean the music, and the lights, and
that girl swaying where she stands.
The whole world’s hot dog shaped,
too smoky and too salty. We’re heading up
and out – my heart’s a chair-o-plane,
a roller coaster, and this soft pink
camouflage is fooling nobody. Not even me.
I fired the gun and hit the ace of spades.
I threw the ball. I missed the prize,
but I got you, hot hand clenched tight and sticky,
face flashing in the broken light
from the headspinning waltzers. You and me,
we never walk, we run,
we never talk, we laugh,
we never stop. We keep on going,
way beyond the last ride,
and the dark place, where there’s someone
retching noisily, and someone moaning,
way beyond the Ferris Wheel, up high
beyond that great Big Dipper. Hold me tight –
I’m only just still here, I’m everybody’s
candy dream – and you? You’re restless, and I know
you will always be restless. It’s in your blood.

 

This is for Amaya at dVerse, who gives us a fascinating prompt. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out, but I think we got somewhere. Amaya told us to take  two quotes from two different books. We can choose them randomly, or with purpose. One forms the first line, one the last, and we must write the poem in between them. I chose a fairly random quote from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and The Virgin in the Garden by A S Byatt – both books are highly recommended, and neither have much to do with fairgrounds. I opened at a random page and chose a line that spoke to me.

Excerpt from “With trolls through the mountains” by Lady Emmeline Graham-Jones.

We had followed the two trolls for several days. It was hard work – resting by day, tracking by night, following them mainly by the noise they made as they pushed through the forest. The native guides were unhappy about the whole thing. They don’t follow trolls, they told us. Trolls can be dangerous and unpredictable.

I have heard this so many times. In fact, there are hardly any reported cases of unprovoked attacks by trolls, either in central Europe or in Scandinavia. They have been known to crush unwary sleepers, but there is no evidence that this behaviour was deliberate.

These trolls were a pair, but they were long past breeding. They moved slowly, and were relatively easy to follow, as they left a swathe of flattened vegetation behind them.

I believe I am one of very few field researchers who can say they witnessed what came next. As the sky lightened above the forest canopy, the trolls embraced, and then settled down to wait for sunrise. From my hiding place amongst the tightly woven bushes, I watched the petrification spread across their skin as the sunlight moved over them.

We set up camp quite close to them, and I was able to examine them. I could see the vague outlines of the larger troll’s facial features. Was this the male? The female had curled herself next to him. You could imagine he was standing guard over her sleeping form.

That evening we broke camp, and waited for the sun to set. Night fell, but the trolls didn’t move. We waited quite some time – two hours by my chronometer – and eventually I approached their sleeping forms. By torchlight they appeared to be still in a state of petrification. Eventually, I reached out and touched the surface of the female(?) troll. Stone. The process of petrification had not been reversed by darkness.

I believe that I was priveleged to see the last sentient moments of an aging troll pair. That they chose to enter a state of petrification side by side is not in doubt. This is one of the strongest arguments I can find to justify the description of the troll as a sentient, feeling being, not unlike ourselves.

I was very moved. The following morning, I made a wreath of woodland flowers and laid it between them, where the stones touched each other. I’m not ashamed to say that I wiped away a tear as I did so.

 

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.  I continue my exploration of the natural history of the troll. Obviously.