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.

Empire of dirt – poem for dVerse

That glorious ruined face

that voice

I cry each time

because it hurts me

deep in my chest

and the grief of knowing

that this was the song

that said goodbye

hurts more than you know

hurts more than I admit

and he brought himself

to this music

always always always

he gave us

something of himself

and then I remember, always

always, 

that you were the one who left

one bright day

with the sun before you

and you asked for water

and nobody could give you

just a sip of water 

for your poor dry mouth

just a taste of water

to drift away on

and you left it playing

in your room

and everyone you love

couldn’t save you

couldn’t keep you

and I wsh

you could have had

that one sip 

of cool water 

This song always makes me cry. I’m crying now. And it reminds me of a friend of ours who died too young. It’s for dVerse. 

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Guess what I saw this morning? – poem for dVerse.

There was a dragon
in the valley, curled
like a white cat:
each scale a pearl;
each breath a cloud
of soft white silk –
’til the whole valley
was a bowl of milk –
as the sun brightens
with the coming day,
such dragons fade.

De – the wonderful WhimsyGizmo – is hosting at dVerse tonight, and here be dragons. Our quadrilles are infested with the pesky things…

You are the rain – ghazal for dVerse III

I love you as the dry earth loves the rain
and your voice is as sweet as the sound of the rain

you have walked through the desert with me
your footsteps as soft as the gentle rain

you have nurtured me like a young tree
that turns its leaves to the touch of the rain

you have come to me through the darkness
the sound of thunder, the driving rain

you have filled the fruit on my boughs
with sweet juices for those who thirst for rain

you have softened the glare of the sun for me
gentled the heat like cooling rain

you have swept me down to the wide ocean
a river filled with the bounteous rain

you have washed the veil from this princess
and left her naked in the summer rain

So, I have given in to the ghazal and gone for the lushly romantic. Each stanza stands alone, I think, and together they create a flower with many petals. Or something like that. This is for the dVerse Form for All project for June, hosted by Gay. I’m linking up to the dVerse Open Link night, too.

Walking out on Easter Lane – poem for dVerse


I think I’m looking for something –
something to stitch me
to the world, the way the birds
stitch the hedge to the sky

I will drink the wingbeat of the swallow

or I’m looking for something
to carry with me
through the day

even today, the sky grubby
low overhead
trapping the sounds

who would have thought there’d be so many wrens?
suck it down, the warning call,
the zip trill song

and the sudden shock
of crows thudding
from the last ash

embla
ask

wood-pigeon fires bullets with its wings
heads out
sweep and glide
across the ploughed field
greening now
sharp spikes of life
in rows and squares and lines
geometry imposed
on the round roll of the land

scent of violet
and the first dog-rose

so sweet
so sweet

I’m stitched in place
slightly skewed

warning thud thud thud
rabbit sentinel
guarding the warren
home

drink that cool and clean

I’m stitched in
with fine running thead

lush green silk

faded string

tie the knot now
hold fast.

Anmol is hosting at dVerse, and he asks us to walk and observe. Take a walk, remember one, imagine one, and make a poem.

Green memorial – haibun for dVerse.

We took the quieter path through the trees. It runs alongside an old canal, a memorial in itself to local people who carved it out of the steep hillside. We walked the old towpath – single person narrow – above the river and beside the canal itself, empty of water, but full of nettles, red campion, dog’s mercury. We stopped to read the names carved into the bark of a beech tree – Layla 7 years old Jack 4 years old. We wondered who they were; worked out they might be in their thirties now, with children of their own. We wondered who had carved this green memorial, and why. The beech tree kept its secret, even though the leaves were whispering all around us.

trees are green guardsmen

river water slow and silent

time blurs all our names.

I went on a poetry walking workshop on Sunday, with Chris from Poetry Pin. We walked, wrote poems, and pinned them to a virtual map, so that future poetry lovers can read them in the place they were written. Along the way we found a beech tree with these names carved into the bark. We wrote a poem there, so if you’re ever on the Tarka Trail, you can read it and connect with us on a wet Sunday in May.

This haibun commemorates that walk. It’s a memorial of a memorial, maybe. It’s written for Frank, who is hosting haibun night at dVerse tonight. It’s Veterans’ Day in the States, and we are asked to write about memorials.

World – ghazal for dVerse II

I went out to look at it, the great and glorious world,
And brought it home with me, and made an inner world.

I walked past a tree that danced with bees,
And brought the buzzing home into my golden world

The hedge was laced along its length with white,
Spindrifting on the sea in my wild world

The sky above my head was a grey pearl,
And the sheen lives on in my small, rounded world

The deer and I stood still and gazed
Eye meeting eye, both silent, in my quiet world

And now I sit, a princess in my tower,
And write the words that form my paper world.

My second ghazal. I’m struggling with the non-narrative nature of the form. I wouldn’t normally think of myself as a narrative poet, but I obviously am! This is for the dVerse Form for All prompt.

Rook – ghazal for dVerse I

Rook spreads his wings and takes to the sky-road,
for who else can say they are king of the sky-road?

Early morning, he rises from the highest branches,
calling his own name, king of the sky-road

Crowned in midnight, cloaked in darkness,
he is well-arrayed, the king of the sky-road,

as he rides the storm clouds, a black knight battling
the might of the wind, he is king of the sky-road,

with his wide-splayed wing tips, his black silk feathers,
he swallows the sunlight, this king of the sky-road,

and as the sun sets, he calls to his kingdom
“Good night, I am here, the king of the sky-road”

and the princess in me yearns to fly with him,
to see the last rays of sunlight, be queen of the sky-road.

Over the last few months, dVerse has been offering a “Form for All” prompt, looking at a series of different forms. This month we are looking at the ghazal, a repeating, associative form, quite different to a lot of “western” poetry. If you want to read a great introduction, check out yesterday’s dVerse prompt, where Gay Cannon is our guest host.

Regular readers may recognise some of the imagery in this poem. I find it helpful to get to know a form and see how things develop. This involves being quite playful with it, and exploring its strengths – and weaknesses. To help this process, I’m re-cycling some lines and images, and seeing how the different forms give a different overlay to a similar concept.

The last verse is my “signature” verse. I’m a Sarah, which means princess. We are supposed to weave a reference to our name, or use the name itself in that final stanza, so I’ve used “princess”.

Over the green edge

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Come away, then,
come with me,
over the green hedge
into the mystery –

there are beaches there
of shimmering pearls,
gathered each day
by smoke-eyed girls

and a woman who’ll
weave you a golden gown
of graveyard lichen
and thistledown;

there’s a castle built
of sunset clouds,
where the music is fast,
and sweet, and loud,

and you can dance there
all night, all day,
’til you dance your
childhood dreams away –

there are market stalls
selling bags of stars,
and berries that taste
like chocolate bars,

and horses as blue
as distant mist
who’ll ride you away
for a silver kiss

and you won’t come back
the same as you are,
for the world is big,
and the sky is far –

so come away now,
come with me,
over the green edge
into infinity.

I’m hosting at dVerse tonight, and I’m showcasing the art of Mary Frances. This poem is written for one of her tiny, found landscapes. You can see more on Twitter at @maryfrancesness, and the dVerse post will give you more links to see more of her wonderful work.

On the richness of the good earth – quadrille for dVerse II

Here the soil

is rich red,

rust red, blood –

so that where

the turf is torn away

it bleeds

like peeled flesh,

and each white flint

a shard of white bone

and that green grass

and those flowers

a veil of decency

over that nakedness.

The second quadrille of the night for me. The word is rich, the rule is 44 words, the host is Kim, and the prompt is up on dVerse.

Rich – quadrille for dVerse I

“That’s rich,” she mutters, “That’s rich” –

brooding on grievance, like a fat hen.

“That’s rich”, and switches off the telly,

folds the paper, lets the curtain drop.

All that richness sours her,

curdles her stomach, carves deep lines.

It doesn’t nourish her.

It’s quadrille night, 44 words, one of which is the prompt word. Tonight Kim is our dVerse host, and our word is “rich”. Lovely.