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 dVerse

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,
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.

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.

In love with death, a little bit.

Only the very young can be in love with death.
Oh, and the old. The old man’s friend,
we called pneumonia when she came,
hot-fingered, offering a sense-dulled end.

Those of us in middle life
who’ve chewed death’s raw, rank-flavoured meat,
are different. We’ve sat with death,
been in the room when she has found her seat

and found life sweeter, sharper, stronger
because we know death hovers there
behind the door, around the corner,
beside us in the clinic. Everywhere –

Santa Muerte reaches out cold hands,
her fingers clattering like castanets,
offering cream cakes, coffee,
a tray of cocktails. Lighting cigarettes.

But would our little lives feel quite so sweet
if she weren’t stalking round the house at night,
stilettoes crunching on the gravel?
It might be not. Perhaps the young are right.

My second “dark ballad” for Lucy, who is guest-hosting at dVerse. This is a little less obviously dark – and a little less camp, I think!

I lost you

I’ve considered the shade of your lips
as they fade from rose-red to bone-white
and reached for your cold finger tips
in the depths of the shuddering night

I have cried, I have screamed, I have wept,
I have watched for the pale light of dawn,
I have dreamed that you lay there and slept,
I have woken and found you were gone

I have heard the cold song your blood sings
on wild nights, when the moon rides the clouds
and a blade is a beautiful thing
when you choose from a veil or a shroud

I have curled in a ball on the ground
I have stretched from the earth to the sky
I have searched, but I never have found,
I have lived, but I never can die.

Lucy is a guest host at dVerse tonight, and asks us to write a dark ballad.

Hold me

Weave me a blanket
of moonlight and mist,
of sea-fret and sunbeams,
to wrap me and rock me
and soothe me to sleep.
Fill me a pillow
with starlight and shadows,
with snowflakes and whispers,
to coze me and doze me.
Good night.

A little quadrille for an autumn evening. Merril is hosting at dVerse tonight, and our word is “blanket”.


Beacons and battlements –
they build your churches
in high places, with long views.

I think we need you now,
warrior and angel, defender,
I think it’s time
to take a stand

in the heights,
to look out across the sea
and guide us home.

I’m linking this to earthweal’s Michaelmas challenge, and to dVerse’s vatic voice challenge, hosted by Lisa. There are lots of St Michael’s churches around here – always on high ground. Mounts, hills, and headlands.

The truth is

The truth is
your heart is as big as your fist.

The salmon’s a tin-foiled muscle
following the scent of truth
back to the breeding ground

and the swallow flies a trail of truth
across the gleaming sea
the glittering desert
to build a house of mud

and I just want a small truth
like a white pebble
in my pocket

but your lies
set bush fires
your lies
melt ice
your lies
break the world in two
your lies
are killing us

truth is a feather
on the tongue

a snowflake falls and melts
a million snowflakes
a million billion
form an avalanche

a starling
forms part of
a great moving shape

a fish
swings silver
in a sheltering shoal

and we are stronger together
standing against
your burning lies

Grace is hosting at dVerse tonight, and asks for protest poetry. I’m not sure this is one to shout at the barricades, but I am so sick of being lied to by politicians.