Meeting her gaze –I want her to see
sisterhood — I want to say
“Look, I’m scared, too, I’m prey —
the shrapnel spinning slow-motion
in my chest — unravelling me”

but she sees the stone tipped spear
the bronze headed arrow, the
cross-bow bolt.

— Some slight

movement of mine, some twitch
sway breath — an explosion
— of movement

— she is gone

For Brendan at earthweal, where we are meeing nature’s gaze.

The god kings don’t believe in death

The god kings gather their grave goods

a spearhead
a bronze arm ring
seven arrow heads

as if they can build a wall

a jade figurine
a clay jar containing herbs
a gold disc

between themselves and death

a pot of spelt
a terracotta figure of a horse
a silver leaf

as if they need to feed

a sheaf of flax
a woven blanket
a twisted torc

as if they need to serve

a leather purse
a bunch of keys
a jewelled pin

their souls on that long journey

a jet brooch
a bundle of poems
a lock of hair

but we look at their bones

a MacBook
a mountain bike
a paddle board
a Starbucks cup
an inflatable mattress
a Samsung Galaxy
a pair of trainers
a Big Mac and fries

and know that their souls starved.

For Brendan at earthweal.


Death is my sister
beside me, slipping
silent through
the jungle. She
sharpens my teeth,
polishes my claws,
and I lead her
to the red scent
of life, and
together we eat.

But now, I feel
her cold hands
measuring the
space between

my ribs, and soon
I will turn to her
and offer her
my throat.

For earthweal, where Sherry asks us to think about the world of big cats.

Footprints in the snow

I don’t ask if you remember
those footprints in that cave –
mother and child, walking.
I wonder if she took a moment
to look back at where they’d walked,
or if she kept on moving,
eyes fixed ahead.

Our footprints will be gone
by lunchtime – washed away,
meltwater merging into mud,
and looking back, it’s hard to know
which of us is mother, which
is child. You’ve grown.
Sneaked up on me, like time.

This is for Brendan’s earthweal challenge on Deep Time. There’s a bit of synchronicity here – I had a poem called “Pech Merl” published in Black Bough’s Deep Time II collection last year. Walking in the snow at the weekend with my son reminded me of the parent and child footprints we saw in the caves there, several years ago. I had that in my head trying to be a poem, and then Brendan’s prompt came along. If you’re interested, there is a Deep Time soundtrack with lots of great poetry readings here:


atoms share electrons
forming lattices:
strength in community

and we are mostly
empty space
and energy

sharing time
as if it mattered

sharing words
and moments

out of motion

and we are planets
a central sun

caught in its pull
but free to flow

For Merril at dVerse, who asks us to write about connections.

Weirdly, Brendan at earthweal is thinking about connections and entanglements, too.

I think there may be more to come on this.

Day 17: Advent for Mad Sweeney


Coldest now up this tree,
shagged by ice and wind
and haled by high moonlight.
Halcyon, yes, if you’re dead.
Or leaning that way, re-learning
Advent in the bittering slog
of freezing winter nights.

Below and beyond I see
warm lights, chimneys billowing
fire-smoke and children caroling
house to house their Christ.

How I miss those cloistered
enclosures where a man
was everything he said
and a sword’s amen
counted for everything
in the pile of heads.
The mead and the feasting,
the white breasts of the maid,
all festively enveloped in
songs for the King.

Christmastide beckons
to all that’s lost inside:
But not so tonight
for this man of the mound,
exiled by the new God
to a cold aerie’s cross
far from hearth of
a welcoming mind.

Here where the wind
bleeds stars onto branches
and the wolf howls Jesu
I’m wild and keening,
ditch-delved by frost.

My Advent locks its step
with Infurin’s dead host.
Chanting in starlight
the charm of the lost.

Thank you to Brendan for this poem, one of a series of poems exploring the mythology of Mad Sweeney. If you’re wondering: Infurin, is a Celtic otherworld known as the Land Beneath the North. Brendan lives in Florida USA. By day he is an editor and husband, in deep of night he scribes the Otherworld. Brendan is the creative the force behind the earthweal project Poetry of a changing Earth. The grief is real – so is the hope.


I just feel that we should be planting something,
pressing our fingers deep into the dark earth.
What, though? I can’t think of it –
I just feel that we should be planting something –
hopes – dreams – fairy lights?
I don’t know. Memories of sunshine?
I just feel that we should be planting something,
pressing our fingers deep into the dark earth.

I’m planning to spend December playing with triolets. This is for earthweal – a triolet of hoping and waiting.

The beavers

The beavers are beavering, dammit.
They are doing their thing: gnawing,
logging, building, damming. That’s
what they do. The beavers are beavering,
changing the landscape, creating pools
and slowing flows. Suddenly there
are dragonflies and clean water,
and the sharpened pencil stumps
of trees, because the beavers
are beavering, dammit, doing
their beaver thing. Beavering.

Beavers are a native British species, absent for 400 years, but now making a comeback. Down our way, they are (ironically) living on the River Otter. I know. They’ve been their since 2008, they are breeding, and they are making a difference both on the ecology of the river, and on local flood risk. All good. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested.

This is for Sherry at earthweal, who asks us to think about how eco-systems fit together.


Yeah, well, clothes shopping is my only vice –
you’re crazy not to buy it at that price –

you see these shoes? I have to wear them twice,
they’ll have paid for themselves, at that low price.

That red top? Yes, I’ve worn it, what, 3 times?
I got this new one – why not, at that price?

Those trousers? Well, they never fitted right –
I bought some others. Can’t believe the price.

The blue one? Washed it. Doesn’t look so nice.
I’ve just replaced it. You won’t guess the price.

This stuff is throwaway – it’s just designed
to be worn once, and tossed. Look at the price.

It’s crazy not to. You won’t pay the price –
I tell you, shopping is my only vice.

Jim Feeney is hosting at earthweal this week. He asks us to invent a fictional voice, the voice of someone who doesn’t care about climate change. There was a news article on the BBC a few months ago, showing mountains of discarded UK clothing that had been dumped in Ghana. It sickened me. I might have gone on longer, but I ran out of rhymes…


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.