NaPoWriMo 29 – Inspired by a favourite.


Yesterday I planted dreams, hopes,
Expectations. I planted
Warm summer days,
And the sweet weight of a berry,
The sweet weight of a heart-shaped berry,
Juice heavy. I planted
Red sweetness, seeping
Into thick, white cream,
And four jars of summer,
Stored against the cold.
I planted a garden party,
And a blood red layer
To a cloud of meringue.
I planted stained lips,
And sticky fingers
Scrabbling for treasure
Under shading leaves. I planted
A punnet of pleasure,
A small trove of rubies
To be defended –
Stalwartly –
Against the massed ranks
Of slugs, and birds,
And the squirrels’ thieving hands.
I planted a summer fete,
A jug of Pimm’s,
And a single strawberry,
Stolen in the sunshine,
Warm in my hand,
Bursting tang
In my own mouth.

Tomorrow is the very last day of NaPoWriMo 2017. It’s a bit sad. Today we are asked to take a concrete noun from a favourite poem, play with it, free associate around it, and then make a poem from that. I chose “Millions of Strawberries” by Genevieve Teggard – a childhood favourite. 

NaPoWriMo 28 – a Skelton

What the hell!
A ghazal?
No puzzle!
I’m away!
On it!
But this theme
Makes me scream –
Rhyme scheme
Nilly –
Too silly! –
Tight beat:
Two feet.
This thing
Won’t sing,
Can’t string
It out.

A Skelton about Skeltons. A meta-Skelton, if you like. For NaPoWriMo, which is hurtling downhill now, towards the finishing line.

NaPoWriMo 27 – exploring taste

The tastes of summer float upon the breeze,
Look, and you’ll find them, here among
The tang of berries, ripped up basil leaves:

Lick salty skin from playing in the sea’s
Wild rolling waves the whole day long –
The tastes of summer float upon the breeze –

Picnics laid out beneath green shading trees,
Faint woodsmoke tang, that floats and weaves among
The tang of berries, ripped up basil leaves –

Vanilla kisses soothing grass-scratched knees,
Wild thyme, the flavour of a sky lark’s song,
The tastes of summer float upon the breeze –

Pods popping, bright green shiny peas
Bounce on your palm, and roll upon your tongue,
The tang of berries, ripped up basil leaves.

Relish it all, before the summer leaves,
Flavours fade quickly, and the nights grow long,
The tastes of summer float upon the breeze,
The tang of berries, ripped up basil leaves.

NaPoWriMo invites an exploration of taste. I struggled with inspiration. The Red Queen advises Alice:  if in doubt drop a curtsey. If she were a poet she would advise: if in doubt, try a villanelle. 

NaPoWriMo 26 – looking back from the future.

The Room of Cards

Welcome to the Room of Cards –
my favourite room. I’ll show you round.
See all the faces, looking out,
not smiling. No, we’re not sure why.
Maybe a teeth thing? Teeth were

All plastic? Yes. Yes, I know –
such wealth. Imagine how it must have been.
All found by plastic miners, and brought here
for their historical significance.

They are significant. And beautiful.

This case puts them into context:
a bag. Yes, plastic, hasn’t lasted well.
Inside, a smaller bag, a purse –
all plastic. Lots of cards, but only
this one with a face on it. A plastic pen.
A plastic wrapper, contents unidentified.

I know. They must have bathed in plastic,
frittered it, squandered it.
Unimaginable wealth…

Anyhow: this is my favourite. See?
A little girl. We don’t get many children here,
but there she is. The word is “zoo” –
who knows what that means? Yes!
Well done. A place for animals.

Think what she must have seen.
An elephant. A lion, perhaps.
Giraffe. And now we look at her,
across the centuries.

It makes me tingle, just to think of it.


This is only just a poem, and not a piece of flash fiction. NaPoWriMo won’t be with us for much longer. Make the most of it. 

NaPoWriMo 25 – explore a small space

This car is full of ghosts,
echoes of us, trailing
our muddy boots, wet swimming costumes,
snatched coffees.

We’ve lived here. Spilt
water, secrets, fizzy drinks,
shouted at the radio, the sat nav
and each other. Told stories
of success, and friends who’ve
failed us. We’ve slept –
heads lolling on the
long road north.

We’ll clean it out (of course)
before we sell it. Gather up
faded receipts for teenage clothes,
stray lego bricks, crumbs,
seashells – collected and forgotten –

but perhaps the future owner
will still feel our presence –
catch a waft of woodsmoke,
or a whiff of chlorine, or the
sweet vanilla kiss of ice cream –
hear a giggle (or a quibble)
from the back seat, or
the endless litany of “I spy” –

or maybe, the radio will play
Ed Sheeran, and the car will fill
with our four voices – sing along-
out of key, perhaps, and out of time,
still driving down these country lanes.

NaPoWriMo asks us to explore a small space.

NaPoWriMo 24 – marginalia

A fine day is best for this work –
we all agree – these long days,
when the sun rises at lauds with us,
follows us through the day.

Winter is hard: our fingers
stiffen and crack, we huddle
close together, as we file out,
making our way towards the chapel –
Prime, Terce, Sext – but days like this
when light falls brightly
through the high arched windows,
making the dust dance
like angels on the heads of pins – that,
and the mild buzz of Sister’s voice
reading from the endless Book –
send my mind slipping out
of this cool, scratch-filled room,
until I’m crouching once again
in the long grass of the bottom field,
bees bumbling round me, hawthorn scented,
watching the hares box in the meadow.

I’m distracted.

Sister Martha pulls me back
into the room. Such long, slow days,
of patient copying, words
punctuated by the bell: Sext, None, Vespers –
marching past. My fingers stained
with ink, not soil, or blood,
my body withering, not wearing out,
grinding the pigments with my hands,
not stirring soup, or pushing back
a child’s damp fringe. Maybe
it’s better so. A bride of Christ.

I’ve drawn a hare, armed him for battle.
I recollect myself, smile
at his long ears, turn back
to copying, watch the letters form
as my pen moves across the milky page.


The image is from pinterest: rabbit warrior Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, France ca. 1294-1297 (Boulogne-sur-Mer, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 130II, fol. 319v)

NaPoWriMo 22 – a Georgic

Pruning the apple

It’s a winter job –

When the soul of the tree

Is curled deep in the roots – 

A slow job, of pauses,

Consideration, judicious.

A job calling for thought, and tea,

Stepping back, thinking twice,

Cutting once. Not a hatchet job,

Not at all. A coaxing and nudging,

Encouraging growth. You must

Think of a goblet, a chalice,

Designed to hold sunlight,

The warmth poured in,

Weaving its magic.

It’s more of an art

Than a science. 

Be patient.

NaPoWriMo 21 – something overheard

I only make things I like


I only make things I like, she said

As if life was as simple as that.

As if we could choose, cleanly

What we liked and disliked.


I only make things I like. I nodded.

You have to admire a woman like that,

Who knows what she likes,

Is firm in her conviction.


I wonder, though, if that really

Is the way to happiness? What about

Serendipity? The chance finding

Of a flavour? Hearing a tune


On a random station, wafting

From a car radio? Finding yourself

In an unknown park, where

Cherry blossoms float like feathers?


Tasting a different drink, in a different bar,

Kissing a stranger,  taking the wrong bus

To the wrong place, but finding something

That you didn’t know

And loving it anyway.



NaPoWriMo 20 – the sporty one


Simon says “Rei” and they all bow –
that breaks the silence, and the line,
and suddenly the dojo’s full of movement –
kids circling, looking for their zoris,
gis flapping white. Most are flocking
to their mums, but over there
two boys are grappling, practising
ran dori, and I hear talk of uchi mata, uchi komi.
One girl is cartwheeling across the tatame,
Revelling in her arms’ strength,
swinging a circle, and then landing,
bringing her feet down solid on the mat.

Out west, gannets are circling,
wings flashing white, weaving
above the waves. They swoop and dart,
Make sudden plunges – knives
through the water. I hear them calling,
and I think they must be joyful,
revelling in their wings, testing their strength
against the water and the wind.

NaPoWriMo asks us for a poem that uses sporting terms. My son is a judoka, so this is for him.