Halloween Haibun!

My childhood Halloweens smelled of burnt turnip – much harder to carve a lantern from than pumpkins, but much spookier, too. They tasted of wet apples and toffee. My husband’s Halloweens were colcannon and barmbrack, and handfuls of nuts and raisins. My children had a bit of all that, over-laid with pumpkins and cheap sweets and tacky costumes.

My son was never bothered about Halloween. He doesn’t like dressing up and doesn’t like sweets. He was cajoled and coaxed along by his big sister (who knew he’d hand his booty over to her). The last costume she persuaded him into consisted of his usual clothes and a single black line drawn around his neck. “I’m the ghost of someone who had their head cut off”, he announced at every door we called at.

amber light
a hand reaches out
darkness falls

Frank is hosting at dVerse tonight, and we’re writing Halloween haibuns.


As the year turns into darkness,
I go into the cave to look at the wolf.
I am clean and hollow. I am priest
and sacrifice and cave. I’m where the wolf
lies bound and gagged.

Once I thought naming gave power –
Tom Tit Tot dances round his fire-
but now I know that power lies
in the wolf, and in the cords that bind him.

Did I sacrifice enough? The flesh.
I lie down. I lay me down on the cold slab
and let the light slice me –
the hot thrill of blood between my thighs,
the light shafting in, finding the altar.

Daily, we chant the runes
that strengthen the cords. Three norns,
three fates, three wyrdling sisters.
Tom Tit Tot dances on, and the wolf
hungers and waits and grows.

For Brendan at earthweal. We are looking at Samhain/Halloween, when the old stories come creeping out of the forest. Tom Tit Tot is the English version of Rumplestiltskin, and I was going to write about him, but Fenris Wolf sneaked in and made himself at home.

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.

Grown up – quadrille for dVerse

My muck magnet
mud splattered
puddle stomping
jam smeared
crumb dropping
sticky fingered
paint splashing
pen scrawling
finger printing
juice spilling
smart shirted
svelte suited
shiny shoed
smooth socked
slick haired
sparkly smiling
sweet scented
freshly shampooed
softly spoken
smooth talking

A quadrille is a 44 word poem. We write them at dVerse. De is hosting tonight, and our magic word is “magnet”.

Writing the wolf

I’m writing again.

I’m writing a wolf.
I write that his coat gleams like ice,
that his eyes shine like sunlight on snow.

The wolf says “no”.

I write his hunger. I write his belly
clenching against his spine,
his teeth biting down on air.


I write the scent of life
clinging to leaf and twig,
a red thread running
through a labyrinth.


I write the paw prints
ink on paper
the trail cutting away
to the horizon

I am drawn to writing about wolves at the moment. I don’t know why. I’m just writing it out of my system. This is for the dVerse Meet the Bar night.

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.

I’m haunted

The forest is still full of wolves
and the darkness is still full of forest –

at night the trees crowd up
against the windows. We have festooned
the house with fire, stretched thin and bright,
and still the wolves pad through,
eyes glowing amber, bright as table lamps.

Three o’clock, and I’m awake
with the hot weight of wolf-breath
on my skin. By morning, they are gone.

Yes, the moon is lonely. But what can I do?
These are not dogs, they’re wolves,
walking out of the shadows,
weaving between the trees
that push their branches through the roof
and into the night air.

A poem for earthweal. Brendan asks us to consider the lost, the extinct, the driven away, and wonder how they might haunt our landscape.

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”.