This being human

This being human is all about telling stories,
it’s travelling in a twisting caravan
across the desert, depending
on each other for flour,
for water, for a soft red blanket,
for bandages and apricots.

What currency do we have,
but stories? The story of “Good morning”
“How’s this for weather?”. The story of
“I love you”, the story of childhood,
the story of how to stay safe,
how to be eat well, how to survive
being lost, how to hold tight
to someone’s hand.

It’s whispering
our stories at night, the stories
of stars — of men, and beasts
and gods, and flaming suns.
It’s singing our stories as we wash our plates,
as we wait for tea to brew,
as we clean our shoes.

It’s shouting our stories in anger,
It’s crooning them in love. It’s sitting, silent,
round the campfire, listening.
We are stories, wrapped and tangled,
offered with love or fear or laughter.

This telling stories is all about being human.

For Kim at dVerse – a poem that begins “This being human is…”

Swift song

I am swift in flight,
born to pierce the air –
the sky weeps blue tears
and I am one. I am
the screaming in the wind,
the sunlight streaming –
I am an arrow shot
from sunrise to sunset,
the shot that
starts the summer.

My quadrille for my own prompt! My first quadrille prompt for dVerse. Come and have a look!

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.

Love is a bit like tea and tea is a bit like love

Love should be made afresh each day, like tea.
Does that sound too mundane? Consider now
the cup I bring up every morning, free
from thoughts about repayment, and then how
you put a cup beside me when I’m at
my desk and working hard, because you see
that I might need it. Let’s extend it out:
our teapot holds enough for the whole family,
and when our friends drop by we offer tea
to say “we love you, and we’re glad you’re here”.
We offer tea as comfort, sympathy,
as a small warmth, protection against fear.
Love’s measured not in words, but in our deeds –
I say “I love you” when I make you tea.

Ingrid over at Experiments in fiction has asked us to write a sonnet for St Valentine’s Day. Wierdly, she has given us the theme of “love”.

Tiger

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.

How do I write about war?

All I have is memories of memories –
like feathers, plucked and swirling –
the fires they lit at the end,
in places that had been kept dark
for years. Dancing. My father
handing over hollowed bread,
a telegram that broke a woman.

Bodies in the water.

The horses, being led away,
through the farm gate. Lost.

A city full of women. Children
without fathers, running wild.

A man walking. Feathers

that we grasp and grab. We press them
into wax, make wings of them

knowing that Icarus will fall.

Bjorn is hosting at dVerse, and asks us to write about war. I found this a difficult prompt. As I say, I only have memories of memories about war – my parents’ experience of WWII as small children, stories I’ve heard from that generation and the generation above.

Thirst

You fling it open for the first time/ but I’m gone

M Kahf ~ Wall

Why did you always keep the window closed?
What did you fear? I’m asking – look – she’s
barefoot in the field, she’s dusty,
arms scratched, squinting at the sun.
Didn’t you notice she was always gazing
out of the window? That she itched and twitched
in rhythm with the blackbird, that she sighed.


Was it the sound of sunlight that you hated?
Or the scent of bees? or the blue screaming
of the sky? Tell me. I’m waiting.

For Laura at dVerse. Thinking about how we end poems. Laura gives us lines to springboard from and use as epigraph

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: https://soundcloud.com/stuartrawlinson/sets/black-bough-poetry-deep-time

Connection

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

emotion
emerges
out of motion

and we are planets
orbiting
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.