There are always doorways

I’ve crossed some thresholds
with a blood libation,
some with music and champagne.
I’ve slipped through some

I’ve stepped with confidence
from one warm room
into a maze carved out of ice,
myself caught behind thick glass,
watching one world,
part of another,
coldness becoming part of me –

and then I’ve passed
from wilderness to pastureland,
missing the gateway,
my eyes fixed too far in the distance.

I’ve lost charms, and I’ve found them.
I’ve stepped through mighty doorways
carved with old gods and scenes of
metamorphosis – and found myself
unchanged, and waiting for me –
opened bland doors into bland rooms
scented with pain and kindness –

I have learned
that each breath is a step,
and the pathway clear sometimes,
and sometimes hard to trace

For Anmol at dVerse, who asks us to think about portals. 

Return to Valmain

“Take me to Valmain”, she sighed
“For I was young there, and my feet took wing
I was a lady of La Reine des Glaces
And danced in honour of the Autumn King.

And we drank fine Shiraz from crystal globes
And stepped it back and forth ’til it was morn
And all the lamps in Valmain shone so clear,
The birds sang, thinking it was dawn”.

“Alas, Valmain is silent now”, I said,
“And all the lamps that lighted it are dim
There are no rustling skirts or dancing girls,
But the wild birds still sing”

“Then I shall travel to Valmain alone
And see if what you say has come to pass,
And if Valmain is dead, I shall die too –
The last true lady of La Reine des Glaces”.

I’m hosting at dVerse tonight, and asking you to be inspired by the names of heritage vegetables. Strange but true.

Red wine

Pour me a last glass of the Douro –
I want to slide into the warm haze
of a rust red wine. The world’s too hard,
I’m small and tired and scared.
Let’s sit. The fire’s lit, those flames
are the same flames we watched
last year, when we were young.
The dark is pressing up
against the windows. The sun set
hours ago, crimson clouds
piled high against a lemon sky.
Pour me a last glass of the Douro –
my head’s too full of thoughts.

I’m hosting at dVersetonight, and our theme is red. Come on over and do some poeming.

Friday – poem for dVerse

Friday sits like a coin in my pocket
whispering to me. What shall I spend it on?
I could buy a kite, or a coffee,
or a pair of shoes. I could spend it all
on a book, or a poem, or a fragment
of something half written,
tossed away on the wind. I could take it out
and polish it in the sunlight,
roll it across a sanded floor,
send it spinning into a wave
crashing onto a shingle shore.
I could take a ride on a bus
to the end of the line,
or buy an apple and biting it
learn what good is, and what’s evil,
I could hold my hand out
to a cunning magpie,
offer my silver as a gift,
sacrifice it to an ancient goddess,
bury it beneath a hawthorn tree,
or I could hide it underneath my pillow,
feel the dull thickness of it as I read,
or I could slide it across the bar,
swap it for whiskey and a comfy chair,
or hoard it up, unused, unspent.
I could wait for moonrise,
show my coin her pearl-faced sister,
or spend it on a rainbow,
or wrap it up in mist,
or trace its outline
on an empty page.

It’s Tuesday, and that means poetics over at dVerse. I’m prompting. Come on over and be wowed.

The dream – poem for dVerse

The dream slipped through
my fingers
like wet glass

– sunlight striping the pillow –

leaving me just the feeling
that something strange
and true had happened –

and you were there

there was a bus
or, no, a fish

and a deep colour blue
and a strange, twisted tree
that might have been a cloud,
and birds, or candy canes,
and you

it meant so much

the feeling haunted me
all day
I couldn’t shake it
but I couldn’t name it

Lillian is hosting at dVerse tonight, and we are dreaming dreams.

The last of the celebrations

It’s not a bad way to see off the celebrations,
as we must.

We must fold away all the
brightly coloured cloths, and shut them away
from the light. We must take down
all the shiny things, and the sparkly things,
and the bright, glistening things
that turn gently in the candle light,
and we must finish off the good food,
the rich food, the creamy food,
the cheese and the brandy flavoured butter,
and sigh, and pat ourselves, and dream
of crisp white cabbage leaves and
slices of onion, eye-stinging, and we
must swallow the last of the wine,
and that sweet drink, that everyone wanted
and nobody drank, and we must drain
the dregs of the good coffee,
and let the last
of the chocolates melt on our tongues
and we must turn off the music,
and let the silence in,
and we must turn out the lights,
and say a last good night
and leave the room.

Mish is hosting at dVerse tonight, and asks us to write a poem inspired by the last line of a book. It can be any book, she says, so I took her at her word and picked up the nearest one. It happened to be The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater – one of my favourite food writers. The last line of the book is It’s not a bad way to see off the celebrations and I just took it from there.


Our first sunrise –
I was bubble-headed,
party-dressed –

and London was
a Camelot
of spires and towers
catching flame

midsummer sunrise
coming suddenly
catching us unawares

then, those weary sunrises,
early mornings,
lark-child singing,
rust-red sun
creeping slowly over
the city rooftops
day begun too early
child heavy in my arms

and now

fearful of time

I slip from our warm bed
as if I have
an assignation
with the cold-fingered
winter sun
who offers me
a pearling sky.

Oh, look who’s hosting at dVerse tonight – it’s me! Get over there and write some poetry.

Empire of dirt – poem for dVerse

That glorious ruined face

that voice

I cry each time

because it hurts me

deep in my chest

and the grief of knowing

that this was the song

that said goodbye

hurts more than you know

hurts more than I admit

and he brought himself

to this music

always always always

he gave us

something of himself

and then I remember, always


that you were the one who left

one bright day

with the sun before you

and you asked for water

and nobody could give you

just a sip of water 

for your poor dry mouth

just a taste of water

to drift away on

and you left it playing

in your room

and everyone you love

couldn’t save you

couldn’t keep you

and I wsh

you could have had

that one sip 

of cool water 

This song always makes me cry. I’m crying now. And it reminds me of a friend of ours who died too young. It’s for dVerse. 

Thinking about wood – for dVerse

So, lately I’ve been thinking about wood,
the way it ages. The way the beauty of it
is in the stubborness, the drive to growth,
the knottiness. I’ve been thinking
about how a tree holds its memories
on the inside, grows out and up,
reaching for the sky. I’ve been thinking
about beeswax: feeding the table,
attending to the scratched surface,
the scars we’ve made through living,
the stains that have gone deep,
deep into the wood, sunk under the surface.
I’ve been thinking about driftwood,
shaped by the sea, but keeping
its own essential twists and turns,
the smoothness of wood,
the splinters. I’ve been thinking
about the willow slips that sprout,
put out roots and leaves,
so determined to grow, to green.

Amaya is hosting at dVerse tonight, and we are thinking about traditional views of the elements that make us up as people – and the world, too, I guess. I don’t believe in astrology, doesn’t make sense to me, but I know a lot of people do. If you are interested, my zodiac sign is earth, my Chinese sign is fire -but my Chinese year is wood. I’ve also worked on the principle that everything you write is about yourself at some level. This is my meditation on wood.

Venus and the God of War

Venus sways in,
waist cinched tight,
heels high,
hips tick-tocking
like a metronome

she looks at him

the God of War,
sprawled across the
cheap bedspread,
stubble-chinned and

“Oh, honey mine”,
she croons,
letting her fingers
do a slow dance
among the hot,
damp hairs
on his hot damp

“Lick me like I’m candy,
crush me till I burn”

but there’s nothing doing here.

She looks at him
with god-cold eyes,
and wonders how it came to this –

how she left her
clever-handed husband
for this bar-room brawler,

with a broken sword
and a half-dead droptop.

At the window
she looks down
at the tempting streetlights

wonders what happens next.

Gods crave worship.

We’re playing (with) computer games at dVerse tonight. I’m hosting, and I’d love to see you there.