what is the what

May 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm (Uncategorized) ()

We had a very interesting challenge for this week’s Poetry Bus (visit here for more passengers); to take a sentence (at random or specially chosen), remove half, create new endings and then play about with the ideas that came from it. I started trawling through quotations looking for something clever. Then I looked at famous opening lines of books, still nothing. So I picked up the book I had recently started reading, it is called ‘What is the What’ by Dave Eggers and took the opening sentence, as soon as I read it I felt it had interesting possibilities. The sentence I started with is “I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door”.

I have no reason not to answer the door

I have no reason not to answer the door

even though it is late

and I had been waiting

my fingers pause at the latch

and I am scared.

I have no reason not to answer the door

where two shadowy figures

one tall

made taller by his hat

are visible through the frosted glass

waiting impassively.

I have no reason not to answer the door

but in that pause

in the silence of the hall

I can hear the rush of my own breathing

and the blood pounding in my ears.

I have no reason not to answer the door

that stands firm and solid

between me

and the world outside

but I take a step away.

I have no reason not to answer the door

through which I can hear

the scuffle of their boots in the gravel

and the muted murmur of conversation.

I have no reason not to answer the door

except something urgent tells me

I should stay here and now

on this side

in this suspended moment


I have no reason not to answer the door

but something hovers outside


I have no reason not to answer the door

when they knock again

it feels impolite

to keep them


I have no reason not to answer the door

so I breath again

reach up

and grip the handle firmly

I have no reason not to answer the door

so I answer the door.


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May 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm (Uncategorized)

(watching the clock

flick past the minutes)



she needs the bus times

I’ll look them up

or they will surely miss

like the time in Stratford

and I had to drive

even when I’d had half a glass

of vodka and coke

and why am I paying

for the damn insurance

when there are three people

using my car

I resent every penny

of the loan

to pay that solicitor

three months wages

for a single day

I will celebrate when I never

have to bother with him


ever again

take cake to work

not that any of those blokes will understand

just blokes

but not

now I think of it




have to think about

milk for the tea

no-one else remembers

and getting those boys

registered with a doctor

and her bank account to sort out

call mum

or the bad karma will catch up with me

is that our cat

fighting in the garden

time to get up soon

and I forgot the shoe polish



I wish

I know it’s silly

but one day

I wish

we might build our own place

and have breakfast together

instead of this

passing ships existence

maybe then he’ll tell me

I want a view of the sea

or the smell

at least

but what’s the use



what’s the use of promising

and then not bothering

only creates bad feeling



she cried down the phone

and it broke my heart

Jake in the dark

in the car

telling me secrets

I wish

I had stepped back from the brink

but try and imagine

what might have been instead

so sad

and so angry

I wish

it would all go away





buzzing round my head

making demands

imagine if

the letter might arrive


or next week

we could be all sorted by the summer



must put the bedding in the wash

in the morning

and write that poem

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Masinasin Post Office

May 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm (Uncategorized)

My picture for this week’s Poetry Bus came from The Galt Museum Archives which collects and preserves information of permanent value to the study of the human history of Lethbridge and southwestern Alberta. It shows Mrs Elizabeth Blust at the doorway of the Masinasin Post Office. I found this challenge very difficult but resisted the temptation to find a new photograph and stuck with the picture that I was ‘given’. i have tried to capture something of what I imagine to be a hard and unchanging life.

The shade offers no  relief

in the afternoon sun

she can almost hear

the desiccated scrub grass

crackling in the heat

dust coats her skin

heat dries her lungs

slowly suffocating.

She watches as days drift gently by

with the turning seasons

marked by crops failed

or newborn babes.

The outside world touching


distant messages,

as if from beyond the grave

bring news

that changes nothing.

She bides her time

and endures.

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May 6, 2010 at 6:41 pm (Uncategorized)


not like disciplined soldiers

standing in their regimented  ranks

these are a ragged bunch of unkempt revolutionaries

fighting for their land against

encroaching civilisation.

clothed in tangled lines of climbing ivy

old soldiers limping through the brambles

mossy and hollow with age

while fallen comrades lie in the undergrowth

new saplings spring up among the motley crew

eager to join the fray.

in the lengthening shadows

the chill of evening sets in

and after dark they hunch and forlorn

without the consolation of a fire

reminiscing of past glories and better days

then lie down amidst the blanket of wild garlic

to be consumed by sweet decay.

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April 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm (Uncategorized) ()

he walks down here in the world

of rustling skirts and bumping shopping bags

a warm hand leads the way between towering racks

he follows curious and compliant

carefree and trusting to her

then momentarily distracted by sparkly trinkets

he stops to see his face in the huge mirror

and laugh

turning round he is suddenly alone

confused and forsaken

she was there then she was gone

corridors of clothing stretch away in all directions

his future flashes futile before his eyes

in a split second a cold panic grips

tears well up and a tight throat cracks his voice

the cry comes out a whimper

unfamiliar grown-ups scurry past unconcerned

another split second

she steps out from behind the ties

a smile, and warmth returns.

(Linking back to The Poetry Bus hosted by Argent at Delusions of Adequacy, this trip is leaving on Monday 26th April)

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dawn chorus

April 18, 2010 at 7:54 pm (Uncategorized)

the flutter of twittering breaks the day

the notebooks and iPhones calling

a cacophony of voices

dropping posts

into virtual boxes

following each other

in endless circles

of greetings and congratulations

enquiries and consolations

competing for attention

and paying no reciprocation

like the blackbird’s trill

demanding and self-important

you can’t begin without me.

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April 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Friends Reunited reunited us

for just a moment,

after 30 years.

We were once best of friends

but I remember very little now.

We did not chat girly stuff

I never saw her in a dress.

I recall doing her latin homework

while her mum vacuumed the bed

(she was allergic).

Her sister had the most beautiful hair,

long, white blond and gently wavy.

I coveted it.

Hers was a harsh boyish cut

and her body always seemed awkward,


her stance almost hunched

fighting against the inevitable blossoming.

She would poke me viciously

with her long fingers

for no apparent reason,

or wrestle me to the ground

then sit on me and  hold me down.

All she told me was that

she worked in television,

never married

and had moved to the country

so she could keep a dog.

And she was taking up gardening.

I never wrote back.

All I really wanted to know was

did she ever admit to being gay?

(I counted down from the top of my e-mail inbox and found the name of a former school friend and a very old message, and the title came from my most recent message at the bottom of the inbox.)

(Linking back to the home of this week’s Poetry Bus)

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April 6, 2010 at 4:48 pm (Uncategorized)

Pitiful kitten squeakings when she yawns

make me laugh gently over my morning cup of tea

as she sits curled still bed-warm

against the kitchen radiator.

The new spikey cut frames her delicate features

making her seem pixie-like

the red dye vibrant against

a face pale and often washed out.

I try not to look

but am horribly drawn

to the scar corrugated skin down her forearm

the entire length would ripple under my fingers

if I dared to reach out and touch.

Other marks are less obvious,

her shoulder, thigh and the faint white lines

that remain on her belly

like some minor childhood operation.

With strappy t-shirts and low slung jeans

she displays them now,


after the years of hiding.


last night she curled upon my lap,

snuggled in like a toddler,

until my legs went numb and arms

could not support her.

My tacit guilt assuaged by

her seeking me out

but I too am helpless

against what plagues her.

In my fantasy

a soft strike of my hand would wipe it all away,

make new the skin that pain has ravaged

repair the damage

this outward sign of deeper wounds.

We only want them to be happy,

we parents claim,

if that is so

then those traces

are the tokens of my failure.

Worse than the day I stood

outside a newsagent

waiting for my son to buy cigarettes.

(Poetry as therapy. The experience of her desperate need for comfort overwhelmed me and to put this in to words seemed suddenly necessary. It is her story but also mine, but I watch as if through a thick pane of glass.)

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Poetry Bus again

April 2, 2010 at 8:01 am (Uncategorized) ()

(I chose this image from the ones that Swiss offered as inspiration for this week’s Poetry Bus. My initial reaction to it was that it resembled a woman’s womb and ovaries, but with a somewhat ghostly quality, or like a wisp of smoke, so that was my starting point.)


down the hall I hear distant echos

the footfalls of children who never were

whispers of existence so faint

the ticking of my watch would drown them out.

My smile reaches out to stroke

the downy skin of babies unborn

the scent of them drifts past just out of reach

a sigh scatters their essence into the ether.

I cannot see their faces

obscured as they are by another history

though my belly longs for each of them.

I inhale and absorb the thought

the idea of what they might have been.

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April 2, 2010 at 7:31 am (Uncategorized)

do other people do this I wonder,

read poetry seeking an answer

to that eternal internal nagging thought

that sense of unease

that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

consuming voraciously

to feed a hunger never satiated

I haunt the Poetry Society wesite

seeking new fodder.

I find myself flitting

reading the first line

then passing on

or scanning down

striving to find that word

that encapsulates everything.

I buy books that tumble in piles by the bed

seduced by a random poem

that I flicked past while loitering in the shop.

I shuffle back and forth between pages

afraid I have overlooked the one.

assessing the impact of the title

before committing myself to the time consuming effort

of reading anything more than half a page.

I have this feeling it will be


summing up the answer

in a few well chosen words

any need to waffle on beyond would indicate

excessive justification of the argument

and hence lack of conviction.

sometimes I find one that brings a wry smile to my lips

or a knowing nod of the head

or a sigh

or even a tear.

but I am not seeking emotional release

or entertainment

but an assuaging of my uncertainty

to know



that I am not mistaken.

so if you have found the poem

please let me know.

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