DEPARTURE


 I walk into her room and there she sits

Cases packed her car keys on the table.

And powerless to speak for fear of crying

She takes my hand.

Outside it is snowing, flakes fall heavy still.

And I want to tell her that I care

That I mind her grief her silent mourning.

But all I say is ‘Are you ready then?’

She nods looks up at me and smiles.

It is enough.

  

Prize winner in the Elizabeth Longford Poetry Competition

   



MRS HALLIDAY’S THEN AND NOW

 

‘A drink before lunch dears?’

Mrs Halliday asked them in:

Artists, playwrights gathered in her room for gin and chat.

She knew a thing or two about the arts, had studied Freud;

sat for Augustus John, met Lloyd George.

Then she was an image running hurriedly about,

full of passion, politics and the printed word.

Fears and loneliness an absurdity,

 a burden for others to bear, there was nothing she

would not  attempt or dare as she stage- managed her days.

 

 

‘A drink before lunch dears?’

Mrs Halliday invites us in:

Smart thatched cottage beamed, with blue checked curtains.

Perhaps our visits help stave off her loneliness

 now that her husband is no more.

With our drinks in hands, heads tilted listening- style,

 she tells her stories  - of youth and marriage and of sons long gone

to live abroad – what’s more, of grandsons she has never seen.

The sherry bottle stands obedient by her side, the easier to reach for and to pour.   


Published by Salopeot

                                                                                             


 HERON

 

Every morning he is there,

Stands waiting

Biding his time.

 

Two crows signal his arrival

Their indignant cries wake me,

And short on sleep

I stumble to the window

Police the lawn

Fend off this handsome visitor.

 

But he is back!

I can hear him now

His wings fanning the air -

This stalker of daybreak

Of margins of streams and lakes

And our fish filled pond.


 Published by United Press

 


HERM ISLAND


Daisy embroidered fields

And hedgerows with

Sea happening round corners.

 

Scented gorse, the honeysuckle,

Those coastal walks

With stones dusty in our shoes.

Rock pools sand-stirred

With shrimps and crabs

Our fishing nets to catch

Sun lodging hot upon our backs.

 

And in The White House Hotel

Down by quay

A bishop sits sipping his afternoon tea.


 Published by United Press


THE DAY WE BURNT MUM'S SIDEBOARD


We dragged it out the house to our back yard.

Dan found some petrol, set a match to it.

'Hang on!' I yelled, flames squiggling into night,

 'Where's your sense? We gotta chop it first.'

'Didn't chop our mum up first,' he said

and gave the fire an angry poke,

his face heat- red, radiant, deprived.


Her world was in that sideboard:

plates, cups, brass polished to a shine.

And in the drawers her letters, postcards bits and bobs

from brothers, friends, nieces, aunts and us.


Searing heat, crackles, sparks a lot of smoke

and yet the sideboard decomposed safely without fuss

leaving a simple, neat pile of timbered ash.


A neighbour stopped outside our door at number one

had seen the smoke asked, 'Everything okay?'

'Right as rain,' I said.  'We've just cremated mum.'


  THE SILVER BIRCHES


The nursing home was large

His room was small,

Looked out on walls black bleak and tall.

 

They planted the trees to cheer him up:

Two silver birches where the old man

Could see them in the yard beneath his window.

 

And with the plants in place and summer’s

Resurrected skies like brilliant seas,

His spirits rose each time he gazed

On the silver birch trees.

 

The old man died, a woman took his room

But being old and blind she could not see

The yard, the skies or the whitish grey leaves

Of the silver birch trees.

 

But at night, with corridors quiet and stilled

She would sit at the open window, would  sit

Listening to that gentle breeze working its magic

Through those silver birch trees.

 

                      Published by Salopeot


OLD SCHOOL TIES

Rotting plimsolls, aertex vests,  

crumpled shoe bags damp- reeked on cupboard shelves.

I had been mission sent to delve in this demolished heap.

But what mementos here, in drawer, on floor?

No book, no letter, no find of any kind.

And why in heaven’s name, had I been landed with this chore?

 

Time had diluted memories of my school.

So why return, why lie, pretend it all was fun?

Recall masters who had caned each one of us?

But beatings, toils, anxieties, had over time

produced the crème de la crème of English society.

We suffered to succeed, to achieve and now were seen

to laugh away our mental bruises, for losers we were not.

 

And so I searched and found at length one small thing -

a boy’s drawing of a cairn, a stray dog, which old Blighter,

who threw text books at our heads, had taken in.

This emaciated bitch drew from him a softer side,

so that on good days he would swop Latin verbs

for stories of his canine friend.

 

I took the picture, pinned it on the venue wall.

Amidst the tales, the chat, the laughter

they told me Blighter died in  ‘75 and the dog soon after.    

 

 CABBAGE

 

We sit in the dining room

the headmaster and I

 

Two lone figures surrounded by

notice-boards, shields and silver cups.

He sips his coffee noisily slurping

while I stare throat lumped at my plate.

'Eat up boy, we haven't got all day!'

I drag, prod, lift and load my fork

trembling to my lips.

 

Two lone figures; the others gone to play

to kick a ball, or join in a debate.

I chew and hold my breath that way

I get it down. 

Another mouthful, two to go

then 'Finished sir.'

I wait silent as his dry eyes police my plate.

The bell.  We rise.

And that was our lunch break!

 

 

  SHIFTING SANDS

  

You understand, don't you

that I no longer do?

But my eyes smile just the same,

yet I can't recall your name.

 

Have I met you before?

How much do you know?

How long will you stay?

And why don't you go?

 

You understand, don't you

that I no longer do?

Yet I feed and sleep and eat

just as you do.

 

My bed is not my own

that much is true.

The nurses come, they go

some old, some new.

 

You understand, don't you

that I no longer do?

Unlearning  every day

The narrowing of my view.

 

When you have gone from here

Your memory still intact

Write on a card my name

and send it back.

 

 Published by Forward Poetry  & Salopeot