After Manchester

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

You claimed to have taken down the crusaders,
yet these young women and men
were not responsible for the acts
of those long ago who were in a battle
perverting three religions
by staging bloody acts of horror
engaging in atrocities unspeakable
self-righteously acting in the names
of their war-blessing gods,
where there could never be any gain
and still today precious little hope of peace.

No, these were innocent children,
these were youngsters and teens
who had yet to learn the hard
cold lessons of adulthood,
despair and disappointment
scuppered dreams and latent wishes
for more and better ways to be,
who would never know
the tender touch of first love,
the delicate holding of a first baby,
the exhilaration of a double first.

Instead,
they rest in morgues in bits and pieces,
or in hospital beds balanced
between life and death,
with shattered limbs and mangled organs,
numbed by drugs sheltering them
from awful truths of agonising realities
they should never have had to learn,
yet to wrestle with the guilt of living on,
stealing forever the survivors’ innocence.

You scythed them down in a harvest of hate,
grimly reaping the innocent with shrapnel,
bursting apart hearts already opened by joy,
turning youths’ delight to death.

Reunion

Near enough to twenty years
since last we saw the other,
first sighted in the shadow
of old Salisbury Cathedral’s
twisted spire with a chill breeze
yanking the flowers
from a short row of horse chestnuts,
extinguishing their candles
under a grey clouded sky,
arms flung out as suitcase dropped
a long-holding hug and whispered tears
melting away time
retracting distance
renewing connection.

Sitting in the cloister
introductions made between
her and my new partner,
three cups of different teas,
mint, hibiscus, camomile,
and then he excused himself
leaving us to reminisce,
indulging in nostalgia
washing between us like tides,
revealing in our sharing
the good days and the dark times
we have each lived
in places far from where we met.

Time stood still,
distance evaporated
stories merged
interests twined,
whilst we sat together,
speaking punctuated
by shared tears and laughter,
hands reaching out to comfort
and affirm deep connections
yet exist between us,
stronger today than we had before.

Alas, our brief time together
came to a close marked by
the striking of the Cathedral’s bells,
and walking to the place of our parting,
we both knew that what we had
will remain and what we have now
will continue to grow
as yet more years tumble behind us,
for our reunion revealed
a deep abiding friendship,
neither of us will leave behind.

The Dawn Quartet

I was wakened by the rain
heard through open windows
pat patter pat beating
like a small tight drum,
then beyond the cloud water’s music
the winged ones began
their chirruping songs
to scores they only know
once the pattered drumming
slowed and ceased.

Head resting on my pillow,
cats eager to see if at
o four hundred I was awake
enough to heed their
presence and desire
to break their nightlong fast,
I heard the morning’s
emerging avian songs,
voices added one on one
the vocal ensemble reached
but four this morn,
no dawn chorus then for me.

Still, I was blessed,
and with a grateful heart
listened to the sweet refrains
of the dawn quartet
to begin my day,
the damp air perfumed,
the ground wet and leaves
bedecked in glistening droplets
after several dry weeks
under a cloud shrouded
breeze bearing sky.

Apple Shedding Blossom

This another breezy day,
twigs twitching
on branches jittering
lifting lightly
as the air sings its enticing song,
flowers follow me
petals join the dance,
release your tender holding
so your fruit may form.

Petal snow the garden
covering delicate
pink tinging white
amid the final cowslips,
forget-me-nots and bluebells,
deepening shade enfolding all,
summer slowly emerging
in the longer sun.

Robins, blue tits,
blackbirds, magpies
swoop though the last
relinquishing blossom,
little wings beating
to their own unheard
internal rhythms,
vanishing and disappearing
in swift movements darting.

Summer,
now that May has had her day,
greens grow darker
working harder,
fruit setting,
light extending
bees alighting,
all the while hour by hour
life meets its challenge
and gifts to us,
all undeserving,
beauty, wonder and delight.

The Hippo Moment

Step by step
moving the surface interface
from air to water,
sliding into an alien
yet not unfamiliar medium,
warm surrounding water
strangely supporting the body

Buoyancy,
from long ago
a feeling recalled,
the facility for deeply held
memory kicking in,
before birth
this sensation recognised
again as known
when eons before
the only place.

Memory,
of fear and thrashing,
not a distant life
but this one
bathed in anxiety
fretting afraid to leave
the security of the side
for deeper waters.

Encouragement,
reassurance
in holding onto the confidence
of another for whom
the medium of terror for me
is one of pleasure and freedom,
slowly learning to trust
the presence and the voice
that it can be done,
head under the surface,
glide, kick, stroke, breathe
head under
blow bubbles
reach and turn to the side
breathe,
suddenly it seems
swimming.

Now comes enjoyment
relaxation and achievement,
otter companions unseen
enter the pool causing
mischief chitting encouragement
showing how easy
it is to be in water,
laughter at slow success.

Lesson done,
high fives and weariness,
for it is well into evening,
sliding into the night,
time to go,
time to change the mediating
medium of being once more,
taking the steps,
almost weightlessness
alters in the moments
step by step
trading selkie skin
for the human one,
another transformation
there is the time between
being water borne
and once more air held
a sudden awkwardness
when gravity is once more
felt with every bone and muscle
weightedness returns.

Ah, the hippo moment.

I dedicate this poem to my amazing swimming instructor Kelly Deakin. The invisible otters and ‘The Hippo Moment’ as I called it made us laugh. A big thank you!

Haiku on a Stormy Day

Unable to flee
Trees bend in thrashing storm wind
Roots reach deep hold firm.

Birds wheeling sideways
Wind rushed wings onward fly
Difficult to land.

Pollarded treescape
Land floats on hidden waters
Somerset Levels.

Catkins dance waving
Pollen spreading far and wide
New generations.

Sun peaking from clouds
Clouds pushed on wind swiftly
Calm soon returning.

Wind unrelenting
Atmospheric songs wail
Silence forgotten.

Howling wind keening
Mournful song marking the day
Waiting for relief.

Wood into Stone

In the hand
cool to the touch,
a side polished to a high sheen,
a side smooth and dull,
bark in textured edges
still present in mineral form.

From the land of lemurs,
red ruffed,
ring tailed,
black and white,
the aye-aye and sifarkas,
too long ago to comprehend
this tree may have known
the swinging and resting
of these creatures
on branches hung with
tangles of vine,
perhaps.

Fossilised tree,
wood into stone
transubstantiated,
a different mode of being,
a different form of existing,
a different sort of appearing,
no longer a branch
wherein the fluid would rise
awakened from the ground beneath,
called up into the canopy.

Stone from wood,
mineral emerged from zylum and phloeum,
patterned rings blurred in alteration
from one material to the other,
longevity a challenge to decipher,
but its beauty not dependent
on its age in life or from death,
wondering how it died,
what disaster felled or befell it
to bring it from tall standing
to resting on its side.

The story of its existing and its perishing,
may reveal itself in time
through meditation or contemplation,
journeying in thought and imagination,
until the breeze can be felt,
again perhaps,
in its twigs and branches,
the creatures of the day or night
swaying or climbing,
hiding or feeding
on its fruit or foliage,
may any revelations be the way
to reach beyond the present material
to touch by mind or heart
a time before humankind
came into the Madagascan forests
leaving trails of ruination and destruction.