Category Archives: Poetry

On my pillow

Once more, I have only half-followed the Not Without Poetry prompt for the day. It was to ‘Go the website of your favourite poet. Copy the first line in their most recent post, and use it as the first line in your poem.’ The problem with this was that, firstly, few of my favourite poets have any sort of web presence and, secondly, of those that do, only one regularly updates it. That one is Kona Macphee. Her blog site, that elusive clarity, is updated on a daily basis. Today’s posting is about the bosom-like comfort of a pillow and I have taken my lead from that.

There is something a little unfinished about this poem but I cannot think what more to add. Significant rewriting required I think.

On my pillow

With little white pills, we have supplanted
the wings of Poesy. Fever and fret
remain but suffused with a numbness
Bacchus could not attain. The day long
leadens. Only the pillow’s call rouses.
Why wish one astonement over another?

This man-made bosom of cotton and foam
offers escape. Not the fortnight flit to
foreign fronts nor yet the brief submergence
in a rendered realm. The dreamscape compels
as of death leavened by resurrection.
As of life lived mindlessly awhile.

Year’s end

This poem is in response to the prompt on Not Without Poetry for today, to personify something. The prompt lists a set of questions to answer about the thing but I have to admit, once I thought of my object, my thoughts and words ran away with me.

Year’s end

The plastic splits in a smooth slirrup
and the bin’s halves clatter away.

The compost heap jiggles a little, as if
awakening, decompresses to a standing
ten feet tall, shakes off loose lettuce leaves
and some recent carrot tops then steps out.

As it treads the garden path, stones stick
to its feet, shoeing it. The fence proves
no obstruction; it leans into it
and the panels fuse to its decaying matter,
encasing it. Towards the village it strides,
jaunty and insouciant. A wood
on the way hinders it none. It emerges
leaved in a gown of autumn splendour and,
flowing behind, a captured web, finer
than a sovereign’s silk cloak, engenders

womanhood: this slows her not a bit.
On the main street, a toddler, crying, calls
to her and she stops, stoops to gather it
up. The child, warmed in an embrace of
older earth, calms and sucks its thumb, content
until its mother comes. She saunters on
to the village hall and the annual dance.
There she settles to a lesser height and
walks in. Like Cinderella she gathers
all gazes and is taken for every turn.

Night falls and the music slows, the last dance
is danced and couples depart followed
by the singled few, the band and the cleaners
too and she waves them all off to their homes.
The moon and the stars are clear and sharp
and they watch as she spreads herself out.
The stones form a pile and the leaves and the web
drift away on a breeze

and the year ends.


This was supposed to be a ‘make-up’ poem, one which made up for the two days I missed earlier this week. I started this yesterday but have had hay-fever come on and not got much done today. I’ll post this and see whether I get any more done today.

This poem is in response to a prompt on Margo Roby’s site, to compose a blason/blazon type of poem. Follow the links to see what that is and some examples. I took my lead from a photograph previously posted to this blog. I imagined the girl as a geeky type, fancying the guy who’d stopped to accept a leaflet from her, and then wrote her thoughts.


I hid my geeky self behind this clutch
of leaflets and stepped into his path. He
stopped and raised his shades and turned on me
eyes of such bright attention I wanted
to hold that regard forever. I launched
the pitch by rote, my mouth rambled on but
in my mind, oh, my mind drew him in
like a master draughtsman his muse.

He stood, as sure in his place as ancients
imagined the sun, but with an easeful
pose, born surely of others’ high regard.
His hair was cropped close and I imagined
it soft as a black bear’s fur, felt his scalp
ripple beneath my probing fingertips.
At a tilt of the head, his eyes caught
the light and turned a translucent green as of
new grown leaf at the uppermost tree tip.
His mouth seemed to reflect my own words,
motile with but uncommanded by his thoughts.
His arm came out to take a leaflet
and I imagined the two encircling me.

But they didn’t. A girlfriend came to claim
my dream. I watched them go and was… bereft.


The prompt for today’s poem was to ‘list 3-5 lightbulb moments you’ve had in your lifetime. Is there a way to string them together in a single poem?’ The one or two personal lightbulb moments I could recall were too embarrassing to make into a published poem (I’m not interested in revelatory poetry, writing or reading it).

So, I thought to write about someone else’s moment and thought of the moment when Einstein came up with that part of General Relativity in which spacetime is seen as a Riemannian geometry in four dimensions (apologies if I’ve misrepresented either the theory or the order in which Einstein came up with it).


At this instant, the universe
flip-flopped and became
other in his eyes. Creation
stretched out from naught
to endless nothing. He
and the world puddled
into the canvas of reality
and nothing moved
but that it curved
around him. This time
and place became the point
at which understanding began.


I’ve missed the past two days of the poem-a-day challenge for April. I’ll try to make them up later in the month, but here is today’s composition. I was doing some research for another (hopefully publishable) poem and came across a description of the Gömböc. Follow that link for more information but, basically, it is a solid shape which has one stable and one unstable point of equilibrium.

What this means is that the shape, put down any how, will rattle about until it reaches the stable point of equilibrium. It has one and only one other point of equilibrium but that point is unstable, like balancing a pencil on the sharpened tip of its lead. Having been described mathematically, it has also been manufactured and can be bought here. The look of this object and the idea of it fascinated me, and the following poem resulted.


Let us, together, you and I,
rock back and forth upon this,
this stable point of equilibrium
that holds us fast. Let us rock
and tip ourselves, rock back
and forth, in and out of this
stable point until we reach
the other side. There,
on the other side is what
we need most desperately
to reach. That point, over
there. Over and over, rocking
further and farther to reach that point
that is the point of unstable
equilibrium. That point where
we will balance like a pencil
upon its finely sharpened tip.
This tip, where the least
vibration, the very least puff
of an unkind breath will tip
us over, this is the sharp end
of our love. Here is a real life.
Oh, let us rock together, my dear,
you and I, together.


Hmm. The prompt for today’s poem was simply to use the words kinetic, tendril, bliss, embolden & blossom in the poem. This was not easy. I’d thought of doing something in response to the Guardian Comment is Free article about the action of police in kettling peaceful protesters in response to the actions of an isolated violent few and the resultant radicalisation this is causing. I got something down but don’t think it much good. Although the constraint of using specific words may spark some creativity, I suspect in this case it did the opposite. Maybe with more time I could have come up with better.


Kettle the many tendrils of dissent
with and for a kinetic violence
and even the meek will be emboldened
into casting the first stone. Then let civic
strife blossom forth and vines of destruction
wrap our cities with flame and blissful
sleep will be unknown for generations.

A poem in my pocket

The prompt today was either to write the experience of a poem carried around in a pocket all day or to write a poem about pockets. I’ve sort of split the difference here.

When my daughter was young, our favourite poems came from the books of Janet and Alan Ahlberg. They were probably the ones I read most to her, and the ones she read most to herself. I’ve tried to write something in that tradition. It is nowhere near their league but was fun to do.

A poem in my pocket

Vicky’s English teacher, Mr B,
has a thing about poetry.
He gave the class an exercise
to write a poem of twenty lines.
“It needn’t rhyme,” he said, at which
the class breathed a sigh of relief.
But… that night on the TV
was a double episode of Glee
so it wasn’t ‘til the bus next day
that she remembered Mr B’s
assignment. She tore a page
from Paige’s pad, borrowed a pencil
from Dru, thumped Tom who was trying
to sneak a kiss, and then sat
down to think. A poem. How hard
could that be? Well… it was.

Then, out the window she saw
a dog in a patch of daffodils.
That will do, she thought, at least
the two alliterate. She scrawled
a few lines, thought, and wrote some more,
chewed the pencil end (bad luck, Dru)
and finished as the bus reached school.
She folded the page of cursory
verse and poked it into her pocket.

English period was last that day
and only as she was on her way
did Vick think to unfold that page.
She couldn’t. Unfold it, that is.
The paper was glued to a half-chewed
sweet and covered in pocket lint.
It was torn from rubbing against
a stone that she’d picked up for art
and to cap it all off, an earlier run
through the football pitch sprinklers
had mushed the paper to felt.

That’s it, she thought, I’m dead. But Mr B
unknowingly gave her a second chance.
“The test of a true poet,” he said,
“is how they revise their own work.
So take the time to the end of class
to polish those poems of yours.”
Vick tried to recall the dog
and the daffs and the lines she’d composed
on the two but her mind was as blank
as the page that glared up from her desk.

she wrote the verse above these lines
(was shocked to find them so long)
and handed it in and shuffled out
with the fear of getting an F.
When back it came with the grade
B+ she was pleased but part ashamed
and vowed from then she’d do her work
and tape Glee for the weekend instead.

Well, what do you think? Was her grade

Google and the surreal

Today’s poem-a-day prompt was to take a picture (below, after the poem) and compose a poem about it without using adjectives.

The image, in case it is no longer available, is a sepia-toned one of a boy in Victorian clothing, posed in front of a backdrop with clouds, a curtain and a table holding a book. The boy is standing with one hand on a chair, on which is perched a raven.

The surreal nature of the image made me want to see if I could produce a surreal poem from it. The surrealists used a variety of techniques to produce their works, including automatism and cut-ups. I used an updated version of the latter two by searching for the components of the image in Google UK and then selecting a phrase (without adjectives where possible) from the first twenty suitable result summaries. I then tried to combine bits of those phrases into some form of poetry, the only constraint being that it was grammatically reasonable and read as if it was a poem.

The result was truly weird and not something I’m likely to try again. And, somehow, I just realised, the boy has been erased: interesting and maybe even more surreal Smile.

Antlers in patterns

Antlers in patterns and tutorials
view the background of information
to book a table in the restaurant.
Midnight-got jewels struck a bird
on the side of the mirror.
Castle and bridge were enlisted
to help deliver the plate
with its forest of antlers.

Raven is stalking a look
at the chair for the two of them.
One book to be open for the naturalist.
The fish bowl in the parlour
will thrash in hell with the executed.
In Milan, cars and lorries flew.
The matter of parents causes concern
with the ravine of recent rebels and rash raven.

The image, if it is still available, is:

boy with antlers, raven on chair

The search I entered into was ‘boy with antlers raven on chair book on table clouds backdrop’. And the lines I extracted from the results were:

antlers crafts, patterns and tutorials
You can view background information
To book a table in the restaurant
chex_midnight got their homepage
jewels struck just the right note
a bird on the side of the mirror
castle and bridge in background to left
services were enlisted to help with other
I accordingly deliver the accompanying plate
The forest of antlers fixed and rigid showed

but gave Raven a stalking look
The chair is wide enough for the two of them
one book to be open; also a table or chair
I first became acquainted with the naturalist
The fish bowl in the parlor is near the center
thrash the hell out of said willows
executed last year in Milan
Cars and Lorries flew by, dangerously close
any concern this matter causes parents
rascal, rash, raven, ravine, rebel, recent

Terminal moraine

Fascinating prompt at NotWithoutPoetry for today: to Write a poem incorporating last line of your favorite song, the main spice or ingredient in your favorite dish, and a geologic form.

My favourite song is Wake Up, Little Sparrow, as sung by Lizz Wright on her Dreaming Wide Awake album and the last line is ‘Don’t make your home out in the snow’. My favourite dish is the Leek Flan that my wife makes in which she uses ‘cayenne pepper’ as the main spice. And favourite geological feature is the ‘terminal moraine’, mainly because our daughter learned about it in high school, we all love the name and have learned how to identify them whenever we drive anywhere with ancient glaciation.

Well, here it is. It follows the prompt with one change to the song line (which, ok, pretty much reverses the meaning). The poem seemed to be heading towards a melodramatic conclusion but a little nudge and it came right.

Terminal moraine

Your frozen glances and glares are gone
but their years long glacial push
through the valley of my soul has left
a terminal moraine of
and self-hatred that even now
can choke me at an open door.

Alone, you touched me, but you chose
to build your home out in the snow.
At first, there was an open fire
but, soon, you extinguished
until all doors were locked on my side
with me shut in with you and the cold.

But some cinder of self remained.
I found it – somehow – one day.
One breath enlivened it. It flared!
I burned your house, and with it
its locks,
its doors
and you.
A pinch of cayenne pepper can melt
a glacier. The moraine remains but

one rock at a time, I will clear it.

Ten lessons for superheroes

The prompt for today was to take one of the postcards at PostSecret (they seem to be different each day with no way of getting the past ones) and make a narrative of it. Well, I followed half of that; I used one of the postcards to spin out the poem below.

The actual postcard is at the bottom of this post but, in case the image disappears, it reads: You are convinced that my driving improves “drastcally” when I wear my glasses. I have 20/20 vision. They’re fake.

I took the idea of someone who wore fake glasses to hide their real abilities and came up with the following. I’ll hang onto that card as I think there is an even better poem within it.

Ten lessons for superheroes

Wear dark glasses to hide
your supernatural identity.

Inhabit dark places
where you can shed that outer skin.

Never fall in love
lest you be betrayed.

Beware rocks from your past:
they’ll weaken your resolve.

Spend time working out
as lycra is unforgiving.

Never take lovers:
they’ll be your Achilles’ heel.

Accrue a vast fortune,
a butler and a willing boy.

The world will never thank you:
humans are made that way.

Never fall in love
for a lover is doomed to die.

Never fall in love.

PostSecret, wearing plain glasses

Fill in the blanks 2

So, I couldn’t leave the second prompt alone. Here is my take on the Walid Bitar poem. Even weirder than the previous one!

From inside great drums

From inside great drums (don’t call them skins)
tomorrow is smaller than usual,
as are the goats. Inside great drums,
unlike horns, are not valves
and the people ripe enough
to pick (at least the crop isn’t small)
have no feet or features when they sit beside
their twins and twinsets, pretending
to be kumquats in a cold climate. The scenery
sharpens like an icepick in my ear.
It skritches itself, and I taste of this
a cupcake you can colour with the whites
and marbles of schoolboys back home, cut cake otherwise
invisible as the price of gods.
An ache, too, is invisible; why are
you feeding it at your back door, growing
it into an ending?
Leave it alone; sing me a little to
the stars; people turn their heads
into black holes here; I
remain (on the outside) accreting.

Fill in the blanks

The prompt for today asks that we have a bit of fun with language. The prompt setter, Sage Cohen, has taken a couple of poems, reproduced them and then done so again with key words removed. The challenge is to fill in the blanks with our own words.

I have followed the prompt, although with only one of the poems (I found the second too much of a challenge). I don’t think the result is necessarily a good poem but I enjoyed the exercise, not just for the loosening up of the creative muscles, but for making me really read the original poem to understand how each of the deleted words really fitted into the whole.

The original poem (Jacksonville, Vermont, by Jason Shinder) can be read on the site.

Adelaide, South Australia

Because I am not discharged, I have the shell of an eggcup

that has spent its life gathering dust. Inside the eggcup
I am stone. I cannot tell when a word reaches in

and sounds the atoms of the veins. Sometimes

a road will bring the pulse into my thoughts.
Or the yellow papers falling on the sodden floor are fish

beginning to tempt each other out of their drifting shoals.

All the headlights I have known have been dimmed by fog
and the wind walking the streets at night.