• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 04
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The Training

The important thing is to keep going. I walk as though this is what I planned all along — to fall so deeply that I have no choice but to wear purple and green, to live with a hat that becomes the horizon.

I have not believed what they have told me, or I have believed it too much. Whichever way would hurt the most, I have accepted. I always thought I had so much time. But time is a cold and vacant presence, I have found. It lacks personality. It is like the whiteness that cracks under my boots: it doesn’t exist, not really, only holds us with the appearance of love, the habits of numbness and sleepiness. It blinds us, until all we see is ourselves, laid out as we ever were, dark and nestled against our eyelids.

There is no turning back for me now, but if there was I would push through all the blankness, force my way to that woman in her thirties, that woman in her forties, who had no idea how to say yes. I would tell this woman about the ice, which even as a metaphor is unexpected: it isn’t as potent as I would have hoped for, or as wise. It is only a semi-death, the great white before the white of the mind, the darkness before the darkness, somewhere to walk and to train myself.

I know what I am training for, and this does not make it easier. I am training for continuation, for the constant tread of my boots on the ground, the swivel of my hat, the flatness of my thoughts over every single mountain. I am training for my end, then, the place where I accept my smallness at last – even in this cape, even in this skirt – and I learn to keep going.


Our Lady

My mother had a secret altar. Smoothed wood stained red with golden characters carefully written in the corner. Burnt incense and fresh oranges adorned the feet of Guan Yin - the goddess of compassion - I found her when I was playing in the rice store. Mother had said demons lay in wait near the rafters - they especially liked eating small girls with rosy cheeks. The ladder to the forbidden area usually lay horizontal like tracks. It was heavy and cumbersome; I couldn’t have lifted it even if I wanted to. However, it had been left like a gift leaning against the ledge to the upper floor. I held my breath and clambered up.

The face of the goddess was fine porcelain – smooth and cold to touch. Her salmon-painted smile and gentle black eyes stared back at me, knowing, as if she was concocting some mischief. She seemed familiar - the long hair, the flowing robe. Perhaps she had visited me in my dreams.

'False idols' were banished. How funny then it was to find her. Father never ventured in there. Cooking rice was mother's job. Her fingers the right kind of gauge for the cold water in the pot.

Father's job was educating the family in the ways of Jesus Christ, well, that is what Miss Celeste had told him. Since starting the meetings at the church he was wearing suits and a hat. He looked silly but mother told me to keep my eyes down and my mouth shut tight.

Miss Celeste visited our home once a week bringing with her scripture, in books that opened the wrong way. I laughed and pointed to her. She thought I wanted to hear more, but my father's face contorted with shame. After our final prayers Miss Celeste bid us farewell wrapping her shawl around her gwai lo shoulders and covering her head in a hat larger than our pans. As the door closed behind her.

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By footsteps

Stockinged feet in the snow, clouds at her ankles. The day is starting. The day is ending. The moon has just blinked over the horizon. The moon has just been washed away.

Her hat’s wide brim affords her the long view: high mountains, wide vistas. Her steps a sure steadying on slick surfaces. She doesn’t need boots. She needs to feel the curve of the ground with the soles of her feet. One learns to love a landscape by footsteps.

This is what she knows:

How snow sculpts the land at dawn and dusk.
That shade, shadow and stone lose distinction.
Broad sunlight gives too much, batters the eyes.

She is not cold. She is not lost. Not in these hills. No matter if frost covers the lichen or all the cairns sleep. She’s not in a hurry. There is no despair here, only her own footsteps. The air is still. Her cloak and skirts flag up because she moves like she knows this place. She does.


The Oganess

It was a beautiful day when he had set out on that fateful morning. Pink and yellow skies were streaked by thin white clouds. There was just the softest gust of wind that kept him cool the way he liked it, as his walks would often warm him up and cause him to perspire.

Suen had fought the naysayers longer than most thought he had the stomach for. They told him to give up his job, his tradition, his legacy. It would mean giving up on his ancestors, but no one understood. The first male to do so, Suen was the twenty-first generation Oganess in the role, and he was the proudest.

Before he stepped out into the cold winter’s day, he dressed, a routine that hadn’t been broken for the twenty years and three days he had served in the role. Over his bodywarmers, he put on his green snow boots and green tunic. And just at the door, he would don his purple cape and purple satellite-hat, the same that had been worn by his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. The naysayers laughed at that too, they thought that the satellite-hat belonged in a museum.

On that day, Suen took his usual route to the mountains. Making sure that his transmission was switched on, his satellite-hat beamed the signal proudly. The Oganesses believed that the signal was attuned to a receiver that their parallel-dimension selves would pick up.

The walk to the mountains was always lonely, but somehow, Suen felt comforted that day. He reached his first checkpoint and recorded it in the log. That was the last trace of him.

Sniffer dogs trailed his scent to the first checkpoint and the records confirmed it, but there was nothing from there. Suen disappeared that day and with him, the Oganesses' signal.



"What on earth" was my last thought
on seeing the billowing blackness
Pitched here out of context on the hillside
Quite at odds with the fecundity of the geography

Something twinkling
Something tinkling
a haze rises on the air
I rub my eyes to make some sense
Stood before this mystery
There's unnatural density to the shade
One cursory glance behind and I enter
like a person with options

in this new sensation
in the cool and dark
in the belly of it

All at once then, a thousand daggers And me squinting against white heat
But it's gone
Ever higher I see it ripple
a blot on the sun
a magic carpet from myth

Rising to my feet I follow it
to escape this now intolerable place


When I was a boy

When I was a boy
and other boys were cruel,
I would wonder,
because they had
such peculiar grandparents.

You would meet them
in the street
dressed in purple suits,
both of them,
grandma and grandpa,
each with matching cornflower boutonniere
and trim gold spectacles perched on pointed noses
and red floral Foulard ascots
and mud-drenched soldiers boots,
and they would jointly say
are you Marvin's little friend?

Marvin who had just walloped me,
really creamed me on the playground,
then stood above me and heckled.

But I said yes and they gave me candies:
Rose-flavored lozenges wrapped in brittle paper.
And how did such an aggressively dull thing,
such a clod-shaped, dim-eyed, full-fisted dope,
come from such showy peculiarity?
Would Marvin grow to dress in purple
and pick out cornflowers for his lapel?

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In an old house in Paris
that was covered with vines,
she changed her hat
and dressed to the nines.

Dressed to the nines
she left for the peaks
and wished for boots
and pondered weeks

Where in the news
top men were fired
again and again.

And women were tired
of that old trope
of disrespect

Now was there hope?

They were not afraid of war
All were sisters at their core.

And in the middle of one valley
Miss Clavel began to rally

And, not wanting to give in,
Miss Clavel thrust out her chin.

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Portrait of Mrs Dupin

I am tall as a shadow disguised at dusk
I turn my moth face to the pale moon
which wakes quicksilver gardens
and paints it's face in the mirror of day
never seeing the same tree twice
my frock is burnished leaves and petals
tiger eye honey spice berry highland sunstone
days are drawn like illuminated manuscripts
by harnessed birds exchanging seeds
and scores of meadows
at evening when only light moves
I collect dappled hopes
and display them like butterflies
I have wings and claws like a book
and hide in the folds of galloping white roses
I fly into crimson night which bellows like an accordion
the rain has no fear of dying

Cappello Romano

Sister Bridget thinks the safest way
down the mountain is to hold onto her hat
and pretend to be a frisbee.
She gathers speed and leaps

over the edge, one hand gripping
luminous rosary beads, the other
clasping her purple Saturno.
Flight doesn't come easily to her;

her green skirt billows around
her head, slowing her progress
and revealing red knickerbockers
forbidden by the Reverend Mother.

As she touches down in soft snow
close to the convent door, her cheeks
reflect the pink of the setting sun,
her puce cloak veils her indiscretion.


White Noise

They’ve always seen me as a thing, a perfect thing that doesn’t need to know but yet everything was explained. And told. Told how to behave. How to dress, how to speak.

Past trees that pattern against a canvas of smothering grey; choking russets and orange, leaching verdant hills to the swirling darkness of the bay, I will return, braver than before, my voice will rail against their tired, old noise.


You Need a Hat Here

You need a hat here,
high up, in the air,
espesh if your feet are on clouds.
You need a hat de bon aire,
to cover your hair,
partic when your arms are in shrouds.

My footwear’s poor show
up here, high, in the snow:
socks in this weather are silly.
But the hat keeps me focused,
in a kind of hypnosis:
and wards off the streptococilli.

When the rescue team come
and I hear the blades thrum,
the hat will come into its own.
For what ’copter pilot,
could miss my bright topknot,
when I over a cliff have fell down?



I, Draupadi, have lived under the shadow of my husbands.
I had many - they say.
Brave and full of valour - they fought for their right -
They say.
And I was the reason
I was the guilty -
they say.
My Husbands - supported my wishes, fulfilled my dreams and lived for me
- they say.
Yet I was the witch,
I was the goddess
- they say.
Here, today there is none.
No husbands.
No guilt.
No reason for fights.
In this Himalayan range, I'm the sole survivor,
They're not here.
They left.
I was so ambitious,
Partial in loving them,
I deserve to die alone
- they say.
But I -
Deserve to be reborn,
Deserve to be ambitious,
Deserve to live my life
- I say.
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Beneath the Delicate Fabric of her Heart

When she was 40, she dressed in
vintage clothes, patterns from the jazz age
traversing over shoulders clad in silk and velvet.
She'd go to the local pizza joint for a slice
of pepperoni, sweeping through the door
with flare, wrapped in emeralds and aubergine.
Grand entrances were her thing.

At 48, when the cancer came and
chemotherapy loomed at the door with
teeth that threatened and growled, she
scoffed and went shopping for chemo clothes.
In a purple suede dress and costume jewelry
with flowery beads the size of plumbs,
she sauntered up to the reception desk at
the cancer center, dressed with flare
to fight for her life.

In a hospital bed at 52, a month before
her death, she scoured clothing catalogs
and ordered a dress to die in.
Peach silk that reflected the light in her
cheeks, she beamed with joy at how
beautiful she felt on the night of her final
Christmas, laughing with her children.

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I am doomed now. Every time mothers' newspaper or magazine smacked on the table there was the accusing glare. To be fair, her warnings have come true. Scary predictions, backed by medical columns. As long as I can remember she used to read aloud items concerning substances, additives and the like, pursing her lips and shoving more veg into the never--ending stew pot. Poor mum; she knew that I was just hoping for a sugar rush in a pudding.
That is the reason I'm in this position, sticky-booted with marshmallow and overlooked by glacier mint mountains. Sky like a giant haribou stripe. Even my cloak and spiky hat are the colour of chewy opal fruits. Thinking of 'spiky' reminds me of a 'spike' when you get a sugar hit (according to certain advice). Then it supposedly drops, leaving a person with a downside, or something similar. How can a natural piece of plant, such as a sugar cane, be harmful?
This place is a bit Willy Wonka-ish and makes a girl desire to wallow. Regret stealing angelica packs from the corner store. This dress is kinda same shade of green. I'm sick of green. Sick. Shouldn't use that word. It's my destiny. Too late to backtrack. Can't escape now.

Doc's voice filters through. 'I'm afraid no more can be done, ma'am. Time has run out. it must be turned off. Your girl has just about worn out her body'.
My last thought: wonder if angels bake angel cakes...


Shades of Family

She had taken the purple, a Violet with the violence of puce who spoke with a plum in her mouth whilst damsoned words dribbled from her disapproving lips. She was the relative who pinched cheeks, the Grande Dame with the supercilious air, the one who sniffed haughtily whilst making mountains out of molehills, looking down from their summit at those who ran around after her.

Yes, Aunt. No, Aunt. Yes, Mama. No, Mama. Yes, Ma’am. No, Ma’am. All obeyed the purple tyrant, their green eyes focussed on hidden gold, the silver lining of their blood tie. They allowed her to stamp across the landscape of their lives, not realising her bank account was as empty as her heart.

And when Violet shrank from the world, her family showed how closely they resembled her as the reading of the will left them with nothing, except angrily purpled faces.


Sweet Lady

Dressed so nice
winter colors
make her outfit
look glorious
walking with strife
cape blowing many thoughts
wings across the season
little mountains sing with songs
walking home
to enjoy cooking
then resting by the fireplace of high value
landscape to the natural horizon
an winter scope of wonderment
white light


Grandad loved pastels.
His temper could be nasty.
His Lowrys were meticulous,
if perhaps a little crowded.

Nan would cook and run us baths.
Peel carrots at the same time as
booking hair appointments,
Picking us up, running to church meetings
With her bulbous homemade trifles.

Could he have painted her, in all that glory?
His wife of fifty years, with not an ounce of the rule or reason
He so worshipped in her body.
Perhaps he missed
The shine of her coat -
That nutmeg in the mashed potato -
Those dimples sitting, in their quiet wisdom,
Above her tired smile.



It’s high, purple...
up mountainous regions
approaching the peaks
answering prayers
in images.

It’s how we speak
with minds, find
links intertwining thoughts;
intuition doesn’t explain
its workings.

It’s instant food
quicker than recognition
an opening in cloud
where light shoots
awe at the earth.


The Enchanted Forest

Make good speed to the enchanted forest, where she hoped to find something worth her while, a golden ring, perhaps even a pair of glass slippers among the forest’s secrets. Like the Ardennes but more imaginative, mystical, magical, haunted, the home of all kinds of creatures, if she came across a frog and kissed it would it turn into a prince? She hoped on the other side lay a castle with buttresses and battlements and a drawbridge, along the way a house with a smoking chimney, inhabited by an old crone or gnome or an elf, an elf would be good she thought.

Weird lights, were not sprites, they turned out to be simply fireflies, eerie sounds were not eerie at all just child made windchimes, a Will-o‘-the-wisp drawing her from the safety of the dirt road turned out to be just ignited methane gas, there was no ogre hiding under a stone bridge to pass, no trolls.

The trees were still most of the time, they did not talk to her, the canopy floor did not offer any treasure of any kind, just all the usual things one would find on a forest canopy floor. No magic wand, no book of spells, no ginger bread house, no wishing well, no big bad wolf, but there was no grandma’s house, the only thing she saw was a forest mouse. No wizard, no orcs, no fiendish plan by some evil force to suppress the land. The alpine landscape is still in view, now behind her and halfway through the enchanted forest where she had come in the hope to find, a golden ring, perhaps even a pair of glass slippers, her prince, she found none of those. She did find with all its quiet and beautiful flowers, an enchanted forest.


Colours of the Evening Path

Because the mountains are always there
and they are bare and stripped of trees and vegetation
and because they do not judge the clothes I wear
and because the sky reflects the colour of my cape and hat –
I’m not looking at sky colours, not right now,
but I can tell that evening, pressing on my wide brim
will cajole me to look up once I have found a path.
I’ve heard a path exists but it wasn’t you who said that,
you said other things
but I would rather listen to the mountain silence
and even if there is no path
there is somewhere that I have to reach
and I walk in the direction that I choose, always.

King of the Andes

Over and over I play "El cóndor pasa," Flight of the Condor.
Andean music with wind pipes and pan flutes speaks to me.
Soaring above the clouds with the King of the Andes,
My heart flying higher and higher with every haunting note.

Clouds shot swiftly across the snow-covered Andes,
Early rise at sunrise, thick alpaca wool purple cape,
Flowing green skirt, and wide brim purple sombrero.
Warm and sophisticated, I fly like the wind.

The mighty Andean condors float eye-level on the thermals
Rising from below, glided, turned, dived and climbed,
Soaring above my head, before making their way down,
Peru’s Colca Canyon, the center of the Earth,
disappearing out of sight.

“Adiós, mi amigos,” I say smiling wistfully,
Softly humming, “El cóndor pasa.”



Between the peaks
Of loving you
And letting you go off
In chilly confusion
Having forgotten my name
Shuddering at my touch
I watched you wander
That cold landscape without me
Walk away from our marriage
As if it had never been
As if it weren't still frozen
Below us both
Waiting for our familiar happiness
To blood again.

Pestilence and Misery

When I saw you last, with your lantern and your boat, fading away within the darkness of the ravine, you reminded me of a heretic solemnly accepting their punishment. The light had already faded from our valley, and the twin peaks of the mountains flanking your departure stood as monstrous sentinels, sealing your sentence. I stood on the shore weeping over your receding silhouette, your tremendous sacrifice, and you never looked back. I didn’t know then you were dead set on making your great escape.

In the hollow days following your absence I tried to piece our lives, my life, back together. Those familiar routines, when performed in isolation became jagged and cold, crushed glass in my red raw hands. Like the rot I found spreading in the larder, the logs you’d chopped for the fire mouldering in my hands, and the shivering in alone in our big bed at night.

The vision of you shovelling in the flurries of snow in your thick black cloak returned to me again and again. Do you still hate me for blaming you for her death? I know we had no choice, the pestilence had taken her already. I know.

One night, for one moment, I forgot everything and I called out for Misery. How could I forget? You’d found her wide eyed at the front door. You took her by her scruff down to the icy river. She was yowling and hollering the whole way, but you had on those big leather gloves and she couldn’t get to you. I watched from the kitchen window, my heart in red pieces, a trail the snow, leading from home to her. You held her little head under, and you pulled out her body long after the bubbles had stopped. You buried her in a shallow grave frozen earth and I didn’t cry. You told me that the snow would preserve her body, until she was discovered by coyotes.

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All Purple

Hallucinations in the world of living,
nightmares swaying like walnut and oranges
I break a twig, a star is born,
I break a twig, sunsets happen.
How do you name occult and a rusty conch in symmetry?
I snip the cold waves
I snip the moisture sitting on my palms now
with feeble lips and lips of hope
I am a paroxysm and firecracker
dancing on the tip of your pink tongue
count my skull, numberless defeats
I am a purple paranoia still surviving.
And in years to come, I will dissect the snow
slitting its cold inhuman lies
Mundane Mondays and Sundays-
with a shrivel and a fierce harpoon,
It will be all purple and smiles.

Spirit of Greenland

Spectacular Schweizerland Alps,
thrusting towards pink and gold sky.
South-east Greenland sunset,
pre-Aurora Borealis light show,
pristine deep lying snow and ice
over rugged basalt rock faces.
Mont Forel, steep-sided, dominant;
Matterhorn-like, scene site of air crash,
1969, Santiago-Bergen. - Legend has it
ghostly purple be-hatted lady, with poncho,
trudges wearily through drifts in
vain hope of finding her twin infant sons.

The Promise of Crocuses

Winter’s retreating flood
trickles to thin gruel of mud.
Her skin sings with a soprano itch
while cloudy billows roll and pitch,
and teacher’s purple cloaks the valleys,
snatched by the wind in the dearth of trees.
A hat perches on her head, a mauve oblique,
a determined dash across a crown of snowy peaks,
it echoes in Aubretia’s afterglow of magenta and gold,
promises crocuses on the nature table when spring unfolds.


I got my colours done a few weeks a-go. My sisters paid for it, for my birth-day. They said I have looked sallow sin-ce the thing. I probably did. Am. Will be. Anyway. I went to this lady, she sat me down and said, you must stop wear-ing yellow and white. I hadn’t realised I was. Yellow, that is. White I know a-bout. I like white. Liked. It’s blank-ness was a com-fort. I wore it be-fore the thing. But she said, no more white. She said red made me look over-heated like those cigarette light-ers you find in old cars. I don’t mind looking like a swirl of rings, but she said no and my sisters had paid for it so I obeyed her. Obey. Blue? Also out. Not for me, she said. Blue was a cooling col-our and I need to be an even temp-erature, she said. Like a bath after you’ve given the water five minutes to set-tle down. I have no bubbles to speak of. We n-arrowed it down. We dis-missed orange (too trop-ical), and brown (over bear-ing). I asked about magenta and she said may-be. She said green is best for me. It b-rings out the colour in my veins. And maroon. Ma-roon. Maro-on. That was me. My per-sonal colour, she said. It’s all I wear no-w. Those two colours.
Sp-lit me in half.
Chop my me-mories.
I search for somewhere to piece it all back to-get-her.

Inappropriately Dressed

I wasn’t dressed for snow,
or clouds,
or wind,
or for walking at all,
if I were be honest.
But sometimes
you just have to give it a go
and trudge through the clouds,
kick up the snow in passing,
challenge the wind
with the size
of your hat.
It wouldn’t dare to blow
it away, would it?
you just
have to don
your dark glasses
and stride out to the sun,
regardless of snow, or clouds, or clothes.
you just have to go.

The strange death of Jenny Joseph

When they came hammering
I was already worrying my way
over the lupine snowfield
inadequately clothed against
the heart-stopping cold
of an alpine night.

Jenny? Can you hear us!
but I had gone
where bent birches
awaited the bear breath spring;
where snow rolled on for ever.

Heaven had dropped to earth
to lie crumpled and soft
as a cot blanket.

Hello, they called, Hello?
but I was so tired -
my summer-gloved hands
scrabbling with cold -
and wearing purple in my detachment
at the margin of a mountain page
where soon I would melt,
invisible as white ink,
lost in my wide hat, satin sandals
and the weight of eighty five winters,
finding colour no remedy against darkness.


In Place

She had a peculiar penchant for novelty hats. Nothing rational here, and wearing purple didn’t equate to growing old and vice versa. Her hat collection was monstrous, and when the children, then the husband, then finally the dog left home, the hats began to seep in through the brickwork. It was a gradual development. One netted piece with a peacock feather, bought for Ladies’ Day at the races. Soft materials, all, mediocre replacements for the plushness of human skin. Countless hats for countless weddings (grandchildren, second cousins, as the compulsory Drunk Older Lady), because she worried that she’d be branded A Bit of a Tart without one. That’s what they’re like if anyone over 40 dares to wear a skirt which falls above her knees. They’ll be having a go at her for her leopard-print underwear soon, despite the fact that no-one sees her lingerie, bar the cat and the painting of Great-Aunt Alice hanging opposite her bedstead.

She was proud of this particular acquisition. Velvet, decadent, the sort of hat a muse might wear, sprawling luxuriously on satin sheets and rose petals. Utterly unpractical, of course, unless you wanted to act as a bird table. It kept the weather out of her face, and the passing public at (more than) arm’s length. But here, in the hills, the vastness of everything matched. Big hat, big sky, big lump of rock to climb. This was the only place she was in place.


To Illustrate, To Evoke (Ekphrastic for Daniel Frost)

Where are you going,
tall slender figure in snow, still falling,
melting in the heart's eye despite
the distance of your long disappearance?

Blue mountains rise behind,
each tip white, blanket-rounded
as rock to foam before a hopeful
sunrise sky.

Your mission has that elegance,
inconspicuous but perhaps that's just
the nature of you: the stirring subtle
sensuality of Garbo
suddenly given
a mauve finch's flash
in your undulating cape
& that matching hat's wide brim,
an Easter-egg halo.

What a nimbus that is pulling at us,
as is the flowing cloth below,
your skirt of muted pine stirring up puffs.

The sifted drifts sparkling christen
your feet "Determined" while,
watching rapt
we too long
to take that veil.



Matilde travels light. Her alpine
inclinations had cock-crowed dawn,
determining her drift, alone,
as now she goes, along an incline

into this open realm of free,
irresistible, thought-full movement.
And, just for this snow-rich moment,
she claims for herself the liberty

of melting down the drawing room,
and sweeping clear the bureau’s
clutter. Out goes the past – tomorrow’s
nothing to her now – as there loom,

instead, her titans: they who jutted
up, some other ageless dawn; who
put life’s petty pomp into
primal perspective. Now she’s whetted

her appetite for such ascents.
She positively billows joy
and sports her hat a care-free way.
She travels light.


Clouds low around the ankle

Some cirrus were low around the ankle
like dust spun off from the diaspora ahead
A ravine was to be reached...
the colours of water were everywhere.
Two words stuck in her head, revolving in rhyme...
Wool and fuel; fuel and wool; wool and fuel...
"New ideas in old clothes."

My mantra, she mused.

A yard of altitude, she been informed, was an increment removed from air pressure at sea level. She, Marianna, was a sea-level person; despite her swiftness of ascension and her acclimatisation to reduced Pascals.

That was ok - she still had dried fruit in her pocket. She had the guise of a pastel-rendered spy. No, she would not be burnt - even from this impossibly long distance away. There was the horizon, the sky at its rim. Too so from above peeking so too was the sun's brim. Peaking beneath the sun's brim, the Andes were peaking. The disconnect was considered. Low clouds itching around the ankle. "New ideas from old ideas." Subconscious itching - "Old thoughts from new ideas."

Her feet taking her into the sunset, a timelessness descended. She experienced a feeling of being outside the scene. No longer in Bolivia, but of being a part of a work of art. In pastel shades, a subject.

"New clothes from old imaginings." Another mantra for travelling she considered.

They had left her far behind - no hope now to catch them up.


Purple Stranger

It was the way day turned to night, like the flicking
of a switch, shadows scrambling to unpin themselves

from the snow, the moon hastily draping a cloud over
her naked bosom, stars still, not ready to twinkle, the

glare of not knowing transforming into dark realization
in an instant, as if something had been revealed, as if

something had been hidden, forever. Except today, when
an odd twilight slipped into the silence, like a stranger in a

purple coat walking slowly over the slopes, holding the
eye, stretching distance, stark against the emptiness,

carrying not to the inky gloom that was to come, but the
light that could brighten a heart for just a little longer.


Cardinale Frucci covets snow.

A purple wing of cloak , pigeons
the insistant cooing of his slender
frame, the velvet mules like frosty
cherries, stain with little sinful steps.
He covets snow, ostia sweet and chill
as convent cloisters, a melting flakery.
Look. That galero, heady claret, dilutes
a purity of air, shades the purpose of his eyes.
Each distant cleft and cleavage tempts him
further on. How mountains deceive with
eternal unattainability, how wolves prowl
his heart, their footprints mark in virgin snow.
He waits for a miracle of ice.

As Long as You Are Wearing Fuchsia

There is no such thing as a bad day,
when cloaked in fuchsia,
and walking straight into the billowing-cheeked wind.
This is a determined color.
Mindless criticism glides off your cape,
like a greased slide at a playground.
Blustering snow swirls of negative self-talk
are no match for a broad-brimmed hat,
designed to stand up to
all forms of weather.
Imagine that these garments are invisible,
yet they intrinsically follow you wherever you go.
Like the piercing high note of a dog whistle,
only those on the offensive can see this
transparent, hot pink ensemble.
They know to stand back -
make way -
refrain from harsh words,
because negative energy just beads off
your waterproof jacket.
You are swimming in the duck pond.
You are climbing that mountain
with every metal cup, thermal tent,
and extra pairs of long johns
that you could ever need.
With preparation, perspiration and inspiration,
you are reaching for that distant mountain peak.
But, in truth, as long as you are wearing fuchsia,
there is no final destination.
Walk on, pioneer!


Sanctimonious, their disdain they voice
with hateful quasi-superiority,
and tut-tutty tolerance.

And still she has her favourite milliner
fashion an outrageous purple creation
light enough for graceful nape.

Rattling out pop-poetry with awful regularity,
they proffer cosmic compassion
to those not as wise.

Her matching cape is woven from the pulp of
rejections made by a gifted Steampunk friend,
who can make the paper dance.

Masticating platitudes, ruminants
mouth repetitive sycophantic adulation -
grovelling on calloused knees,

hardened by years of tongue-buffing editors' boots, camouflaging dehumanizing pustules, dried
by desert of sophistry.

She leaves them behind, striding up the mountain,
her Tiffany blue gown merging with the slopes,
defying the winter chill
in courageous search for next inspiration.
What chance has their bitterness against such vim?



Purple bird swoops low

wings outstretched – traveling with surety and determination

vaporous plumage protecting from icy wind

distance no deterrent, as feet graze the ground

sure of footfall – sure of destination

As she passes by I marvel, speechless

that so spectacular a being shares space with earth-bound mortals

If I reach out, will this phantasmal creature melt into nonexistence?

if I close my eyes, will this violet figure disappear?

her very creation a possible mirage painted from high altitude breath?


Saturation and Value

Believe in color. Its power to heal and to offer
escape from the recesses of grey, cold minds.

Stale, gelatinous masses gradually harden and
affix themselves along the moraines of skulls.

Colors adhere to no such substances. Artists adhere
to rules of edges, shape, line, and composition.

To limited palates, titanium white, Payne's grey, yellow
ochre, and cadmium red. But colors obey nothing.

Flooding hills, fleeing valleys at sunset. And this woman,
too, heading through encrusted ice and snow with no

boots, only a sex red cloak and a rigid summer sun
brim unbound by dull gravity. She parts without

a single glance backwards. She knows the power
of color and will not stick around to blend in.



She stole the hat - which she said she had loved from the moment she saw it - from a monsignor in Rome, and took his cloak for good measure. From that day on she stopped wearing her pearls when she went out walking, though she still wore lipstick. What, she said, if someone had wanted to photograph her?

She had been named Florinda after a legendary Spaniard who her mother had read about while waiting to see her dentist. But people were always misspelling it, so for years she went by the name of Dolly. Until she started wearing the clerical garb, when she reverted to Florinda.

I was ten years younger than her and when I was a little girl she would swat me away. Go and play little girl, she'd say. I used to hide behind the door and listen to her singing. She had a high voice, but within it there was a deeper timbre; everything about Florinda was contradictory. People said that she sang while she was walking and that little creatures followed her. Of course no-one really knew, because she walked where others did not. People said that she didn't wear shoes. I knew that could not be true, not on hills like ours, where under the snow there are such sharp prickles. Some people talk such nonsense.

When we were both much older Florinda and I met by chance in other place, a southern town. She was sitting on a wooden bench, under the shade of a plane tree in a small square. I sat beside her to rest, for the midday sun was hot. At first I did not recognise her, for she had grown fat and her chin was whiskery. Then I saw the hat, the monsignor's purple galero, by her side. It was faded but without doubt the same hat, with its extraordinarily wide brim. Florinda! I exclaimed, and she chuckled, in that unmistakable voice that was both high and low.

Read more >


Curate’s Egg

Insomnia burns a figure onto my field. The shape is washed by the early morning light.

The figure’s feet brush away the vapours of sleep.

I want to trust it. There’s a mind in there, and minds can often be trusted.

It’s morning, and the figure has been robed in the colour of power.

Can this colour ever be indeterminate? Must it come down on one side or the other?

Can the figure walk away from certainty? Yes, in a world other than the one I know.

Who puts on the purple cloak?

I know many priests. Few of them wear a robe.

Few of them stay in the designated holy places.

Few of them are known to the authorities. Few are certain.

Do they burn in the sleepless morning? Do they walk in mountain passes?

Do they walk in the high field? Do they wear the purple?


Studies on the Losses of Travellers

The forbidden mountains of far off lands
Attract their unfair share of explorers.
Leather and hobnailed hoofed feet
Signing their doesn't-matter-where signature
On tranquil paths trodden only before by goats.

Woman and man certainly weren't invited
So most mountains act carefully discourteously
An avalanche here, a sudden drop in temperature
Or a far too inviting ice bridge
That doesn't owe the world a thing
least of all it's patience.

But this subtle shaking of people from their shoulders
Carefully negotiating the etiquette of natural disasters
and not wanting to seem to formal
Is rarely enough to deter the hardiest of explorers

Those with oak aged skin
and lemon sharp wrinkles
Weathered eyes in storm sockets
Those who calluses have calluses
and whose callused calluses are working on calluses of their own

These explorers get everywhere.
Like an embarrassing infestation
The mountains don't like to talk about them.
And so they suffer in silence
and blush the sunset pink of the afternoon
as they are traversed

Peaks conquered without consent.

Read more >


Tilting at Wind Hills

Surrounded by irritation
Adapting to the silence
The barren wasteland Peaks
Curling Low cloud scuffed
Nurtured by loss
Reflect swift swirling
The cape of some hope

Pastel pale coloured,
Worn clarity triumphant
Dust Crag draped
Shadow compass tilting
The breadth of the brim
Reducts impatience stoic
Stone virtue cold contest



this mountainous expanse
frozen before me--
a blank slate as it were.

In this I am moment
neither male nor female,
nor anything in between.

Glacial white--
infinite impossibility--
tarn reflecting naught
but what has come to be,
and therefore has no being.

This purple cloak--
is it a sign of royalty?
This wide-brimmed hat,
far-flung as the ring of Saturn,
or the whole galaxy--
has it not the circumference
of what I have released
into the Void?


The Woman Who Refused to Wear Shoes

Don’t take this wrong, but she was strange.
The stranger the better is what I always said,
which is what I thought when she told me,
You can’t hear Earth speak if you wear shoes.
You're deafened by barriers, so be vulnerable,
and listen to Earth's wisdom, she said.

There was deceptive simplicity about her,
no-nonsense, brisk, brusk, muscularly lean
and chillingly sparse with her words.
She even walked barefoot in the snow.
Always barefoot on snow. On ice.
The colder the better is what she said.
The stranger the better is what I always said.

But we knew better; she wasn't immune
to her own mistakes, which explains why
she strode into the Cairngorms one morning.
Into the peaks. Into the valleys. Into primal
sun beating down on a cloak of fresh snow,
her toes crunching on crusty white, grabbing
the cold soil underfoot as her purple cape
swept the wind aside with intriguing glory.

Read more >



Once, when this mountain was in its infancy,
I had wings:

a coral cloak that fluttered like tattered pennants
in katabatic winds

that spread through the valley like clemency,
and along veins of rock,

filling villages with chilblains, dampening
the vain hopes

of cattle hoping for a thaw. When the cold came,
it turned eddies

into still circles and waterfalls into walls
of splintered ice.

The wind played a lovely waltz but my cloak
could not suffice

to keep out the bitter raw air. My soft feet
grew numb,

my laurel staff snapped, and the supposed hot springs
were dead beneath

the ground. And when I found the story stones,
they were dumb.


She Defies

At the end of the world,
Beneath the reflecting pool
Of an intergalactic sky,
She hoards daylight.

Her translucent nail
Traces shiny galaxies
Laced on the crystallized

She counts the seconds
Of arctic light, absorbs
Each beggarly ray as it
Rises and plummets to sunset.

She drinks the pale glow
Of a cold, dismissive sun,
A luminescence sliced
From blocks of stellar ice.

The somnolent world
Silver gray and bleached
Lies, sepulchered
Beneath a mortician’s sheet.

Shadows leach a sickly green
That empties to glacial blue
Glazing the veiled face
Of an eclipsed mountain slope.

Read more >


White like the snow

Memory can not contain
                      the absolute
you can not contain all the sea
in the basin of your hands
only the beloved drops prevail
the whole fire does not survive
only the single spark remains.

Memory erases
what is not necessary
the naked memories are immersed
in the deepest nothing
they sink
in the night without return.
The massacre of the past reigns.

The forgetfulness
It's a landscape
like the snow.



'I think I am starting to lose my memory,' he says. I look at his expression as he speaks. He looks calm and at ease. 'What did you have for breakfast?' he asks. 'I didn't,' I say. He tells me that he has bread, butter, and a cup of hot tea, no milk, every morning. 'Every morning?' 'Every morning.' It is almost ten a.m. and we are about an hour away from our first pit stop. This is the first time I am climbing a mountain in winter, and having company is nice, even if I am not sure what to make of this person with impending memory loss, whose dress sense reminds me of Barney the Dinosaur in the 1800s. We continue our walk, he a couple of steps away, muttering to himself. Time passes and we reach our first destination. We sit on a patch that isn't covered by icy snow, and pull out packed lunches from our bags.

'Why are you here?' he questions suddenly.
'What do you mean?'
'Why are you in this place?' he says.
'Um, I don't know. I wanted to see it?'
He nods. 'I like to see new places too, but I sometimes wonder what the point is when I'm going to forget them anyway.'
'I think that even if you forget, a part of you still remembers. Deep inside.'

We munch our food in silence.

'Is it so bad to forget?' I ask suddenly.
'I don't know,' he says, 'I think it depends on what you are forgetting and whether you want to.'
Read more >


Her, Here

She tried to grow a mane
until the day Purple suited her better

Along came the cape
and the mountain severed
by years of wishful thinking

The green dress hid no less
than the distance and silence
no longer lingered

Her voice could be heard
for miles around. Some said its sound
made the sky mound and the snow kindred

What she sung of
the clouds have been keeping
until the rain


The Bird Lady In The Mauve Cape

The bird lady in the mauve cape and crimson lipstick flies across the snow, her green claw-boots melting into clouds of snowdrifts. She has been walking for days, years, months: who knows? When she pauses to rest, she becomes a mauve sun, her wide-brimmed hat an orbit inhabited by multiple crazy invisible dancing planets. She has named a few, the rest she is still dreaming up names for.

She carries a garden of fresh-flowers inside her cape for it is the tombs of mountains to which she journeys. She wonders if those sleeping inside them are truly locked in eternal slumber – or simply frozen? She peeks inside her cape: a flash of iris blue, the dizzying scent of a rose escapes to irrigate the parched air. She hopes that the promise of spring will wake up those slumbering: after all, spring can coax even the most skeletal of trees into embracing life again, their branches budding balloons of blooms.

She glimpses the night midwifing the morning into existence: the birds twitter from unseen countries, the sky striped in rose and lemon and vanilla. How long has the night been, she thinks, walking on an endless carpet of dead snow-flakes, hearing them mourn their mayfly lives. If only we could have lived longer, they wept, their icicle tears clotting the air. She wished that she could have stayed with them long enough to erase their pain, promising them of reincarnations to come: of being rain, a jade sea or a tumbling brook. But alas she has to leave for she has other promises to keep, other dead to heal.

Read more >


Laughter was once an offence

Centuries forward, laughter is listed amongst barbaric “L” words that are out of use. During the battles against heterogeneity, discourteous words were abolished. Over time, language rights were eroded, replaced by global definitions. Emotive words: love, lust, loss, and jealousy became synonymous for crimes; crimes as bewildering as the carnal punishments that deterred them. Campaigning was unnecessary because the status quo was entrenched. Justice lost appeal. Fairness? An outmoded paradigm since pragmatic binaries faced extinction. Without metaphor, communication became unequivocal.

The disconnect of the past is so immense that customs from our ancient civilisation are now beyond the comprehension of our superior minds today. There are no longer vocabularies to represent the old ways of the world. Citizens care nothing about the existence of a directory or archaic thesaurus. Its use is as irrelevant as the archive itself. As keeper of the phrontisteries, our sacred libraries, I have access to the world’s stored histories and, although baffling, it is a privilege to investigate just how far we have come.

Governments found that the fastest way to eradicate behaviour was to take away the means to express that behaviour. By 2030, gender equality had paved the way toward sexual anonymity. Artistic self expression or “multiform culture” was quashed with the introduction of a new uniformity. Rolled out in schools, children’s distinguishing features were muted by society’s standardized expectations. Mandatory clothing was androgynous. Hair cuts regulated, and with an equitable distribution of wealth, social status was equalised. At first uni-fashion disguised bodily distinctions. Capes and floppy hats concealed signs of oppression.

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Crossing Home

Beyond my beloved horizon
Lies hope, I think.
I feel the freedom of the chill wind
As it stirs the snow and puffs of smoke
Between my numb heels,
Between cracked lips,
Between my failing sight.

Will I ever get to you?
Will I ever see your hearth again?
Will I hear your summer voice
Whispering of grass and heavy trees?
Will I bask in the warmth of your smile again?

Beyond these jutting rocks,
Standing grand like old sentinels
At your door, burns my soul.
There's fear beyond these shadows,
There's death and there's love.
What will I meet? You or carrion?

The cold shivers within my lungs,
My blood boils then simmers,
My hands are knuckles of white bone
But I am coming, I am coming home.



We were watching Sound of Music - you know when Julie Andrews walks on a mountaintop like she's in a trance and blares: "The hills are aaaaliiive with the sound of music…"

It was our usual Christmas thing. Help mum with the pineapple tarts and then we get to watch this holiday classic.

We were a little factory. Mum imprinted the pastry and where there's an indentation, my older sister dolloped in the jam, I used tiny pincers to make the edging fluted and my little sister would cut maraschino cherries into even smaller bits to press into the jam. We would also interchange our jobs. I can still taste the sweetness of the pineapple pulp mingled with the flaky crustiness of my mother's butter pastry. Everything is Christmas in those tarts.

Of the Von Trapps, I imagined myself as the dark-haired middle-ish one, Brigitta. She seemed a little feisty and not-blond. Like the Von Trapps, we had to escape an increasingly hostile country and migrated. And, we lived near mountains.

I tried so hard to fit in. I forgot our native language, hung out with "white" girls and spoke like a true American. No accent. I was a natural mimic. To this day, my sister, who was about 12 when we left, still has a tiny lilt that denotes another history. It's like an audio file that refuses to be deleted. Most people are shocked to find out, I wasn't born in the U.S. of A.

I avoided the other Asian kids for fear of being grouped as a "chinky town" as the kids would taunt me with. I wanted to rip open my skin and show them my insides - just like yours you rude, little shit.

Read more >


Family ties

She hurries through the clouds, gaze downcast.
Her goal is wisdom:
A slippery beast, rarely glimpsed, never grasped.

She has prayed and fasted, studied ancient scriptures;
Sat cross-legged in meditation.
Her quest has not found tranquillity.

From what does she scurry,
this seeker of serenity?
Whispers from her former life
Echo through the emptiness.

Their voices darts of ice,
Up here in the peaks.
For she never felt kind,
'Helpful' was a hollow purpose.

Neither pretty nor clever:
With her sisters, her role was service.
She listened, nodded,
Murmured condolence or congratulation.

Until, one day, she left.
“Just upped and left.”
Arrangements in tatters,
the sisters tutted, and found babysitters.

She is still seeking.
If not wisdom,
Silence will suffice.


Magic gone astray

Sleight of hand
it was supposed to be an illusion
smoke and mirrors was all it took
somehow magic happened
abracadabra and kaboom
my plastic magic wand
and my fake crystal ball
weren't supposed to work at all
I'm a magician not a MAGICIAN
now I'm out here in the mountains
snow-capped peaks like towering giants
packed ice under my flimsy shoes
with only my satin cloak
and a ridiculous purple hat
I should have worn warmer clothes to the magic show.

Shadow Lights

Sharp swift swordfish wind’s savage screeching
Rubbing the feet of frozen light on hilltops
Colourless nothingness expanding everywhere
The serene songs of strangeness sustained
Delirium’s consistent dance of insanity raging
Night sprouting from long shadows.

On slumbering drums echoing in frosty caves
Listless flames of drowsy bonfire snoring
Ashes smiling at Jupitor’s more than fifty moons
The lone wayfarer breathing warmth off a distant lantern
Fluttering at a distant cave’s wailing mouth
The water freezing furious around pilgrim’s feet
Battling against his course to mystic heights
Lying ripe inside a hollow cave’s hungry belly
Eerie whispers of hungry silence
The world waits to celebrate mysteries unfolded
or forget a climber fossilized in decaying darkness



Gwan Winnona, fly! Over hills, marshlands, mountains. Gwan Emmerline, Gwan! Let limbs stretched over yards, miles, years; tell folk and kin of glory.
For our days have come. Gwan Sophia, tell of fight and struggle, of prosperous and lean times of hope and tribulations but most of all tell of Triumph.
Yes Rosa, Gwan!
Let your name be spoken with reverence.
Harriet, gave her all to us, for us. Gave her very essence, wrapping us all in her crimson cloak of determination.
Warm against icy ills… famine, hate, discrimination. Gwan Winnona, stride.
Your all-encompassing passion for equality a warm flame in dire times.
Gwan Eugenia, let your name be spoken in reverence.
Gwan Sushama.
Women all over Gwan.
We have overcome so much but best of all we still keep striving.
Let Gwan Winnona be your chant!


A summons to cure or to hear confessed
their leaden sins, can come like that of Christ
our Lord, thief-like to the door and spire,
will break and enter silence; I at books,
or unmantled of this rough priestly dress,
asleep and heedless at the dwindling fire.

Once, a peasant woman, in deep-breathing death
had whispered that she’d been adulteress
for half a year, then was left unshriven
all those guilty days, til now alive to
her own sinking heart, she must slough it off,
nearing the unbeaten bounds of heaven.

And so against the drift, I soot this snow
with my blackened soles, move mountains to reach
the clammy hands and brows of sallow faced
labourers or withered youths, eyes on me
as though on Christ himself, beseeching that
I, a broken man, grant them parting grace.


Cold War

Closed the cabin door behind me
At daybreak
The baby came too early in the dark night.
While snow piled up around us.

Trudging trudging trudging through blinding white.
Wrapped in the mountain quiet
And my woolen beet colored cape,
Reassuring color of heat and warmth.

My baby wrapped safe in my arms
Shaded from icy sunlight by my hat’s wide brim
Still, nose numb and cheeks chapped from wind.
Trusted boots crunching crunching crunching.

The free clinic cabin stood in a snowfield hillside
Welcoming smoke climbing from its brick chimney
Frozen feet inside my boots moved faster at the sight.
Fingers inside gloves stiff with cold and hope.

Too late too late too late!
My hat shaded her face
My cape kept her safe next to my heart.
Not enough to keep
Her warm.



Follow her along the ice,
she sings and speaks and nags as if her words never heard
by other, me, she; him?
I don't know.
I hide under her cloak, look up and see
nothing but pain.
Why? I wonder.
Lip curled, brow furrowed.
Cheeks red with frost.
Mama, I say; smile for me.
Not yet.



I send the spindly brother
into trackless waste, Fra Lost
of Lost Causes, scapular flapping,
hat unequal to the gusts
that whirl it away. Eventually,
he gnaws the last of his provisions
and talks to angels. Through him,
I, too, converse with God,
whom I hope forgives me
this stratagem of always hiding
behind a persona to enter
his presence. Rarified light
illuminates each peak, each cloud-
shoulder. My little Jesuit pays
this no mind, conscripted.


purple woman

A woman leaves. She isn't going back. She's had enough. It's what I see, in the image. And it's what I know. Wearing purple because the green doesn't matter and if she's wearing purple she can pretend she's the old woman who wears purple and spits in front gardens. She's had enough. Hasn't every? There is snow. And it makes you forget that there might be a word missing. Because snow is a white page. And the place where she's going hasn't been tainted by language, yet. She has no feet. No body parts but a nose, an ear and bright red lips. Desire is hoped for. Seen, also, in the pink yellow sky. Watercolour white words sail in her mind as she decides where to go. If she. One foot over the other. This moment, the moment the painter caught her, is only a part of it. There are mountains to come. And my sitting behind the canvas has told me nothing about her but a thousand things about me. Questions fall from the 2D painting on the laptop screen, down the keypad and into the white room. My dressing gown is purple. Red lipstick stains on light grey bedsheets. Because the world is only ever how you see it. I don't know whether this is supposed to be an exercise to write until you know yourself. No pausing. No editing. But it's how it's become. Two hundred and thirty-two words. One more. Three. A woman is leaving. Could it be me? Could I. If she. But. Why is her hat so large? Is it to say that the place she is going will need shade? Is she leaving to disappear? Can you/ we? What if the subject of this piece was the mountain? And then I scroll down. Review the text. Find the woman's feet. Find that she's been painted by a man. And the positioning of her feet somehow seems to make her look as if she's going slower. Her purple cloak flows in the wind but her feet are so still she could be standing. Is she only looking at the mountains?


The Grape Cape

Walk through flurries of snow. One step in front of the next. You might yet get where you wanted to go... And where was that? Ah yes, the Boulangerie, for croissants; the Marché for fruit. Grapes. Such a luxury at this time of year. Grapes, plump and juicy and full of promise, like you used to be. Luscious and sweet; not shrivelled and bitter, like your mind's becoming now, tired and dried-out by too many winters; too much mental trudging through mountains of difficult snow. Summers and grapes used to be so simple and delicious. Now, all you have is a cape the colour of their skin to remind you of what it felt like to have youth covering you, and a hat like a boomerang so that the remembering comes back. When everything was just-right and no hardship insurmountable.

But now, this weekly meandering is all you know, memories swirling around your ankles like powdery snow...

Where was it you were supposed to be going?


Father Bernard

I roam these paths summer and winter in search of travellers in difficulty. This area of the Alps is never free from snow, and drifts of eight feet are common even in summer. Many of the travellers are pilgrims, mostly from France and Germany, on their way to Rome to pray at the tomb of Saint Peter. They seldom anticipate the severity of the weather in the Alps and often land in trouble. That’s why, twenty years ago in 1050, I founded a hostel near this pass to serve pilgrims and other travellers. Before I became a priest I was known as Bernard of Menthon. Now it’s simply Father Bernard.

When I first came here I found the local peasants to be simple, credulous folk. To my shock I discovered that they still followed some of the old pagan ways despite being nominally Christian. I’ve tried to change that but it’s not been easy. I introduced them to some herbal remedies for common ailments and when they were effective they thought I was a miracle worker and started calling me Saint Bernard. I’ve put a stop to that though.

One of the innovations I’ve introduced has been to use dogs to help find travellers in distress, bring them nourishment and guide them to the hostel. I started by training the common herding dogs of the area for this work and over the years, by selective breeding, I’ve developed a type of dog robust enough to cope with the weather but gentle and intelligent enough to win the confidence of those they rescue. I’ve even put a small cask of brandy around their necks so that stranded travellers can be revived and refreshed. I believe it’s greatly appreciated. I really must think of a name for this breed of dog.


Hannah Barca

She left from the city of Suffrage
to march on Rome. Just her
and the 37 elephants she carried with her,
one for each room she would visit in the Vatican.

She took nothing but an extraordinary green skirt
which had the same heft and hue as her country,
her purple robe of scorn and a broad brimmed hat
to keep her shoes and her powder dry.


Believe Me

I’m keeping it all under my hat
this improbable parabola
set so firmly on my crown
it needs no ties to hold it down
its royal purple matched
by my cape
the richest colors
to keep me warm
as I walk in stocking feet
above the clouds
below the mountain peaks
invincible queen
of this particular dream
free beyond the reach
of any rude intrusions
each step
soundless and light
as I move
leaving no print
no mark no signature behind
even in the softest fallen snow


The Trial

Nobody knows how the tradition started. The origins have been forgotten, confused over time. We cannot even say when it began. When did the first woman of her kind walk the stony path in black stockinged feet, to the top of the mountain and back down to the village? How many have ascended the rocky pinnacle and placed the smooth stone atop the cairn that towers there? And how many have died in the attempt and never returned at all? It is impossible to know these things. We know only that it happens each year, and will continue to do so, as long as we live here among the mountains.

The chosen woman wears a long cloak, a muffler of rabbit fur and a hat – wide-brimmed to shield the eyes from the destination and purple as the delicate mountain flowers that grow only at the summit. It fascinates me utterly. I long to wear it myself one day, but I dare not voice this desire to Papa.

Papa remembers them from his childhood, and from the stories of his father before him. He explains that we must support them, because they do what they do for all of us. They undertake their task of endurance to show the mountains that we belong here and we will continue to make our homes here – to raise our cattle, plant our crops, bring up our children. A failure signals bad luck for the year ahead for the whole community, while those who succeed are forever idolised and respected. They choose the women who will come after them.

Each year the villagers line the path where the houses end and the mountain begins, ready to offer water or food to the returning heroine, who will always refuse. Accepting any form of help is seen as weakness.

Read more >


The ten acolytes trudged ahead of him, their red robes fluttering. After they rounded the next bend only one hill remained to descend then the final climb to the monastery. It was visible from that point. They followed a worn path now covered with a fresh layer of snow. Already the leaders were out of sight and their laughter reached him. In the watchtower, the bell would peel to announce their approach and the large wooden doors would draw inwards to allow entry. Ravi listened for the first ring but instead a scream echoed.

“Monsieur, the snow collapsed. Talan has fallen. Come quickly.”

He lifted his skirts and with his heart pounding, Ravi picked up speed and rounded the bend. A group of boys were peering over the edge.

“Stay back,” Ravi said.

As they moved out of his way, he slowed and took small steps to the edge. His legs shook as he anticipated another slow slide and tumbling over the hill. But he lay flat and inched to the rim until he saw Talan, gripping a ledge with one hand and a lone shrub with the other. He had to move fast if he was to save the boy. He unfastened his cloak.

“Boys, grab my legs.”

As soon as he felt their hands, he leaned further and slung the cloak over the side gripping one corner. He ignored the cold biting his shoulders and numbing his fingers.

“Talan, grab the cloak.”

The boy shook his head, his eyes wide and his face pale.

“Are you right-handed boy?”

Talan nodded. Read more >



Cold isn't the body
Talking itself beyond
What it hears in winter’s
Organic function.

   Quiet is nuance is
 What stone holds in
      Hands and devoted
                 When leaning
Into warmth the body bends far enough
 To understand limited mobility:

Each focal deliberation hears best when
Distance is what calls us farther into Summer’s
Subsequent comprehension


Search Party of One

Border patrols search
the Swiss Alps year round
to find lost climbers, wayward
souls, wandering spirits who climb
without gear, and willingly fall
down through the cloud cover
into a vortex of open air,
freezing in freedom.

It was the hat that gave me away,
but I fudged my way through the
barrage of their inane questioning,
convincing them to turn away so I
might continue my search for you.

My nose dives downward like
the steepest of slopes. I am as pale
as the snow, my lips painted red.

I know what you loved most about me,
my acceptable level of crazy, my poncho
as purple as my sombrero as if that
kind of hat would serve me here.

It matters not that I am not in Mexico.
It matters not that this is Switzerland,
It matters not that it is snowing.
It matters that I keep looking…

Surrounded by mountains, I search
for you in the highest elevations,
Read more >



They said they would give me a head start. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but after studying the row of guards’ expressions, I was definitely fighting off the latter. They all faced in my direction but not a single pair of eyes was fixed on me. They were all looking beyond as though I was a ghost, transparent, transient, lasting for a mere blink. I tried to appeal to the Chief Commander but he didn’t want to know.

‘Please, Sir. Please have mercy on me.’

With a single raise of his large callused hand, I knew that I was a condemned woman.

He turned away, his boots sending a spray of feather-white snow soaking through my stockings and gestured for the Deputy to take his place. I swallowed hard, not wanting to show my fear in front of my extended family because that’s how I thought of them now despite our differing bloodlines.

My eyes scoured the blank expanse of snow glittering like tiny diamonds until I found who I was looking for. Dinah. Tiny, imperfect Dinah, with her two-tone eyes and penchant for biting. My heart soared like a bird as she gripped Buddy, her overlarge stuffed rabbit in one hand. One of its eyes was missing and for some reason this disturbed me more than I cared to admit.

‘Nonah,’ she called, and reached out with her tiny flower of a hand. I smiled through the haze of tears clouding my vision and watched as her figure blurred beyond recognition. I scrubbed my eyes with the back of my hand and when I looked over again, Dinah had disappeared. Dinah, the girl who was responsible for my condemnation.

The Deputy’s voice cut through the eerie silence swamping the glade, stilling the breath in my body. Read more >


Carrying the Colours

At the summit of Mount Kosciuszko
my convent girl stopped
to apply coral lipstick to a blue-chilled mouth
before folding her hands again
into the neat nest of her sleeves.
The plate-wide brim of her regulation hat
balanced above a slender stem of purple collar,
sailed steadily ahead.
Unminding the snow glare
unheeding the mirror menace of seagreen shards
that reached into yellowed clouds,
it deflected their polished prisms
into submission as she walked,
throwing their violet shadows
into a soft dark cloak over her heart.
Ever onwards, her stalwart, forward pace
gusted threads of lost clouds around her feet,
swung up the decorous green hem of her skirt
and lifted the heavy folds of her utility cloak
into a royal purple banner,
one woman's quiet revolution
bellying out into the silent wastes.



Walking away can also be walking towards
A mountain can sometimes turn into a wave
The wide brimmed hat might also be a UFO
your lover’s areola suckled on and licked.

Snow drifts can also be stray clouds
A crimson cape turned into a raspberry
jelly mound wobbling on the wonky table
your lover’s belly mound her pale breasts.

Even this head – your imaginary lover –
could be a ball of warm dough a facsimile
for poor Yorick’s skull forever on sale
in the Globe’s gift shop at fifty quid.

That cassock might soon become a shriek
discharged from a ram’s horn exceeding loud
calling all the deserted campers to play ball
with each one of His ten fingered decrees.

Laws barring similitude and analogy
strict salves reminding us how to be
better or how to feel safe when everything
has to keep changing into something else.


6 February 1918

On the mountain is a green and purple light,
the light that is the light of freedom.
A glow that comes from winning a fight,
on the mountain with a green and purple light.
We have proved that the weak have might –
this climb will forever be a beacon.
On the mountain is a green and purple light,
the light that is the light of freedom.


Mademoiselle Martha

Many of the girls ridiculed Mademoiselle Martha. It was long ago and quite another world when I was in the French Alps. I am an old woman now, but I remember my days in Chamonix as if they transpired just yesterday. The snow on the mountain, the cold air, and of course, Mademoiselle Martha.

Look at her. How could you not remember such a figure? The girls didn’t understand her, which was not surprising really. Why did she wear such odd clothes, the gray frock that almost reached her ankles, the lilac-colored poncho, the boots that were more heavy socks than boots — how could she walk in the wet snow with in those? And the hat. It was the rigid hat that stood out above all else.

She was softly spoken when she spoke, which was not that often. Oh yes, in French class she participated as she was expected to do; after all, she was our French teacher. And a good one at that. I speak French and while it isn’t flawless, I manage a good conversation even after all these years.

I was a curious young girl, which got me into trouble from time to time, but I was what I was. I wondered about Mademoiselle Martha, where she was from and how she ended up teaching young mademoiselles French at the Ecole Internationale in Chamonix. It wasn’t surprising that the girls made fun of her behind her back.

She was odd and I was curious, which is a combination that can lead you on a journey. In this case, it led me to follow Mademoiselle one Thursday afternoon when she set off on her solitary trek up the mountain. She was a strong walker and I was young and cunning; I knew how to hide and not be seen by her.

Read more >


Adapting to the silence surrounded by irritation
cloud scuffed, the barren wasteland peaks
pastel pale coloured: reflect swift swirling
prayer silent life’s scratch worn clarity.

Nurtured by compass tilting shadows loss
Cape flounce triumphant, dust crag draped
Virtue cold resilient, the breadth of the brim,
megalithic obsessive stone dedications compete


The Witches’ Test

Her feet, covered only in thin stockings, are numb to the cold. The snow crunches with each step taken and still, she carries on. They will not break her. Their punishment cruel, a test of endurance that she must bear if she is to become one of them. The broad rimmed damson-coloured hat blocks out the view but she knows where her travels will take her. She does not need to see the snowed capped mountains to know her destination. It’s a test. A way for them to determine if she is strong enough in both body and mind to join their coven. No magic is allowed as she trudges blindly onwards. Her body, now accustomed to the harsh north winds that rip around her, knows not to give up, not to give in.

Her matching damson cloak puffs out behind her as the wind catches it, causing her to stumble, but she will not fall. Hands clenched tightly and snuggled close, she senses her way to the cave. She may not be able to see, but her mind memorised the way, the standing rocks a guide on her path.

“Two more miles and I’ll be there. Just two more. I can do this.”

The wind howls around her. “You won’t break me,” she shouts, tugging at the cloak, pulling it as tight as possible. The urge to use magic to heat her body is a torture in itself, but she holds out. “You can do it. You can do it.” She recites the mantra over and over, willing herself on.

She recalls her grandmother’s tales of the coven. Her family, she’d called them. Witches of the highest order, the ones who controlled everything. They weren’t hard to find, but becoming one of them was something entirely different. Their cruelty was known throughout the lands and even though her grandmother had prepared her well, she struggled.

Read more >

Morning Meditation

I wake early, before even the cats have opened an eye to check on the possibilities of the day.
I throw on my cape over my nightshirt and bed socks and plonk my wide brimmed purple hat on my head.
People laugh at that hat, but it’s my greatest aid to mindfulness, the wide brim catches the air if I walk too quickly and the hat is pulled from my head.
The hat makes me slow down, makes me think about every step.
I don’t bother with boots, my socks are thick and I tread lightly, so my feet won’t get wet.
The sun is bright and the air is cold, but I notice none of this, I’m focused only on my breathing and the song in my head.
There is never silence, only the music, weaving the tune that accompanies my life.
Melodious now after years of discord.
I walk in harmony with the landscape.


Scent of Purple: Haiku, 4 Parts

Wintry mix of life
In purple hue, treading ground
Last minute errands.

In the dead of night,
She fumbles through the thick snow
Her hat, a safe space.

With every quick step,
The snow piles at her small feet
The frigid air breathes.

She hurries to town
Her coat flowing in the wind
The night becomes day.



I am well past three score and ten
but not yet old.

Do not lose patience so fast
when I am slow to grasp your technology –
could you thread a 60s projector
or double-declutch a car?
If all bakeries closed tomorrow
could you make bread?

My brain has produced a trillion thoughts
and some are worth sharing,
so do not roll your eyes
or dismiss my words with a shrug.

My hair is grey
and my joints creak,
but I still have a lot of living to do.

I will know when it’s time.
Before I begin to drool
and need my bum wiped
as I wiped yours,
I shall walk out into the snow –
far out where Death will find me first –
but to spare you weeks of anguish
I shall wear my purple hat.



Emergency Nanny got the call late last night – she needs to fill in for busy-mum-of-two who has to get on with the important work she conducts in a small-town cafe – long hours at the computer face, emails about documents and clients, phone calls to discuss the difficulty of sourcing the best gifts for goody-bags. Emergency Nanny is striding out to save the day – she’s wearing her uniform in suffragette colours, her cape a huge purple wing to speed her over the pass between the mountains, broad-brimmed hat to shelter her eyes from the glare of sun on snow. The sky is watery, striated yellow and orange. it is early – Nanny always rises early – and she is on her way as the sun breaks over the peaks that surround her tiny refuge of a home.

She’d rather stay here in her retreat, closeted and comforted by snow, no sound but the heavy silence of the mountains in their winter weight, where all shadows are green as her dress and buttoned boots. Here she has a well-stocked larder and a well-tended fire and her desk with a view. But another desperate city parent is willing to pay whatever it takes and this job will buy her another month or so in her hideaway. No fly-in, this nanny – and don’t mention Mary Poppins – this is just a means to an end. She’s a sturdy walker; this journey clears her thoughts and puts cherries in her cheeks as she hikes down into the valley, heading back to suburban streets. Sometimes she wonders why she ever signed up to this agency, to these short-notice demands on her time. But it is easy money, and it pays well.

She knows she’ll get no thanks from these parents who put their children down as shareholders in their business start-ups, their property companies, their entrepreneurial schemes. As she walks she smiles to think of these busy people tap-tap-tapping away at their keyboards, missing all the good stuff, this early morning sunshine, the snow puffing around ankles, soft and dry, how surprisingly warm the air is when the snow settles. Read more >


La Religieuse

Sitting in a gilded café on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées,
Choux pastry,
Crème patisserie,
Pretty pink fondant icing,
A delicacy created by a Florentine,
Fit for any queen,
Not simply an éclair for Catherine de Medici,
But a delicate confection to make you dream,
One tiny bite,
Fills one with sensory delight,
Transporting you back to childhood dreams;
Walking purposefully through the snowy,
Alpine light,
Fine snow,
Scented with ice-chilled air,
Dressed like a nun in flowing robes,
A hat; not quite a papal mitre,
Ice crunching beneath sturdy shoes,
A flight of fantasy,
To complement a rose-coloured, moment of true culinary, delight.


The Journey

I move through the purity of snow
my soul is cloaked beneath the bleed
of pink and blue.

My limbs float free
from the chains of gender.

My voice lives under the boundary
of my hat's brim

but barefoot, skirted
by the green of new growth,

I seek the mountain with the ear that
will listen; I have the words.



She walks numbly, her feet swathed in the fog drifting up from the piles of snow. She knows not where she is going, only that she must continue to move or risk the frostbite that will come with the night.

The delicate streaks of the sunset hover over her as she moves on, the snow-capped hills rising like pyramids in the distance. Her cape offers little protection from the cold, but her hat, looking as if the purple streaks of the sunset have formed the brim, will serve to protect her should the skies open up with delicate crystals.

She left in a hurry, paying little heed to her warmth and comfort. He would be coming after her, she knew, as she put as many steps as possible between them. One wrong turn in the frigid wilderness could mean death – either at the mercy of the weather or the cruelty of his hands.

She had endured his roller-coaster life, the ups too few and the downs too numerous to count. All had been well until he broke, taking her with him into the depths of despair. She wanted no more of it, but he had isolated her, kept her remotely removed from even the fringes of society. Her life was barren, and now she craved escape.

She waited until he was in a drunken stupor to sneak out. She had nothing with her and nowhere to go, but go she must. Life was not life anymore – it was a slow, creeping death in a living hell.

She hurried, her feet leaving tell-tale footprints in the snow. If she was lucky, more snow would fall, masking her trail. But more snow meant her way would be ponderous. There was no answer for her. She only knew one thing. Fear was driving her into the unknown, away from the horrid known that had been her life.

Read more >

Listening for her future

Each step, was one more
to distance her from a past
she never planned to create.
Born into hands that held her
too tightly, cautioned kisses
wrung with worry. Now
began her life. One step toward
a place where she would finally
choose her own name.
Hear the sound
of belonging.