• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 07


She wore centuries of service lightly. The eternal handmaiden, destined to do their bidding, she was frozen in time and her shimmering wings stayed hidden when not in flight. But her hands, callused and stiff, came close to baring the scars of several lifetimes. These hands delivered messages that sparked devastation and heartache, for that was all the immortals ever had for us.

I was no more than a boy when I first saw her, cutting through the storm clouds, tracing vaulting arcs of refracted light. All my boyhood assumptions about the world were reduced to carrion for the birds upon sight of her golden wings flapping before me.

Despite her solemn expression, I devoured the sight of her greedily. She told me she carried messages to mortals from the gods, sharing news of death or lighting the spark of war. All while the Olympians feasted, eagerly awaiting her return so she could refill their cups. I wanted to ask why she had to leave. But before the words could form, she spread her wings and flew, blazing her brilliant trail behind her.

The second time I saw her, I was a young man. I had loved women, but none had ever matched her iridescent beauty. I ached for her to see me as the man I had become but she was preoccupied. Her mission had caused sorrow to burrow deep in her heart, a maiden goddess taken to the Underworld.

‘I must retrieve the grieving mother,’ she said, her voice smooth and cold as a stone weathered by the elements. ‘She must take her place on Olympus, regardless of what she wants.’ Her eyes darkened like the skies her journeys brightened. ‘We all must.’

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The Weeping of a Bride

“Oh, but forests above the Volga River are as green as emeralds,
Oh, but the warm spring winds are blowing above the arable lands…”

And she stares at the clouds gathered up far away,
knowing now that her life never will be the same,

for the boy that she loves is out of grasp, out of reach,
and the man she’s to wed – well, he is old and he’s rich.

Just the trees in the woods and the birds in the field
know how broken’s her heart that will never be healed.

And the willow that weeps and the river that flows
hear the toll of church’s bells and the call of the crows.

As a thunder breaks out, splitting the sky overhead,
the bright rainbow comes out – promise of good times ahead.

And she lifts up her face, letting tears to roll free,
rain clears off her pain, set her soul to be free.

“Oh, but forests above the Volga River are as green as emeralds,
Oh but the warm spring winds are blowing above the arable lands…”


Vagrant Song

In this dell where faeries dwell
Unspooling wiles and miles
I spin this tale of wedding bells
As April-May collide

Alice, Amelia, Emma, Rose
Unleash your hymns and sun sparrows
Untie your moons and let them glow
And spread your seasons wide

Your fate is not in fabric’s fold
In untouched silks and satins bold
No, kismets, fortunes, spells untold
In you they do reside

Aye, charmers you may find to wed
With acres broad and steady heads
Whose hearts are pure and rare as gold
Their promise sanctified

Allie, Amelia, Millie, mine
Untwine those vines and sweet designs
Three hot coppers for vanity
A score-and-one for pride

Pitman, poet, postman, judge
O, midwife’s guide, O, grandam's drudge
O, farmer’s lad without a grudge
Forsaken by your bride

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She always played a guessing game. Guess the tune as we ran in the fields. Guess what I’m thinking. Guess where I went in my dreams. I’m going to guess what flower you picked for me when you went out walking. That time you went out walking without me. She’d close her eyes and guess a flower I never picked for her. She would say she dreamt we lived in a painting. In a time long ago, where the fields we ran in were filled with all types of animals. She’d close her eyes and see into centuries before us. She’d guess the future and tell everyone about it. She guessed we’d see a double rainbow, one for her and one for me. She’d guess we’d have the same dream. I guessed that times would change. I guessed that we would grow up. I guessed we’d leave behind these fields. These fields where we’d run away. Where no-one could guess our hiding places. And we’d play notes that would get lost in the wind. These fields where she saw double rainbows, one for her and one for me.


She could magic up rainbows without e’er the need for rain.
A double, if you dared her, and promised ne’er to mention her name.
She could charm the birds down from distant trees
And have them chirrup descants above the low drones of bees.
But, above all, she was a story-teller with a small library of books
Concealed within her rust-coloured cloak - just big enough to safely shield a small truant
Away from nature’s harm or an ogreish child-catcher’s looks!

She educated ‘the unteachables’ through her stories and her songs.
With a flick of her wrist, her books became a squeeze-box and she’d sing at the top of her lungs.
The cows and sheep would all gather round until her long hair was an orb of fiery red.
Entertained children would scuttle home for supper, then wearily off to bed.
She would disappear at the hoot of an owl or the screeching of a bat.
Re-appearing later in a childhood dream, only young ones would ever see her.
None could ever remember her stories or her tunes, but they knew the colours of the rainbow and other useful stuff like that.


One Tiny (R)evolution

I was a dreamer as a child, in large part due to my mother - not because she was one too, but precisely because she couldn’t be.

I saw her toil after the 3 of us, my siblings and I her entire world, I saw her build a life contained within four walls. She often told us we were her blessings - the absolute best ones amidst her chaos, that we were the reason she kept going, every day.

I saw this, and sorrowed, vowing to never live life “so small.” Writing in journals that I would one day change the world. Seeing her agency so narrowed by the role of wife, mother, daughter-in-law, made me allergic to the constriction of definition. My days would be absent of needy in-laws, full of inspiration, I vowed: my impact would be felt beyond the home.

Mothers, to me, had to choose - between a full life, and invisibility. Required to dull their realms of what could be possible. They had to sacrifice their own dreams, so the children could have them instead. A life sucked dry, but packaged as legacy.

"The jig is up," I concluded, "I will never become a mother." I would never surrender to an unborn stranger.

“Besides, what if they turn out terrible?” I’d ask Ma, pushing, “What if we end up estranged anyway, what’s the point?”

She'd look at me, round-eyed, a smirk sneaking against her lips, and ask bluntly, “So you’re scared, is that it?”

“Are you scared?”
The question clangs in my chest, an inconvenient rebuttal to my identity.

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Squeezed concertina, push and pull,
reed-free in both lap and ditch;
air’s at rest - sure doesn’t sing?

Feeling blade and catching sun,
statuesque for tortoiseshell,
hers is all of sensible.

But younger sister, does she play?
Raggamuffin, hue browns to blues,
fidget of the glossy hair.

Would-be child for shelter’s aim
editing her magpie count,
hiding prospect, wearisome?

Red shift through, seams same, repleats,
buttons, folds and fingertips,
moment, still life; still life moment.

Social vision, lack bemoaned,
what of vagrants, vacant sight?
Germ imprint, failed germinate.

Reordered, mind, for science’ sake,
a doubletake, restrings his bow,
in better tune with what now known.


A Thing with Wings

After John Everett Millais’s The Blind Girl


Dickinson wrote about hope,
that thing with feathers
that perches in the soul, and I
wonder if it can be that thing
with wings on it—
Mariposas, Butterflies, Papillons,
but also Pájaros, Birds, Oiseaux
a handful of languages, seeds
to scatter, milkweed to grow
on fields, in yards, in groves,
bouquets of langues, tongues
lips’ sighless breaths, our
sightless eyes cast within
and out, beyond, and over
Dorothy’s rainbows.


Millais’s Madonna, wanderer
in her tattered clothes, turns
a weary back to the hunger
of sun-burnt wheat—
her sienna robe wide
as the straw-colored fields
the orphaned child has guided
her across. Her ample woolen

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In the Swarm

In their prompt, the editors have asked us to "[g]o beyond that immaculate double rainbow." But surely the editors know that the internet overwrites all of life, including the past. Therefore, there's nothing these two could be doing out here in this field by this brook with those cud-chewing cows behind them but composing a farmcore remix of the famous double rainbow video. Don't believe me? Look at how they're snapping their fingers to the beat, and at how their eyes are fluttering closed because of how much they're feeling it. They even brought an accordion, because you can't compose a farmcore remix without an accordion, unless, perhaps, it turns out that your accordion is actually a concertina, although as far as this writer knows concertinas are usually hexagonal – but only usually, so even though this thing is more of a rectangle shape, technically it could possibly still be a concertina, but that would work, too. Getting back to the subtler details, that big building in the background must be the club where, come Friday night, the local serfs are going to square dance their asses off to the farmcore remix of the double rainbow video these two are currently composing, and after that we'll just have to see what transgresses, as the old saying goes.



|| begin with the tempo
   of thunder on a sunny day

curiosity absorbs raindrops
as easily sun spots,
so stay,
sit in this splash of
sunshine for another
scribble of a second

handfuls of bluets,
true to spring, though I rue it

to don a sunset
is to embrace the scarlets
swathed in vibrance,
let tangerine horizons
rush you home, blush of moth wings
and turpentine, hush hue to bone,
colourful lungfuls of dewy dusk air,
let laugh echo across atmosphere
lost to the clamour, errant breath
to bluet death, beaten and bruised
by raindrops.
what comes when
this storm gives way to lonesome
puddling, sporadic songbirding,
murmurs of melodic measures,
enough to fill the ribcage, the

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My Accordion Lungs

I house you in my cloak of music,
my love for every strand of honeyed hair,
not knowing
where the next heel of bread
will come from,
abiding in my faith
in what comes next.
With doleful breath,
my accordion lungs
exhale burdens
and inhale the sweet scent
of your straw blond curls.
I hold you in my arms,
my mothering parentheses.
We are bundled, we two,
safely entwined,
dust swirls
in tiny tornadoes of light
at our feet.
A butterfly rests,
embedded in fabric,
guided by hope.


A Monarch

Birds that roam.

Breathe. The green
Carpet of grass.

Breathe. The gentle grazing sheep.

Breathe. How far we've come.
Safe and sound.

This is the time of year when
the world is a nest for us all.

This morning we hugged
During the thunderstorm.

Deep breath. A Monarch
On my shawl.

There might be a rainbow

I told you so.


Art History

This is the kind of painting I would go out of my way to avoid in a museum, without bothering to read the explanatory blurb pinned at its side. I can just hear my high school art history teacher highlight its symbolism and classic religious motifs. Madonna and Child. Golden hair and pale skin to designate innocence. Rainbows as messages from God. Maybe something about fertile agricultural fields representing fecundity. Wasn’t there something ominous about black birds? Darkly sexual in some way. I think we learned that in art history, but perhaps I am just remembering my best friend, Mona, whispering her snide remarks.

The skirts of our uniform were in the same sky blue shade as that worn by the younger girl, only we rolled the waistband over so many times, the hem barely skimmed the edges of the trendy boxer shorts we wore underneath. Mona famously wrote algebraic equations on the inside of her skirt, surreptitiously flipping it over to remind herself during maths exams. She did better at Art History, despite the snide remarks, writing her final essay about an Henri Rousseau painting that also featured a travelling musician at rest, The Sleeping Gypsy. A lion stands above the figure, possibly poised to devour her, or perhaps just nuzzling curiously.

I imagine the lion at the edge of this painting. The two girls are Mona and myself and we’d probably fight over who got to be the redhead. But there we are, in the Californian fields at the edge of our suburb, whispering our secrets or sharing our homework notes. That lion is crouching just out of view, and it’s not for another 15 years before it pounces and tears our friendship into bloody scraps.



The rain passed and sister plays the music
The space between the notes
Like breaths
A l i v e
My hands are too small & I don't yet know how.

I wear the clothes that once she wore
Loose, then fitting, then too tight
In just one springtime.

She walks with me to the river
The current running past our bare ankles
Curling our toes around the smooth stones.

I'll take you with me
She tells me
I don't know what she means
I look up at her
Always up
And she tells me
Wait another springtime.


Double time

A girl cradles her sister, keeps her warm under her coat,
but the cloth is a kind of barrier and the girl peers over it.
She would run towards the arc of colours if she could,
if it wasn’t a world away, if her sister wasn’t such a knot
of cold music, if her hand wasn’t tight as a treble clef.

A butterfly clings to a girl, keeps still like a painting,
but its days are short and it feels the time is draining.
It would fly free towards the refracted light if the crows
weren’t so black, if the girls weren’t so lost and ragged,
if the accordion could only play itself in a different key.

A girl closes her eyes, keeps her back turned away,
but feels the village they have left behind burn like gold.
She would shout his name, the double rainbow boy,
if she hadn’t lost him, hadn’t felt him slowly slip away,
hadn’t bled for days like a song played out of tune.


The road to Birmingham

The scent of crows
is shiny black
like starry night.
Of cut hay
is muddy gold
like sunlight spooned in earth.
Of a butterfly
is fleeting fluttery
like rainbow dust.
Of patched clothing
is salty of teardrops, of sweat
our struggle, our failings, our warmth.

The scent of horses
is strong
like the wind
humming barbed wire.
Of leafy trees
is annual
as we season, shed robes,
add rings.
Of a music box
is peppery with cream
like soup
stirring, steaming, pouring.

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When I Forget How to See

you teach me how to close my eyes,
how to remember all the promises kept,
all the answered prayers,
all the good fortune, all that is right
before me.
You show me how to sit in the stillness,
feel earth’s tender breath; how the moth does,
how to play over in my mind’s ear
the unsung notes of the concertina; that covenant.
While twinned under the arch,
you assure me, there is always a bend towards justice.


Conjuring a dreamscape

I repeat the words over like a mantra.
Say it twice, that's the charm.
My sibling fidgets at my side.
They are never still, unlike me.
I am poise personified as I rest on the stream bank.
I conjure my surroundings. There's a brooding indigo sky,
yellow-green grass miraculously sunlit despite the clouds,
the red butterfly on the russet scarf, matching auburn hair.
I create one bright orange skirt, another one deep blue.
A scatter of tiny violets flowering by the water's edge.
I decide to make it spring time, fill the field with creatures.
A distant spill of horses and cattle. A donkey. Why not?
I am good at this. My dream landscape is beautiful.
I imagine a squeeze box. I can almost hear it squawking.
My sibling fidgets and chatters away. I ignore them.
I repeat my mantra and two arcs form above.
The hardest part? Imagining the faces of the two girls.
I try to concentrate but more of my siblings fly in.
They're cackling and cawing. The spell is broken.


The Pre-Raphaelites

didn't they love their idealised settings
patched blue skirt leans against orange
blond head explores, half-restless, half secure
red admiral sunbathes on russet jacket

crows like those populate the green
opposite St George's, our second home
where we wait for the S1 bus to take us back
to our suburban garden, good link to Victoria,

London, who is to say what's better
town or country, living then or now
to undergo treatment that you endure,

or suffer scarlet fever, smallpox, measles,
TB, diptheria, cholera, dying in childbirth
high infant mortality? people were poor but
sat outdoors in sunshine, the idealized setting

all that blah, all that back-breaking corn
water from the pump, a struggle to keep kids
clean & fed, fifty more years the War

that sky lights luminous fields as if a storm is brewing
could be a poster in a British Rail Waiting Room
you don't see many red admirals now, do you?


The Seer

They were two motherless sisters, one copper-haired, the other golden-maned, who never rolled far away from each other. You could see them both, one tall, one small, clutching each other's hand, seated on the edge of the road, crabgrass, dandelions happy to serve as settee. The younger one waved at passing cars stuffed with happy families and boisterous well-fed children, trucks of crates of Florida oranges, trailers carrying grunting pigs, mooing cows. Dust rushed through their hair, their patched-up skirts, sneaked between pages of books nestled between the older sister's thighs. Sometimes, a kind stranger would offer the girls a handful of pennies, a cold hotdog in a bun, a bottle of water. The young sister split the hotdog between them, devoured her half, save for a morsel of the bread she fed the warbling magpies that sauntered around them.

Once, a van screeched to a stop real close. The sudden surge of air lifted their skirts, revealing pale thin legs underneath.

"What are you girls doing out here?" the man asked, after rolling down the window.

Before the older sister could utter a word, the little one said, “My sister is a seer. Would you like to have your palm read?”

The man licked his lips, twisted his neck back and forth. No other cars in sight. It was late afternoon, the sky a thunderous gray canvas for a dwindling sun peeling away lazy clouds after a flash of April rain.

The man hopped out of the van. “Oh yeah?” he said. Pebbles clanked under his heavy boots. Magpies tilted their head, eyeing him.

“It’s five dollars for a minute,” the little one said, and lifted her open palm, the other hand still holding her sister’s.

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When humans glow, light reflects
off them… flashes colour back at the sun
as if freshly washed and polished after a storm.

I’m caught in the copper/bronze of her,
the autumn silk sitting out under a double
rainbow and everything behind her pale

in the glare setting her in front of us
bolder than any well-buffed brass, dazzling
in rough-spun. She has all she needs.



Today I will plant myself by this lonely ditch,
The seed of a weed, surplus to this world.
For I have wandered in search of a welcome,
In return for a smile, poetry and song.

But while my concertina may be pleasing to you,
The daughter behind my skirts is viewed with disdain.
My fruit of love, bruised and stained
Is an affront to the sensibilities of God-fearing folk.

So wet through we huddle and await metamorphosis,
I close my eyes and hum a lullaby.
Eventually we will meld into the landscape;
From human detritus to two perfect poppies.



first day of high spring
basking in beltane's gaze
sisters stop for a seat
leaning, as
the suns warmth fizzes eyes closed
any consideration drifts away
to seek distractions
that nestle in surrounding dimmocked hedges
what attention they allow is
drawn by wandering thoughts
to aimless meanderings
protected by
a sister's throw that surrounds
to defeat any last cold airs
as they drift away on the balm


Angel in the background around which the world of rainbows and redheads and children revolves

Do you think they'll ever see me way back there in the background?
--expecting a rhyme to hound them into the future--
--expecting some life to make this whole afternoon come to life--
because a child turning, a girl holding the hand of another, this is
just a pretense to life--
i am in the background waving, not a bit of pareidolia fools you--
i am here as the angel, the fixer, the patient one who waits for you,
is waiting for you--
through fields you must travel and a lifetime of sleep, and a storm
awaits you, awaits everyone from that deep place
you refuse to
call home.



Their hands are clasped together
resembling a sleeping bird
the mother’s barely larger than the child’s
emanates energy and warmth
her copper hair forms a protective canopy
over them both

Together in the barren field
they lean against the bright flanks of summer
the mother’s eyes like shutters
closed against the anticipated storm
the child’s wide as the ocean
directed at the train tracks
of a double rainbow promising flight
and longed for adventure


The Art of Living Regally

Friends will die on the 21st dawn but I have found another way to live—forever.

Art-bomb a canvas.

The sun strokes, emanates warmth. The accordion’s bellows may or may not extend, the woman will weep at the rainbows she can’t see, but I’m in a dilemma. If the girl sees me, she will clap her hands and shatter my wings or she may say, wow, and both the woman and the artist will whisper: stay still.

Stay still. I behave. Because I want to live. I don’t have to be a daytime star. Reds, yellows, pinks, greens, oranges, purples and blues—blue sky—always do. Not all wings are alike. Birds are not butterflies. Feathers are not scales, but I see he is painting me. It’s good to be small and add a serendipity moment to it all.

The painting is complete. It’s time for me to live on or I will be crushed in the folds of her cloak. I will fly to Isabella’s house. Perhaps sit in between sliced blood oranges.

I will nurture Noah’s dove too. Sit on its flustered white plumage.

Later, when art needs a companion, I will choose words. William Wordsworth will speak to me:

"I know not if you sleep or feed."

Neither. I let him imagine.

Annette Wynne knows me so well. I do think and speak to flowers.

And Alice Freeman Palmer revives my weary wings whenever someone reads me by virtue of her heart-filled words, for she understands me well when she trusts me to help her understand:

"The Eternal Mystery."


The Weight of Butterflies

Once the rain had stopped,
they’d left the town. Her
little sister guided her down
the country lane, where they
sat on the embankment
at the bottom of the field
sloping down the hill behind
the town’s main road.
The birds had come out.
She could hear them.
Meg said there was
a double rainbow
against the receding
storm’s dark clouds.
They had sheltered
in the church portico
during the downpour.
It hadn’t lasted long.
But it had meant
there would be today
no more coins for song.
Meg leaned against her,
looking back, likely
at those rainbows she’d
espied. The concertina
inhaled a bit as Mary
shifted to accommodate

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We are as the dew on a prairie

We are as the dew on a prairie
flowers amongst limestone graves
entrenched in the living rock
watered by bird song

Engulfed in nettle stings
we are but charcoal smoke rings
fasting on a single drawn out-breath
resting on a forward-moving breeze

We are a clutch of eggs
encased in a bough of creeping ivy
squawking frantically upwards
up at the midnight sun

We are the covenant
the rainstorm before the rainbow
slew by the swords of angels
we are the dewdrops on the prairie-
flowering amidst the entire universe.


Waiting. Grace.


            is both a burden and a gift,
            an opportunity to shift and lift.

            is the space between the here and now,
            and all that I hope to see, and wish it to be.

            is not just a pause in time,
            it is a threshold to a life divine.

            When time ticks at a slow pace,
            patience is the needed grace.


           is as elusive as a rainbow's flight,
           fluttering, with a soul’s delight.

           is a moment of joy, a simple act of love,
           the whispering wind and a soaring dove.


to this constant ache

for clear, green places
where sitting is an act
of prayer to the exquisite
sunlight gilding our hair
here is a dream: haloed
by vibgyor, we are
spring’s first flush
dozy with pleasure
the concertina
breathes into blades
of grass, the wind
a murmur pausing on
the backs of cattle,
the sky is watercolor
still life of radiant days


Deirdre’s Accordion

Deidre played till her fingers throbbed
to keep the unrelenting fae
and folk from Tír na nÓg at bay,
even the leprechauns who robbed
and buried rainbow gold. Of course,
she kept her sister entertained
with songs as they toiled on the moors.

She loved the golden changeling child
swapped by the unrelenting fae,
protected her by night and day,
loved her, despite her increasing wild
fantasies. Blaithin was her little flower,
she had to keep her entertained
for fear she would leave in the magic hour.

No matter how closely she watched the girl
born of the darkly magical fae,
one day, as feared, they lured her away
to play in their eternal world.
But Deirdre followed her little sister
to kept her forever entertained -
not even the fairies could resist her.


Gifts of love

His first gift to me was an accordion, passed down from his horse after loading his other possessions into saddlebags. It could be that he simply ran out of space and could not take it with him; over the years I have wondered, was it a gift of love or convenience?

I chose to believe it was love, as I taught myself to play during those long autumn days after he left. The dry heat outstayed its welcome that year, tiring the farm workers during the harvest, baking the stubbled crops to tarred brown. I sat watching the men work with the accordion in my lap, experimenting with the keys, trying to find the right chords to accompany their old songs.

Extending the bellows by pulling the pallets open between my arms, I imagined them inflating with the warm, rose-tinted air of our short romance. I would pause and hold the pink pocket of air inside the bellows, suspended in time and space, and I could almost hear the anticipated sigh of exhalation before it happened. Squeezing my hands back together, I returned the air to the atmosphere, where it rose as a pale blue cloud, veined with the faintest traces of love. My hope lived on within the folds of the instrument, just as a stone wall retains the warmth of the sun long after it has set.

Now, I bring you back to the place that we parted, and we sing and play songs to the cattle in the fields. I point out the rainbow that tempted him away, the black forest on the horizon that consumed him. I tell you that he never knew about his second gift to me, and that over the years, I have never doubted that this one was made of love.


Your Name

The first time you smiled, I saw rose.
Your cheeks and my cheeks.

The first time you walked, we saw yellow.
Ripe wheat crushed under your little feet.
You made it two steps forward and fell into my arms.

The first time you sang, we heard an angel sing.
The first time you cried - a flood in our home.

The first time you ran to us, we saw gold.
Your hair in my chest. Ravens bathing in the sun.
Your cheeks and my cheeks. You sang and I played.

Mum said the delivery room smelled like Summer
long after they took you away.


Fool’s Gold

‘Don’t bother me, child, can’t you see I am tired,
we’ve sat here all day, not a soul has come by
to leave even a worn copper penny.
My fingers are sore, they can twiddle no more,
I fear we can’t eat tonight, Jenny.’

‘Mama, don’t cry, in the distance I spy
two rainbows, so two pots of gold,
You sit here, sweet mother, while I
run to the foot and scoop up the loot
while there are still clouds in the sky.’

‘Child, you’re so sweet, but the boots on your feet
have no soles, you will blister your toes!’
‘Mama, I don’t care, we need money, it’s there,
and it won’t stay all day, I suppose.’

‘Jenny, my dear, you’re a sweetie, that’s clear,
and on your way back, stop by the inn
for haddock and chips, for you ginger beer
and for me a great flagon of gin!’



One of those afternoons
where sun follows rain
follows sun follows rain
and the cattle remain undecided.

Two children, paused
between home and horizon,
between action and consequence,
linked by fingers interlinked, by

three years of torment, and by
three desperate red minutes
that rang out like the noon bell
and set the birds to flight.

Four crows
do not a murder make,
but murder was made

Five minutes from now
the rain will return,
the rainbow will be lost
and the children also.


Becoming Summer

Trading secrets golden crops rustled, their wafting perfumes scented the air. A breeze blew distant whispers of dry leaves refreshed by recent rain, of roots straining, questing for water.

                              one work worn hand held
                              on to youth, another cooled
                              fingers on damp grass

The old men of the land, the crows, sauntered by, discussing deeply affairs of state, pausing only to pick choice worms. Above a skylark sang hymns to summer, her golden notes falling to grace the earth.

                             dark clouds emblazoned,
                             rare mirrored rainbows, the sky
                             bejewelled drew wonder

Belching contentment, cows grunted as they ate their fill. The wondering scent of wild garlic bought tales of food. A tortoiseshell in search of pollen rested a moment, to open delicately decorated wings

                              stray sheep baa’d freedom,
                              shy forget-me-nots danced to
                              ancient rhythmic songs

Summer soaked inside, filled with zest life responded. The need to sing overcame all doubt. Joy instead leaked out. Impatient the dance of life restrained inside a worn out music box fought to escape.

                              gold above, gold below,
                              smiling, the world praised sunlight
                              as summer became



I heard first the violin
Its strings taunt with heartbreak
Its harmony alive with soul

The tune etched itself through my flesh
Inking patterns that diluted with moonlight and
Revealed my ivory bones.

And I died in the fragrant air twice
Drew my last breath when the clock chimed midnight
Watched the rainbow lance across my night sky
Drew my last breath again when the clock chimed twelve
Watched the colors fade in the blinding noon.

I heard then the violin
Its strings played by fingers gloved in passion
Its harmony inviting me down into the meadow
To dance.


Of this I am sure


The plaintive call
of mourning doves
& meadow grass
rustling in
gentle breeze.

I am sure
of newly-shorn
sheep’s wool,
cow’s fresh,
sweet milk,
the bustle of
Saturday market.

I am sure
of indigo clouds
in the western sky,
rumble of thunder,
promise of rainbows.

Most of all, I feel sure
of your small solid body,
pressed against mine, our fingers
intertwined, your silky head
tucked under my chin,
soft voice prattling
with the brook,
sighing into sleep
as the sun warms
my upturned face.


My mother

is a tent under a rainbow

I am

•        a-hiding
•        a kangaroo in a pocket
•        dressed as a raven in a field
•        my mother’s rod, keeping her upright,
         straight & narrow—tethered
         with stories & songs

Sky greys as I peep through the tent

Mother shuts her eyes

When rain falls we are waterproof,
anointed in holy oil—
bright & full of promises

Our prism breaks its heart into the enormity


Here’s the Rainbow


The Sky is pale
As your heart

The Sun is harsh
Like their words

Tiny Birds are silent
A copy of your lips

Giant cows are distant
Same as those friends

Loving allies are invisible
Similar to your pain

Trees are fruitless
Resonate your efforts

And yet

You choose to look back
Because you are aware that

Rainbows are a reality
And suffering is a hack !


Dreaming Land

Salt rice pot dog cat logs
Hope scotch rum, apples wheat drum
Bees sticky sweet, flowers smell nice allergies
Eggs beans protein, hens lay chickens
Toast rye bread,
sodium bicarbonate baking soda yeast cocaine
Kids play with toys soldiers and guns for fame,
Hydration drink prime, life is now fun is later
Happiness trust faithfully, liar cheat marriage
Lemon juice tequila, rough busking homelessness
It’s not it, is it not what it isn’t, what isn’t it,
It’s not what it is,
it’s not what I think, it’s not what it looks like
It is what it is, I’ll see you later, see you whenever,
whatever the weather,
it looks like rain, my umbrella in the car,
I’m so happy,
Your crying, I’m here for you, your screaming,
I’m sorry,
you don’t understand,
I don’t know why I’ve been here dreamingly dreaming on,



The last notes had sung out minutes ago,
She thought if she listened hard enough, she could still hear them,
Echoing across the fields,
Up the bank,
Perhaps creeping down chimneys, and through open windows,
Of the houses just beyond.

Would it work, would it summon the magic?

She had been told to imagine the circle around her,
Even if she sat in a sacred space,
With needles of stone demarking an area.
See the circle, hold the circle,
You will be protected.

Protected from what she was unclear about,
Because as sure as eggs were eggs,
Any man would be able to seize them through that imaginary sphere.

It’s not the men you need to worry about,
Her sister had whispered.

She itched to play the music again,
Now that was her safe space,
The place she became lost within,
But lost in a good way.

Will the fairies come?
Her sister asked,
Will they take us away?

Read more >

Snug is our singing

The crows, here, are bigger than cows.
Tricks of these ley-lines of light. And the houses
tilt on the edge of a sky made of dappled
dark greys. I am kissing the hem of her hair
like a shawl that is already dappled with kisses
and sighs. Safe in her caul from those over-
sized caws. She has left off from singing
and waits for the rainclouds and thunder to pass.
I am safe, though, and whisper, "A snuggery's
hugging is where the sun's mummery ends.”
In these folds I am bold. She is squeezing
my hand and her warmth is the colour
of comfrey. My voice is the music she plays.
“Snug in this huggery, feel how my whole
heart expands.” Ready to pour out like water's
soft contact. The crows, here, contract
on the tide of her breath. “And the houses…”


Close Your Eyes

Victoria and I huddle beneath the bed. I always climb down from the top bunk when we hear the first rumble, but usually, we huddle on her bed, hanging a blanket from the railing as protection. It doesn’t buffer the sound, but it helps us feel like we’re anywhere else.

Tonight it’s too loud. I hugged her head to my chest but it didn’t help. “Shh,” I whispered, rocking her slightly. “Pipe down or they’ll hear you.” They never bothered us on these nights, probably forgot we existed, but I didn’t want to risk it. They were already so angry; perhaps a crying child could be the thing that made them snap.

Victoria’s sobs turned to loud hiccups, so I pushed our toy bins out of the way and ushered her beneath the bed, then pulled the baskets in behind us. If we stayed quiet, no one would ever know we were here. The bed was high enough from the ground that we could comfortably lie on our backs and stare up at the bed slats.

“Close your eyes,” I told Victoria after her hiccups subsided. “What do you see?”

“It’s black,” she replied, as stubborn as ever.

“That’s not what I see. Here, try again. Close your eyes but look around with me. Take a deep breath—do you smell the meadow? I think I see cows in the distance, chewing on the tall grass. Oh, do you hear that?”

“It’s… birds!” Victoria whispers, and I can hear a hint of smile in her voice.

“Yes, so many birds. I can hear them calling to each other, their wings flapping as they fly from place to place. Maybe one will come join us here on the log.”

“I’d like that,” Victoria murmurs, voice heavy with sleep.

Read more >


Mother look there's a double rainbow. It's one in a thousand. Look now, it may be our last chance.
Quiet child. I'm working on my composition "Accordion Fire". It will make the top of the Urban Charts and be more famous than "Lady Of Spain". People will play it for years in elementary talent shows.
You're composing it? I didn't know you were awake.
I can do this in my head. I will transcribe it later.
You can't do that later? The double rainbow is a rare illustration of secondary harmonics.
Didn't you bring your mobile? Take a picture of it and show me later.
If you insist, but it won't be the same as the real thing. You'd sleep through a total ellipse rather than take a look wouldn't you.
That's right child. Now hush.



It feels likes a memory
as you close your eyes and inhale out -
                                   and exhale in
the debris of a cloudy day

With each breath, your vision changes
it's like you're back there
not you
not yourself
not the person you are now as you know it
but the child
her body pressed against you
restraints of fear nullified as curiosity courses into the hands that hold onto yours in anticipation
peeking from the protection of a veil
there's a safety in familiarity
and she sees everything but nothing at all

because the crows are gathering
laying low
speaking through stares
their feathers bristled between blades of grass
grass that skims the spaces between your fingertips
the past overlapping with the present
and now, now as you revisit a moment
before your world changed
when storm clouds burst into rain
and wind carries birds into flight

and that fear

Read more >

My Name is Sarah

Sarah's weary fingers slide free from the music's hold
to stroke the softness of grass, never at rest.

The tilt of her head embraces the sun's colour while the
damp waft from Mary's golden hair plays at her nostrils.
She feels the swinging four-button boot and grasps tight
the hand.

Donkey gives the signal, time to move on. Crow shrieks
takes off to the gate with no purpose. Cow blows her horn
horse complains, the haystack bales and the butterfly taps
it's gentle metronome on Sarah's cloak.

Who will sew another patch on Sarah's skirt while she will
tear the paper from her chest again.



Amber autumn
sage spring
torn Asunder
yet bound by the year

Naive hope
demure restrain
different dreams
one birthed by the other

Sunflower face up
daisy droop down
roots in the earth
stems entwined

Two is twice as much
twin souls
lives apart
sisters or strangers

Winsome waif
wise woman
warps and wefts
of one fabric

Free firmament
free the fledglings
fastened by fraternity
frame to framework


The Blind Girl’s Song

As I walked out on Camber Heath
the jackdaws followed me.
In their strange way they seemed to say
Today your soul flies free.
Against my face the breeze blew sweet;
the bird-cries filled the air
and nothing but fine raindrops touched
the child’s golden hair.

Her daddy was a dancing lad
his arm was fine and strong
and all night long he reeled with me
and charmed me with his songs.
But in the day he went away
as all true lovers part
and left his concertina there
to ease my broken heart.

Yes we may walk a hundred miles
to find him once again
and sing the songs that we once sang
of joy and love and pain.
O we may trudge a hundred more
my sister-child and me.
I had my choice and took it once:
that was my destiny.



Your glasses are all wrong, my optometrist said,
but I can give you a new pair of eyes.
Yes it’d be a bargain, but I baulked and frowned.

Where do you look when your mother’s face
you cannot remember? And yet ―
what’s there to remember if the world’s going to end?

Music on my lap but I cannot hear:
I hold my conscience lightly, almost gingerly,
as if any moment it’ll reorganise my fear.

The whence and the wherefore, the who and the how,
keep hiding panicking metabolising,
while soldiers go heroing their country away.

Time was you’d drape sackcloth over your head
whenever there were two rainbows and three moons,
even if you couldn’t find ashes to scatter, or to tomb.

I’ll put up with my obsolete glasses, and won’t pine for
the new eyes ― those who believe they’re far-sighted,
will soon find out there are no fairies in our world.

The whence and the wherefore will test and tax and tag
and you will beg and break and bless, until
the rainbows, the moons, the variegated colours,

the intentions, the promises, the erasures and
all the optometrical finesse agree to stand aside,
to let in one last heaving breath from nowhere fast.

Read more >

Reely rural

I cannot turn around and I cannot play a reel
but I can tell you all this is not real.
This is some man’s fantasy: my youthful face
eternal held against a perfect pastoral scene
more appropriate to
Perhaps a harp, to catch
the cleaving glitter of a double rainbow.
Instead, I have this pleated bowing breathing leather
appropriate only to caw and crow.

Look at my hands, look at them:
they cannot hold my child;
cannot hold a tune.
Might manage one breathless pressing wail.
Come close, really close, and look at me.
The weather and time have cracked my skin,
and if you sniff the air… those animals sh*t everywhere.



If tears emerge with ease, these days, so what?
So feelings are strong, sensation moves,
the situation compels the ducts to act.
Tears trickle down soft cheeks
interspersed with whiskers
now more white than grey
and watchers somehow see them slide
and later they might gently say,
‘Were you crying, then?’

It doesn’t feel like crying, actually.
When they come, it’s more like tearing,
an emerging tier of tears,
a taring re-balance,
a sense of lightness as the slow cascade
drips softly, soft and silent,
as something tugs, tears the shell
wide open, to reveal a feeling felt.

It’s almost always joy, or empathy —
it never feels sorry-making for oneself.
There’s the stimulus, maybe music,
for that’s the quickest trigger,
or maybe another’s pride, a shared
shed tear in accomplishment.
‘Were you crying, then?’ You know,
you know I was. I’m going to invent
a better word. I’m going to say,
in the lateral way we talk about the washing
carried damp to dry in sunshine,

Read more >


Everything is better than it was:
lush green new against
receding black, rain prismed beams
wide across the sky. You shook at the
sound of a giant's fury, his tears;
I understand, indulged the fairy tales,
held your hand tight while you quivered,
kept you dry beneath my cloak,
safe with your sightless sister:
remember, I've seen it all before,
and the story is shaped in our favour.
This makes it better, the word
that I whispered as the sky shook.

Now everything is more and we
breathe the petrichor, marvel at the
reinvented world - a child's first
rainbow will always be the best:
a glimpse is enough; a second of sight.
Keep it safe and it survives.
I cherish mine, no need to see another,
a spectrum in my mind's eye forever;
I hear it too, singing colours in the
voice of my mother. I'll sing this one
for you now the day is free of thunder:
red, yellow, pink, blue. Believe in happy endings.
Everything is better than it was.


Somewhere in the Afterglow of Ever After

Sister seeds planted in black-winged darkness
the air was scented with dark purple despair
and ashes of grief fell from the air

there lambs cried in crimson bleats, aware,
of things in the murk,
that slithered and lurked--

but when planets aligned,
when stars shone just so,
then shadows shifted in slant-light,
letting them go.

They gathered cloaks of butterflies
and listened for the crows,
for the crows always know
when it’s time to wake and when to go.

Now red and gold, coruscating
poppies and daffodils, in dappled meadows,
the sisters grow, at peace under a sky
of cantaloupe glow.



No darling, we are not of the village.
Roadside with crows, let’s rest in squeezebox
silence. Copper hair, copper skirt,
russet cloak draw audience and with your
blue black counterpoint, we’re our own
earth and sky, hands curled like folded roots.
The clever butterfly turns the eye from
my right palm holding coins, not grass.
He paid me for my weariness. How carefully
he chose the blue cuff. How he makes
my face as lighted blank as the rainbow.
Blind? Beauty tatters. We know. He does not.


My not so peaceful walk

It’s such a lovely spot, she said. Relax.
Just clear your mind and let it fill your soul.
It sounded good, but then she dumped her kid,
a snivelling little brat I couldn’t stand.
And then she left, and said she’d pick him up
at noon. And so we pattered off to this
idyllic spot to calm my troubled soul.


Well, here we are. D’you think I look serene?
A calm and restful pose? Epitome
of mindful meditation? Think again.
This ‘angel’ boy has brought that bloody squeezebox,
the corners of it digging in my thigh.
And every time I move, it gasps and squeaks.

A butterfly keeps flitting past my face
The grass is rough, and poking through my skirt
I’m pretty sure I felt a drop of rain,
and all around a faintly silage smell.

I came for peace, but this is what I got:
A wriggling boy, and squawking bloody crows.


The Other Rainbow

We let the toad jump
Green in the mud-
Ran ahead of us,
Pressed palms, twined fingers,
Watched the spiders scuttle into their web.

On the horizon lies the last crimson.

Across the stripped meadow
From first row of huts
Comes the hubbub of voices-
Are you here mother
As yet?
With the other rainbow
In inverted colors.

The music of childhood is shut.


The light, the light

My grandmother once took me to a gallery, all the way to London on the train in the rain, just so I’d be able to see Ophelia—her favourite drowned woman among greenery and flowers—but Ophelia was smaller than either of us expected, disappointingly small. Together, we’d dreamed up a twelve-foot-high painting, a giant of a woman in a dark, horrible, brackish place I’d never liked, a landscape deep enough to tip right into, pulled into darkness, a dangerous painting. But Ophelia was barely as long as a newborn, the landscape confined tight by a gilt frame, and my grandmother took my warm hand in her cool one, squeezed my fingers tight, and we moved away from the painting without a word, never mentioned again, not in all her years.

We could have left the gallery then, gone for afternoon tea somewhere or searched for a toyshop, but instead, we stayed. The travel had been long, the tickets expensive, and so we dutifully stopped in front of every other painting, whispered about each one, soon forgetting little Ophelia, and told stories about the knights and princesses and children, all so colourful and real they were begging to have stories told about them. I remember bubbles painted with prismatic rainbow sheens, a man hiding in a tree, a ghost appearing in the dark, and a woman wearing a silver satin dress which creased from being folded up in a chest somewhere, that crease the most real unreal thing I’d ever seen.

We wandered, hand in hand, through a chain of high-ceilinged galleries, now evening-lit, crowns outside the glass, each room a distinct colour—green, blue, yellow, red. We wandered until we came to a painting of two girls sitting in a bright field under a thunderstorm, and we stood there for a long time. I’m not sure what my grandmother was thinking, but I was thinking that this, this here was really the picture we’d come to see, although we hadn’t known it.

Read more >

One Afternoon

We go to the field.
Lizzie lugs five books,
an extra blanket,
her prayers.
I need nothing more than
Lizzie’s hand,
skipping through long grass
to the path,
to the woods,
to Lizzie.
Arms stretched,
arms bent,
arms stretched.
You’re like a puppy, she says.
I wag my whole body.

At the apex of the hill,
she drapes a blanket over us—
for the sun, she says.
She opens a book,
moves her lips silently,
hugs the book,
opens another.
Why so many books
at the same time? I ask.
She doesn’t answer.
Her eyes are closed,
not reading at all.

Read more >

Two Bright Tattered Birds

We carry our music as we roam,
carry with us rhythms of home.

Sorghum blowing
and fresh-shorn sheep
and new lambs crying
and brother’s small flat feet.

Cora hollering “Opry’s on!”
The sway-back donkey braying in the barn.

Grampy’s grumbles
Grammy’s sharp swats
Pa’s “Mind your business”
Ma’s Do and Do Not!

Thwoop-thwoop-thwoop of butter churning.
Thwap-thwap-thwap of the waterwheel turning.

Snuffling cows at milking time,
Padrik’s silly, lilting “headin’ home” rhyme.

Sizzle of spoonbread
snapping beans
sweet crunchy corn
and nibbling crispy greens.

We carry our history as we roam,
carry with us rhythms of home.
Two bright tattered birds.


Not as Rare as It Sounds

The cursed day arrived
and the double rainbow
made from God’s refracted tears
only made matters worse
because it meant the marriage
would follow,
and the plays that she’d rehearsed
in fond, familiar fields
with her beloved sister
were silly words,
lines she’d learn to swallow.

For now, fingers doubled down
with fright, she whispers,
“Oh, let it be a long goodbye,”
her lap piled high
with beloved childhood verse
soon to be passed down
as she must walk the path
from pasture to church,
telling herself
this transition is not
as rare as it sounds.
But the words are
meant to soothe
the broken part of her.


I’ll never ask

I do not care
what car you drive.

I care only, yet am deeply driven about
whether it keeps you safe.
Does it get you there in comfort,
does it listen and respond to the beat of your feet?
At most you may get a ‘Oh, that color is cute’.

I do not care about the size of your house.

I care about the love in the rooms.
Does it room joy?
Is it filled to the rim with laughter and love?
Is it a home?
Does it let you breathe?
Do people speak kindly to you there?
And do you do the same?
‘Oh, the color is soothing!’.

I’ll never ask you the size of your bank account.


I care only about how you spend what is within it.
Does it bring you and others joy?
Does it let you sleep deeply and at ease at night?
The only coin that counts.

Only the things that outlive us matter
none of which are things …

Read more >

A peek

Furtive peeks are never quite as furtive as we’d like them to be: you always get caught, swallowed in a pillar of salt, and your lovers, ashen with sorrow, return again and again into the waiting dark. Still you can’t help but take a glance. Go on, don’t worry: peek out of the veil, peek while your keeper, obeying her mandates, shuts her all-seeing eyes. Momentarily you are triumphant: you spy, near enough to touch and tame, a clan of glossy, keen-eyed birds, pacing the earth languorously as though they have long wearied of the sky. In the distance you spot a row of handsome auburn roofs, ornaments for the horizon – yes, you brighten, better roofs will someday be yours for the taking. And just above – if only you could lift the veil further, there – you see the twin diadems of colour, so bright that you avert your gaze, so bright that you must peek, breathless, through the slim spaces of your fingers. Giddily, jealously, you stare and stare. Soon this vision will fade away. But until then (before you are entombed in salt and a thousand lovers decay into a thousand shadows) you bask in its light, all its merciful colours.



The golden sisters, hand in hand
Had walked too far away from the band,
Their brother had not kept to his word
To guide and nurture away from the herd.
So motioned by the sound of the stream
A breeze of music guided their dream,
The smell of the rain and rustle of trees
They lifted their hoods and fell on their knees.
Within the shadow of the rolling storm
Refreshed the meadow and brushed a form
Of streaming light, a coloured arc
Appeared in the distance from beyond the dark.
The golden sisters lifted their eyes
Blinded by the beam of the skies.



Whoever said “Where there’s life, there’s hope”
has never been an orphan girl wandering the countryside,
leading her sightless sister by the hand, seeking
shelter every night, and sustenance every day.
My sister plays her German concertina
with skill enough to soothe the souls of demons.
It is our sole legacy from our parents,
in addition to my golden locks and her auburn aura.

We are not too proud for charity-
My sister’s silent plea pinned to her blouse
ensures a modicum of kindness
from all but the most hard-hearted souls.
She has a sixth sense, an inner vision,
for swindlers and knaves, finely honed by lacking sight,
and she will allow nobody to separate us.
Even in repose and exhaustion, our fingers entwine.

These last few months have been harsh.
Our soles are worn, our souls weary.
The itinerant life is not for us,
but we are abundantly grateful for each other.
As we approach another village
after sheltering in a downpour,
the sun beams down with benign joy
as we rest on a tussock of grass.

I grip her hand in the storm light, and hold
her threadbare, wet cloak away from her shoulder
hoping desperately that our clothes will dry
before night descends with all its perils.

Read more >

Double Rainbows.

It wasn't even the end of the day.
Rain was coming or going and rainbows
lit up the sky like bows in a little girl's hair.

I don't want to write about childhood or
motherhood- there's been enough of that.
I want to write about the light.

That lights up her face knowing that every-
thing is as it should be in this moment:
warmth of another being: resting, safe, loved.

I said I didn't want to write about that
but everything comes back to it.
Like rainbows, like sunlight, like safety.

Like what happens when everything collides.


Musical Prayer

I laid the accordion down on my lap for safety. I didn’t want to destroy the keepsake of our mother. One of few things to remember her.  I held her hand and told her to crouch in, closely. I prayed the noise overhead would pass. I could feel my heartbeat in our hands. Blood rushing through. Pulsing. A joyous moment interrupted by the colors of the sky. The sky darkened. Black as coal. Her hand grasping mine. The boom or crash of something close. I wonder if anyone else saw or heard the boom or crash? Surely, Father. Surely, the animals, or the neighbors. The grass blew all around us, the wind catching under our clothes. Cold wind stinging my legs. We didn’t know if it was over. I didn’t know if it was time to open my eyes.



As you close your eyelids in prayer,
The silent music of an accordion
Arches across the sky. What is there
But an empty promise after the storm?

Yet you see nothing and you expect
Nothing, surrendering all attitudes.
A mere child sees more in mere fact,
And less in mere truth than you ever do.

He beholds the bright promise bend,
Longing for paradise, tempted to choose
The yonder beyond for this hither end—
That Something to gain, this Nothing to lose.


A Blade of Grass

Two sisters along the road I could see,
Caught in this moment of restful repose.
One gazes as a rainbow brightly glows,
Seeing in the distance all life’s beauty.

I thought I’d heard them play in Winchelsea,
Just that morning rousing the marketplace.
Such enchanting songs performed with such grace,
And yearning refrain though I did not see.

Yes it must be them these must be the two,
And here they are while the donkey looked on.
Crowned by coloured light now the storm had gone,
The fields touched as if by glistening dew.

And I saw their sign now, pity the blind,
So theirs was a hard road without leisure.
They seemed to accept what was their measure,
Of a life that had become thus defined.

Sisters together one blind one can see,
Caught in this moment of restful repose.
Here one holds just a single blade of grass,
Touching unseen all life’s hidden beauty.


Four Days

You existed for four days
Four days in my mind;
That most powerful device we own
It created you and there you will stay
Indefinite, delicate, intricately designed

In that time I imagined telling your father,
How he would hold you in his arms
Sit you on his knee and play piano
Teach you how to skate
We’d celebrate birthdays together

I wondered who’d you turn out to be
I’d knit you little hats with the bear ears
Read you my favourite childhood stories
Bake fairy cakes together
We’d watch as you’d play jovially with your cousins

It was just for four days,
Four days of reveries,
We never saw fruition of these dreams
We are now very separate people,
But I will always be grateful for that little infinity


Squint a Pledge

You can only make pledges for real
if you squint, and if you ask a double,
they'll say squinting does not help either.
'Don't even gaze', they add:
brush off the cotton-fluffed, bright, broad day
from your rose-tinted cheeks and close your eyes:
everything you see, they have already seen it,
too many times, as young as old souls are.
everything you've lived has already been lived
by someone else.
everything you've silenced
has already been golden first turned into copper.
everything you've not lived
has at least been peeked at
by someone brave enough to do it.
everything you've held
has been protected hand in hand by them.
Everything. If anything
You can't afford to look (back). Lot's wife you're not.
You're someone's child promised to life, to future
the present mimics desperately in its green composure, deceivingly informing the rest the buoyant sky is a promise.


Banshee Lullaby

Aye, me lass, me sweet but poor one,
lay here in me banshee arms,
as we rest before yer leavin’
from this world’s fair vibrant charms.

Take yer last look at the rainbows.
Bid this meadow fond farewell,
as this face whereon ye’re leanin’
is false comfort in this dell.

A blinded banshee, I’ve been summoned
to carry ye o’er to death’s far shore.
Hold my hand and laugh to the treetops,
before I am bidden to tarry no more.

All that I know of your child-sweet spirit
is the wee warmth of your sun-kissed hair
and a bairn’s trust in these clutching fingers,
the perilous grip of my dark’ning care.

Wings of black crows will carry us onward.
My scream, to you, will be but a tune.
Time grows near to take leave of Erin.
Turn now your face to the word of the rune.
Turn now your face to Death coming soon.


The Instrument I Don’t Know The Name Of

You will pick it up,
the instrument I don’t know the name of,
and it will be a part of you forever.

People will travel the length of the planet
to watch you make noises
they have never heard before.

You won’t accept their change.
You will just play and dance
and stop them wondering

why the hell are we alive?


We grow tired

Somewhere along the journey
The rainbows lose their wonder
Playgrounds swapped for emails
Chasing birds swapped
for chasing the Twitter tick
We grow tired

Tub of Lego, once an afternoon of fun
Now something else to tidy
Pot of slime
Not a fascination
But a hazard to interior fabrics
We grow tired

A field of green
Not a sprawling adventure
But a hayfever haven
An outing is an expense
Rather than a pleasure
We grow tired

When does this happen?
This gradual slip
From gazelle to sloth
From summer to grey
We no longer play
We grow tired


What It Means To Love

There’s a shivering in the distance, the bending of clouds and rainbows. A promise of wet moments. Perhaps the tongue knows better ways to proclaim this beauty, but it’s the body that holds the fascinated one together. The unmistakable feeling of being mothered into safety and murdered in carefree style. He finds wings and the birds leave his chest, pulsing, flapping, taking him into the beauty of nothing being certain. Somehow this is enough.

Say, the world reclines tonight. A moment everything is as it should be, and the next, swallowed in the vast ether of eternal destruction. Say, a Nigerian walks into a room and finds a picture; of warmth and reckless loving, it’s a gradual undressing of a wound in his childhood. So he leans closer, and seeks an appraisal. There, face to face with unspoken traumas, he bursts into tears. Hot on the cheeks, he hides that spurt of emotion, says “It’s alright” when a mother pushes a trolley with her kid inside. She didn’t ask, but he feels inclined to provide an explanation. Somehow the world goes on.

On the way home, he remembers: the books. What would the Everette image be without them? On the mother’s laps, it makes the child situated a bit on her side. Which might say, all beauty is useful beyond its temporary dazzle. Which is, words might not immediately describe the sky, but the kid would one day cherish having the gift to do so. And for the second time that night, he breaks into tears, his red eyes meeting the cab driver’s in the front mirror. Somehow this doesn’t feel strange, and so he mulls briefly about asking for a tissue, but soon the thundering skies part, releasing rain, washing away the weight of his tears.

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Forms of Pleasure


Your child is looking at the rainbows—

she likes drawing them in her mind.
And you, you’re always

finding comfort
in books or in music,


or in a million things seldom bought.

When you first decided to leave home, you

were leaving a husband drunk in bed;
he had been particularly difficult
the night before.

In leaving though
you hadn’t thought it’d be this challenging,

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Storm Crows

The crows always come after the storm. Black, skinny legs pushing through cowslip and burdock, sleek heads curving left to right, combing the meadow for what tumbles in with the rain.

Alice and I have stopped to listen. We close our eyes and press together, smelling wet grass and distant rainbows. The damp squish of crow’s feet, more immediate than the muttering cattle and church bells. Hard beaks thud into soft earth and tap around for little treasures. When we think they have found something interesting—by way of a glassy crack or fabric rustle—we peek. The crows find all the sparkling things that are washed down from the woods or out of the gutters: red bottle stoppers, slivers of mirror… once we watched a crow yank a golden chain from a mud-thick puddle.
    Alice grips me tighter and gives a little shake. I peel an eye open to see. Half-buried in the mud and the damp weeds, is a little crow. Its wings are a soft crumble of broken bones and stunted feathers. We lean over the small stone wall we’ve perched on to get a better look. It couldn’t be more than a fledgling. I inhale sharply, but before I can ask Alice what she thinks—she’s already half over the wall.
    “Alice, stop.” I hiss, one hand snatching her ankle.
    “I just want to see.”
She tries to shake my hand loose, but I tighten my fingers until I can feel her anklebone rubbing.
    “Who knows what that died of!” What if it has a sickness? What if it has the sickness.”
    This arrests her struggle, and as she wavers on the wall, shoulders over the far side, legs dangling by me. In that stillness we hear the approach of wet crow’s feet. The adult has hopped close enough to witness our treasure.

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I See You

Let go of your woes little ones for I see you,
Sitting amidst natures panoply of
Warbling birds, gentle cattle in verdant fields and the babbling brook.

Let go of your woes little ones for I see you,
Your clothes, home to many a darn have seen better times.
Your hands, old before their time,
Still play a lilting ballad on cherished instrument,
For farthings that can be spared.

Let go of your woes little ones for I see you,
Faces serenely lit, as you soak in the warmth of a vernal sun,
A fragile butterfly takes its cue from you, and rests from its fluttery flight.

Let go of your woes little ones for I see you.
Your itinerant journeying is almost over,
You have reached your destination.
A double bow, set against a watery granite sky,
Portends a double portion of blessings indeed.


The Gift

The air is made of onions here. The red from the rainbow cuts my retinas as if it were the Warden’s razor. A sickly smell swims around me, like too much life fighting and climbing the wetness in the wind. The arms of trees kick out and the animals screech in defiance. There are no frayed books blocking fuzzy glows. There are no smooth cold floors for lying still. Tough bristles at my side, I taste the iron must of Mama’s reddening cloak and pull it against the hot pigments.

Mama says I am not to be afraid. She says we were burrowed mice, not used to the paintings of birds and kisses from Heaven. Eyes sealed, she inhales like an angel dreaming of diving or flying. I close my eyes just a little and live there for a long moment, between nothing and everything.

Mama tells me light and music will save us now. She pats the thing she calls ‘accordion’ and says we must thank him for the gift. I wonder if she means God or the Warden and I dare to ask ‘didn’t you say I was your only gift from the Warden?’


Not Long Ago

You sit on my lap painting rainbows with your eyes,
Leaking sugar clouds with your fingers.
I play an old lullaby
I thought I heard long ago.
The green fields behind us
Had always looked greener
A pretty house in the distance,
It was never ours.

Unaware of space and time,
I hold this moment,
like it could be forever…
A cloud between my fingers.

(Not long ago)

I brushed the waves of your hair,
Adorned them with stars.
I dressed you with summer flowers,
We picked from our garden.

Now every time you say goodbye
Like autumn clouds, disappearing behind the hilltops
I catch a last glimpse of your shadow.
Your eyes are dreamy
Your smile is full of anxiety.
I let go of your hands
Your shadow grows taller as you walk away.
Your name I call only in my dreams.

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For Ethel

Beneath gambling skies
Mother and child
lost amongst the haze
of dandelion seeds and lazy wishes
Hypnotic symbiosis
Eyelids do flutter
with micro submarines
trudging charcoal territories -
a pasture for the diseased prayers
Salt sediment clinging to fingers
porcelain razor shells
Yet the songs will still play:
songs of whimsy
songs of grief
Summon a rainbow -
one for each of her children
For Mary, upon her lap she daydreams
For Ethel, resting deep in the Earth
Love is a membrane for the bubble
bouncing across the meadow


Why why

Why? Why? He asked me.
I replied, because the balloons had to burst
That’s how it is
He said: That’s why! That’s why!
In his all innocence

Why? Why? He asked me
With the soil smeared knees and bruises
With his tiny hands around me.
Because the earth is for you to fall down
And you may do so many a time
But remember my child,
Never forget to look at the sky
For the sky is for you to fly.
It’s okay! It’s okay!
He said self consolingly
I said with a kiss in his forehead
It’s okay to fall, as long as you get up
Hug me mama! Hug me!
He said, still in his sadness.
But in his eyes I saw, that he knew
It was okay to fall
As long as you never forget to get up.

Why? Why? he asked me
Standing near an oleander tree
In the pavement of a busy street
Of a scuttling city
In a pale blue dot

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the art of seeing

upon my visit to birmingham last year, the city revealed itself to be redder than anticipated
set in stone, the blood of the workers who refused to quench the kingdom’s aesthetic thirst
had painted popular imagination despite the dualities of repetition in the name of poetry, and
much to our rapture, the postcolony had slithered up the marble columns that bore this burden
of preserving history to be shown to those who demand so, in broad daylight, in full view
and thus i found the red-haired proserpine captured in sulphurous solitude, as if, her waiting
could absolve the sins of those who walk the earth, on a rainy september midland afternoon
to be able to see, you need to close your eyes and forget about the beauty of late summer
while a jasmine gardosi beatboxed her queer heart out to the glass walls of the hippodrome
or a benjamin zephaniah dubbed the empire as the biggest farce, out of place, out of order
so, in a blink, i recalled the rhythm of her lub-dub, through the clank-clank of his typewriter
exhibited as culture of some importance, out for us to see, and see we did, how art begets art
and how we must remember histories of our lands lest seeing misnames itself as mere looking
but what i didn’t see was more of the rossettis that were out of common reach for their safety

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An old story

An old story
Of survival and abandonment,
The man snatched away
By press gang,
By storm at sea,
By bullet or arrow.

Or besotted woman,
Or a panicked horse

Caught as criminal trying to feed
And clothe and house his woman
His girl child.

One of many other stories
Of too much burden for him to carry,
Too much failure to live with
couldn’t bear to stay,
had to drink,
Could not share to be homeless


They will survive,
Scrabbling to sell little finds,
And trivial skills
To sell small indignities
And in harder times,
To watch each other
Fouled for real money.

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Arcadian Days

And after all this time.
You play me.
Play me with your hands.
Fingers gently caressing ivory.
Palms squeezing leather.

And after we’ve sung our song together.
We close our eyes and rest.
Sticky from kisses.
Breathless from pent-up air releasing.
Hot under midday sun.

We escape into the fields.
Far from prying eyes.
Beyond earshot of the house.
We cannot hear them if they call us.
Only the birds and beasts are witness.

We will not return until nightfall.
We will dance and sing the day.
Under the twinning rainbow.
We fall upon each other.
Close our eyes and play.


The Blind Girl

After the arguments,
after the rainstorm,
the recognition that we were finished,
heading in different directions, we climbed
to the rooftop of our hotel in Tegucigalpa
to see the double rainbow.
It was a good place to cry
and say farewell.

Traveling across Central America had been excruciating.
Walking past armed guards with bandolero bullet belts
strapped across their chests,
negotiating sidewalks where the earthquake
had upended streets.
Civil wars were in the ether, violence still to come.
There was scarcely a country secure enough to travel through,
the water not safe to drink.
We got drunk on bottled beer.

I’d never seen a double rainbow
and took it as a sign.
At a crossroads in my life,
I could push away darkness,
venture forward solo,
be blinded by beauty.


Golden Girl

There has been a storm and there will be a storm again.
Sat amount the heath of forget-me-not. But I will forget you. I am blind. Blind to your golden pot of impoverished -brass- spectrum. Reconciled only by music. By heat, by wind captured in my bonnet - Alive and feeling but everything disappearing, to darkness, to static and then: her hand. Warm and worn. Young and alive, fighting for the colours in the sky.
Now I do not miss the rainbow.
The golden fields of livestock. My reflection in the stream is but a painting, but a dream.
But now I am ok. I am still. Butterfly fly away. For she is my eyes and I am her home. There is no place that we cannot roam.


ephemeral the brush strokes

the brush strokes of the rainbow,
the notes of the accordion.
hanging in the air, tenuous,
music and light and color.

two feminine figures
huddled against each other,
forming community —
that is to say, temporary
connection — a bond
of humanity that exists
in time, that must have existed

the light fades into gray;
the music into silence and rain.



Turn away from me;
look to the east.
Things are not forever,
even if we want them to be.

Turn away from me;
look to the east.
East is where your head is,
and I am somewhere else.

Turn away from me;
look to the east.
You have yet to know hills
and a home of your own.

Turn away from me;
look to the east.
I promise you colour
as I retire from wisdom.


To the Other Side

It was the only way for him, the arc
of that bridge beyond the field,
past beds of eden rose, larkspur,
the fringe of white birch along
our old station road. It is cruelest
for those left behind, to note
how the birds still come, bring to us
their song, and the creek still babbles,
as we sit on its banks, cloaked
in sunlight, one hand knit
to the other, bound tight, carrying on
in the hush of each day, bearing even
the lack of our own sound.
I can tell you little of where it is
we will go from here, though
we’ve been there, crossed already
the green of this moor, each loss
braiding itself, like sweetgrass,
to the one before. Look, a single
luna moth clings now to the copper
threads of this veil, lingers as spirits
do, waits to teach us how to lift,
to navigate by the flare of its moon.


Silent Bleat

The sheep floated on the blue, etched on the cloud’s sphere. In the short time that I wrote my story in the sky, they had reshaped into vapor, then pelted down. The rain fell over a garbage dump of a used plastic pond. Children of the narrow alley played in the rain as they crossed it precariously over the wavering surface. The only way to decipher a pond underneath, was by the liquid walks of the nimble feet. 
      Eight, seven, and nine, the children tiptoed. Only their parents knew their names. They were headed towards a destination—a balloon factory. Hired to make party balloons of many colors, blue, yellow, pink, and red, they made a rainbow of balloons and stacked them up in a corner. Balloons, to be used for birthday parties.
      They held the rainbow in their palms but never had the opportunity to use any for their own birthday parties. After a gruelling shift of making balloons all day, they returned home with a few in their hands. But they flew away. They chased them but they went too high, lost in the sky. Walking the same liquid walk, over the pond, they returned to the alley. Each day, abundant balloons were made to last a hundred parties. They gave hope and joy to the many thousands who were born with a rainbow band around their heads.
      The children were soaked in the rain. They crossed the hazardous pond balancing themselves on plastic. The last of the rains withered the lambs away from the blue—a balloon in its own right. The children ran along the alley under this blue balloon. This was a good day, they thought. Because their mothers were home and they could smell the cooking. The four lambs
bleated at their respective ratty doors. They cried out—we are home. The mothers let them inside. Their dry mouths spread to hungry grins. Sons and mothers greeted one another.
      “How was the day?” Mums asked.

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Pastoral Madonna

Eyelids close, you sit in a meadow where
a murder of crows speckle saffron fields…
cows and horses grazing in the distance.

A child lays into your protective body,
head tilted toward grey skies noticing
marveling at a double rainbow’s dozen colors.

Like a pastoral Madonna, your rust brown
veil covers parted auburn hair. Modest.
Unassuming. Common. Immaculate.

Perambulating spheres hide behind clouds
rain-heavy, while you press together digits
murmur prayers, hum ethereal harmonies.

Please dust off volumes of love poems
that have rested on your lap unread too long…
free your meditative mind, sanctify my words.

May tertiary winds loosen your headscarf,
massage earthly thoughts without restraint
requite both our hearts with impulsive psalms.


What the Storm Is For

The storm, when it came,
tore the sky to tatters. The rain
lashed the ground,
the sinful ground,
scourged the ground, and I
couldn’t tell if the lash was spite
or redemption. The furrows left
were scars, and nothing
that a tear could wash away.

What can we do in the teeth
of such spite? Did we deserve this?
What have we done? You? Me? The earth?
No amount of faith
can shelter us from the thunder’s curse.
All that we can tell ourselves is
it will pass,
it will pass,
and the earth’s sins
at least, will be diluted.

It is the sun that shows us what the storm is for.


Government Emergency Alert Notification

They were all waiting for it - the alert,
Phone screens face up, volume too. I imagined it as a squeal, something long and shaped like a beak and I, unlike others, didn't care for it

So I packed the car, fastened the child,
The squeeze box and a cloak into the back seat, and headed afar.
The sun shone in the sky that day
Although the wind, sharp as a whip when
It wanted, moved clouds too much in the way. And then the mizzle.

I never thought of rainbows when I let my mind poke into places where an alert might be used. I never thought of pigeons pecking pickings from moss filled grass or of you, breathing slowly like the day would always be long.


Nobody’s and free

I was brought to this land from far away when my mother was
an ovule in her mother’s womb, in her mother’s mother womb
in my great nana’s womb.
I was born in here when contraception was
A wound to manhood,
A robbing of the country of her future working heroes.

The unlucky lightning strike orphaned me, freed me
Of my daughter duties, of my sister of brothers duties,
Of my child labourer duties.
I am free from singing
this village’s traditions,
their religions,
their faith for me;
I am nobody’s but I am free.
I will build my own
Nature, village,
nation, race and people.

I will still be my sister’s sister
Until I am not.
Until she’ll start idealising them
In her memory bent by childhood amnesia,
Her longing raised by the forgetting of pains and locks.

I am nobody's by my owns.
There's no drama here.


ophelia’s dream

escaping geometric seas carrying lost horizons
they froze inside the new language of questions
inhaled heat of soil flowing from nacreous claws
warmed from ancient answers in clutched hands
tigers hiding in tufts of grass heavy with sweet oil
ravens wings glinted under painted walnut suede
one second in sun slice held two musical storms


Faraway Climes

The grass, the meadows, the heartland
Unencumbered by the staccato strains
Of a life rushing in all directions
Even as the vistas open
The clefts of the seemingly
Unbroken surface
Into a verdant abundance

We exist like equestrian droplets
Galloping on a lost chase
Far from the steamrolls of a
Neverending dash
Against time
Almost like hitting an invisible wall
Each time
The winds buffeting the loosely hanging design
Of a solemn moment tattered sublime

From the cloak of a reading praxis
We still make stories
When rainbows hint at
Faraway climes.



I wonder why some birds are black
And some are big and some are small.
I like the ones that sing so sweetly
Crows don't sing. No not at all.

I know from church why we have rainbows
Noah's Ark. A gift from God
But why today can we see two?
Look, one's for me and one's for you.

It's alright Mummy we can stay here
The sun is warm and you can sleep
I wonder why you keep on crying
I wonder why some hills are steep.

Maybe later we can go there
Find an inn and you can play
If we're lucky they will like us
Give us food and let us stay

I wonder why some clouds are fluffy
Some are grey and some are black
I wonder why we left so quickly
And why, oh why, can't we go back?


my solitude

my solitude
is encircled in your warmth
you are my heart
you are my rhythm
my rainbow on darkest days
my freedom
in infinite ways
I breathe in
the fresh air
as the delightful breeze
and the darkening skies
discolor the fields
I share this time with you
because you
inspire me
you see the need
for me to delight
in the light
that the rainbow
that the birds infuse
and I love you


River Stones

I would trade my crushed petals
     my crusts of bread
my river stones
     and all my bottles of tears
for a chance to see
     colors you have told me
arch gaudy ribbons across the sky

I have something to give you  
     it is not my concertina
that begs a penny for each humble song
     it is not my ragged shawl
that tucks over us on a brisk spring night
     it is not even the tortoiseshell moth
that rests like a timid whisper on my shoulder

I will give you my secret:
     I see vibrant colors behind my silent eyes
and when I play music
     the notes float into the world
 lilac and silver
     obsidian and lavender   

As the golden sun yawns on my face
     I feel your bony shoulder against my breast
I press your tiny hand into the curve of my own  
     I reach out to touch a blade of grass

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