bits and bats and sticks and stones and pics and pomes

Washing line

On my neighbour's washing line

a quilt has hung come snow or shine.

For two long weeks it's been outside

I guess that it just never dried.

Today it's rained. The wind has blown.

The quilt, alas has fallen down.

It's huddled now upon the lawn,

an unloved bundle, all forlorn.

Jack Cryer, lock keeper

His cup of tea on the window ledge
he watches through the glass
a narrowboat goes through the lock
a gleam of polished brass

Jack kept the lock when working boats
hauled goods along the water
Couples toiled and lived on board
along with sons and daughters.

The hour or so it took to rise
the seventy feet or more
was put to use in passing news
and building living lore.

Now Jack stands there, cast in bronze
beside the window still
to watch another motley crew
rise and descend this hill.

We walk the tow path one fine morn
and pause for tea and cake.
We stand near Jack in mirror pose
bringing the past awake.

Will and Testament

From William Shakespeare's will: To his Wife, Anne in his will
The only mention that Shakespeare specifically makes of his wife was to leave her his "second best bed."

To my beloved wife I leave
my second best mousetrap.
I know she dislikes the carnage
which results from the best one.

I have no harpoon to leave
since I am fasting from slaughter on the seas
and have turned instead to simple domesticity
a cottage with roses around the door,
a thatched roof, complete with a signature cat,
and on the white wall of the living room
a painting inspired by a Japanese print
maybe you can guess the one?

For the rest my possessions consist of 
the contents of one Argyle sock, 
and five locked wooden boxes, 
which you will find
behind the shoes in my wardrobe.

October 2012

Welland Walk

We walk above the mist
which hugs the Welland’s wide flood plain.
As mist turns to haze
the sun awakens colour
autumn hues emerge from early grey.

A goods train slinks across the viaduct.
Two steeples add verticals and perspective.
Is that a windmill on the skyline?
Trees, tinged with orange, mark fields
or hide the river in the folded land.
Below us lies the route we’ll take today.


Meal for one

He prepared a meal  Calculated calories, vitamins, minerals. Chopped onions, peppers, courgettes.  Fried gently, added tomatoes.  Took salad leaves from the fridge. Allowed himself  a splash of vinaigrette. Popped pasta in a pan of bubbling water.  Timed to perfection. 


If only she had let him cook instead of filling him with fattening food!, she might have been here to share.



Selene sailed through the tempest in her vessel of doubts, riding the swell, with no place to drop an anchor. She wrote on the sky in the cloud trails, but her words had no meaning to her, they could have been invisible. They were mere flakes of the moonlight adrift in the darkness, fractured by lightning flashes.

For the last four hours the world had been turning itself inside out in a turmoil which felt endless.  When peace returned, Selene was stranded with Everst inverted below the ocean and the Mariana Trench rising as Earth's highest mountain.


From prompts: tempest - vessel of doubts - invisible words - for the last four hours - Mariana Trench - moon flakes


Jan 14th 2009



He had always gained the greatest pleasure from self-denial. He left the tastiest morsel on his plate until the last moment, and then giving it to the dog; he watched films which aroused him and refused to indulge his appetites; he  pushed his body just that extra inch which turned joy into pain.


Small minds might have considered his habits perverted, unnatural, even selfish. All that happened was that his mind and soul was totally concentrated on his own sensations, his own virtue, his own achievement.


So when the pouting primadonna appeared in his life, she was fair game.  He fed her wine made of petals of roses, trifle with more sherry than cream, wild salmon served with syrup of the maple.  And when she was primed, this primadonna, he refused her caresses, not forever, not once and for all, but with a honeyed phrase, ‘Not tonight, sweetheart.’


He paraded his behaviour as virtue, which, he claimed, could only exist in the presence of evil. Alone it meant nothing. With the ever-present temptaion of evil as a balance, he could aspire to the heights,  and pause, poised at the apex of the roller-coaster, suspended in eternity. 


It took three days for her pout to turn to petulance, her desire to fury.   Where she found the gun, the monk’s habit and the will to kill, no one knew.   No weapon was found, though a shot  cracked through the night.


His body lay in the water, tangled in the weeds, dragged down by the rough brown garment.  They found her wandering on reiverstones, barefoot and witless. 


from prompts: (not all used): striking circles/ balanced virtues/ on riverstones they found her/ a monk's revenge/ Rose petals/ the crack of the gun sealed the night / Hells Bells /not tonight, sweetheart./ Small minds/ Pouting primadonna/ sherry trifle

Jan 06 2009

The woodpecker

We walked

and practised mud skating

on paths where sun sliced through trees,

arrived at the hide

for a grandstand view

of clouds,





platforms and birch trunks

hung with feeders.


At first, the movement of butterflies.

Dragonflies big as birds

skim over the pond,

with sun-glimmered wings.


Skittish coal tits flitter

from tree to feeder.

A bolder great tit lingers,

turning its head

with a weather eye on the world.


We think that’s all,

when a white-face clown

bounces in with red cap and cummerbund,

cream shirt and pied tail-coat

He alights and perches

upright against the birch trunk

balanced with his tail,

beak probing.


Now and then

he seeks easier pickings

at the food cage

A moment, then 

the purposeful pierrot

returns to

dig deeper.


Until two lithe and speedy squirrels

chase each other up the pole

and he’s off!

And so are we.

Fineshade 11 Sept 2008

A mixed curse

Written after seeing heaps of rubbish dumped along a country road.


Litter lurks in scenic lay-bys -

plastic ghosts of drinks long drunk,

cardboard memories of fast-food feasts,

packaged to go for the car-borne.

Carefree, they cast their cans

which others, less carefree, must carry.


I curse their castaway ease -

May their dross return in dreams

and wrap them in tendrils of plastic,

sweet blossom on so many hedges.


May they be reborn as cleaners,

pittance-paid for the shit-work.

May their cars be recycled as cycles,

and their legs be blessed as they ride.


Finished June 17 2008

Laundromat - 60 words

They parked the RV.  Wide street, a laundromat, a thrift store.

Sal put the clothes in the machine, quarters in the slot.  Like the locals, she bought, a coffee from the automat.

A woman came by, pushing her life, and dog, in a supermarket cart.

Sal read the notice: Nothing in driers unless washed in our machines. Including sleeping bags.


May 11th 2008


‘Come on, Jess. Let’s try it. If we can sell half a dozen a week, we’ll be set up for life. We can pay off the mortgage, give the kids a good education, and enjoy ourselves into the bargain. I’ll take you on that holiday in the sun that we’ve been dreaming of.’

Joe was full of ideas for making money, but after ten years Jess wasn’t convinced. Was he really interested in the pot of gold, or simply chasing the rainbow? He found it hard to sit still at the best of times, and today, fired with enthusiasm, he was pacing up and down in the tiny kitchen, while Jess peeled the potatoes, then set them on the stove.

They were marked as a couple, not by wedding rings – they had none; not by any physical contact – they were edging round careful not to encroach on each other’s personal space; but by the way they seemed to read each other’s thoughts.

Jess lit the gas, then moved to the sink to rinse her hands, letting her eyes rest, out of focus, on the painted blue wall she liked to imagine was a field of delicate flax in bloom, or a lake gleaming in the distance.

She heard Joe’s voice, but the words flowed past her. She turned round, caught his eye, and made a snap judgment.

‘OK. I guess it’s not rocket science. We buy in bulk, sell them singly and make a profit. But if it hasn’t happened in three months, Joe, then that’s the end of us. I feel as though I’m living just above Hell’s ceiling here, and the next bubble of sulphur that bursts will make me fall through the hole and down into the depths.’

‘That’s my girl!’ Joe put an arm round her shoulder, and hugged her clumsily.

‘So, tell me about this machine.’

‘It’s a wonderful invention,’ said Joe. ‘ Guaranteed to improve road safety. Works like Boadicea’s chariot. There are seven knives on each bicycle wheel. Each one eighteen inches long. Car-drivers will give you a wide berth with this baby. The last thing they’ll want is scratches along the paintwork. It’s called a destructive cycle.’



Chasing rainbows - couple markers - field of flax - snap judgement  - rocket science -Hell's ceiling - destructive cycle


‘Forgetting you won’t be easy since I have a memory like an elephant, but the memory won’t bother me.  Another morning after, another one-night-stand.’ 


How do I do it? By making up stories to myself about the way I spent the evening.  You can’t expect me to be original here, after all I merely replay the never-ending excuses of this human race.

Race? Where are we racing to and why? Is there a winner? Aren’t we all losers in the end?


‘So,’ she said, ‘how do you make the decisions that matter? The big ones? Who you spend the rest of your life with, where you are going to live, and  how you’re going to finance the big adventure?  Pick a card.’


Pick a bloody card? Is that how to make a decision? 


‘No decisions tonight,’ I told her. ‘Not my way.’


‘I’ll pick one for you then.’


‘No, baby.’


I walked away from the table where she was sitting with the cards in her left hand.


I was half-way to the door when he stood up.  Fifteen stone of muscle, right in my path. I moved to the left, but the wall was still there.


 ‘Back you go, boy. You don’t want another scene like last night.  We didn’t get to half past ten before the knives were out.  You’ve taken your choice, now you pays your money. And we don’t just deal in cash.’ 


I knew when I was beaten. 


Back at the table, she held the cards face downwards, fanned out all ready.  She didn’t say a word. I took one, something like the fourth from the middle. It wasn’t the obvious one to choose.


She nodded, raised an eyebrow.


I turned the card over.   Ace of Spades. 


Mr Fifteen Stone was behind me.  It began to look like the story inside my head was about to discontinue transmission.





Prompts: forgetting you -  making up stories - be original - pick up a card - the knives were out -discontinue transmission

The chair-seller's tale

He moved down to Corby from Scotland
Left his home on the Mull of Kintyre
He found a good job in the steelworks
and travelled all over the shire.

One day when he met some fish-sellers,
Some of the best in the trade,
They told him ‘You know what I reckon?
You’d learn quick and soon make the grade.

Now give me your hand and I’ll show you
Just how you should fillet a fish.
Lay it down flat on the counter
We’ll turn out a right royal dish.

We need a fine knife blade well-whetted
Cut straight now from head to the tail
Lift flesh from the bones like a garment
Once trained, lad, you never will fail.

He took hold of the lad’s hand to guide it
And drew the keen knife through the flesh
But for once his skill didn’t quite cut it
So he grimaced and started afresh.

The lad took the knife from the fishman
Saying, ‘Hold on, I’ll give it a go
You shown me just how I should do this
I’ll try it and see what I know.’

The fishman thought this was quite funny
It could be one hell of a joke
So he stood back and watched the lad do it
Slit the fish with a confident stroke.

The fishman stood awed for a moment
Then he growled in a fatherly way
‘Now, look, lad, you’re not trying to kid me
The first time you’ve tried was today?’

'Well no,' said the lad,' to be honest
I’ve studied the catch round our shores
For I was a fishmonger’s eldest
And fish, well I’ve filleted scores.'

Now, with no jobs in the steelworks

He sells tables, bookshelves and chairs

But if you’ll spend a moment to listen

You may get a free tale with your  wares.


March 28 2008


You greet my arrival with joy. 

My clothes glow. 

My smile promises warmth, sex and rebirth.


You grow older day by day, each year closer to death.


I laugh.

I shall recycle your atoms into

eternal youth.


March 23rd 2008

Writing poetry

Written as part of an article about self-editing.'A poem is never finished', said Paul Valéry, 'only abandoned.' This is the current abandoned version.

How do you get your poem to scan?
Do you bang with a spoon on the base of a pan?
Do you count all your words or just hope that they flow
Do you edit, fuhgeddit, or let it all blow?

Do you sing words along to the tune of a song?
Do you bounce rubber balls or yourself off the walls?
Whatever you do keep it up if it works,
Make poetry fun with these physical jerks.

Do you let raw emotion roar out on the page
or force the caged tiger to swallow his rage?
Do you prune out the clichés with merciless knife
and throw out excess words that drain it of life?

Can you rhyme all the time or is rhyming too pat?
Do you scour dictionaries, or do without that?
Sometimes you may find that a word from a book
can lead you up roads where you’d not thought to look.

March 08


Why does the lady lie in waiting? Will she be the sacrifice?
Oh no, indeed. This woman will wield the whetted knife.
Not another one we know could do the dreadful deed.
She’s measuring his footsteps, he’s dismounted from his steed.
Are witches truly wicked, and will evil have its way?
No, this is just one woman’s vision of a real red-letter day.

Prompts: lady-in-waiting, sacrifice, not another one, measuring footsteps, wicked,red-letter day.

March 04 2008


Crazy Dreamer

She’s nothing but a housewife with a slightly troubled mind
Seeking transformation of a close encounter kind
She can see the stars are twinkling, in the sky so high above
The real goes in the bin bag, while she dreams eternal love.

The delivery of illusions may well seem slightly odd.
If he dares to change his story, she might seek another god.
She must return to the oasis in the desert of her life
No noises will disturb her, she’s just another wife.


Another one from prompts.  This time I reworded some of the prompts - demented housewife, black sack, transformation, twinkle twinkle little star, unusual delivery, change his statement, oasis, loud disturbance.

Mar 3 2008

Cupid's Dartboard

Cupid has a dartboard where he sticks the pictures of twenty people who’ve caused him trouble during the year. People who have given love a bad name. People who take, take, take and never give.

He likes to blindfold himself and throw three darts. The three people he hits – and he always hits the board he’s had so much practice – those three all fall in love. But there’s a catch A loves B. B loves C. C loves A. Male, female, bisexual, no matter, but it’s a sex chain, not a love affair.

Once he’s set that mechanism in motion, Cupid goes to look at his collection of roses – from the previous year. Some call these dried flowers, but Cupid knows they are dead. Twelve dead roses – he selects them and sends them to twelve other people from his dartboard. Selected as before. Random blindfold dart throwing. Each rose bears a label: ‘with love from the blood, that comes out of the stone, to make this relationship’s heart beat’. These twelve are angry, bitter, resentful.

Fifteen down. Five to go.

For three of them he selects a gift of socks, special Valentine socks, covered in hearts, and arrows, and ‘I love you’ printed ten times. But just to make sure the mischief remains, he signs the tag with a scrawled ‘my name is X – X marks the spot, X for a kiss, X for the unknown quantity’. These three spend the day wondering, holding on to vain dreams, replaying past triumphs and disasters, worrying the socks with their fingers until the wool wears into holes and the fabric unravels.

Now for the last two. Cupid allows them to fall in love with each other, but provides them with dragonfly kites to follow their dreams. High, high as Icarus.

Prompts were - Cupid's dartboard - ten dead roses - bloodstone relations - hol(e)y socks - my name is X - dragonfly kites

Feb 14 2008

I'm the One

Another from 'flash prompts' on WD:


This one’ll be more than the book of the month

Grab hold of the dishcloth, give the air a punch

It’ll be this year’s hottest, the one that’ll sell

the rest of the gang’ll wish me in hell.


Order champagne, clear me some space

The truth is that this is a one-horse-race.

Literary landscapes are made to be shaken,

That glittering prize is there to be taken.


In time not yet happened you’ll hear them all say

Hurrah for the lass,  long ago, far away

Who relished success in that era long past

When writers were writers, she wasn’t out-classed.


Feb 3 2008


Prompts: book of the month, dishcloth, champagne, space, landscapes, long ago and far away.


Woo-hoo! They gave me Pick of the Week.