bits and bats and sticks and stones and pics and pomes

Mystery Man

Written from the prompt 'Mystery Man', but it's non-fiction this time.


‘Do they serve beer in this pub?’


‘Er no.’


‘Well we had some before didn’t we?  I’ll ask one of them.  Excuse me, could we have two halves please?’


The man in the corporate uniform smiled. ‘Two halves, sure.’


‘So, we’re all right, aren’t we? We’ve got at least one car, haven’t we? Yours.’


‘No, I didn’t bring it – it’s only a five minutes walk from home.’


‘Oh, ok.  I wish they’d hurry up with that beer.’


‘Here you are, sir.’ The man in uniform smiled and set down the two drinks.


Jim picked up the plastic beaker. Dipped his finger in the liquid. Looked at it.


 ‘Not much of a pub, is it? It’s water. I don’t drink water.’


‘It’s all they’re serving just now, Dad.’


‘Shall we go to another pub? We’ll go when you’re ready. ’


‘We can’t go yet, Dad. You need to stay here for a while.’


‘I haven’t got any money on me. You’ll have to pay.’


The mystery for me is, where the hell did he go? He’s still there, he seems to be talking perfect sense, he knows who we are – myself, my sister and her husband, and my brother.  But somehow, without his reminders around him, his photos and his things, he has less of a hold on who he is.  We hope he’ll recover enough to go back to his own house, where he’d been coping, with help, until he fell and broke his wrist. 


We are our memories, and our real wealth lies in these and not in our possessions. But suddenly the word souvenir has more significance for me.


September 7th 2008

Here and now

Living in a constant now

should be heaven.




to the max


to what’s gone


by the yet to come.


I am caught in a moment


plans and memories

on the fishhook

of the present

where I wriggle

reeled in

by the past


for the future.


I  crave

no annihilation

in intensity of being.

I am what I have been

and will become

I must know

as well as feel

I totter



on points





June 17 2008.

Written after reading about dementia and loss of short-term memory leading to living in a succession of present moments. Contrasting this with our desire to say to the moment, along with Goethe's Faust ' Verweile doch, du bist so schön!'


I wrote these two poems as a response to a challenge on Writers' Dock - a poem about Resolutions. (Dec 07, Jan 08)

New Year?

For me, no resolutions for New Year,
for surely, those I make, I’ll break as well.
To me they’re paving on the road to hell -
each one’s a millstone, crushing life with fear.

For some they work and teach them to adhere
to a regime whose rigour can impel
them to create, and their success to swell.
For me, alas, this corset’s too severe.

And yet, I need a structure and a shape
to hold and mould my ever good intentions,
to take my mind exploring new dimensions,
while stronger than the danger of escape.

So, my resolve each day will start anew
and, inch by inch, I’ll paint the grey sky blue.

I am not happy with the last two lines - they need work.Even the last three...

Promises, promises

I vow to improve
But how?

I swear I’ll get there
But when?

I promise I’ll do it
If I can keep to it,
this pledge on the edge
of the year’s change.

I assure you,
implore you to trust me
at least I show willing -

You bet,
I’ll do better –
I’d better.

The last three lines would be good for a lapsed gambling addict...

Moving on

And so the time has come for me to move.
I've left behind the place I called my home
for more than twenty years. I brought in plants,
designed the garden's curves to please the eyes
of all who came to visit. I found room
for flowers, shrubs and fruit trees to grow strong.

The work was once pure pleasure - I was strong,
loved outdoor tasks, forever on the move.
My breakfast done, I'd shun indoors. A room
was fine for evenings, but my daytime home
was shed, or lawn. My calculating eyes
would constantly arrange the precious plants

to show the garden at its best. First plant
the basics, shrubs and tall perennials, strong
outlines, the bones. Then, narrowing my eyes
I judged the space for annuals and moved
them mentally around to find their home.
Massed flowers left no summer elbow room.

We took our time, considered every room
imposed our taste, with books and potted plants
on view. As intellectual a home
as we could wish. Our habits held with strong
and loving bonds. A quote from you could move
me instantly and bring tears to my eyes.

And colour was important in your eyes -
you hung the well-loved pictures in each room
I tiled the kitchen blue, a daring move.
Though dark, the tiles reflected light and plants.
You cooked with such fine skill. So sure and strong,
you organised and ran a ship-shape home.

Years passed, you died, this once beloved home
began to show neglect. My fading eyes
scarce noticed. I was nowhere near as strong
and somehow papers spread from room to room.
My energy decreased, I tended plants
indoors, or near the house, not far to move.

Here, I home in on pictures in my rooms,
to feed my inner eye. Familiar plants
keep memories strong. On balance, a good move.
I wrote this as a "form challenge" on Writers' Dock. It is probably the poem I spent the most time on, as the sestina is a pretty strict structure.  But the changing emphasis on the words at the end of the lines as they change position in the succeeding stanzas seems appropriate to the changing periods of life in this poem. Of course it was "inspired" by the fact that we had just decided to move Dad from his own place in Chesterfield, to a smaller one, near my sister, in Bristol.  I tried to get inside his head, but I know it's my own attitudes mostly.
October 2005

What Price Love?

I laughed when he said
he couldn’t remember
if she was dead,
who she had been,
that they were married
for forty years or so

He’d left a wife for this
true love,
an existential decision
following his truth.
What price truth now?
And where lies love?


She grows
she struts, she shouts,
her books and clothes
her house
her food
I exist

She cultivates her garden
she runs upstairs
inside and out
she loves

her space shrinks
others are taller

she stops running
up the stairs
down the garden

she sits aside
cutting her space
according to her needs.

and then
she stays downstairs.

the dingy kitchen’s
dated inconvenience
good enough for cups of tea
and ready meals

she sits in a chair
in one room,
gazing at windows
whose curtains
never allow
enough light in,
yet leave her too exposed.