October Angel


October Angel

birds peck their way
through egg shell skies
in search of summer

 ice pellets strike dead foliage

the October Angel
hangs suet from the rowan

a finger of wind
stirs stubborn leaves
whirling them round and round
in a carousel of color

she gathers her evening gown
and walks among ruined flowers

a snapdragon opens
the frosted forge of its mouth
and sprinkles the sky
with ice-hard shards of fire

Note: October Angel is from All About Angels, the poetry collection that I am currently revising for re-publication.

In Absentia 6


In Absentia


Bad Hair Day

It all started when I rolled over at 4:00 am and heard the grandfather clock in the hall strike three. I double checked my watch with the alarm clock. It was definitely four o’clock. The grandfather clock, older than me, had to be wrong.

I sat up in bed and blinked. The light of the telephone flashed on and off. Someone had left me a message. The message machine was downstairs along with the grandfather clock. No way I thought I’m not going down there, not even for two birds with one stone. I rolled back the other way, stuck my head under the blankets, and tried to go back to sleep. I could sense the flashing light, even if I couldn’t see it and the Westminster Chimes played false notes, sometimes one too short, sometimes one too many. I counted them instead of sheep and couldn’t fall asleep.

At six o’clock, with the room in darkness save for that ever-flashing light, I struggled out of bed. I had dumped my dirty clothes in the laundry basket and I needed everything clean and fresh. I hobbled to the chest of drawers and pulled out socks and pants. Then I went to the clothes closet and took a clean shirt off the hanger. My pants went on more easily than usual and my shirt just slipped over my head. I hauled up my jeans and placed my first sock on the sock machine. It felt a bit awkward, but went on with no real problem. The same with the second sock.

I removed my pocket flashlight from Teddy’s ear where I keep it overnight and tucked it into my shirt pocket. It fell to the floor. I checked my chest … no pocket. I noticed a bulge on the right hand side where no pocket should be … pocket … but inside the shirt. I reached up to the buttons and they too were inside the shirt. To hell with it I thought I can’t be bothered to change. I slipped my Birkenstocks on and felt a lump under my left foot. The heel had slipped under the arch. My sock machine had failed me. I checked the right foot. I could see the heel all right: it was in the middle of my foot just above the toes.

By now I needed the bathroom so I hobbled across to it. No flashlight in my non-existent pocket, not wishing to turn on the bathroom lights, I fumbled for a moment or two and then for a lot longer. Why, oh why, was there no Y-front to my pants? Ours not to reason why … and it all happened. Clean pants and all.

So, I turned on the light and checked myself out. Socks upside down? I took them off. Clean pants on back to front and twisted and now slightly more than damp? I took my jeans off and my pants with them. Shirt on inside out? Off with it and anyway, it was wetter than it should be and I knew I hadn’t bean sweating that much. I looked at the clothes in their little pile on the floor and I kicked them as hard as I could. Of course, I stumbled and only saved myself from being part of the bathroom accident statistics by lurching for and grabbing the towel rail which came away in my hands, towel and all. Luckily, I kept my balance and I didn’t fall.

I got into the shower, washed myself down, got out again, toweled myself dry and climbed back into bed. I stuck the flash light into Teddy’s ear and then I took it out again and hurled Teddy at the still-flashing telephone. Bull’s Eye … or should that be Bear’s Eye? Anyway, the darn thing stopped flashing and I was able to go back to sleep for about an hour.

When I woke up the second time, I dressed very carefully. Socks with the heel in the right place, check! Y-fronts with the Y where I need it, check! Shirt the right side out, check! Go downstairs and erase the overnight message, check! Light stopped flashing, check!

I limped to the IMac and turned it on. Then I opened my documents … I open my documents … I ope … but the error message keeps flashing across the screen. I can’t open my documents because I need a new app. This app is no longer functional on the new system the IT men installed just yesterday. I abandon the IMac and go to the PC. I open the documents with no problem at all. I start to work on a poem and ERROR … ERROR … ERROR … Norton needs to be uninstalled and re-installed . URGENT … ERROR … ERROR …

I shut down the PC and walk into the kitchen. The floor is wet and slippery. I think for a moment that, with the willing suspension of disbelief, I am walking on water. But no, sad reality returns: the cat has thrown up.




Juglar /  Juggler
(from Land of Rocks and Saints)


 In the beginning was the word,
and the word was tossed in the air:
a dove over dark water.

It grew as it descended,
turned into tongues of flame,
each of them licking
at the listeners’ hearts,
tearing them apart.

Sleight of hand:
this deck of words, tossed skywards;
jacks and queens tumbling,
caught, tossed up again;
words, nothing but words,
this pack of wolves descending.


 Lips part as words draw blood;
red wound of the open mouth,
a rose in spring’s garden
bears us down with crimson scents.

The spirit is trapped in its cage,
flesh and bone binding those wings
with their urgent urge to be free and fly ….

“… you would have seen …” he says.

And so we see: the sea, white horses cresting,
St. James riding over the mountains,
bone on lance point, spear bloodied,
Moorish chain mail bursting asunder,
El Cid advancing on his foes.

Words join with words,
become joint with gesture;
they plunge into our chests,
grow tight round heart and lungs.

Juglar: In Spain, the mediaeval juglar was musician, singer of songs, juggler, and general entertainer. The oral tradition still thrives in Avila and in places where the rhythmic and musical emphasis of the spoken word is still important.

Talking 4



Talking with my mother in an empty house


the room is alive with light
a halo of sunny sainthood
gilding old furniture

rich gold sunlight
sparkling with dancing dust
enhances silk flowers

polished scarlet tongues of fire
call for your presence
yet you are absent now
I am the one who dusts them
and adds to their gloss

 do they still throb vibrant
 in the early morning light?

 indeed they do
dust rises from your poinsettias
and dust angels dance in the sun

how many to each leaf?

 I bend my head to look
and sense dry leaves brushing
rough lips against my face

In Absentia 5

In Absentia
The Undiscovered Self
has sat on my shelf, just gathering dust.
Written by Jung in 1956, I see from my notes
that I bought it in 1976, read it then,
and re-read it in 1985, 1987, and 2009,
all years of mini-crises.  It is on the table
before me now and finally I have time
to sit and read the pages, not speed reading
for information, but to digest them, one by one.

Time on my hands: so precious these moments
alone, with the sun filtering through the kitchen
and the autumn leaves storing up sunlight
like an old precious wine before they fall.

I sip slowly at this bottle filled with life,
knowing that my friends are there, knowing
I can call them on the phone or knock
on their doors to be greeted with warmth,
an arm round the shoulder, the offer of a meal …

but really, I prefer this solitude, my adventures
with the cat, my slow stroll, not through the autumn
woods, but through the leaves of this book.

This poem is dedicated to my good friend Judy Wearing who challenged me to write a positive poem about my experiences alone in the house looking after the cat. I would like to thank Judy for thinking of me at this time and encouraging me to be positive!

Talking 3



our conversation this morning
a sun-dried Roman aqueduct
no longer capable of carrying water

I envision brown sacking
lagged around leaking pipes

your words are lifeless kites
earthbound: too heavy to rise
each sentence: wasted
 of lips tongue teeth

dead soldiers gone over the top
my thoughts hang like washing
pegged out on the Siegfried Line
on a windless day

I am afraid of this enormous barbed
wire fence growing daily between us

Talking 2


Talking with my mother in an empty house


The postman knocks on the door
then thrusts a letter through the letter box

when the letter falls to the mat
the dog leaps upon it and snaps her teeth
ripping the intruder into soggy bits

am i now the intruder?
will invisible bandages of cellotape
make me whole and readable again?
will i survive in the words of your song?

mother, you are still a swift river of blood
flowing within my skin
and bordered by my bones

Talking 1



Talking with my mother in an empty house


pale and delicate
much too frail to survive

an early butterfly
blows against your rose bush
and is caught on a thorn

the white of its shredded wing
a sudden shriek
bleeding snow over the garden

did you write those words to disguise my voice?
am i the butterfly?
 does your writing echo my cry?

thoughts pound through my head
like waves on the shoreline
each spoken word
a grinding of tiny pebbles


In Absentia 4


In Absentia 4

I pick up the cat’s bowl with the claw and place the bowl by the cat food. No kibble. So, holding the blue plastic measuring spoon in one hand I take my two canes and balance the spoon between my right thumb and the cane handle. Then I limp down the corridor to the laundry room where I store the kibble. I fill the measuring spoon from the packet, reseal the bag, pick up my canes and wedge the now full measuring spoon back between thumb and cane handle. The cat mews happily and runs out between my legs. I lurch and … disaster … the spoon slips from my arthritic fingers and the kibble forms neat, rolling patterns on the floor.

What can I do? I think immediately of the Dyson and limp into the hall where I have left it. I extend the handle, hold the handle with my right hand, cane and all, and push the Dyson down to where the cat is feasting. I plug the Dyson in and switch it on. One rumble from the Dyson and the cat abandons the kibble and seeks the safety of the basement. I manoeuvre the Dyson toward the cat food but the Dyson is in carpet mode. It beats the floor and will do nothing but push the kibble before it. I push the kibble into a neat pile and leave it there. As I turn the Dyson off, the garden kneeler catches my eye. I go to fetch it and balance it against my leg, kicking it forward so it won’t catch against my canes and trip me.

I have brought the cat’s bowl with me this time and I kneel before the kibble. Then I start picking the pieces up, one and two at a time. My back aches from the slow bending and twisting and my heart is breaking as I consider my own stupidity. Hot tears of frustration prick at my eyes and I blink them away. This operation is so long and so slow. I slip forward and place my hand palm down on the kibble. My palm is sticky with sweat and I raise a handful of kibble as I push myself up. This I scrape into the cat bowl. Using this new technique, I transfer the kibble stuck to my hand first to the cat bowl and then to the measuring cup.

It’s time to get to my feet. I cannot heave myself up on the garden kneeler’s handles and hang on to the cat food: too much risk of a second spill. I have leaned the claw against the all with my sticks so using both hands on the kneeler handles I struggle to my feet. As I do so, I knock both canes over. Now they are lying flat on the floor with the claw. The canes have a rubber tip and if I stand on the edge of it, the cane will rise in the air like magic. I do this twice. Then I use the canes to grasp the claw and the claw, now in my possession, to raise the cat food. Success!

I struggle my unbalanced way down the corridor, place my sticks on the counter, put the right amount of kibble into the cat’s bowl and, with the cane, lower the cat’s food to the floor. I glance at my watch. This operation has taken me fifteen minutes, half of which I have spent kneeling on the floor. I call the cat. The cat appears. I reach for my canes. The claw falls to the floor. I grab for it and knock down one of my canes. The cane strikes the cat who is greedily feeding. The cat jumps away and spills her water all over the floor.

I stand there, horrified. Hot wet tears of humiliation trickle down my face.