Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I think this will be the last post in 2016.  there have been so many negative comments about this year.  It seems to have  been a very unpopular 12 months. For me, though it has been great. Except for becoming very sick and being carted off to hospital early on in the year.(just after Easter) it has been particularly full of happy events.

First, Brent and Trish came to visit. They stayed in the Evergreen visitors flat ( now no longer available) which was ideal. We had a very happy two weeks together. Then Danielle and I brought out my third book of poems. I am particularly proud of the cover design which features Danielle's thread art. In August Stephanie, Jane and I went to McGregor for the poetry festival. That was a very good weekend. Steph and I were quite successful with our combined presentation. We had the most appreciative audience we could have wished for.  Soon after that thee was my trip to Hogsback. Then the most exciting thing to have happened. The acquiring of a new Grandchild,. Dorothy's younger daughter, Amanda got in touch with us.after all these years. Luke was the one contacted first. I never expected this to happen. First we sent messages and e-mails  and then we had the joy of meeting her and spending Christmas together.  Eleanor and Andreas were here for Christmas too. What a very happy time!

Eleanor expressed what I  think we all experienced. She said that meeting Amanda was not like meeting someone new. It felt as though we had known her always. It was a pity that she and her partner, Carlyle couldn't stay longer, but I am sure they will come here again. I am glad that Amanda and Danielle, the two granddaughters who are much of an age are such good friends.


After the drought when
the edges of leaves on the sage bush
start to curl, the daisies die
my lawn  turns  to dust and straw
and everything is dry and grey,
all unexpected there comes
the blissful rain,
splashing the windscreen
filling the dogs’ bowls
washing the  potted pelargoniums,
and we collect in a small crowded studio
come together today, damp and laughing from
across the town, across the country
and across the world

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Those in Authority

I was reminded in church today, that we are asked to pray for those in authority and also of a text in Paul's letter to the Romans in which we are told to obey those in authority because they have been placed there by God. If this is what we are told to do, I suppose we must do so, however much we may question God's reasoning and think that He has made a number of awful mistakes. It is hard to know how to pray. I would love to tell the Lord exactly what to do with those who are at present running our country. Without wishing anybody actual harm, it would be nice if most of  them would just quietly disappear. but it is obvious that I should not pray even for something as mild as that. I shall pray, however, with a clear conscience, for malice, greed and corruption in high places to come to an end.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


These pictures were taken on the Hogsback Tour Iwent on recently


Among   red-brick ruins

Walking on the mountain, we  start to follow
a narrow path between  the  bushes
A ragged vagrant comes towards us  from behind a rock,
holds out a hopeful  hand
“I used to stay here,” he says. ”My friends and I .
Once there was a zoo here on this mountain slope
A zoo and a University.
Girls in short skirts, bright tops and scarves, boys in Tshirts and jeans
 would walk between the cages of jackals, porcupines and monkeys

A lonely mangy lion lived here  behind a  fenc e of stakes
A hollow block of stained  cement  made him a sort of-den
He sometimes used to give out strangled roars
to scare us  students  working late at night

This  space here was  the wildebeest and zebra paddock and
this tangled ivy  covered  stone  of lecture halls
Those rusted iron boilers and that broken chimney –pipe
are all that’s left of what used, long ago,  to be  
the  faculty of engineering .

We always sat here on these steps. reading and chatting
We sat here between classes.  and after seminars
Then later we all just sat here
Waiting, waiting,
It was the lion that left first and then the zebras and the monkeys.
I saw my friends off at the airport.
 others caught the Greyhound.
I was left behind.

They are so young, so brave, so beautiful
Facing shields and bullets with their stones
and their buckets of poo.
shouting  incomprehensible,t courageous words
as they break barriers ,beat  down towers,
force   gates to open up for  every  -one. l.

But when they get inside the walls they’ll  find
the halls of learning have dissolved,  
They’ve turned to mist and floated off into the cloud.
While the pale conquerors they so despise
have been invaded in their turn, been colonised
by dark hordes from the Middle East and Africa

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Free Tertiary Education

 There has been nothing on radio and TV lately but Fees must fall protests. I may be thought a sceptic but it does seem as though the protests are timed to fall at the end of the academic year and so come at a convenient time to disrupt  exam schedules and this must be most welcome to those who have very little chance of passing.those exams.

 Contemplating the horrendous expense of three or four years at University,  I was struck by the thought that I myself  have been enjoying free tertiary education for the last few years. I have been taking advantage of the wonderful wealth of MOOC courses available online (for free) One can pursue almost any branch of learning just by getting onto the Internet. These days one doesn't even need access to a computer, a smart phone is all that is necessary,   Isn't the old model of residential universities very much outdated. Perhaps it is a good thing that protests are closing them down. Perhaps not much would be lost if they all closed their doors and instead broadcast lectures and discussions to those who really wanted to learn. If this happened, tertiary education would be much cheaper and could be within the means of most students. In fact it could  easily be totally funded by government. Many of the buildings presently used as student accommodation or lecture halls could be used for much needed sub-economic housing.

Friday, August 5, 2016

This week

Too much happening this month! Luke off to America, ,Danielle back from UK.,Launch of McGregor anthology. McGregor Poetry festival. How to fit it all in? But then I always  am quite busy. I used to think that when I was as old as I am now, I would be leading a dull and quiet life. How lucky to be living in the 21st Century! So many new and exciting discoveries. (I have just been reading about the discovery of two earth-sized planets in the Goldilocks zone of a cool (in temperature ) star only 40 light-years away.) So many new and exciting gadgets( although the technology is a bit beyond me) Of course the world is in a mess, with all sorts of disasters threatening it, but then hasn't it been threatened by  disasters for most of my life?  The difference is that now I am unlikely to live to see them come about. At McGregor Stephanie and  are doing a presentation entitled It's only being so cheerful..  At our age we might as well be cheeerful. There are not many years left. We should enjoy them as long as we can.

One of the exercises in the poetry course I have just completed, was to write an imagist poem describing a certain  object. I am not sure whether this poem fits the criteria and can be properly called imagist, but after making the  changes suggested on the course, I am quite pleased with it. The changes were mostly to do with the form -- splitting it into three stanzas and changing the line breaks. I was very surprised at how much such small alterations improved the poem.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sharpened Visions

I have not visited my blog for more than a month. I have been so busy. with this Mooc, (Sharpened visions on Coursera). I can recommend it to any aspiring poet. Douglas Kearney, who conducts it, is a noted poet himself.  Although I can't make head or tail out of poems of his that I have read, he is an excellent teacher of poetry. He does not dictate,or criticise, but rather provides inspiration, by means of prompts for poems and suggestions for writing them. The most useful of his suggestions are those for re-writing and improving your poems.. As with all Moocs, peers review  your work and give feedback. In my case I found nearly all their comments were helpful and made for better poems.

Here are some of the poems I wrote on this course.


This is the place where single people come
from bed-sitters and rented rooms.
They sit on slatted wooden benches.
and listen to the whirring noise
of wash machines and tumble driers.
Avoiding one another’s gaze
they bury noses in worn paperbacks,
while faded towels and pillowcases
whirl round with unpaired socks and
threadbare underclothes.

A shriek from Gairo, my domestic worker
A frog!  a frog! It’s in the shower room.
I run to see compressed there in a corner
a little shiny, round medallion, yellow
with blotch of  black and spots of scarlet.
 It is a tiny baby leopard toad.

A species, rare, endangered by the shrinkage
of habitat and threatened now by us.
We cannot leave it there, but do not wish
to squash with careless hand its softness
or let our fingers feel its slimy, toxic skin

I take a floppy, large spaghetti mop
and try to sweep the creature out the door
It doesn’t work; the mop is far too soft
I poke it with a canvas covered toe.
My foot is much too big to fit the niche
the animal is using as its shelter.

I take a kitchen towel and as it leaps away
I fling the towel over its elongated form,
grab it and wrap it tight, and then
I take it to the garden pond and let it go
and Gairo stops her shivering and startst
to clean all trace of frog out of the house


Boss off to loo
Frog on loo floor
Boss cross.
Oh! Oh!
Frog on loo floor
not cool.
Frog got to go.
Mop no good,
too soft
foot no good
too gross
Throw cloth on frog
fold hold
boot frog to pond
Look Boss
Look Boss
No Frog


We see the boiler and the rudder of the wreck
Between the ribs sand covers all the deck.
The rest of it lies buried far below.
She ran aground a hundred years ago

There was no loss of life, no dead.
The crew just jumped onto the sand and fled
The captain stayed for months alone on board
He hid for shame. He would not say a word

The captain knew that everyone would say
It was his fault the ship lay where she lay
He should have kept her safely as a son
Not see her wrecked before her voyage was done

The captain beat his breast; he tore his hair,
quite overcome by sorrow and despair.
Always as long as he drew breath
he would regret this day until his death.

That stormy day, the waves were big and wild
The wind wailed loudly like a tortured child
The surf pounded the shore, thundering aloud
The gale shook masts and rattled every shroud

To port a cliff was seen to rise up high
It’s shape was clear against the sky
The captain cried above the storm’s harsh sound
“Good helmsman, turn the ship around.

I see Cape Point behind it is False Bay,
and a harbour where our ship can safely stay
(but no one could have been as wrong as he)
Full-speed ahead the ship rushed from the sea

She dug herself into the sand so fair and square
That a century later she’s still sitting there
of Cape History just a tiny part
a ship’s wreck, a captain’s broken heart

(Note: In the Old Age Complex where I live we are required to have only neutral colours at all the windows.)

Twin censors of sight,
two lengths of  calico,
three metres up and three across
cover my bedroom window.
They cut out light and block the view
of trees and sky.

At the ceiling they deform
in pebbly gathers,
dirt-road corrugations from which flow
beige mudslides,
Cascades of silty ripples undulate sideways,
grow into waves and
billow at the floor

But at the centre where they meet,
they grudgingly allow
slivers of sunlight
to sidle through
and make the dust-motes

Friday, June 3, 2016

Home Affairs

On Monday I visited the Wynberg Branch of  Home Affairs.  On Tuesday I started to  write a long account of my visit but didn't finish it. I know I pressed SAVE, but now this post has disappeared.  I expected to find it in Drafts(sic) but found no sign of it. I shall just have to write up this experience again.
Here we are:-

I knew I had to change my ID document from a book to a smart card. I seemed to remember something in the newspaper about having to do this in my birthday month. As my birthday month was rapidly drawing to a close. (It was the 30th of May already, only one more day to go) I decided to take the morning off from my usual chores and brave the officials at the nearest Home Affairs branch. As I was about to leave my flat I remembered that I had ordered lunch at Evergreen's Restaurant, the Bistro. Should I cancel?. Ever the optimist, I think I would surely be back by then. It was only ten in the morning after all.

I was dreading going to Home Affairs. the very name conjures up newspaper pictures of hundreds of refugees crowding into offices, picketing at gates and languishing for days in long queues outside in the road. I was pleasantly surprised. There were long queues. It did take all morning so that I had to
ring to cancel lunch and get for a take-away instead. But, to my astonishment I had quite a good time and really enjoyed the experience.

At Home affairs you find a cross-section of Cape Towns very varied population. The offices were full of people of all shapes and sizes from all walks of life. Sitting waiting to be called to one counter or another, I struck up conversations with a Rasta poet, a young Xhosa mother and a middle- aged PR assistant, all of them very friendly and very willing to help this bewildered old woman.

I was impressed by the efficiency with which the large numbers of applicants were processed. It is all done by numbers. As you enter the atrium, you are issued with a number depending on what piece of paper you are applying for (ID, birth certificate, passport etc.) and sent to a queue where you are given another number. You are then sent to one or other side of a large hall to sit on a bench and wait. At frequent intervals  numbers are called out.. Number 173 to Photo booth 1, Number 156 to counter 11, number 142 to counter 3. etc.

In Photo booth 1 I was made to perch precariously on a swivel chair while an unflattering pic was taken and sent to be printed on my new card. After another wait, I was sent to counter 9 for fingerprinting. Everything had gone swimmingly up to this point, but now we hit a snag. I just don't have fingerprints. Long years of working my fingers, not exactly to the bone but very close to it, have worn them away. The charming young African gentleman on the other side of the counter was extremely patient.
"Just try once more, Gogo," he pleaded, holding my fingers firmly onto the glass of the scanner,   After several attempts prints of my fingers were captured,but my thumbs were just too smooth. I sucked them vigorously over and over again and the young man took them over and over again and  pressed them down on the scanner at every conceivable angle. No lover has ever held hands with me as long. At last he allowed me to go saying that I  would be advised when to come and collect my
Smart Card. Now I know what to expect I am almost looking forward to this occasion.  I just hope they won't try to fingerprint me again.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Franschoek Festival 2016

I nearly didn't get to the festival. I would only have been able to make the Friday sessions in any case because of proir commitments, but when my car's clutch started to give in and my friend Jenny was not able to drive us there, I thought I would have to give the festival a miss this year. I was bitterly disappointed. Then I wondered whether my friend Sindiwe, who was taking a major part, and would definitely be there on Friday, would like to take over the tickets I had bought. When I rang her, she refused the offer, (she  had been been given tickets for Friday) but she told me that her daughter, Thoko, was going separately and would like to give me a lift.  It meant leaving quite early, but other wise was the perfect answer. So I had a great birthday after all.

I went to five discussions altogeter and all of them were worth attending.
Schools Poetry: Write Read, Hear
Finuala Dowling  discussed how to bring poetry to life with Linda Kuomo, Isobel Dixon,and Wendy Woodward. Linda talked about the Badalisha Poetry Exchange a collection in which  poets are filmed reading their work and which makes African Poetry easily available. Isobel spoke about the many opportunities for hearing and sharing poems in the UK and Wendy spoke about the teaching of Poetry, how to read it and how to write it. All of the poets talked about how the were introduced to poetry at an early age and how much this has meant to them.

Paying Tribute to Sindiwe Magona.
Elinor Sizulu introduced Sindiwe, told us something of her life and conducted the interview.. I was not very impressed with her as an interviewer. She was lucky in her subject. Sindiwe is an excellent speaker and seldom at a loss for words and she was able, with the minimum of prompting to excite and captivate her audience. There were only a few tributes  from the floor, most of them very complimentary.  There were a few awkward questions, but these were ably fielded by the speaker
She really is a pro!I noticed that all the books put out on display were sold very soon after the session ended. Most gratifying.

The language of Poetry
Karen Schimke spoke to Mbongeni Nomkonwana, a South African poet, Jumoke Verrissimo, a West African  and Safia Elhillo, an Arabic poet who lives in America and writes in her own language as well as English. They talked about the problems with translation in getting across both the meaning and the feeling of a poem,but also the inspiration and richness that comes from multilinguism. I found that this was a very interesting discussion and I was disappointed to see how few festival- goers had turned up to hear it. I know poetry is not the most popular of subjects, but these were all people who were interesting in themselves. They all three had interesting histories and fascinating stories to tell.

Crime procedural
Jenny Crwys Williams interviewed Charlotte Otter, Liad Shuham and Mark Winkler.about their crime novels. I have read Mark Winkler and admire his work, but I had not heard of the other two. Charlotte Otter lives in Germany, but her novel is set in Natal and I think was published in this country, I considered buying her book but decided that the other two seemed more interesting.  Liad Shuham, is apparently a best seller in Isreal( and probably in the UK too). He was most entertaining. I just loved him. I am reading his book now. It is very good in the Police procedural  genre,( but not better than out local crime novels.). He said he was influenced by Scandinavian crime writers, but I llike his book better than any of those I have read, I shall look for his other books in the library.

Writers of Fewer Words
Karen Szczurek hosted this one.and Mark Winkler, Nick Mulgrew and Niq Mhlongo talked about the difficulties encountered in writing short stories. They all spoke well, Niq Mhlongu was particularly entertaining. I didn't like his writing as much as I liked Mark Winkler"s, (I am sure I have read stories by Nicjk Mulgrew, but can't bring them to mind.) but he was the star of this particular show. They all cane to the conclusion that short stories were more difficult to write than novels and poems were the most difficult of all. Obviously none of them is as lazy as I am. I have yet to fiinsh a novella, let alone a full novel,  I aked Nick Mulgrew about publishing short stories. He says Prufrock does publish a few. I am going to sen them one or two of mine. Can't hurt.

With much effort and after a fight with my new phone, which has a definite mind of its own,,I was able to contact Thoko and meet her at a cafe on the Main Road. Here I ended my day at the festival being treated to white wine and red velvet cake, kindly financed by Thoko.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Being Right-handed

I have been thinking about being right-handed and how limited I am compared to so many left-handed people, many of whom are  close to  being ambidextrous. My husband used to write with his left hand, but played Squash with his right. As a cricketer, he bowled left-handed, but batted right-handed. (as an aside, our family is a perfect example of Mendel's Laws of inherited characteristics, of 4 children, two are left-handed and two right-handed)

Left hand/ right brain, is there a connection?
A writer friend has broken a bone in her writing hand. What should she do? This would not be much of a problem for me. I never write by hand, everything goes straight onto the computer screen. My left hand can take over what my right hand usually does. Of course the piece of writing would take longer, but wait a minute. Would that be the only difference? 
Thinking about being right or left handed, I remember an essay by James Barry. He was afflicted at one time with a bad case of what he called “Writer’s Cramp”.( I think that it was actually a form of arthritis.) He was forced to learn to write with the other hand. ( I am not sure whether it was his left hand, but it probably was.) Something very strange happened. He found that what he wrote with his left hand was very different to the kind of thing he wrote with his right. A play or story written with one hand had a kinder, more gentle aspect than a play or story written by the other hand.
I have decided to put this to the test with my own writing. Up to now I have typed all my stories or poems with both hands,

NEW PHONE (left hand)
The girl behind the counter was so kind,
There was a long queue behind me, but
she took the time to tell me all about
the features of  the
model I had chosen.
Pity she didn’t tell me how to use it.
Don’t ring me. I can’t answer
Don’t text; I can’t reply
I am excluded from the Net,
I’m techno-gagged and
I’ve been

TOUGH SCREEN( right hand)
My fingers are so clumsy, I can’t type
he simplest message. I do try
but why do o’s turn into p’s and why
does the whole message vanish
before I can press SEND.
Bring me someone young, I cry
Someone like the girl at our poet’s group
Who can read from her Smart phone
so many lines she has written with such ease.
I wish that  she were here,  but I reside
In an old-age complex. where technology left fogies  
far behind, a long, long time ago.
It’s no good asking them.
and all my grand-children have gone away.
The staff are much too busy
for such a trivial problem, and so
I am left lamenting, all alone, 
my new and shiny, useless, touch-screen phone
(I would say left hand does better than right.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Praise of the Men of Cape Town

Last Saturday I was at a poetry workshop where we share the poems we have  written during the past month. Many of these poems had the theme of violence against women, This was not surprising when you consider the shocking cases that have been recently reported in the media. I was feeling most depressed thinking about this as I was taking my dogs for a walk. But then I looked about me and what I saw lifted my spirits and made me happier.

The suburb where I live contains a mixture of large old houses, dilapidated tenements, gated
complexes and cheaply-built modern flats and the inhabitants are similarly mixed. It was late afternoon and there were  all sorts of people walking about. These were the happy sights I saw:
I saw a young man cheerfully helping his pregnant wife with her shopping, and an old man gently leading his disabled spouse over the road. I saw a new father proudly cradling his tiny month-old daughter. I saw a grandfather happily chatting to his daughter as he pushed a grandchild's pram. I saw a father smiling at his two daughters, who were jumping up and down with excitement because he was taking them on an outing to the beach. All around I saw these men, good men, strong men, real men.

You mothers and fathers of boys. Teach your sons to recognise  real men like these, to celebrate them, admire them and aspire  to be like them.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Just over a week ago I had a very unexpected experience. I had to be carted off to hospital in an ambulance. This is something that has never happened to me before. I have seldom been in hospital and never found myself regarded as an "emergency" But I must say that if one has to be hospitalised, Constantiabergis a good choice. I was most impressed with the kindness and care I received. there.
This episode has made me realise how unpredictable life can be. I am now much more hesitant when making long-term plans. Two trips are scheduled for later this year. The first, a weekend at the McGregor poetry festival in August, the second,a trip to Hogsback with Cynthia in October. I now almost regret arranging them. My health, once so reliable, now can't be trusted to hold out that long.
But, perhaps I feel this way because I am still recovering, Convalescence is slow when you are over eighty. I may feel differently in a week or so.

I hope my little chapbook will be in print by August. Then I can take it to McGregor. "The last to leave" sold quite well in 2014, but that was after I had read my poems.. Steph and I both have small books to sell. We should be able to move some of them after doing our readings. I am looking forward to doing a presentation with Stephanie. Her work is so clever and so funny. Her poems are different from mine, but I think complement them.



I seem to have lost the last post. (That sounds ominous "Last Post"is the call over graves.) I wanted to add some poems, so I minimised it and that seems to have made it disappear, What it was about was just the unpredictability of life, especially life when you're over eighty. On Easter Sunday, ievening, i had just enjoyed a lovely day; the morning with my Grandson Luke and the afternoon with Danielle and Tyler. then, suddenly,in the night, a gastro attack. I had to call the nurses. they helpedme and in the morning, had Christo call an ambulance. He told me later, that he was the one who notified, Luke and said how relieved he was, to find that Luke was in Cape Town and not back in George.

Being carted off in an ambulance was a new experience for me. It was also a new experience to be in a hospital ward, immobilised, attached to a drip.  I must say that if one has to be in hospital, Constantiaberg is a good place to be. I was impressed by the kindness and care I received there.

This experience has made me think twice about making long-term plans. I used to take my rude health for granted. Now I know it can no longer be relied upon. Two trips are scheduled for later this year. : Steph and I are going to McGregor in August and in October I am going to Hogsback with Cynthia. I almost regret having made these arrangements. Perhaps when I am more fully recovered I will feel differently.

I am going to try again to post a poem relating to the experiences referred to above.

Bright lights shine in the corridor
outside my door. I hear footsteps.
People walk up and down.
In the next ward someone coughs
another moans incessantly.
A tap drips in a basin. I can’t get up
to turn it off
I lie
caught like an insect in a web of tubes
that dangle from the ceiling,
imprisoned by liquid dripping
into fragile veins.

The cougher stops, the moans cease too.
Perhaps they both have died.
I think of dying, joining loved ones,
husband, parents, dearest friends
Do they wait for me?
Dreaming of them, slide into sleep
and then a big, black, male nurse comes,
wakes me, adjusts the drip.
The coughs and moans start up again,
I hear
soft conversations in the passages.
Somebody rings a bell.
Time crawls, the night goes on.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Giving the Peace

Sitting next to me in the pew there was somebody new in church today. She wasn't new to me.We had met before, a long time ago and since lost touch with each other. It was great to make contact again. It's a lovely congregation isn't it" she said and this made me see my parish church afresh. How it is a place where there is so much love, where every one is made welcome, where when we are invited to say"Peace be with you," to one another, everyone around me gives me hugs and kisses. It made me think about why I attend every Sunday, why in this mixed "rainbow" congregation  I have a feeling of belonging that I do not have anywhere else.

It also made me realise why, in spite of the doubts that often plague me, I am a Christian and have been for most of my life. I see how this wonderful faith, a faith base on love, has inspired ordinary people . My devout parents dedicated their lives to helping others. Seated around me during this service are numbers of people doing unselfish loving things. One regularly visits prisons, another provides sandwiches for the poor, another has fought tirelessly for justice in this country. I could go on and on.

If I am deluded, as my atheist friends tell me,I decide, that deluded is what I wish to continue to be.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

In praise of MOOCs

Having just finished an Online Astronomy course called Orion in the night Sky. I started another one, this time simply called Moons.  "Orion" was stimulating and exciting: Moons is  astonishing, amazing, fabulous and any other superlatives you can think of. It is, I am afraid,a little too much for me. I  really need to do it all over again.  There is just so much information to process. Astronomy is all very new to me. All I knew about Moons is what I learnt more than sixty years ago in School Geography class. I became interested in stars when I joined a U3A tour to Sutherland to see the SALT telescope. I meant to read up more about the subject, but only when I had become a bit bored after finishing a poetry course and having time to spare,did I look up other possible courses on the Internet and found these two on Futurelearn.  These courses are run by the Open University and they are excellent. The material is well presented and easy to read and as for the illustrations... I can only say WOW. They comprise wonderful pictures from NASA taken on different space probes. These are quite spectacular!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Some more poems


When you are old, time gets out of hand.
Like water in a muddy dam, its sluice gates open
to spew out effluent cascades.  Your feeble fingers
can’t stem the flow. Brown clouds of days
rush past. You clutch at them,
but as you try to keep them back
they twist and swirl away,
turn into weeks and then to years.
Until all that is left is
a shrunken puddle
on a sandy floor.


The bitter scent of rosemary 
calls to me from the bush
that once grew by the door.
of a house full of girl-children, set
in a garden with a daisy-bordered lawn
and a cypress tree. .

Round-faced Dalena  kept floors polished
and windows clean. Old Soppy tended
flowerbeds and sold my green beans on the sly.
Now −
both in their graves, the lawn paved over
and the cypress tree chopped down.


As the moon, one day from full, stares pale
through clumps of cirrus cloud,
we bring our candles and our hymn sheets,
and gather at the gate to start
our pilgrimage around the cottages.
A singer in a motor-wheelchair leads the way
and bringing up the rear, another singer
leans on a walker.

Our choirmaster gives the note
and off we go. We stumble into “Bethlehem.
Our voices tremble on the damp night air
then swell. Sound spreads, doors open,
hands wave out of windows.
Soft drizzle sparkles in our hair.
We visit all the units
one by one.

Legs weary, breath a little short,
song starts to peter out, and then a woman,
surprised at hearing music by her door
comes out and looks confusedly about.
Through fog that fills her aging brain, recalls
something she first learnt at her mother’s knee and
joyfully, joins in with sweet soprano  Stille nacht,
Silent Night, Holy night

(After studying an online astronomy course)
In the constellation of Orion
somewhere halfway between
Red giant Betelgeuse
and White giant Rigel, lies
Orion Nebula, a fuzzy place,
where stars are born.

As Orion sweeps across the sky,
his hunting dogs beside him,
chasing the Pleiades, bow at the ready,
he carries below his belt the seeds
of suns. They swirl in multi-coloured clouds
of purple, yellow, green and blue.

In the wide disc which gathers round
a sphere that will become a new young sun,
are bits of debris, which, with dust
and ashes from celestial conflagrations
might form, after a million years
another Earth like ours


I get there early to secure a seat.
The coffin is already there and the churchwarden
The coffin wears an outsized wreath
The warden, wears a white shirt and a tie
I kneel and say a prayer

A lay minister in a robe walks down the aisle
Women from the old age home take up their seats.
some people come in at the vestry door
I read the Service Order leaflet.

The lay minster blows in the mic
He shakes it to and fro and blows again.
Some people come to sit in the front pews
I read the book of Job in the Pew Bible

A child toddles up and down the aisle
The wind blows the altar candles out
The verger lights them all again.
I finish Job and start on Proverbs

The priest comes in and puts notes on the lectern
 He looks around and then walks out again.
The warden makes announcements I can’t hear
I finish Proverbs and begin The Psalms

The last of the pallbearers has arrived
They hoist the coffin skew; its wreath falls off
The verger picks it up and puts it back
The organ breaks into the March from Saul.
And now the service can begin.

Numbers were always unreliable.
ID, cell phone, credit card, the only ones
that ever stayed embedded in my brain
and as for names − many have long refused
to be attached to faces,
but now words, once dependable,
my very tools-of-trade,
are turning traitor.

It was the long ones started the rebellion,
the crossword puzzle ones – palaeontology,
Manichaeism, spectroscopy, all
went AWOL when I needed them.
Soon everyday ones joined the fun,
hiding under beds and behind cupboards,
having to be winkled out with
rakes and broom-handles.

Some, I believe, have gone for good.
They went and hid in luggage trunks
or old ice-chests and to make sure
I wouldn’t find them there,
they closed the lids down very tight.
And then they couldn’t open them and so
they suffocated –
serve them right!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Two poems

“Moonbeams, sadly, will not survive in a jar.”
Roger Mc Gough

Dark shadows will chase sunlight
from a windowsill. Rainbows
have no anchors and they float away
Fires consume dry grass, turn bush to ash.
Plucked flowers lose their petals one by one.

But stars, long dead can still shine on.
Their rays, far from their source speed through space
to reach us as we stand here in the night,
hold hands and look up at the sky


I look across my room to where
a new embroidered picture hangs,
a picture of a girl, dark-skinned, red-lipped
head held in tattooed hands.
Coloured threads
laid down like painted brush-marks
show her sorrow.
Stitched into the cloth I see
exquisitely expressed,
the compass of her pain.

And I see
Another girl, blond head
bent over wooden frame. She holds
in delicate fingers a sharp shiny needle
and stabs into a canvas cloth

over and over again.

More on modern Poetry

My attention was drawnrecently to an article about poetry. Two poets were mentioned, Goldsmith and Prynne and I looked them up.  These poets were apparently considered very important and influential. Examples of their poems were supplied by Google. One of the poems (I think the author was Goldsmith) was made up of of every sentence in a particular issue of a newspaper written down one below the other. Apparently this is some kind of experimental writing and, I think, is known as unoriginality.  Prynne's poems did look more like poems. They were written in stanzas. The lines were fairly even. They sounded pleasant when read aloud. But I after reading one of them several times carefully, I still had not the faintest idea what it was about.

Now, I am quite ready to accept that my lack of appreciation is due to inadequacies in my knowledge or my understanding, but I am sure that the average reader (not very many of them these days) who chooses to read poetry would feel the same. What is the audience for this sort of modern poetry. Obviously academics teaching and studying modern literature must read them, but who else enjoys them?

Nearly all my friends and acquaintances, when I mention Poetry will immediately tell me that they never read poetry and that poetry is something that they don't understand. I think all this obscure kind of modern poetry is to blame Most people these days  view poems as though they are not to be read for enjoyment, but are like cryptic crossword puzzle clues that have to be dissected and pulled apart. This is the usual attitude in this country towards written poetry. And it is a pity.

Performance poetry, on the other hand is becoming very popular. There are more and more events for Praise Poets and Slam Poets. Hopefully this popularity will spill over to poems that can be read as well as listened to.

Friday, January 22, 2016


I am studying a short online course on Astronomy. It  is called "In the night Sky Orion" and I assumed that it would be only about that constellation, but it goes much deeper and wider than that.
We are introduced to the classification of different kinds of stars as well as different kinds of galaxies. We are told about black holes, dark matter and dark energy, We find out about the Big Bang Theory and the possible end of the Universe.

Learning about the Universe is both stimulating and daunting.  Although it is intended to be a very basic course, a lot of the more technical stuff is not all that easy to grasp and the huge size of the enormous distances and the length of the time involved is almost impossible for me to get my mind around.

I am enjoying the whole course, but one of the best parts is going out at the same time each night and observing Orion. We are supposed to take a photo of Orion once a week, but this is beyond me. Either my camera is not good enough or I am not using it properly, but all I get is a black space. So I just stand and stare at this group of stars in the sky and it is very beautiful. Although I haven't been able to get pictures of Orion  have been able to see that Orion has moved (relative to the earth, not the other stars) and is further overhead than when I started observations three weeks ago.

My Poem about Orion

In the constellation of Orion
somewhere halfway between
Red giant Betelgeuse
and White giant Rigel, lies
Orion Nebula, a fuzzy place, a womb
where stars are born.

As Orion sweeps across the sky,
his hunting dogs beside him,
chasing the Pleiedes, bow at the ready,
he carries below his belt the seeds
of suns. They swirl in multi-coloured clouds
of purple, yellow, green and blue.

In the wide disc which gathers round
a sphere that will become a new young sun,
are bits of debris, which, with dust
and ashes from celestial conflagrations
might form, after a million years
another Earth like ours