Welcome to my A-Z 2018, for which I am revisiting Africa, the continent of my childhood and my dreams. The posts are, as always, infoheavy and opinionated, but they are sectioned off - some music, the day’s topic, couple writers, a slideshow from the safaris – plenty ways to cherry-pick. So you may consume just as much, or as little, as you're cool with. Zero obligation to agree with any of my views either, feel free to air yours :)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

It's not always peacock-feathered





This thing had no feathers, nor carried a tune,
just a low growing scrub I saw, by a dune;

no bird had ever sung in that desolate spot,
no cloud had marred that sky with its untidy blot;

yet it grew, stood its ground without any fuss
in a quiet version of hope, unselfconscious.

An immense vastness, a certain light offers
tiny, easily missed, wild-austere metaphors.

It is not always peacock-feathered and resplendent.
It doesn’t sing always, it can remain silent. 





And that rounds off my rather turbulent year on a note of quiet hope, I know it will start singing sometime.  Thank you for being here and seeing this year through with me. A very happy new year MMXV to you and yours. Stay happy and blessed, wishing you lots of poetry and birdsongs of hope. See you next year. 




Monday, 22 December 2014

Love's not a Christmas thing




I’ll love you with the dance in my bones
and the pigeon calls in my veins
with the soil of my flesh and its stones,
the bungled belly laugh in my brains.


I’ll love you when the dances get dim
when the anklets draw hooks and blood
when pirouette is brimstone and grim
the last thrash of fish on the mud.


I’ll love you when the tinsel’s trash
when the tree’s just needles on the floor
all festive is only one flash,
and the dark is the maw of the door.


I’ll love you still when the music thins
under the amber songs of dawnskins.




Merry festivals to you, whichever you are celebrating, and the very best for the coming year.



Monday, 15 December 2014

Stocking stuffer




The props were made of black and bleak
not a single caravan came by
but I turned both the eye and cheek
and found some loopy plump cacti
thorny pretty and far from meek


growing thick in a crick of rocks
and that too felt as beautiful
as stuffed stockings of windsocks
waving off the stereopull
of incensed roads and office blocks.




Friday, 12 December 2014

Parasol






Early autumn morning, the sun’s warmth’s strong
on the sands, a parasol’s on the ground -
keeled over months ago, its thatch partly torn;
it toppled quietly without any surround sound
and there was no-one to hear it, record
how and when a patch of thatch had come down
its shade rolled small.  The off season resort



abandoned like a dried up fountain, rimmed
with watermarks. The ocean whispers on.
There is one other tourist - the crowds thin
end of summer, the swimmers crush gone
back to city squares, graffiti, imagined
and real grievances, unemployment, phone
apps, power cuts, lives of grim, urban grins.






Saturday, 6 December 2014

Riverlove









A certain yearning for those ancient rivers
eats into the morning without results;
the nearest one’s two thousand kilometres,
and the Hooghly’s distance now measured in worlds
the Benue and the Nile both out of bounds
just indifferent seagreen gulf's around.



There’s far too much inspirational guff
about the threequarterness of oceans,
about how the rivers end up being cupped
by loving seas.  And the televisions
get thinner and bigger, open wider jaws;
yet no rivers come by.  Not one trickle flows.






Thursday, 4 December 2014

Riki's Prayer




Image : Riki Roy



The prompt


"Can you write me a poem too or a prayer whichever you like...where my ashes be strewn in the Rockies near Jasper..as I am in love with the place...and may I be born in Canada to snowboard in Jasper's amazing slopes...where my hubby is my instructor and I fall in love with him again in a new time and place and we marry amongst the singing slopes and enchanting lakes..."




The poem


I.


Snowmelt’s going to be washed to the oceans
someday anyway, so give my ashes to
a fresh snowfall laid at the feet of mountains,
give them to the arms of pinewoods,  the immense
worlds tucked in a print of a caribou.


Give them, my love, to the vast stillness, the flakes
dancing to the leaps and whims of snowstorms,
trembling on the ribbed ripples of tranquil lakes
and when the universe finally remakes
them, may they again take a woman’s form.


May I be reborn around these mountains, close
to these spring-touched fields, these winter-bright slopes;
and one day quite by chance walking these snows
may we meet again where the conifer grows
as stars pin clouds in place with their sapphire drops.


May I be born here on the ridge of a mountain,
come face to face with you, and fall in love again.



II.


Let me be grateful for each scar, each success,
every step taken with you by my side;
and every step taken alone in some dim recess
of memory, but special nevertheless
because each led here, where our paths coincide.


Let me be grateful for wonder and its huge breadth,
the depth of my passion, the lightness of mischief;
the bonds between us that persist beyond death
and the ken of humans, beyond narrow faiths
and streams speckled with leaf-shadows of grief.


And grateful for each grain of sand and grit,
the barefoot mornings, carefree and wriggly-toed
coming in with summers swinging at their hips.
For the jewelled ice on winter nights’ fingertips,
for pristine snows on hard shoulders of the road.


Grateful that you test the knots, ease every climb
just by going ahead or backing me up all the time.



III.


Praying that when I’m remade in some future birth
I walk along this same majestic icefield;
or wavy tracks on a slope where snow’s disturbed,
a red helmet moves against the sky and earth
in graceful loops; and again, my fate is sealed.


It’s déjà vu, “I know you! from someplace else,”
you’re nonplussed but too polite to contradict.
Far below, the green lake ripples, the snowmelts
chuckle gently, trickle soft in their channels.
You’re visibly relieved as I change the topic,


“I’d like to learn snowboarding, give me a try?”
and you unstrap and step off, ever courteous.
I’m shaky as I mount, and your palm’s a sigh.
Thunderstruck at this touch, your smile’s awry -
you finally make the connect between us.


“Notice the helmet’s still red, what does that prove?”
the board steadies underfoot as I start to move. 




For my dear friend Riki Roy, with thanks and much love and friendship. May she be guided to her love and happiness unerringly, in every life that is granted her, and may they both be equally inspirational partners in all of them, as they are now. 

This one is strictly 'write as it comes' - no editing, no over-thinking, posted as soon as written, from the heart to brain to blog in half a morning's work over three consecutive days.  I hope I have been able to do justice to the prompt, Rik.









Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Riki's prayer II




Image : Riki Roy


Let me be grateful for each scar, each success,
every step taken with you by my side;
and every step taken alone in some dim recess
of memory, but special nevertheless
because each led here, where our paths coincide.


Let me be grateful for wonder and its huge breadth,
the depth of my passion, the lightness of mischief;
the bonds between us that persist beyond death
and the ken of humans, beyond narrow faiths
and streams speckled with leaf-shadows of grief.


And grateful for each grain of sand and grit,
the barefoot mornings, carefree and wriggly-toed
coming in with a summer swing at the hips.
For the jewelled ice on winter nights’ fingertips,
for pristine snows on hard shoulders of the road.


Grateful that you test the knots, ease every climb
just by going ahead or backing me up all the time.







Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A prayer for Riki Roy


Credit: Riki Roy


Snowmelt’s going to be washed to the oceans
someday anyway, so give my ashes to
a fresh snowfall laid at the feet of mountains,
give them to the arms of pinewoods,  the immense
worlds tucked in a print of a caribou.


Give them, my love, to the vast stillness, the flakes
dancing to the leaps and whims of snowstorms,
trembling on the ribbed ripples of tranquil lakes
and when the universe finally remakes
them, may they again take a woman’s form.


May I be reborn around these mountains, close
to these spring-touched fields, these winter-bright slopes;
and one day quite by chance walking these snows
may we meet again where the conifer grows
as stars pin clouds in place with their sapphire drops.


May I be born here on the ridge of a mountain,
come face to face with you, and fall in love again.




For my dear friend Riki who leads the most extraordinarily inspirational life and who wishes to be reborn where she now lives and loves. We were reading some verses together, and she asked for a prayer/poem about being reborn in the Rockies.  Stay blessed and happy, Rik.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Read if you wish




Read me, if you wish, like a two-fold pamphlet
handed out at street corners by children
forced out of childhood early, their eyes set
into surly orbits of need, desperate.
Patches of limp lines, thrust out as and when


the lights turn red.  A stereotyped gimmick
thrown into cars caught with windows open
weird damaged overlarge wings in that traffic
light, and sudden fright turning to a quick
indifference, “It’s that same old thing again”.


Or read me like frayed love letters, blinking
between dusty pages. The books from when men
still wrote letters, fancy penmanship and ink
counted for, not much, but still worth something.
Pressed, not thrown.  A shade of precious even,


preserved for a future nostalgia fix;
though the addressee didn’t know it then.
Or read me as I am, forget the tricks
of metaphor, of angles and semantics,
just words written into verse and plain spoken.





Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fossils, Findings, and Prodigious Savants








I have known John J. White for the longest time, from the infancy of my blogging days and since my time at Helium, which was a long time ago indeed. John had a blog called "Give It Up, You'll Never Be Published" where he wrote forthright, quirky-humorous posts about writing and the quest for publication. An infrequent blogger, but a prolific, and multiple award-winning writer. His book Prodigious Savant was released last month, and two more titles are scheduled in 2015/16.  Check out his new author website.



Today I am honoured to have him here, sharing his insights and experience. All yours, John, and many thanks. 



Finding That Elusive Fossil
By J.J. White





“Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ashless








Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~ Leonard Cohen




It burns intense, and it also burns slow -
great heat, a sheer blue flame, finely haloed
but it yields nothing, no ash, minimal glow
and there’s no charred heap once it’s out, no broad
smear on soil from which meanings can be clawed.



Yes, it’s poetry, that tiny rimmed blue leap,
that transparent smoke with its musky smell
though it leaves no trace of itself in the sweep
of its own wide dispersal.  Hard to tell,
to tease out the proof that it’s burning well.






Because that quote from Cohen just took my brain in its jaws this morning and worried it like a big cat with its prey.




Saturday, 15 November 2014

The first lesson




Image credit




Hassana was a schoolmate, tall, clean-limbed,
dark-skinned with the smooth bloom of a jamun;
a modern Noliwe if you like, undimmed
by a Shaka, a vibrant, stunning woman.


The two-year-old, mischievous toddler son
of our tutor was often at her hip -
Hassana’s I mean, after lessons were done.
A male an almost-part of a female rib.


Is he a relative that she babysits?
I’d asked her once, she’d thoughtfully replied,
‘no, but I like him, and it’s good practice
to work with a child hanging off your side.’


He left one day. I saw her grieve, understood
the first lesson of love, and of motherhood.