Twitter poems

A few poems, written whilst I was away over New Year. Most were posted first on Twitter (micropoetry is, for me, the best thing about Twitter) and thus written quickly, reflecting the medium.

Curlews

Curlews take flight
Beyond the stone wall
Ghosts in halflight
Silent as nightfall
Slip out of sight
Hardly here at all

Haiku

Sweet the twicefold call
Of curlews rising at dusk
From a western shore

After the sunset
The wind blows out of the north
Cold as last year’s bones

A finger of stone
An arc across the moorland
In the distance rain

machrie-ii

Triolet

A robin sings
Before the dawn
Bright notes take wings
A robin sings
Each ripple rings
With hope reborn
A robin sings
Before the dawn

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Posted in haiku, triolet, twitter poems, verse | 8 Comments

An end, maybe a beginning?

I’d like to say everything has sorted itself out, writing-wise, since my last post but I can’t, because it hasn’t. I’m in no part closer to finding the spark missing from my manuscript. Something has changed, however, as a result of a couple of helpful, sensible conversations – thank you, Jane and Colin. I am worrying about the whole thing less and that is, I hope, the beginning of progress. Even though I’m not sure when, or even if, I’ll start writing again, not worrying about not being able to write feels like a burden has been lifted. Not writing now doesn’t change the fact that those books I have written are out in the world.

Anyway, today is the solstice. The winter solstice in these parts, and a grey, wet rainy day it was too. Nominally we get about seven hours of daylight but it was so dreich it never really brightened. It’s still raining. But, from tomorrow, the days will be getting longer.

In life, of course, one is stuck with the weather as it happens. In fiction, one can select it to fit the mood and the need of the book. No need for rain or dull halflight if clean, clear cold seems preferable. Here’s a crisp, dry midwinter’s night from After the Ruin (commercial plug: I see that AtR is being heavily discounted right now on Amazon UK; I’m not sure how long the offer will last). The extract is taken from the turning point of the story, when hoped-for ends turn into unlooked-for beginnings:

Midwinter. The king walked through the wood, snow on the branches, frost on the trees. The darkness parted itself around him, the splinters of frost shining bright as the stars in the sky. He walked in silence through the night and left no mark upon the snow. Tonight, as he walked out of the wild wood into the world, there were no boundaries between a dream and waking.

The king stood between the earth and sky. When he spoke, the world fell quiet to listen. “If you are there, show yourself.” The meadows were full of shapes and shadows. Light and lovely as the falling snow, the liùthion danced around him, existing only at the edge of vision, in the world and out of it. Their dance span and wove its patterns across the meadows as snowflakes span across the sky but the king was the still centre, the fixed point, more solid than any flesh, more real than any dream. The world was ever changing but he endured forever and for always.

His voice was the gentle cold of falling snow. “Come out of the dark.” He held his hand out to a darker shadow beneath the shadows of a bone-bare tree.

The piper stepped from beneath a birken tree, its pale branches hung all about with ice, bleak and beautiful as hope. “Only in borderlands can we meet, between your lands and mine.”

“Are you come to beg an apple?” The words rang out into the night, the clear cold of broken ice skimming across a frozen loch.

“I cannot eat that fruit, beneath this sky or the other.”

The king raised his hand. The music died away to a memory of sweetness and loss, the liùthion were gone; nothing was left to break the emptiness of snow and frost. All that remained was the wind upon the meadows, the soft and silent fall of snow upon the night.

The piper shivered in the silence and the cold, because he was afraid, as he had never before been afraid, even on that longest day when the sun burned fierce and still above him.

The king bowed his head. His cloak was ragged and his feet bare but there were stars tangled in his hair. His voice was the wind rattling the birken tree. “As you desire. I do not take the unwilling. But, if you did not come to eat, why come here at midwinter when I cross the water to walk in the wild wood?”

“You know all the ways of all the men that ever walked beneath the sky. You know why I came to you.”

The piper held out his hands. The king took them in his own, cold hands and turned the palms face up that he might study them.

“Ask and I will answer.” The king’s voice was the snap of twigs upon a winter’s night. “But think before you speak: remember that I make no promises, I offer no hope, I grant no boons and I make no bargains. What I am, I am.”

The piper let out a long breath. His life hung before him, white mist in the black night. He asked, “What is left to me?”

“You live and breathe, you walk beneath the sun and moon.”

“Why can I not come to my rest? The dead are dead. All else that lived to the long day’s evening found peace in Ohmorah. But I? I lost my way, my hope, my name and still it is not enough!”

“For all things there is a price. That is the one you pay, piper from the gates of morning.”

“I saw the rowan die; I saw the sun stand still at noontime, a red moon rising and fiery dancers setting the very wind to flame.” The piper looked up into the king’s pale face but could not meet his gaze and shut his eyes against it. Behind the blackness of closed eyes, he saw a flicker of sunlight across the green leaves of a rowan tree, a fall of golden hair. He heard a well-remembered song, rich and sweet as honeycomb on midsummer’s day. He closed his mind against the memory and cried out, “After fire burned and water drowned, I made a balance this side of the sunset. All that I did that day was necessary.”

The answer came back quick and hard. “Who are you to judge necessity? A balance made along the edge of a sword is no balance at all.”

The piper’s face twisted with anger or regret. “The lives and deaths of those in the waking world are no concern of yours!”

“You came to me to ask your questions, and I have answered. The truth is all I have to offer you.”

“Then there is no hope left to me.”

“You live and breathe, you walk upon the earth. All this is left to you and it must be enough.”

“It is but half a life, walking across the years towards an unkind death.”

“Yours is the only hand that shaped your fate.” The king bent his head to study the hands he still held within his own. “You chose, and know the penalty of choice.”

The piper snatched back his hands. He was never good to look upon but now he wore the face of a monster: hate sat on his brow and shame upon his cheek. He cried out, his anger spilling like steam from a boiling pot, “Allodola found peace, the Liùthion found love and Allocco is dead! I would trade all my freedom and my choices for any of these three.”

The king said only, “Yet, even now, you seek to shape the future to one of your own choosing.” His face was quiet and still, free from anger, and from love.

The piper bowed his head, his anger gone, his sorrow left to him. He thought and he remembered, and he said, “An I do not, all I have done before I did in vain. One choice leads on to others, and there never is an end.”

“Death is the end of all things beneath your sky, piper from the gates of morning.” The king turned away and his ragged cloak swung around him on the wind of the world and the wind not of the world. “Enough and more than enough of words. I am to my dancing and all who choose may join me.”

He spread wide his hands. The sky around him was jewelled with starlight; the wind and the land and the empty air filled again with music and shadows. He danced and the kindred of the borderlands danced with him in the long night, and there were no boundaries between a dream and waking.

The piper watched, and let old memories rise through the years to the surface of his mind. Here and now, he knew how much he had feared and how greatly he had failed. Above his head, the winter trees, white and clean as last year’s bones, stretched out their branches to the stars. A long, long while passed by before he turned away, limping back into the shadows towards the company of men.

Posted in After the Ruin, fantasy novel, Hadley Rille Books, Harriet Goodchild author, novel, personal opinion, thoughts | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Writer, eclipsed.

I started this villanelle ages back – so long back I can’t quite recall when, except that it was the last time there was a partial lunar eclipse visible in this part of the world. That’s pretty clear from the subject matter. I got stuck, abandoned it, found the fragment recently and forced it to a finish.

The moon was full tonight.
As it rose above the hill,
The shadow ate its light.

We crooked our fingers tight
To guard against ill-will.
The moon was full tonight,

Our way lay, plain in sight,
An easy path, until
The shadow ate its light

’Twixt dog and wolf. A bite
Consumed and ate its fill.
The moon was full tonight;

As fear faint hearts can blight,
As hate bright hopes can kill,
The shadow ate its light.

No mercy for our plight,
No succour, no goodwill.
The moon was full tonight.
The shadow ate its light.

I know I’ve not written anything here lately. Here, or anywhere else. Truth is, I’m blocked. Blocked for new writing, blocked for revision (my WIP is in pieces and I don’t know how to put them together again; as I pulled on one thread, the whole unravelled, if you’ll pardon the mixing of metaphors.), blocked for poetry, blocked on trying to promote the books I’ve written.

Oh, I’ve tried many of the obvious tricks for unblocking writing – prompts, free association, retelling favourite stories, describing a person, place or thing – but so far they’ve got me nowhere. Writers write, they say. Right now, I can’t. I can, it seems, write sentences, even scenes, but not produce a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end. It’s exceedingly frustrating. If I have an idea, it dries up in the space between thought and page/screen. Nothing lasts. Even if I’m only writing to please myself, the stuff I produce doesn’t please me and ends up being abandoned, like the moon villanelle.

Well, I suppose that got finished eventually. Maybe there’s hope for poor Ardùvai and all his friends and enemies yet. Cross your fingers.

Posted in personal opinion, rant;, thoughts, verse, villanelle, work in progress | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Prologues revisited:This is what will happen

I’m in the throes of revision of a manuscript that will be the third, and final, book in the sequence set in and around the Later Lands. The story is pretty well worked out and now I’m now thinking about structure and patterns. As I’ve said previously, I like prologues and, to fit in with its predecessors, I’d like this book to have a prologue. Thing is, as the prologues of After the Ruin and The Crooked Path were set in the past and present, respectively, this one needs to be set in the future (hence, This is what will happen).

That offers a problem: a prologue is set in the future will almost certainly give a glimpse into how my story unfolds, and people can be very sensitive about spoilers. I’m not myself, by the way. I’m not going to tell you who killed Roger Ackroyd but most of the time I reckon it’s not what happens that matters, but how and why it happens. If all the merit in a book is lost because one knows a twist or ending in advance I think it a pretty one-dimensional book. I’ve reread The Murder of Roger Ackroyd several times, not because I forget whodunit but because I enjoy its cleverness and sleight of hand. Likewise, I came to A Song of Ice and Fire late enough to be aware of most of the major plot turns, but the detail of how the story reached those points was interesting enough in its own right to keep me reading. But readers’ opinions on these matters differ, and sufficient people do care for me to be wary. The solution, I think, is to set this prologue far enough beyond the end of the story that it gives very little away as to the what, and nothing at all about the how and the why.

If you should happen to be someone who cares about spoilers, by the way, don’t worry. The text below is something I wrote to amuse myself as a distraction from revision. Whilst it’s a future, it’s almost certainly not the future, and though it’s a prologue, it’s almost certainly not the prologue. The fun of writing – and revising – is that these things are not set in stone until a very late point in the process. Between now and then, almost anything could happen.

Twilight in Ittachar, a day not long past midsummer. The cool blue of a summer’s evening thickens into dusk in the hollows of the hills, though the western sky above the sea is still wreathed with the fading glory of the sunset. Oystercatchers call, one to another, as they probe for mussels ’twixt rocks and weed. A dog seal hauls itself ashore and rests at the water’s edge, its scarred flanks lapped by the waves of the retreating tide. The birds, no doubt, mark its appearance but a seal is of no concern to them. They are more wary of the boy walking the shore. A little less than a man, this bright-haired boy, a little more than a child, gangling and awkward in his newfound length of limb but filled with the promise of strength to come. He stoops now and then to pick up little things that catch his fancy: a shell, a curl of driftwood, a pebble round and white as the full moon. A stranger, seeing his homespun shirt and leather trousers, his short cloak of unwashed wool, would mark him as a fisherman’s son. At the second sight, a stranger with a careful eye might pick out the ring on his right hand.

The seal stirs with a shiver and a shudder. An oystercatcher whistles a warning and all the birds lift as one, pied wings beating away across the halflit water, as a man rises to his feet at the tideline and shakes saltwater from his hair. He flings up an arm in answer to the boy’s wave, then strides up the shore with a grey seal’s skin draped across his arm and a crunch of shingle ’neath his bare feet.

At a hawthorn bush at the head of the beach, he cocks his head towards the land. ‘If you are there, show yourself.’

A shadow detaches itself from the gloaming and clots into a man. He is garbed as a fisherman, with a fisherman’s wooden charm hanging round his neck. His black hair is touched with silver and his black eyes are filled with laughter.

‘I was sure this time I’d catch you by surprise.’

‘You?’ An amused snort. ‘You walk so loud across the lea you might as well beat on a drum and shout aloud, I’m here!

The seal scrabbles beneath the thorn, turning stones aside to find a shirt and breeks and trousers, heavy socks and a pair of seaboots. He folds the sealskin in their place and piles the stones atop it. Dressed, he calls out, ‘Lad, your father’s back.’

The boy runs towards them, his pockets rattling with his treasures. ‘What did he say?’

‘What did who say?’ The fisherman lets his son’s impatience beat against him like a fluttering bird. ‘Can you mean the potter?’

‘Ach, don’t tease him,’ says the seal. ‘Of course he means the potter.’

‘Be easy, lad.’ A quick smile conjures another from the boy. ‘He’ll take you on as ’prentice. If you’re certain. You’re sure you wouldn’t rather wait a year and join the whalemen?’

The boy shakes his head, his answer shining in his eyes. The seal pulls him into a hug, ruffling his pale hair as if he were yet a child and not a great lad taller than himself. ‘That’s settled, then. It’s a good trade, if you’ve a knack for it.’

‘Neither a ship nor a sword,’ his father mutters, low enough for only a seal to hear, if that seal be standing very close, ‘but I kept my promise all the same.’

The seal glances at him, quick and hard, looking for regret, perhaps, or bitterness. Seeing neither, he lets the boy squirm free and says, ‘I watched the mercatship come in. What news from the west?’

‘No news at all, unless you count a song out of the queen’s hall in Lyikené. I had it from the fat mercatman as we sat together in the alehouse.’ The fisherman whistles a jaunty tune, breaks off his whistling to say, ‘Mostly it’s about the fall of the Black Rocks. Should be to your taste.’

‘Far more than that lament you had of him last year.’

‘Brought tears to my eyes, that one did, first time I heard it.’

‘Aye, so I recall. Could scarce keep a straight face myself.’

The boy looks from one to the other, reading the expression on their faces, their shared ease born of long familiarity. His face curves into a sly, sweet smile. His voice has broken in the twelvemonth since he learnt the song and its tune no longer soars into the tall sky, like a gull into high sunlight, but each note still chimes clear and true. Above the hills, the stars prick into life, by one, by two and three.

The seal grins and hums along to the boy’s lament for a young king, drowned in the flower of his youth through his nightwatch’s treachery. The fisherman sighs, a man sorely tried by the fools about him, though the glint in his black eyes threatens only laughter. After a half-dozen verses, he snaps his fingers in his son’s face. ‘Enough of that dirge. Sing something to warm the blood.’

The boy obliges, and the men take up the chorus. Then, together, they walk up the path towards the village, sad stories of the death of kings driven from their minds by a song of vengeance and of glory.

And far away, the other side of time, the quiet queen stands in the shadows of the apple tree. Her cloak is tattered and her feet are bare but there are stars tangled in her hair. About her and around her, the dancers of the borderlands whirl and swirl to the music of the stars and sea, singing the song of the wind upon the water. Longtimes she watches, knowing all things of all men, the living and the dead, until the three of them, the fisherman, the seal, the boy, reach the low, thatched cot and step inside out of the night, and close the door behind them.

Did this night happen? Not yet, perhaps not ever. There is as yet no fisherman, no half-grown boy to be apprenticed to a potter, no queen across the water. The future is a tale cannot be written, not even on the air or in running water. It lies forever out of reach, less tangible even than a dream. But, as stories link together, like beads upon a chain, like dancers joining hands to form the figures of a dance, the future is shaped by the present and the past, and so – if the world is kind and hearts are strong – this eventide in Ittachar is what will happen.

Posted in fantasy novel, Harriet Goodchild author, novel, selkie, work in progress | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Songs behind stories

This started out as a blog about folk songs. It’s evolved since then into a more general blog about books and writing, but the songs are still there in the background to my work. The inspiration they provide is nothing like as direct as in Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock, which is a fairly faithful version of Tam Lin in novel form, albeit a version with an admixture of Thomas the Rhymer. I’d no wish to rewrite or retell the stories from particular songs in either novel. Old songs, however, do set the mood for each book.

Like the Child Ballads, After the Ruin is full of revenge, love, betrayal and longing. Poetic grimdark, a good friend called it once, and that’s as good a summing up as any. Although each chapter of After the Ruin has its own epigraph, three particular songs underscore the book. These are The Unquiet Grave (Child Ballad no. 78, which is a dialogue between two lovers, one living, the other dead), The Bonnie House of Airlie (Child Ballad no. 199, an account of what happened when Lady Ogilvie defied the Campbells), and Tam Lin itself (Child Ballad no. 39; it’s hard to escape the pull of Tam Lin – it is perhaps the greatest of all the ballads).

The Crooked Path is rather different in mood from After the Ruin. It’s a lighter book, certainly for me as I was writing it and, I think, for a reader too; it’s less intense, a fairy tale rather than a high fantasy. This time there’s no particular set of songs to pick out as more influential than the rest, although again, when it was taking on something like its final form, I made the conscious decision to use verses as chapter epigraphs. Always, something of that song is reflected in the following text. Sometimes it’s an image, sometimes it’s a hint towards an aspect of the plot that hasn’t yet been made clear. This time the epigraphs tended to be taken from folk songs, such as Braw Sailin’ on the Sea or Cold, Hailey, Rainey Night.  Indeed, overall, the mood is of a folk song rather than a ballad; if there’s betrayal, it’s not followed, inevitably, by tragedy, and, if it’s poetic, it’s certainly not grimdark.

But for both novels, the epigraph verses offer a playlist and a possible approach to the story. I think of it as a form of intertextuality, and, if you’re minded to search out the songs from which they’re taken, you’ll get a fair idea of the mood I was aiming for as the story unfolds.

Posted in After the Ruin, Child Ballad, fantasy novel, folk music, folk song, The Crooked Path, thoughts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Crooked Path, winding its way into the world

The Crooked Path is published today!
Crooked_Path-Web_Res

Stories link together. What is done in one time and place spreads out across the world to shape the future: there is never a single beginning, never a simple end. But, since this tale must have a beginning, let it be when a potter carves a creature from dreams and driftwood. It carries him to a place where fair faces conceal foul intent, where two kings guard the firstborn tree by night and day, where only a living man’s love can undo a dead man’s hatred. And where, if he does not go carefully, the choices made in other times and places will cost him his life.

Amazon UK
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Posted in Allegory, fantasy novel, Hadley Rille Books, Harriet Goodchild author, novel, The Crooked Path | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Five fantasy novels

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve not been writing much lately. I have been reading. It passes the time and expands the mind. Making lists of best books is a fool’s game. Reading is such a subjective experience that any definition of best must depend on the reader, their mood and inclination, and likely enough the place and time of reading. I’m not claiming these are the best fantasy novels ever written but they are all books I’ve reread more than once. If they are part of a series or trilogy then I’ve read the others too but, for some reason, the one I’ve listed has something that causes it to stand out from its comrades in my memory. Oh, and I’m defining fantasy loosely. If the protagonist thinks there’s magic, that’s good enough for me.

The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula K. Le Guin
The second book of the original Earthsea trilogy is an interesting counterpart to the first. It’s darker and deeper than A Wizard of Earthsea. There’s a quest backdrop to the story but that’s not what’s important: what matters is finding one’s way, becoming oneself, choosing an identity. Its atmosphere is claustrophobic, its society stultifying and oppressive, its evil systematic and mundane. Although some underlying assumptions of the original trilogy have been revisited, and to some extent revised, in the later books of Earthsea, I still prefer those first three stories, and Atuan above the rest. The prose is simple and elegant, pared to the bone and beautiful because of this bareness. Read it for its images: the first sight of the Undertomb, the thudding of Arha’s bare feet as she dances before the empty throne.

The Steel Remains, Richard Morgan (or Richard K. Morgan, if you’re reading this in the USA)
This is a story set after people have come together, regardless of creed, race and orientation, to fight together against the monsters. The battle won, old interests reassert themselves and society reverts to comfortable complacency founded on filth. The fantasy tropes – the elves, the dwarfs, the magician, and the dark lord – are there, and all are twisted about into new forms. All novels reflect something of the time and place in which they’re written, and Morgan’s more than most. This book isn’t comfort reading; it’s cynical and angry, deploying violence to make its point – the complete opposite of gratuitous, in fact. Read it for its fury, and for the best named Significant Sword ever: I am Welcomed in the Home of Ravens and Other Scavengers in the Wake of Warriors, I am Friend to Carrion Crows and Wolves, I am Carry Me, and Kill with Me, and Die with Me where the Road Ends; I am not the Honeyed Promise of Length of Life in Years to Come, I am the Iron Promise of Never Being a Slave.

The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
Published as four volumes but, as with The Lord of the Rings, this is one story and I’m treating it as such. It’s complicated, non-linear, probably not fantasy at all, and has a completely unreliable, unsympathetic narrator who doesn’t know what’s going on and lies about things anyway. Read it for the language and symbolism, the challenge of puzzling out what’s happening and who people are, the rich tapestry woven by its words, not one of which is made up but many of which are not found in other fictions. Not many books have me reaching for a dictionary, but this, on occasion, did. I also spent ages going down the various rabbit holes of the Urth Net archives…

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
A whimsical novel, an alternative history of England chronicling the return of English magic. It’s a bit like Jane Austen, a bit like Tales of Robin Hood, a bit like The Madness of George III, and entirely like itself. This is one of those books where the story is not the most important thing: it’s a slow build, a delicious unwinding of characters and a drawing together of threads, and everything comes together beautifully at the end; a fine embroidery of a novel. Despite its length and early nineteenth century pastiche, it is a quick, very easy read. Read it for the footnotes and for the narrator’s amused, ironic tone.

The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land, Diana Wynne Jones
Not a novel at all but a deconstruction of a genre with a great deal of affection and a scalpel. It’s hilarious and very, very accurate. Read it for the entries on horses or stew or inns or… Well, open it at random and just read it. Whenever you start, you’ll find it’s spot on. Between readings, have a go at her Charmed Life, which would (should) have been on this list too, had I not limited it to five books.

Posted in beloved books, fantasy novel, novel, personal opinion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

About me (not really)

Harriet Goodchild was born in Glasgow and lives in Edinburgh. That’s the complete about-me section from one of my novels. Short, sweet and to the point. There’s more to me than that, of course, but to my mind the book is the thing that matters. Does knowing that I’ve got odd-sized feet, two cats, went from Glasgow to Edinburgh the long way round via New England and middle England, and like Bittermints but not Aftereights enhance your experience of my fantasy? (If it does, hurrah!)

I don’t like talking about myself online. I don’t really like talking online. It took me ages to come up with the extra facts in the previous paragraph: they needed to be true but utterly innocuous. That’s why they’re so generic. Could be anyone. All the truly informative stuff, the details that are important to me, and probably of much greater interest to you than my taste in sweets, stays offline.

Some people enjoy social media, others don’t. This blog, and this blog post in particular, are as personal as my online exposure gets. I tried facebook but didn’t get on with it at all and visited less and less often until I realised one day I’d not logged in for months. It’s unlikely, I think, I’ll be going back. Family, work, day to day successes and failures, general elections, Brexit (or not), Independence (or not)… I prefer to engage with all such matters offline. I’ve had more success sticking with twitter but, even so, I tweet very rarely. Engaging with social media is like being at a shouty party all the time. It’s not the ideal milieu for an introvert. It’s my books that are out in the world, not me, and so most of the time I prefer to stay behind the curtain. That’s why this blog is filled with bits and pieces of my writing, and only the occasional, sidelong glimpse of me.

But I shall be at FantasyCon by the Sea next month so, if you want to find out what I’m like, that’s your chance. There will be a table selling a range of Hadley Rille’s fantasy novels, including The Crooked Path. My fellow HRB author Irene Soldatos will be with me. If you’re there, come and say hello. I do like talking face to face.

Posted in After the Ruin, Fantasy Con by the Sea, fantasy novel, Hadley Rille Books, Harriet Goodchild author, personal opinion, The Crooked Path | Leave a comment

Cats/Poems

I’ve not been able to write much this month. I won’t bore you with explanations; suffice it to say I’m a bit down and at such times things spiral. Anyway, here’s a poem about trying to write poems.

Poems and cats, alas, cannot be coaxed.
They come not at your will but at their own.
To attract either, you must find a way
To show you have dismissed them from your mind.

They come, not at your will but at their own.
The trick is to have other tasks on hand
To show you have dismissed them from your mind
Since they are curious and contrary.

The trick is to have other tasks on hand
(Paint the wall; bake a cake; dig the garden);
Since they are curious and contrary
They come when it is least convenient.

Paint the wall, bake a cake, dig the garden…
Poems and cats, alas, cannot be coaxed
They come when it is least convenient.
Would you wish either to be otherwise?

Poems and cats, alas, cannot be coaxed.
But when they come – such sinuous delight –
Would you wish either to be otherwise,
A lesser creature, summoned on demand?

Posted in pantoum, personal opinion, poetry, thoughts, verse | 7 Comments

Flat periwinkles (a pantoum)

shells

Whenever I’m over in the west – as I am now – I walk the beach nearby the village and pick up shells. I am incapable of walking on any beach, anywhere, and not picking up shells. Being the west coast, the local shells are mostly winkles, limpets, whelks and the like. My particular favourite is the yellow morph of the flat periwinkle (the wee ones above, with a much larger common periwinkle, Littorina littorea); I have hundreds of these by now (certainly enough to fill three bittermint boxes). When I’m in the city, I keep them to hand, like worry-beads. They rattle around in a most satisfying manner, and remind me of better places.

Flat periwinkles
Butter-bright against the shingle
Littorina littoralis,
Shining in the salt-wet sunlight
Beneath a periwinkle sky.

Littorina littoralis:
A precise match, name to nature,
Beneath a periwinkle sky:
Liminal; literal; littoral.

A precise match, name to nature,
Marking the line of division –
Liminal, literal, littoral –
Between opposing elements.

These yellow shells, those perfect whorls,
Littorina littoralis
Between opposing elements,
Butter-bright against the shingle.

Posted in pantoum, poetry, Scotland, verse | Tagged , , | 1 Comment