poetry diary

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


From distant woods, leaves
rise like mist. Here, a sparrow
alights with a twig.


Possibly still under the influence of my visit to Japan.

A jelly baby

And what remains of love is this;
a pack of jelly babes.
“Give these to your mum,” he says,
and turns away to shield
his tears.

Fifty four sweets are in that bag;
one for each year of coloured days.
This one tastes of ’65,
that one of ’91 –
all gone.

“She still likes these, sometimes,” he says,
“as far as I can tell.”
She takes one more, unsmiling,
and heads towards the door,

of who she is or who we are,
or why these little bumpy things
still seem to mean so much to us
and feel so warm and moist,

defining something once well known
she feels is lost or yet to come,
but will not find her now.
There must be something new
to do.

Across the room the curtains close,
and in the fading evening light,
a single jelly baby lies
alone; her lover’s furious final wail –
of farewell.


Jelly babies are traditional English sweets. People with dementia seem to like sweets.

Posted on d’Verse Open Link night.

The Albemarle Rest Home

Amongst the row of faces waiting death
is one I know; her mirrored eyes my own.
Like ancient sailors held in Siren song –
here sung by soft armchairs and patterned rugs –
they sit with cups of tea and biscuits, brought
by strangely purposed nurses, patiently.

Only their eyes resist that strengthening pull –
call back like whales to days long gone
of youthful lives on tennis courts,
school open days with charts and pens,
parental hopes and grandchildren;
of lovers trysts and last year’s post;
to yesterday and slowly fading vows,
and yesterday again, which seems much like tomorrow now.

Amongst the row of faces waiting death
is one I know. She’ll always be my mum.


This rest home specialises in dementia. We reached the point at which we could no longer cope with caring for my mother in the family home two weeks ago.

Posted on d’Verse Open Link night.

Leaving Japan

Early spring morning.
At Haneda I buy
hand-printed fabrics.


Leaving Japan, feeling sad. It is a lovely country full of welcoming people.

March in Tokyo

No cherry blossom
yet – in Shinjuku a girl
smiles at her lover.


Inspired by Basho (translated):

Behind the virgins’
one blossoming plum.

Arriving in Tokyo

Neon characters
compete against winter rain.
The bus door opens.


I haven’t written a haiku for a while, but as I find myself in Japan (somewhat unexpectedly and for the first time) it seems appropriate.


It almost snowed this morning;
odd flakes distracted in the air,
like girls with secret crushes
blushing in his sideways stare.

I almost loved a woman;
odd moments that connected,
like snowflakes sparkling in her hair –
yet which, as courage, later melted.

We almost spoke of feelings;
unsaid, not settling; but biding,
baying – like wolves in winter
from mountains with dusk falling.

Lives almost changing daily,
and landscapes almost smothered
by almost snow and almost love:
almost makes us days to covet.


Actually from a week ago – it’s got warmer since then.

Posted on dVerse open link  night

Autumn Evening II

That curiosity of light
which seeks in newly empty space
bold reds and golds – proud last salutes –
of yesterday’s defiant trees,
finds today pale memories.

Her colours now are yearnings –
damp efforts washing evening streets,
night-black branches and waiting clouds
that weigh like crows on half-known tracks,
and turn all thoughts to home.

Below, dark stains of subdued leaves
crushed and trampled underfoot,
like rebels ruined by rain and tanks,
can only wait in hope and death
to feed the seeds of spring.

Glorious and glowing yet, this light,
like embers of a dying fire;
only holding, holding, holding back –
holding back the coming lonely winter nights.


This is a revisited version of a poem I wrote three months ago with a few corrections and an added verse. I was accused of being a bit ‘domestic’ in the last version, so this is a gently politicised one.

New Year 2017

This New Year starts with rain,
each raindrop concentrating space
and time into a sphere;
a perfect, silent world that falls,
and dampens all that’s gone before.

And out of darkness, lights
(etched faces on surrounding stones,
all passion-drained and thin)
draw all of last year’s energy
to promise a renewing sun.


Written to post on www.dversepoets.com later this month. It has been that kind of New Year break this year.

The Nutcracker

From open hand extending –
from quiet music rising –
one step;
from patterned steps entrancing,
from one dancer emerging –
new lines;
from shapes attention flowing –

To draw in the floating corps
of miracled ballerinas
as swans or roses perfect
and precise: lost on the edge
of human possibility, each
balanced between woman
and flower – precariously
safe in beauty; patterned numbers.

And in music, which fades now too
as this dancing, moving, tender
world; like a shoal of fishes,
turns with the tide to a brilliant sea.


We went to see the opening night of the Nutcracker, performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, last night. It was a wonderful classic ballet. It’s fifteen years since I last saw a ballet, but they seem to get easier to appreciate the older I get.