poetry diary

I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing. (Seamus Heaney, from Personal Helicon)

Category: Favourites

A Christmas Cake

Africa! In the first mouthful a cry,
exuberant and rich, like the joy
of the suited businessman in the hall
when Mandela came to Oxford (I was there
– sixth from the right in the back row, 2002)
which still makes me weep. Dates and almonds
from Morocco, sun-suffered and strong.

Aromas of Asia in the air;
cinnamon and ginger – thoughtful
and intense – flavours in which to swim;
always wanting more and yet too much:
I think of India’s smiling crowds,
her warmth and ‘welcome home’, the noise.
Delicate nutmeg; ancient, wise and human.

Sensual sugars from the Americas,
sweetness swamping tongue and taste:
confident and bright, like Carnival in Rio,
or Miami Beach. Impatient
as the traffic in New York, raisins
from California everywhere,
like yellow taxi cabs.

Europe comes through later, an aftertaste
and reminder to forget so many things;
so many things – that tang of alcohol,
and practised mellowness: a hint
of leather armchairs and smoking guns,
conquistadors and sailing ships. Spanish
sherry – oak-aged and waiting just for this.

Our Christmas cake.


Every year around this time I bake a (very rich) traditional fruitcake for Christmas with my two children (we’ve done this since they were extremely small, and we all know our roles). This will sometimes last until March. Recipe as above (approximately).

Posted on Poets United.

The Teacher

Rose-red lips;
as autumn leaves fall, we kiss.
How could I not know?


For September Haiku Heights  – today’s prompt is ‘teacher’.

Dawn in the Alps

It begins:
sunlight as fingertips pricking pine tops;
a shiver starting down the ridge,
massaging mountain spines
and spreading opened palms through pastures
which sigh, colour, and yield
(cow bells tingling)
to the dawn.


Posted on dVerse.

Evening in the mountains

Midday’s tyrant sun has gone;
and returning now as artist
paints that peak, those roofs, this lake,
like ripples on a mirrored pond,
with light,
made precious in her fading.


I’m enjoying the atmosphere here. This was prompted by the view from the house I’m staying in yesterday evening.

Posted on Poets United

Not stillness, but peace

Not stillness, but peace;
in the rising evening mist five cygnets
drifting with their mum,
floating with the sun’s failing light
into the cold darkness
of heavy, hanging trees
whispering silence.


Beside the Avon on Tuesday evening.

The unsaid goodbye

Rising to the surface of an empty lake,
a single leaf
like an unsaid goodbye,
too late for autumn.

Ripple-ringed dark waters,
light-lost, strive
to recall sun-splitting orange-gold
days of October.

Reflected forest, broken
by the troubled surface, promises,
touching leaf edge;
that gravity and time will turn again.

But I recall you smiling as we swam,
and memories dissolve,
like autumn leaves,
in the rain.


For Hj.

Posted on dVerse

I saw a fern leaf in a raindrop

I saw a fern leaf in a raindrop,
that quivered as it touched the sun,
and threw its sphere around the sky,
then sighed, and fell.

I saw the weather in a river,
flowing eastwards with the evening;
and draining moonlight from the air
leaving murmurs.

I recall bright starlight in your eyes,
which spoke softly and from your heart,
and made my thoughts condense to be
only of you.


I saw a fern leaf reflected in a raindrop last Wednesday. Since then I have wanted to write a poem about it. This poem is for htv, with thanks for 2011 and much more.

Posted on dVerse.

At night

                                           At night
candle-flamed dreams tossed,
like pebbles by spring tides:
climbing the beach, they

                                           and fight –
realities drowned,
like the wind, by clashing
contradictions, dark

                                           which bite,
until forced to flee;
wide-eyed sun exposing
smooth white sands, ready
for dawn.


I’ve had a few long nights recently, and this brought to mind one of my favourite poems from more than 20 years ago, by Louis MacNeice: London Rain. It’s one of the few poems I know by memory (at least the first few verses):

The rain of London pimples
The ebony street with white
And the neon-lamps of London
Stain the canals of night
And the park becomes a jungle
In the alchemy of night.

My wishes turn to violent
Horses black as coal –
The randy mares of fancy,
The stallions of the soul –
Eager to take the fences
That fence about my soul.


My wishes now come homeward,
Their gallopings in vain,
Logic and lust are quiet
And again it starts to rain;
Falling asleep I listen
To the falling London rain.

I have skipped nine verses here, but hopefully you get the idea. I think the first verse in particular is fantastic.  This poem is the inspiration for my much less rhythmic attempt at the same topic.

Napoleon at Waterloo

One day the English will feel this too:
our heart beats blurring into drums,
that are no more than wave falls, like on Elba;
blue and breaking on the reddened shore.

Why lift our hands or eyes to smoking hills?
They all know what they do and why.
Long past feeling cannonballs and heads
rolling and falling; grateful only to be un-dead

a moment longer. And to hope. It was on the road
to Laffray this fight was lost: hope and romance against guns,
and love against logic. So now they fight
from deeper dreams, timeless and beyond defeat

in this world or the next. Nothing we can do
can kill that hope; the tactics of Austerlitz
and Jena known, the day undone. We know our role,
they know their place; the grass, and blood.

Clouds like lava, flowing from the West;
we must play our part, into that volcano sun.
This is our final moment, we cannot betray
future believers and our myth – all that remains:
to make an end, let it begin – forward our loyal Guard.


I’ve been feeling in a historical romantic mood this weekend.

Historical notes: Laffray was the village where Napoleon opened his coat to the King’s troops when returning from Elba and invited them to shoot him, and they changed sides. Jena and Austerlitz two of his greatest victories. The final (hopeless) attack of the never-defeated Old Guard at Waterloo is one of the great romantic moments of history (although not necessarily for those there). Napoleon’s strange lethargy on the day of the battle has often been commented on.

Posted on Poets United.

Diving off Jumeira

Pearls amongst fishes;
autumn sun on the seabed.
I hold my breath.


Posted at haiku heights.