Strip cartoon

Strip cartoon

Take away my clothes

And what is left but flesh?

Pink and pale, shivering

Stretch-marks and scars,

Muscles poorly defined

Beneath layers of fat.

Take away my success,

And what is left but obscurity?

Another also-ran

Amid the hordes of hopefuls

Bunched in the mid-list

Left behind by the winners.

Take away my words

And what is left but silence?

Ringing like an ancient bell,

The absence and memory

Of sound and meaning

Fading to nothingness.

Take away my strength

And what is left but weakness?

A wasting of limbs and sinew,

A withering of vigour,

Thinning to feebleness

And the shame of dependence.

Take away my visions

And what is left but blindness?

The future fading to black

The hoped-for worlds

Unborn and uncreated

Dying in the mind-womb.

Take away my memories

And what is left but emptiness?

A person without past

A woman without precedents

Unanchored by time

Unplaced in the world.

If you take it all away,

What is left of me?

How deep must this stripping go

Before I become unadopted atoms

My identity and meaning

Blown to the four winds

Like summer dust when gales

Usher in the autumn cold?

Mend Me With Gold

Mend me with gold

Mend me with gold

Fill my gaping cracks

With precious metals

And loving care.

Do not discard me

Now the years

Have worn me

From my first creation

Smooth and unblemished

Untouched by life.

See the damage

Not as disfigurement

But as radical sculpture

Of a work in progress.

See every chip,

Every dent, every frayed edge

As a stroke of genius,

Of ongoing art.


Aesthetics of wabi-sabi

The Winter Queen, set to music!

If you enjoyed the Otherworldly aspects of Away With the Fairies, and The Wild Hunt, then you may well enjoy the Celtic Myth Podcast Show . I bumped into Gary and Ruth on Twitter and they really liked my poem, The Winter Queen.

Anyway, their winter show is extremely enjoyable and uplifting at this cold, dark time of the year, and they have done a wonderful, spine-tingling reading of The Winter Queen, with the music of Phil Thornton as evocative backing. I confess I was in tears when Gary (one of the presenters) messaged me on Facebook and I listened to the show, because it felt so lovely to have been included in this way. I’m probably a Celt by ancestry, but I am very much a Celt at heart whatever my blood might say.

Do download the show. The Winter Queen comes at around 35 minutes.

The words to the poem can be seen here:

The Winter Queen

The Winter Queen

She came softly on the trailing edge

Of fevered dreams and sinking sleep,

Face a mask of opaque ice, her eyes

Blue-bright as a sunlit glacier.

Hair as soft as swan’s lost down

Filled with pearly Honesty and skeletons

Of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Her wreath was of frozen holly leaves

Dotted with berries of bloody red

And dusted with traces of white hoar frost

Like glitter on a Venetian mask.

Her clothes the rags of summer splendour

Faded by the autumn skies

And ripped to ragged ruin

By gales and snowstorms yet to come.

Around her throat withered rowan berries

And rock hard sloes dried to stone

The meagre treasures hanging still

Amid the shaking hedges here.

Her staff a shaft of blackthorn, bare

Of leaves but bearing thorns and buds

Hard and tight as clenched fists

Defiant of the clutch of cold.

Her voice was hoarse with winter storm,

Yet soft as a draught under my door,

Insistent and full of power

Commanding me to obey her words.

The creatures of the wild will need

More food than my late sister did provide,

For my realm and season will persist

Past the time when buds should break.

Take my rowan beads, and hang them

Where the birds will feed

As signal that you will be their friend

Though my reign be far too long.”

I woke. Her touch upon my face

Turned skin to leaden hue like death.

Half Light, Half Life


Half light, half life

Nothing complete,

Nothing finished,


Limbo-land lady

Stuck between

This place

And another.

Neither one thing

Nor the other.

A traveller stalled


Map lost

Memory gone,

Plans forgotten


Chartreuse in a Glass

Chartreuse in a glass

There is beauty in this glass:

Cracking ice like tiny bergs

Transient crystal, voids within

The softening cubes expand,

Burst a little, melting

As spring green

Like liquid peridot

Shimmers as I pour.

Aroma of two hundred

Secret herbs, closely guarded,

Rises, sweet and fragrant

As a sunlit garden filled

With all the flowers

Of a long forgotten Eden.

Each sip a shifting of flavour

A kaleidoscope for the senses

Teasing the brain for recognition.

Elixir. Cordial. Magic.

The Longest Barrow

The Longest Barrow

The fairies have reclaimed this place

of oak and ash and thorn,

Tentatively taking the mounded earth

Where once the railway ran,

Now stripped of iron and engines

That once drove the Old Ones away.

An immense long barrow it is now,

Holding the forgotten land within,

an England that hides, left behind by time

But never lost and only hidden.

Straighter than nature’s rules allow,

This ridge splits unfamiliar crops;

I swear the fairies came to greet

The rows of roses, an ordered army,

Serried rank on rank without a bloom,

Bred for nameless gardens.

Perhaps when each is dug, encased in pot

Ready for the eager gardener’s hands,

Unseen stowaways may hitch a ride

And recolonise this land with fay.

“For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” The Stolen Child ~ on why we need retreats.

For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” The Stolen Child ~ on why we need retreats.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about how baffling I find life lately. I suspect the plethora of medical issues may be having a hand in it but more and more often I find myself feeling (excuse my French here) I just can’t be arsed any more with modern life. I value very highly the comfort of our twenty first century life and the incredible medical facilities and the delights of technology. They make life a good deal easier in practical ways than we would credit and yet, recently, with the news concerning Syria and a number of worldwide news issues, I’ve begun to feel like running away.
On Twitter I have set things up so that potentially dodgy pictures don’t immediately appear when I click on a picture link, but it seems that this is set to screen out nudity and adult language. I discovered this the hard way when I clicked on a retweeted link and found an image so graphic (of a murder victim) I recoiled and was seriously disturbed. I checked who had retweeted it and found that they no longer followed me so I had no compunction in cutting them loose.
But the thought remains that there is too much of the sadness, badness and madness of the world that is intruding into my world. I’ve never advocated the so-called Ostrich approach, or of sticking my fingers in my ears and saying loudly, “Lalalala I’m not listening.” The impulse to withdraw is growing and I sense by touching those filaments that connect me to others that it’s the same feeling for many. It’s all getting a little much for us, this life, this bombardment of harshness and the perception that we are powerless, and while running away (nota bene: there is no AWAY) is seductive, it’s not the answer.
I’d like to share a favourite poem, one by Yeats whose connection to the mystical of his native Ireland resonates strongly with me:
The Stolen Child by W. B Yeats:
Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand.
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
Away with us he’s going,
The bright, but solemn eyed –
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest
For he comes, the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
Indeed it is. If someone had told me as a child, in terms I could understand, just how much weeping there is in this world, I might have drowned in those tears.
In my novel Away With The Fairies, the main character Isobel withdraws, goes away from her family to seek solitude and to try to come to some sort of terms with the deaths of her parents. But Isobel is an adult, with responsibilities and duties and it’s far from easy for her to carve out time and space for her mourning and it’s only down to the unexpected internal crisis that is triggered when she hits a deer driving home that she’s able to take that time. Her family in the end are the ones who arrange for her to have that time.
For most of us, a retreat may be seen as a luxury, or even as a running away from reality and yet I wonder now how many of you reading now are thinking with some longing of such an experience, a week or a month somewhere away from your usual life. In Yeats’ poem the fairies seduce away a child from his normal life, offering carefree play and sweet foods and a promise of no more tears.
We are not children to be stolen away by fairies, but adults who can seek respite from the sometimes heart and back breaking relentless onslaught of the world’s weeping. Imagine if you will the mother of that stolen child, imagine the impact the disappearance of a loved one would have on the family, and also on the world. Who knows what work that child was to have had in the world, what difference they might have made to matters small or large? This, then, is why time out is important, to refresh and renew the tired spirit and restore aching hearts before returning to take our places in trying to stem the flow of tears with kindness and support, and make the world a place less full of weeping than it might otherwise be.
(for Suzie Grogan, thanking you for your kindness on Thursday. I shall be trying to find some kind of retreat when I can.)

Summer’s End

Summer’s End

I have seen the stars fall

Piercing the clouds

With brief bright flames

White-hot and evanescent.

I have watched the moon rise

Pared to a mouse-nibbled cheese

By sunlit, lazy days

Of parched grass and airless nights.

I have felt the dew form

Heavier than rain, breaking

Drowned cobwebs with

Swollen crystal drops.

I have breathed the night wind

Laden with day-lost scents

Waiting only for the chill

Of dark descending.

I have heard the dip and splash

And beak-full calls

Of kingfisher, sweet surprise,

Where none were known to be.

And I have smelled Autumn air,

Fungal and fruitful fragrant

Amid leaf litter and windfalls

And drowsy gorging wasps.

The Wave

The Wave

Damp air filled with the tang of salt.

The light is grey, dead, heavy with storm.

Wind rising, beating the water,

Driving spindrift to shore.

Gull feathers & seal bones

Litter the strand-line,

Tangled with leathery weeds

Stinking with rot and mussels.

I feel the wave before I see it;

A huge pressure on my aura

Rearing like a stallion

Maddened by lust and fear.

The sound, a hundred trains

Condensed into one deafening roar

When I see it, it’s too late to run.

A mountain of water a mile high

breaks over my head

And I drown, crushed first

To a handful of pebbles

Rolling along the beach.