T is for Triggered

T is for Triggered


I’d expected the land to be silent,

For willows to weep and doves to mourn.

Yet larks sang, rising over acres

Of emerald green winter wheat

And bare fields sown with a million flints

Shattered by behemoth harrow and plough.

I’d expected rain, at the very least;

Tempestuous clouds letting rip

With a deluge to drown us all.

Yet the sky is merely grey and dull,

The usual March dampness to the air,

And the temperature hovering at mild.

I’d expected signs and portents

Speaking of grim days to come,

Harbingers of doom,warning us.

But only a confused owl hooted in a copse,

Awoken by smaller birds, squabbling,

Fighting for territory and for mates.

I’d expected the little river to be

Cloudy with mud and debris

From passing storms upstream,

Yet it flowed clear and fresh,

And I found myself expecting the kingfisher,

Sticklebacks and the elusive dipper.

When we go, nature will not mourn or miss us.

She will sigh with relief like a hurricane.

A few generations of cats and dogs

May remember us vaguely,

Fondly even, and with regret,

Before going from feral to truly wild.

I will seize that ice-cold comfort,

Clutch it to me as a child might,

That life and the land go on,

Even when the world, for me,

Has shattered irreparably and forever;

I am bereft but I still stand.

© Vivienne Tuffnell March 29th 2017

(this poem appeared in The New European newspaper a few weeks ago)

God 1

God 1

I do not want your slot machine god

Powered by caprice and uncertainty.

Nor do I want your vending machine god:

Pop in a prayer and out pops a reward.

I want the untamed god

Unknowable as the badgers

Deep in ancient yew woodlands,

Wild as the flight of goldfinches

Bathing exuberantly in a forest pool.

In one glimpse you see more of eternity

And the vast untouchable sweep

Of a deity too broad

To be trammelled by walls and words,

Yet tender to his creatures who

He holds cupped in his wounded palms.

Give Me Wild – for the Summer Solstice

Give Me Wild – for the Summer Solstice

Give me wild

Take me where the boughs bend low

Take me where the waters flow

Take me where the clean winds blow:

Give me wild

Show me where the bluebells sway

Show me where the otters play

Show me where the edges fray:

Give me wild

Teach me why each day is new

Teach me why the sky is blue

Teach me what we all can do:

Give me wild


Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast

Spring, you sexy beast, you’re back!
Blowing hot and cold again,
From pheromones and feathers fluttering,
Pistils and stamens at it,
Hammer and tongs,
To nights that end in ice,
Frosted grass and ruined plants
Pricked out too soon, too tender.
You’re so full of juice
You might explode with green.
Stiff new leaves, quivering catkins
Open-mouthed flowers
And frantic frogs, a-courting,
Birds, oblivious of envious eyes,
Bill and coo and shag.
That’s a bird, too, right?

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.




Wood-smoke blowing in writhing sheets

beneath grey skies laden with impending rain

The ground gritty with fallen, gnarled acorns

And the outer shells of horse chestnut,

The shining conkers lying shyly among leaves

Fallen first from the laden boughs.

A smell of spice, illusory and fleeting

From the foliage turning slowly golden

Crisping slightly with autumn suns

Too brief to warm the earth much

Beyond the surface of the soil.

Birds tug at berries, peck at brambles

Seeking sweetness they cannot taste.

The rain comes at last, changing the scents

Filling the air with petrichor and promise.

We hunker down, collars turned

And make for home and hearth.



Words fail me, and I fail them


Words fail me, and I fail them.


Despite my love for the English language, I find my own ability to use it to convey complex, often nebulous concepts is far from adequate. I cast around for metaphors, for analogies and parables to express what I feel deep within. Sometimes it’s beyond my capacity to hit the mark, sometimes I fail the words and the concepts. I get upset by the feeling that while the shades of meaning and the subtleties almost convey what I want to say, in the end I fail to transmit the core of what I want to say. Rather than resort to aphorisms or platitudes, reusing the worn-out and often inadequate but comfortingly familiar phrases and sound-bites that have proliferated in recent years, I’d rather fall back on poetry. This snippet expresses well the feeling of a failing command of words when under great pressure to express what maybe is only something that can be directly experienced:


And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still.” T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

So why do I write when the words fail me and I fail them? Perhaps this is why:

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,

You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know

You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess

You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not

You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.” T.S. Eliot, East Coker


Urban Spring-time

Urban Springtime

Petals and broken glass

Line the festal way.

Accidental emeralds gleam

Amid silken pink blossom

Trodden underfoot,

Sodden and sad:

Softness and sharpness

Mingling in the fallen trash.

Ten green bottles

Smashed against my wall,

Ten green bottles

Didn’t accidentally fall.

Drifts of pink petals

Candy-floss coloured

              Blow lazily in hot wind

Drying to nothingness

In a few days, gone.

Some rubbish I can live with.

I wrote this poem some years back when we lived in a large village in the Midlands. It had been a big change from the tiny village in the middle of nowhere, where I could walk at night with only starlight and moonlight to guide me, and where the nights were so quiet I could hear the wind in the wheat on a summer night.

It’s been a bigger and more shocking change to move to a port town, and even walking the ancient woodlands a few minutes’ walk from my home I can still hear the roar of traffic, see the rubbish and mourn the damage.

We are stewards and we have not done our job very well.

Snow at the shoreline

Snow at the Shoreline

Cappuccino waves crash upon the shore

Spin-drift and snow meet at high tide,

Overlap and kiss across a barrier

Made of iced shingle and flotsam,

Feathers and cuttlefish corpses.

Roar of sea and wind drown out

The cries of gulls and the crunch

Of feet through snow and sand.

Breath snatched from my mouth,

I puff and lean hard into the wind

Struggle to stay upright

Gasp at the slash of snow,

Leap from the encroaching sea

As it tries to steal back land.

A few fishermen fight with rods,

We’re mad,” says one as I pass.

I agree but the words vanish,

Lost amid the tumult,

So I shout, “Aren’t we all?”

He nods, fervently and I move on.

A gull hovers above me,

Riding the storm eagle-eyed for scraps.

I trudge home, hands in pockets

Face hidden by hat and scarf,

My eyes narrowed against the gale

An icy Bedouin stamping in snow,

Exhilarated but wearied by winter.

Landlocked ~ a poem about craving the sea


When I wake, I want to feel

The sea breeze creeping cool

Through my open window,

Filling the room with the scent

Of the salt tang and the seaweed.

When I wake, I want to hear

Gulls, not rooks, calling raucously

Beyond my open window

And hear not the soft sough

Of the wind in the trees

But the hiss and gurgle

Of the sea lapping the shore.

On a winter’s morning

When the high winds have raged

Throughout the night,

I want to go outside

And find what the sea has thrown

Beyond the high tide mark

And sift the treasure from the trash.

I want to sit and watch

The sun sink beneath the waves

While a driftwood fire

Dances and crackles beside me

And the sound of the sea

Fills my ears with peace.