The Missing

One by one they pass blind
through the living arch,
the children of loss following
Mother’s twisted path of breadcrumbs.
Blue birds peck at their bare feet.
The sun bubbles over yellow fields
where fat cats sleep away the shadows
of the deep purple wood.

One by one they stray,
broken children with tender skin;
tawny robin’s wing, freckled amber,
cuckoo spit, sun kissed pebble, raven’s
feather, morning mist and midnight pools,
following Mother’s cinder path
through the crystal orchard where apples
hang, red and flawless but out of reach.

One by one they stumble, feet bleeding
on Mother’s razor path of barbs
into the dark. Silver snakes encircle, whisper
warning but the children do not hear.
Their fingers seek between the snapping
branches but find no-one. Their tears
blossom roses no-one will ever see
in the depths of the purple wood.

The ancient hermit snips and sews silence
in her cave in the deep purple  wood.
She threads her needle with the fine hair
of a nameless girl, makes painstaking
stitches, a cloak of perfect skin; tawny
robin’s wing, freckled amber, cuckoo spit,
sun-kissed pebble, raven’s feather,
morning mist and midnight pools.

 

887EBF00-72C6-4436-A9DF-8D6A59A3FA4C
Image created by the author

 

For Your Eyes Only

These found poems are based on the real letters of Annie Mackay.  She spent her brief life working the small family croft in a remote area of the Highlands.  Sadly, she developed cancer and died at the age of 21 in 1957. Her orphaned six month baby boy was left to be raised by an aged uncle.  At the time illegitimate children were considered social outcasts.  No-one ever discovered the identity of the baby’s father which might be hinted at in these letters.  They were written to Annie’s married sister Violet who had moved to Edinburgh.  I love these letters because they are full of joy and humor even though Annie was already aware of her illness. They also paint a picture of the preoccupations of a country girl and life in the 1950s.

December, 1956.

Dear Violet,

I sold eighteen turkeys
so we can have a night
out in the pub,
going from bad to worse (puff).
Ronald says Ray is a born lunatic,
that was his opinion when he saw
the photos and then the blue jersey.
Your hair looked very nice,
is that a new dress you had on?
I hope it’s nylon
I’m not in favor of wool.

Lots of love and kisses,
from Annie

 

January, 1957

Dear Violet

I can tell you about it. There was turkey for dinner, then at 3 o’clock tea.
I had my cake with 21 candles. All the family were there listening to Lux
and singing The Railroad Runs Through the Middle of the House.
I think its super, don’t you?  Lena brought the record Walking in the Rain.
I like it do you?
Jesse gave me £5 and Connie £2 and Grandad two aprons and Mary a nylon underset
and Margaret a necklace, sparkles all colors and Donald a mohair scarf (awfully warm)
and Sheena nylons and Jane a cameo brooch and Granny a Terrylene blouse.
I’m not in favor of blue.
And from Julie a ‘Le Page’ compact and from Johnny, Black Rose perfume,
very good of him and from Lynn a Coty lipstick, nearly ruby and from Alan a purse.
What a present, not much use with no money and then of course, your presents.
Johnny stayed till midnight… everyone else went off at six.

Lots of love and kisses,
from Annie

 

PS  A Separate Special Instalment for your Eyes Only:-
BURN AFTER READING

[                                                                       ]

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DC59A75A-BFE8-4912-9BE6-D7FCBD19F3DE
Photograph by the the author

 

The Day Room

She doesn’t look up,
swaddled in pink toweling.
Dinner in the Day Room, haddock on a tray,
the old queen who lost her soldiers slumps an empty table.
Above her head the TV plays silent memories,
survival of the fittest in exotic locations.
A lioness stalks prey while another dies.
She doesn’t look up when I speak.
Lips rotate, chewing, tasting the sins of the world
cut up in pieces.  Her hand trembles as she adds salt.
My absent presence, invisible bones on the edge of her plate.
She starts on the sponge pudding with custard.
She doesn’t look up when I leave.

She doesn’t look up when I leave.
She starts on the sponge pudding with custard,
my absent presence, invisible bones on the edge of her plate.
Cut up in pieces, her hand trembles as she adds salt.
Lips rotate, chewing, tasting the sins of the world.
She doesn’t look up when I speak.
A lioness stalks prey while another dies,
survival of the fittest in exotic locations.
Above her head the TV plays silent memories.
The old queen who lost her soldiers slumps an empty table,
dinner in the Day Room, haddock on a tray.
Swaddled in pink toweling,
she doesn’t look up.

 

89E8284F-1F6B-4A39-8AB2-693955CFCA83
Original Photographic image created by the author

The Day Room is an example of a specular poem – the second stanza mirrors the first.  Please see  a-poem-for-remembrance-day  for another example.

Picnic at Wuthering Heights

Sundays, dad drives, mum folds
maps, me in the back seat of our black Ford.
We meander from Gargrave to Stump

Cross to Oxenhope Moor. Stone-walled
boundaries streak beyond misted glass. I choke
down nausea, cross fingers and legs.

Squatting in ragged robin roadsides, we search
for traveller’s joy. Weave delicate chains of wild
amid the stench of exhaust. We chew hardboiled

eggs, salamis, gherkins, hard cheese with red rind, wilted
sarnies from Tupperware. Me and Mum sip tepid tea, plastic
brittle-edging my lips. Dad drinks Double Diamond.

The wind blows cold. We seek shelter in damp beneath
dry stone walls ignoring the holes where carefully selected rocks
fail to interlock. I look for Heathcliff in dark crevices, hiding

secret notes, names scribbled on scraps. Northerly
gusts breach the wall until we shiver. Whipped
silent, we scatter our crumbs and leave.

 

E38E6598-E181-4795-9548-7F31AF97BCCC
Original Photograph by the author

 

 

The Day She Dropped

the trifle, it exploded on blue tiles pain
-ting cryptic signs churned in chaos.
Raspberries, cream, vanilla custard, glace cherries, perfect
sponge, (home-made of course) secrets
hinted by hundreds and thousands
no-one would ever understand. The cold
glister of broken crystal, the old bowl her ex
brought back from Paris at his own risk.
She wanted to laugh until she saw
his face at the head of the table, the half
-empty bottle of Smirnoff, his plate strewn with left-over
Christmas, the scrunched up paper napkin, handy for blood
spilled when she tried to pick up the pieces.

 

67AA52E5-ECB2-4B41-887C-7BC1D356CCC6
Original photographic image created by the author

Note:- Divorce lawyers claim January is usually their busiest time of year.

Tips for a Perfect Christmas

Transform your family with tinsel
strategically arranged around the living.

Download seasonal hits by Wizard and Slade.
Repeat play while you cook, clean and defecate.

Anoint your sprouts with the sacred cross of Jesus.
Wrap your pigs in blankets, protect from sudden frost.

Check your bird every ten minutes. Truss her tight
with silly string. Baste with juices from your pot.

Brandy will add flavor to the tasteless.
Provide plastic antlers for your guests.

Check your fairies are operational in advance
to avoid disappointment on the big day.

Choose carefully the special someone
to cherish at the top of your tree.

Inappropriate choices will make the whole day die.

 

C59DF191-9758-4B49-8FBA-72EE5EF7C896
Original Photograph created by the author

 

 

 

Intersection, Inverness

Alone, I wait for the green
light at a T junction. In my rear view

mirror, mother and daughter, blonde curls, matching
smiles, laughing, chatting, trading

glances, milky eyed reflections of one
another, safe as air bubbles in fused

glass; on their way home from Asda or ballet or violin
class or fish and chips with grandma after swimming

or Maeve’s birthday party and the promise of girl
guiding. The lights change, I turn

away from the crimson
city, away from the sighs of cherry blossom

in the ranked rows of trees on the riverside
as petals freeze to pink ice in the chill.

 

C28E1D10-9EF2-47A3-89C4-73A802A0F7EF
Original photograph by the author