The Winter Break

The blizzard began, cherry blossom from a flame sky. The road home
vanished. Pink ice floes shape-shifted in the river, bumping
and grinding like clubbed seals. We tended the fire
and played strip poker. In bed you wore lipstick and a balaclava.

On the third day we tracked through the crystal forest. The valley
was a fandango of silence. I clawed at it with my bare hands.
You held your phone up high, immobile as the Statue of Liberty.
We returned to the cabin and played Scrabble with four letter words.

The windows became peepholes. I saw no footprints in the virgin drift,
only the farmer’s wife floating silver between the tree tops.
She was wearing a wolf jacket, her face upturned to the falling snow.
That night you thought you heard singing in the wind.

On your last day, you stopped speaking, stayed in bed, a tender huddle
of bones. I roasted meat on the log fire and drank Jack Daniels. I recited
the tale of our first New Year’s Eve, kissing in Times Square
while rockets fell. I could still remember the neon taste of your flesh.

 

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Photograph created by the author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Secret Place

Before the onset of middle age and chronic caution, I often went out exploring the picturesque country lanes and tracks around the market town in North Yorkshire where I lived for ten years.  I would forget my chores, ignoring housework and assignments and set off in my old maroon Volvo 340 with my collie-cross dog, Flossy in the back seat. Sometimes I took a picnic. I would drive around for hours out of curiosity.  This resulted in a few scrapes such as getting stuck in mud, falling into ditches, trapped behind locked gates and lost on the moors. However, it was also the way I discovered wild and beautiful places hidden away off the beaten track. These were my secret places where I would go whenever I needed to recharge my energies.

One of these idyllic spots was by a crumbling stone bridge spanning a fast flowing stream and surrounded by a cluster of trees.

I would stay there all day, reading, dreaming and painting and see no-one at all other than birds, rabbits and the occasional fox. I felt completely relaxed and safe. Solitude to me is safety. My dog would run free, swim in the stream and then shake water all over me and my water colour pictures…often improving them in the process!

There was always a deep undisturbed silence free from the intrusion of traffic or human voices.  In the silence my anxious thoughts would unravel into peace and optimism. I would start to think and see more clearly.

According to the OS Map it was possible to ford the stream at this point but I never had the courage to try. I never found out what lay on the other side of the water or where the track would eventually lead.

 

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Photo by the author

Destination

(after Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter)

I lie down in my little room,
my ghost limbs restless on stiff sheets.
Where the moonlight filters green,
I know he is waiting beneath the yew tree.
Through the small snowed-up window
I can see Cancer flicker in a crystal sky.
Neither the walls of the hut nor the roof
can keep out his fearsome spell or
can dispel my fancy that I am myself

no longer woman. No longer flesh but merely
moonlight, gliding along the spires and ridges
of rooftops towards a cold constellation, east
of the mountains, through the white valleys.

 

Note:- the lines in italics were written by Ritter, the rest by myself.  This is an example of a coupling poem where a section of prose is reworked into a new poem by responding/echoing each line. I wrote it as part of the NaPoWriMo challenge.  The aim is to write a poem every day in April, National Poetry Month.

 

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Burlesque

She waits alone on a purple stage, cut
-out flat, white and black, lacking
a dimension. She waits for shape,
for music, for lightening to spark a pulse.
Her icy skin trussed in silk and lace,
satin pumps on lifeless feet.
There’s a feather in her hair,
twisted into careful curls. She’s cold
on center stage. Acid whispers
in the wings like sour dough rising.
Her fan flairs and she begins to dance.

 

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Artwork (collage and household paint on canvas) by the author.

Table for One

Together but alone they come in from the rain,
wait at the counter of The Wicker Man Café.
She admires his shark grey boots and denim thighs.
He looks back, meets her eyes. She smiles.
She orders chocolate cake and tea.
He orders a bacon roll and coffee.

They take separate tables, numbers two and five.

She sits facing the street, looks at the harbor.
She admires umbrellas, orange boats, blue water.
She thinks – is this the start of a long lasting love affair?
With sparkle and poise she spreads a hard knob of butter.
She thinks – find extra pleasure in the small.
She thinks – the possibilities are endless.

He sits with his back to the window, scans the jobs page.
He clocks the breasts on the young waitress.
He thinks – should never have quit the rig.
He tries his phone, searching for a signal.
He thinks – I’ve no more fight.
He thinks – it’s all too late.

She tries not to stare when he stumbles out the door.
On her way home she buys roses scented with moon-dust.

 

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Photograph by the author