Unprepossessing

or, Under the Surface

Dowdy. That’s how they describe me.
On the surface I’m nothing much to look at.
Nondescript is another word I’ve heard.
Terms like tatty, tawdry hurt.

Just what do they expect from me?
Uninteresting is their first response,
demeaning my essential self,
glancing once, ignoring twice,
each assuming that I’m lacking depth.

And yet, and yet.

Beneath my plain unvarnished outside,
overlooked by all and sundry, there reside
offerings of far more worth:
kindness, courage, human truths.

Between the sheets I proffer passion,
your senses driven to seventh heaven.
In my thoughts you’ll wander freely
thrilled by visions you’ve never imagined,
stimulated, challenged, even rewarded.

Can you guess now who I am?
Often people pass me by,
visiting a gaudy neighbour,
ever seeking good companionship,
realising – finally – it might be me.


Another homework exercise for a creative writing class
Spoiler alert: the form of this riddle is due to it being an acrostic

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Starling, from an Edwardian print

It started with an observation, inviting easy conversation,
limited in character, with a limit to its characters:
a statement,
a sharing,
just casual information.

Anticipating backchat I introduced a hashtag,
innocuous I hoped:
this was no dissertation.
But what I got was cruel flak,
full of bile,
angry,
vile,
a tweet of hateful defamation.

A vicious far-right bigot preached a creed too awful to ignore.
I’d thought my fine right thinking speech would carry all before.
Joined by others, screeching, twittering,
startled starlings in a frenzied flock,
what choices did they choose to leave me?
Well, just one, which was to block.

You think you’re altogether very clever?
You’re just a witless bullying clown.
You won’t defeat or even beat me, and you’ll fail to grind me down.

You unkind,
online,
soulless troll
with death cult insults and selfish goals,
I hope you learn the tide will turn
and send you crawling to your hole.


Another poem written for writing class, adopting another’s voice, but I add this advice:

Music speaks

Music score (credit: WordPress free media library)

When I tire of conversation,
when I want to be alone,
working or in contemplation,
one thing always sets the tone.

Whether solo, band or drone,
fugue, sonata, golden oldie,
folksong, classic (known, unknown),
jazz: each has the power to hold me.

Music, reaching to enfold me,
speaks directly to the brain.
Right from childhood music called me,
smoothing pain and soothing strain.

Music speaks, not words but phrases.
What it still tells me amazes.


A Spencerian sonnet written in trochaic tetrameters: homework written for a creative writing course. Its discipline made it quite hard to not sound forced while continuing to convey an authentic emotion. The rhyme scheme is abab bcbc cdcd ee

The unkind question

For E. L.

So when you asked if being deaf or blind
which one I’d choose, if choice I had to take,
the options offered hurt, made my heart ache
to realise I’d have to be resigned
to sight or sound; the question was unkind.

Not hear her voice? What, no, for heavens sake!
Or not see her each morning when I wake?
I think I would soon start to lose my mind.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea
or that hard place that stands against the rock
you’d have me lie. Well, I won’t take my pick,
I’ll have them both for surely both suit me.
Until the final tick comes out of clock
against such awful choices I shall kick.


The homework for the poetry writing class was to write a sonnet;
I chose to write a Petrarchan sonnet, with a rhyme scheme abba abba cde cde

He lay there

He lay there, there in the room
where he’d had his office,
where his papers, neatly filed,
filled the folders boxed up on his shelves

He lay there, there on his back
as though snoozing, skin so sallow
for all the embalmer’s art,
silent, chinless, still judgemental.

Did I feel bereft? Or merely empty?

Would I no longer suffer an appraising glance,
a carping comment or a critical silence?
Would I still be found wanting, a vaporous wastrel,
failing any potential I ever possessed?

He lay there, there in the room
where he’d had his office,
where his still body, sweetly smelling,
filled the coffin, a box to himself


Piece written for creative writing course on poetry, the brief being to compose a poem based on a personal experience

 

Doggerel days

So autumn comes to southern climes:
bid farewell now to summer,
the best of times. The worst of times?
When fingers get much number.


Dog days are the really hot days of summer when Sirius the ‘dog star’ briefly appears before the sun dawns in the northern hemisphere. Doggerel days can be at any other time

This piece of doggerel was inspired by a post on the blog Gert Loveday’s Fun with Books.

You’re having a laugh

You told us we’d be taking back control
But you were having a laugh
You controlled our media and our data,
Our posts, our shares, our sayings,
Our benefits and our credit ratings
For you were taking back control

You called it saving our health service
But you were having a laugh
You were giving it to your cronies
And offering them our monies,
Our wealth, our health, our bodies
And you were taking back control

You said you were strong and stable
But you were having a laugh
You were fuelled with lust for power
And you took what’s rightfully ours
You took the rights from all the people
And you gave it to your pals
For you were taking back control

We ask you lots of questions
But you’re still having a laugh
For you won’t give us straight answers
You nasty lot of chancers
Down a road of thorns, not roses,
You will lead us by the noses
And you’ll drag us to perdition
While you charge us with sedition
You’ll be laughing, always laughing
While you’re taking back control

But we’re not laughing


• Another piece — rather political, for a change — produced for a creative writing class on composing poetry, this time using repeating rhythms and/or rhymes. By the way, yesterday May 3rd was World Press Freedom Day

Welcome spring’s on its way

From March through to May
farewell hard frost, mists and storm;
welcome spring’s on its way.
Bye to sky’s steel grey!
Now freezing rain becomes warm
from March through to May.
Hail, lengthening day,
dark nights no longer the norm!
Welcome spring’s on its way.
Sun, slip in that ray
through the shutters each morn
from March through to May
so that each new day
makes us all glad that we’re born;
welcome spring’s on its way.

Hear now what I say: seasons reform, don’t conform.
From March through to May welcome spring’s on its way.


Another villanelle on the subject of Spring, this time the five tercets are in senryu form and the final quatrain written out as a couplet.

When winter’s snow at last

When winter’s snow at last begins to thaw
and buds and blossoms start their sumptuous show
we sense the seasons cease their senseless war.

First snowdrops shyly peer out to explore
the scene, then daffodils with golden glow
when winter’s snow at last begins to thaw.

Faint breezes fan our brows, no longer raw,
and short rain showers substitute for snow.
We sense the seasons cease their senseless war

now celandines have lit the forest floor
and dancing daisies over grassland grow,
when winter’s snow at last begins to thaw.

Moist fat balls, seeds and mealworms, they’re the store
that blackbirds, tits and finches want to know.
We sense the seasons cease their senseless war.

The border’s down; breath held, we watch in awe
with next-door neighbour now a friend, not foe.
When winter’s snow at last begins to thaw
we sense the seasons cease their senseless war.


Villanelle on ‘spring’ written in response to a creative writing course poetry assignment

I Hunted Dragons Once

After Kitagawa Utamaro: detail of Pink Flowers with Butterflies and a Dragonfly (public domain)

I hunted dragons once. Courting danger,
Armed with nothing but a net, my hands, a jam jar,
I ventured onto wastelands alone, a stranger
To my primeval prey, a knight to war.

Winged beasties, flitting over hard-baked earth,
Seeking scrubby growth for landing strips:
I stalked them, watched them pause and barely stir,
Balanced on stalks of grass, suspended on the lips
Of pools (putrid, slick with slime like Grendel’s lair),
Their rainbow iridescence, blues and reds
And greens and mauves, upheld by filigreed air,
Their slender bodies capped by swivel heads.

I caught these wonders, cupped them in my hands,
Transferred them into glass-walled living rooms,
Grass-filled their glamorous future homelands,
Never thinking these would be their tombs.

I hunted dragons once, so wanting thus to be
Protective. But they wanted to be free.

Continue reading

Ballad of the canal

Frozen stretch of Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, Dardy, Powys 2018

Brecon town is far and away
And much too far for me
And Newport city is not so pretty
Although it’s near the sea.

But as I’d like to see the sea
The next best thing would be
The waters of the Mon and Brec
That glide ‘neath sky and tree.

I dream a dream of days I’ll glimpse
The ocean wide and free
As I go along the Mon and Brec
From Brecon to the sea.

Though Brecon town is far away
And Newport dank and grey,
I pray that soon I’ll go that way.
I will, I’m sure, one day.


The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is affectionately known as the Mon and Brec

An exercise for a creative writing class on composing poetry, in this case in ballad form

Burnt scraps in the grate

Remains of scraps of pages found among the ashes in the fireplace of the holiday cottage.

First scrap:

They say cats are inscrutable but this one has a better chance of getting back to the rest. Let’s do the same again and get a few more of them together in the next few weeks. I will also be able to get the money back from the bank.

Second scrap:

The paper was rightly ridiculed for its anti-intellectual stance and apparent misunderstanding of the process.

They called forensics in.


Predictive Text Flash Fiction