Monday, November 30, 2009

day 28 and 29

Here's my day 28 poem

Through this weekend
(remembering London)

My 11-year –old
had to put on my socks
and tie the laces of my running shoes
my back too sore to bend that far.
The box of chocolates I smashed
on the floor of the youth hostel
and couldn’t give to friends we visited
but used instead as a bribe only I
could reach on top of the wardrobe.

Horizontal rain,
and the central line delayed
because of a body on the tracks.
Always somebody needed the loo
waiting outside the toilets
at St James’s Park
the brass band played
and Londoner’s lazed in deck-chairs
or on the grass half dressed
and I wished for a little
of that idyll.

and here's today's poem


Eight years and the guilt
if it hadn’t been for nine-eleven
and the outbreak of bird flu,
if I hadn’t had twins
the kind that scream all the
way to the shopping centre
the kind that run in opposite directions
if I’d got passports organized sooner,
if he’d wanted to come too,
if I wasn’t feeling safe
in the groove of my routines
it might not have taken 8 years
and the guilt.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

day 27 - round

I'm running a day late, but hopefully will catch up tomorrow, I'd hate to blow it right at the end.


Spokes of a cart wheel
turn, white against a grey sky
new eye of London.

Bowls of pumpkin soup
once a week reminder of home
at least they’ll eat it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

day 26 looking forward

I feel as if my brain is mush! I think it's all downhill from here...

Looking forward

At the railway museum
we peered into the Royal Mail carriage
leather seats and wood polished dark with use
row upon row of pigeon holes
a handful of letters slotted in.
Everything in it’s place – Mum notes,
That’s how my house will be,
I hope, dream, kid myself,
Ready for my visit –says Mum.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

day 25 - cousins


Shifting from one hip
to the other, loll on the grass
in St James’s Park.
The cousins are an arm’s length
away, messing with a ball,
he laughs at her attempts to kick,
my kids are a little way off
in the opposite direction.
Eventually, after my brother
gets back with sandwiches
there will be a thaw
and they will all play soccer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

day 24 - Somebody said

Somebody said don’t go to Covent Garden

not much to see
and it’s all overpriced,
and we nearly didn’t
but somebody else said
you must go, and look out
for the dog-box-man.
We got there early on Sunday
sat on the kerb to watch
the first busker of the day try
drum up a crowd, juggling
heckling passers-by, sword
swallowing, & (drum-roll) the bed of nails
for the price of a coin dropped
into a hat.
Then wandered on
to see the rubix cube up a ladder
against the clock guy.
On the way to the tube
rushing, late to meet my brother
we glimpsed the dog-box-man
setting up, a symbol of
all the things we didn’t see.
In York we bought juggling balls
the kids dreamed one day
of being street performers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

day 23 - muted


Sitting here, louvers open
I can hear our neighbour cough
frogs croak, bats scrabbling in the trees.
Over there shut the door
and the world is shut out
shut the kitchen door
and the kids are muted,
classical music on the radio
while you cook
the chance for conversation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

day 22 - Inconvenience


The morning after the coal mine
something in my back torn
and I could hardly move
hobble in spasms to the bathroom
stand under the hot shower
and wait for something to ease.

It took the indulgence
of two days bed rest, reading
and gazing at the rectangle
of sky, shivering beech leaves,
red tiled roof across the road
(the view from the little bedroom
lined with books I won’t touch
politics, economics, dry history.)

Mum takes the kids to the park
cooks dinner, helps me dress
I worry how will she get downstairs
If anything ever happens.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

day 21 - Airport entertainment

Airport entertainment

long wait
between flights
at Changi airport
so they ride the travelators
pushing their trolleys
up and down
a strange

Saturday, November 21, 2009

day 19 and 20

I didn't manage to post yesterday, I was out in the evening at Off the page, our monthly poetry/spoken word event. I missed the first half getting dinner and the twins to bed, but the second half was great. I was so lucky to catch the performance by Omar Musa - an australian poetry slam winner. Open section poetry was great and I bravely read 3 of my new ones written this month!

my day 20 poem

And then he lost his jacket

could’ve been at the biggest toy shop in the world
where they spent their pocket money
could’ve left it on his seat on the tube,
probably it’s in the cafeteria at the museum
didn’t realize ‘til we were on the bus to the Serpentine.

I got angry and made him cry
and then felt bad, it was the nicest jacket
a hoodie, turquoise, black and cream stripes.
It’s not the worst that could’ve happened,

my nightmare was one of them too close to the edge
slipping off the platform onto electrified rails
as the tube train approaches.

my (teeny) day 19 poem

Nintendo DS

Spend five weeks without
playstation or computer
TV is inescapable,
his DS glued to his hand.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

day 18 - walking pace

Walking pace

People ask – has it changed much?
- not really, except cars,
when I grew up a family was lucky
to have a car, now it’s two or three,
whole suburbs without driveways
roadsides clogged with cars,
one way systems
bus lanes.

After Dad died
Mum sold the car
a neighbor sometimes parks
in the driveway
especially when Mum’s away
the favour works both ways.

We wander to the park and notice
clover and cowparsley
nettles and bumble bees.
How would we have felt the shape of Halifax?
if we hadn’t walked down the valley side
to the museum, and back up again
on weary legs to the bus.
I hope it’s not too late
for my kids to learn
to love walking.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

day 17 - Multitude

At the weekend the poetry was flowing!! but now I'm really struggling, I guess this is where I gave up on previous attempts to do a poem a day for a month. Just have to remind myself these are first drafts, something to work with later... oh well, here is today's effort.


I forced them back on the tube
up escalators and along tunnels
popping out into a flood of humanity,
some with a purpose, marching over the bridge,
others loitering gazing at the river
taking photos, Big Ben at least
made an impression
‘I’ve seen it on Dr Who.’

I remember the years I lived in London
taking the tube each morning
the unbearable closeness of strangers,
some evenings I’d crack, jump off early
walk the last miles home
trying to shake off the crush, the madness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

day 16 - black clouds

Black clouds

With the energy of anger
she shoves open the gate
crumples into tears
‘they won’t play with me’
We go exploring, dragging
her feet along wet paths
‘this is boring’
even the glass house
flood of flowers
can’t calm the storm.

Monday, November 16, 2009

day 15 - excursion

Excursion (Amsterdam Zoo)

We have always been good at this
hanging out, eating chocolate,
losing a week here and there when we were students,
now there are 4 kids to consider
(3 mine, 1 yours) who need entertaining.

Later than we meant to the tram
it weaves through the city,
all the things we won’t see.

Queue, turnstile, zoo,
I don’t remember what was in the first house
except the smell, the boys couldn’t stay in there.

Then the reptiles, how proud my kids are
of the frill-necked lizard
‘we see them in our school-yard.’

The most alive lions
I’ve ever seen, pacing the enclosure
breaking into a run.

Lunch at a pirate ship playground
a sea-gull stealing our last sandwich
kids and chips and crying.

Butterfly house slows them to a sleepwalk
butterflies land on outstretched hands
her T-shirt, his hair.

We end with ice-cream and photos
the kids pulling faces, insane,
you and me smiling.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

day 14 - almost


You think, bloody amazing, we’ve made it
and step onto English soil
groggy and stiff limbed from the flight.

But then there’s customs,
a maze of barriers, a human train
winding in and out, moving forward an inch,
my son lies on the floor and howls
if the twins come near him
my patience is frayed to the last thread.

But then, a guardian angel,
an official in a turban, directs us to the fast lane
‘families with children this way’
we almost run, embarrassed, leaving the rest behind.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

day 13 - underground


I never imagined I could do this
kitted up with a hard hat and battery pack,
he pulls the cage shut and we descend slowly
nothing to see just the damp rock face.

Descending further into the dark,
our bags and cameras left on the surface
a spark from a battery could ignite
our guide tells us, he was an explosives man,
laugh at his jokes to forget
we’re half a mile underground
the kids stunned into silence.

We all turn off our lamps to experience
dark so dense it presses our eyeballs,
think of kids sent down here age 6
working twelve hour days.

He talks about canaries and poison gas
and ‘snap’ that’s what Dad called a packed lunch.
We crouch through low tunnels
dig some coal to take home in our suitcase.
Back in the cage at last
we’re re-born into the sunlight.

Friday, November 13, 2009

day 12 - if only

If only

I step across the world
from partner to daughter
with three kids as cargo.

They vomit, squabble,
refuse to walk another step
in no particular order.

I will shiver
at playgrounds and forgo
the Van Gogh museum.

It’s enough to be there
at the kitchen table
with Mum.

cards cards cards

A quick post in between the poems, of what I've been up to. Card making is something I can squeeze into half an hour in the evenings, not like painting which needs a decent chunk of time to get all the gear out and sit at it for at least an hour or two.

I'm trying to get another batch of cards done before the craft fair. I must be a glutton for punishment or plain mad to try to do the poem a day for November as well as getting ready for the craft fair next Sunday...xmas shopping is just on hold until next month!

Doing the poetry is a kind of gift to myself, I went back to England on holiday this year, took the twins to meet my Mum for the first time. I didn't write much or draw while I was there, I needed to just experience it and not get too emotional. When we got back I had planned a couple of weeks of painting, and time to think, but instead my son got sick and I spent those weeks up at the hospital (he's completely recovered now). Writing the poetry is a chance to think about the holiday, although the poems aren't turning out quite as I'd envisaged...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

day 11 - kitchen


She’s had the pantry wall
knocked through,
new cooker, cupboards,
and vertical blinds
a dishwasher in honour
of our visit.
I can’t believe we all
used to fit in here
me and my sister squeezed
on a bench against the wall.
Watching a blackbird
hop along the garage roof.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

day 10 old friend

Old friend

I am perching
on the arm of a chair
to see the road
scanning each car
will it slow, will I recognize
hair, face, gesture.

Across the city
her car is jammed
to the tail of another,
inching down
the flyover, past
the evening post clock.

I am expecting
awkwardness, more aggro
from the kids, I had to march
out of the art gallery this afternoon,
past 6 now, I ring
half hoping she’ll cancel.

In a moment she’ll be here
the kids have climbed on the wall
to wave, she’ll drive us back to meet
her family and we’ll talk
as if 20 years never passed
or we grew in step
without knowing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

day 9 - untitled

untitled as yet!

Heart so sore
at leaving Mum,
and within the strangeness
of my brother and best friend
come to meet us
separate parts of life
colliding in a party
at the airport,
and weighted with dread
of the long flight,
I did not take note
of that slip or trip,
shoes off running
(my kids don’t walk)
we blamed his too long jeans
brushed aside pins and needles
blaming too tight socks.
As we smiled, blinked back tears,
waved goodbye,
his body was turning
on itself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

day 8 - should probably maybe

Should, probably, maybe

Should I have made him?

I could have whispered in
his ear while he slept,
honey sweet persuasions.

We could have talked,
wrangled, debated,
struck a bargain.

I could’ve smashed
some plates and screamed
and put my foot down.

I could’ve
I won’t say should’ve.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 7 - stinging nettle

A bit of a rush job today, weekends are probably worse than work days for trying to grab 5 mins to myself...the endless plaintive cry "Mum where are you?..."

Stinging nettle

Have you ever been stung?
What did it feel like?
I daren’t touch them
On the last day of the holidays
I’m going to come and grab one.
(he didn’t)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Day 6 - At Grandma's

At Grandma’s (fib)

shared a
double bed,
she slept on top of
the blanket, he slept under it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

day 5 - garden memories

Garden Memories

Rhubarb shafts erupted every spring
sour stems for crumble,
cabbages that went to seed
sometimes, before we could eat them,
always mint for sauce
with lamb on Sunday.
In the greenhouse tomatoes,
one year a glut
that ripened on every window-sill
until I sickened of them.

The garden seems shrunken
the hedge we hid in
barely waist high,
veggie garden overgrown
with weeds, empty plant pots
and spiders in the greenhouse.

Home, I plant bok choy
and basil, tend my
compost heap and
remember Dad.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

poem a day - day 4

maybe they'll enjoy it
(day trip to Lake Windermere)

To take a child anywhere
and have them enjoy it - is a gamble.

I dragged them across the world, for this,
"remember when the seagull poo-ed on C...?"
I remember a day of sun and cloud,
my aunt - who turned her back in every photo,
feeding the swans that stupidly
pecked our hands.
Taking the little hire boat on the lake
and letting the oldest steer.
The three of them being together
too much, boiling over
on the crazy golf course,
one cheating, one crying.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November poetry day 2 and 3

Day 2


The train glides
silver rails converging
past the football ground
there should be a brass fanfare
25 years since I lived here.

Someone has unpicked
and re-sewn the city centre
the same landmarks re-adjusted
a half finished face lift,
building abandoned
for the duration of the
economic downturn.

Duration was one of Dad’s words
hinting at life through
war and rationing.

No time to think of this
a sleeping child to shake
cases to heave onto the platform
a taxi to find
I’m going home.

Day 3


I tried to think of everything
what if the plane is late?
what if one of the kids get sick?
of course the kids did get sick
the day we were to fly, I almost
delayed, but couldn't wait another
day for what I'd put off for 8 years.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Poem a day for November -day 1

I'm having a go at the poem a day challenge for Nanowrimo, you can find out more about it at the Poetic asides blog. I've attempted this a couple of times and always crashed and burned mid-month, oh well here goes...


In the airport terminal
she whispered
'I miss Dad already'
and on the first plane.

On the second,
video on demand
distracted them
as we crossed the hemisphere.