AUBADE

As the curtains pale
with the light of dawn,
I turn to you but you are gone.
The crisp cotton pillow undisturbed,
no watch on the bedside table.
This is the first day
of the rest of my life,
my life without you, without us.
There will be many more I fear.

With the curtains wide
I salute the sun, grateful for the warmth,
yet resentful of the lack of compassion,
for the dark blue of my heart,
the celestial palette at odds
with the pulse in my veins.

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Sole Man

I am 45,
ride a pushbike,
wear a gabardine raincoat,
belonged to my Dad,
never washed.
I live with my mum over the fish and chip shop.
Like the batter on the haddock
my mother’s love clings to me,
dripping with excess.
I am floppy under its power.
Filleted.

I tried to escape.
Had a job, briefly.
Three hours a day in the University library,
shelving books.
Parked my bike outside,
hung my coat in a little room.

Surrounded by books I thought they would speak to me,
help me with my novel.
The books, mutely, kept their secrets,
but the others whispered, “He smells of fish”.
Alluring, sensuous, siren-like as you pass the chippie,
but, not a popular scent on a man.

Walked out one day
when I shelved a book in the Sociology section, entitled
‘Potatoes: Their Place in Marxist Peasant Ideology’.

Did I mention I have greasy hair?

How could I escape?

Nell, from across the road, came for her usual
‘Don’t-forget-the-scraps’ Friday supper.
She found my mum on the floor

Battered.

Malcolm Henshall  [Revised September 2020]

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Truth and Lies

In this age of uncertainty a lie
gains traction, travels around the world
in a click. We must learn how to listen,
recognise honesty, know truth when we hear
it spoken, for who can tell where each false
statement, each airbrushed photo will lead?

Ask yourself this; if leaders do not lead,
how can honesty serve them well? A lie
is more useful. Because they are false
and their agenda is to bend the world
to their own ends, are we surprised they won’t hear
our voices and when they refuse to listen?

Then there are some who force others to listen,
using hatred as a tool, inciting terror which leads
only to more terror. Each day we hear
news of slaughter and the victims who lie
dead in every corner of our world.
Note how, even as the bodies are counted, false

claims are made in names that also are false.
Terrorists, extremists; never listen
to what they say, because for them the world’s
a playground, people playthings, to be misled
in the pursuit of power. Better to lie,
they think, persuade the simple folk to hear

the narrative that serves their purpose. But here’s
the thing; lives are obliterated by false
statements, families destroyed, many lying
shattered on the ground as gunshots fade. So listen
to the whisper of truth. Find out where it leads,
refuse the fictions, reject the greed of the world.

That way you may begin to know whose world
you can trust, who stands up for the truth here,
today. Think too that it’s not just leaders
who deceive us all with statements that are false;
it’s the ordinary folk too. So listen
with care, ask who profits from the lie.

Vow never to lie, learn to hear what is said.
The world is filled with falsehoods so
listen to your conscience and follow where it leads.

Liz McPherson

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Breakfast

Breakfast cereal and a slice of toast
Satchel ready with homework, books and lunch
Sports afternoon, the one I like the most
Better than sitting on the old school bench.

Up late today so breakfasted in haste,
Nine miles to cycle in the morning cold.
Arrived late to work again shame faced.
Furious boss, last warning I’ve been told.

Missed breakfast yet again to catch the train.
Suited and tied in a close packed carriage.
Weary sighs and blank faces hide the pain,
A day lost to work, another blank page.

Breakfast at ten, two poached eggs on rye bread
On the terrace with the paper and tea.
All the dead days of toil gone and, instead,
Quiet companionship, just you and me.

To ponder one of life’s ironic ways
Best mornings in the evening of our days.

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Hill of Tara

On the green hill of Tara
Mist and light intertwined into a web
of gossamer enjoining every blade of grass
into this shimmering sheet of diamonds.

Green beyond green, intoxicatingly airy
sanctuary of sovereigns and home of honeyed bees
dripping sweet nectar over the centuries of
flying the unseen ones home to the hive

A hill of ancient stories, across the western sea
and the faery tales still told at many a fireside
flames leaping at the magic invoked
echo the green drums of the old voices

Nuada of the Silver Hand of the superlatively
mystical and most brilliant ancient High Kings
calling from beyond the ages of the Angels and later
Niall with the bones of the Nine hostages

In the mound on a holy hill where still stand
stones that cry out when the true one enters
and the hill itself opens and the ancestors ride free
on wild Irish horses, saddled by Medhbh

Maybe the bones of all Erin lie here
In this sacred seat of an islands soul
while above the fairlaced daisies and shamrock open
innocent to the warmth of the day

and the picnickers plaid rug and sandwiches.

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Dancing Shiva

Sometimes the primordial Shiva dances in
a circle of fire, yet utterly serene

Like the brass ringed statue on the cabinet
brought back from India decades ago

Nataraja* poised motionless and frozen
half naked like some sort of sacramental offering

Left leg raised up towards left arm eternally
pinned into place by a cold cast copper and tin mixture

The sound of creation in his outreached right hand
A blazing flame of destruction in his left

Destroying and creating, exuberantly elating,
crushing ignorance beneath him on the cabinet.

Anandatandav, the dance of bliss is here
From where one always begins

In the dust that lies at the feet of the Nataraja
Less exuberantly stand five replica Lewis Chessmen

A Viking king sits stately, carved sword upon his lap
The unfathomable Queen rests face in hand, thinking

A bishop on his throne holds his crosier to his breast
A knight with spear and shield rides out unblinking

The fifth piece is the warder, teeth sunk into his shield
Each face exquisitely worried on this human battlefield

Juxtaposed at the feet of the exuberantly dancing Shiva
with his serene smile, I see the chessmen with new eyes as

these tiny replicas of anxious humanity buried in the sand
so long ago, and still we gaze at the gods as we gaze at the stars

small and humbled beneath their dancing feet

* Nataraja is the name given to Shiva dancing in a state of bliss

Eileen Neil

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Natural Friends

If left alone nature gets along.

I’ve been around for about three hundred years, a tree of long
standing and seen many changes. I’m still here but in completely
different surroundings. I was born deep in a forest surrounded by
many saplings and older trees, unfortunately most of my neighbours
have disappeared and in their place is a vast complex of houses. I
would have joined them if it hadn’t been for two loyal friends, a fox
and a dog.

I got myself acquainted with these two scoundrels on the same night
they met each other, when both were strolling through the forest.
The two immediately became friends and when I made myself
known, we quickly became a threesome. They would come to visit
my area of the wood most late nights, a warm friendship developed,
my knowledge and experience entertained them, whereas their
frolics and adventures amused me. Times just continued to flow
along in a normal natural way as they do in nature if left to their own
devices.

But then one sad day, it was noticed that the forest trees had been
marked with large X’s apart from a few on the outside of clusters.
Unfortunately, a large X appeared on me. We all knew what this
meant, many species of birds had told of X,s like these appearing in
other parts.

Waiting for the heavy machinery to come was like the worst feeling,
and the thought of the monster machines hacking off branches with
mechanical saws and then ripping up the rest of the tree roots from
the established fertile ground, was enough to make the older trees
wilt. Far worse than the harshness of the weather we had to combat
over the generations, in fact most of these conditions were to our
liking, the howling wind winds occasionally took some of our
branches, but we would usually recover from most onslaughts. The
blankets of freezing snow that covered our branches, melting into
the slush soft soil of our roots, was often welcomed because this was
destiny and accepted.

After the X appeared on me, I had to let my two friends know that I
would shortly be leaving them.

“We’re not going to let that happen,” said the fox.

“We certainly aren’t “barked back the dog.

“We’ve got a plan, we’ve used it before, we cannot save all the trees,
but hopefully can save you” said the fox.

Over the next few nights the large X on me began to dissolve and
eventually disappeared. I didn’t quite know what was happening, all I
could say was the weather was fine, but I could feel a gently warmish
liquid flowing over the X, as my two little scoundrel friends
scampered up and down me.

To be continued….

Jim Mallin

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Period Piece


This year, July 27 th we ‘celebrated’ our 45 th wedding Anniversary. I say ‘celebrate’, in actual fact – we forgot until our youngest daughter sent a message congratulating us.

Funnily enough, I had marked it on the calendar, weeks before, but when the actual day came, we forgot. I scrambled through our wedding photographs and found one, I’ve not posted on FB before, but one which really tells the story.

Apparently, the cake cutting ritual originates from ancient Rome when the groom would break the cake over the bride’s head and guests would scrabble for pieces to bring them luck with fertility. Fortunately, this did not happen to me. As I zoom into the photograph, I see two smiling, relaxed young people trapped behind a trestle table bedecked with a typical 70’s buffet. Bryn is fascinated by the quantity and length of his hair. Me, I am intrigued by the range of fresher than fresh finger food and the contrast with today’s equivalent.

Open sandwiches filled with egg mayonnaise (probably salad cream), tinned salmon and cucumber. Vol -au-vents, sausage rolls, quiches, cheese and pineapple on sticks spiralling out of a grapefruit, crisps, silver- skin onions, salad, sliced Ham, Beef and Turkey, or was it chicken? Fairy cakes, Trifle and Chocolate gateau and cheese and biscuits.

Simple fare on a shoe-string budget. The result of complex negotiations over months.

Present was relief and possibly joy.

Absent was constant guilt- tripping and accusations

Present were our closest friends, one member of my family and all of Bryn’s family.

Underpinning it all was the kindness of strangers.

My first teaching post staff and pupils unbidden, rallied round with practical offers of help.

Linda: My mum runs a catering business she’d love to do your buffet, Miss.

Senior Mistress: You could get married in our church, all the Saturdays will have gone now, but I’m sure Reverend Simons would do a Sunday.

An avalanche of suggestions piled in for reception venues finally landing on Sandiacre Village Hall.

For once, my sleazy Head of Department wasn’t asking me to pose semi -clad for him, instead he offered to do the photographs. Eventually arranging for a friend to take the photographs when he discovered he was double booked.

Questions?

There were many but there were far more answers.

Hold it.

Snap!

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Turning points

Moments of motion
Changes of direction.
Some turning points are obvious,
Immediate.

But many go unobserved,
Disregarded minor deviations, small shifts
That accumulate and compound over the years
All tending in the same direction.

A mounting surge of myriad small things
Wavelets in the current
Eddies in the flow
A mounting pressure.

Then a dam bursts
A tidal wave of change
Sweeps you to a new destiny, a different fate.

The first drink can end
In the life of an alcoholic
Schoolboy shoplifting can lead
To a life of crime.
A passion for football can end
In rioting on the terraces

The discovery of books can lead to
Dreaming of another life, another world
And leaving home.

Turning points happen on the cusp of possibility
Many futures dimly foreshadowed
One hardens into reality
One door opens, thousands more swing shut
But that door opens onto many corridors
With many more doors.

Life is a succession of the meeting and parting of ways
Of everyday decisions and acts
Most trivial, routine, but some hostages to fortune.
Only hindsight will reveal which was which.
A series of happenstance and circumstance
Possibilities flower, a thousand blooms.
All will wither and die, but one.

That one will propagate
Become a thousand new possibilities
And so the meetings and partings
The eddies and swirls of life go on
Leading to yet another turning point
Fortunate is the person that can see them coming
And ride the wave.

Terry Wassall

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Three Triolet

Blind Image

Did God make us in his own image
Or did Man make god into a humankind
This myth has grown in every village
Did God make us in his own image
Was it a way to find a lasting homage
But did this make us all blind
Did God make us in his own image
Or has this made us all blind

Blind Speech

They learn how to articulate the art of speech
Can they avoid applause from false reactions
Rhetoric is fine but words need to teach
They learn how to articulate the art of speech
The platform talker has to project and reach
Then perform with the highest actions
They learn how to articulate the art of speech
But can they perform with the highest of actions

Anger

I’m angry inside
Like surging waves swirling in a stormy ocean
It’s something you just can’t judge, or hide
I’m angry inside
It churns around in your gut, and won’t divide
Building up with wild deep emotions
I’m angry inside
Building up with wild deep emotions

Jim Mallin

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