Tales from the Woods

My children had an uncle.
He took them all out hunting,
they never did say what they sought,
out in the woods, for hours and hours
playing amongst the tall trees.
I stayed home tendling the fire,
baking the bread
and stirring the soup
in the endlessly bubbling pot
I had set to warm with the dawn.
They came back at dusk,
happy and tired
with mud on their shoes
and big sparkling eyes
and when i bathed them at night
and combed out their tangled hair,
sparkling dust fell to the floor,
twinkled and disappeared.
We saw him less and less,
but strange gifts
still arrived at the door
when a wind blew in from the west
(the time i always like best).
As they grew up, he faded,
or maybe he just went away.
The world was never the same after that,
their focus had shifted and torn,
until they had their own children
and told the old stories again.

Telling Fairy Tales

bedtime stories are a door
between day and nightly dreams
a door held open by a voice
swinging in softly imagined breeze
that blows in from a magic land
scented sweet with jasmin and juniper,
and roses for summer warmth
they lull a child to gentle sleep
on banks of woodland flowers
and keep them safe to wander there
until the sun returns

when we are grown the stories fade
our troubles follow at night
in corridors we search for doors
shadows swallow the light
but now I will return again
to find the forgotten tales
that lead us to the faerie glades
where pleasant dreams are made

Prim Victorian (Mary-Anne)

prim, Victorian, grim-lipped
in black cotton and lace
such a face
made of stone and ice
but her dark, lustrous eyes
burn with such heat

intense,
wandering feet

rebellious daughter
of a Methodist minister
preaching an older tradition
burnt in witch-fire
for generations

they line up behind her,
the warrior peasants,
exploited,
delighting in word play,
aware of their ancient glories
and treasuring stories
passed down the line,
tongue to ear
ear to tongue
repeating

returned from the snows of Alaska
frost-bitten, exhausted,
helped there,
by like-minded peoples,
she returned to a British hearth
to sit in the corner
just as she sits now,
very still,
rarely speaking,
captured and framed,
staring at me through a lens

Under Batmans Cape

The children are playing in the street.
I hear their joyful screams,
dancing rings in summer heat,
cowboys of the back streets,
soldiers forming battle teams,
highwaymen who rob the sun
of all its golden light

Batman twirls his cape,
inventing secret monsters
hidden in the night.
They summon Superman
in mock terror as they run
to the freedom of escape

As the evening shadows lengthen,
falling into softer dreams,
they gather in a circle
with sparkling eyes
heads bent close together
arms and legs a tangle
they tell fantastic stories
from their rich imaginations
suited to their size

All those tales are distant now.
The world became less wise.
The streets are full of cars.
The childrens’ voices all are gone,
silenced by closed doors,
as monsters step onto the screens
displaying ugly scars
on the evening new.

The children play in cyberspace
eating substitutes for food
in a world full of shadows
where no one has a face.

Lock your children up
the bogeyman’s about

Apple Tree

you have stood on this ledge
in the mountains above,
on the edge of the forest,
ever since i was only an innocent child
listening to stories and scribbling poems
my spine rested against your strength

you stood, the same
in sunlight and starlight
in wild winds and rain
while I wandered about in the wood
finding the well trodden paths
getting lost but finding the way again

warm-hearted, abundant,
and welcoming still
I thank you for bringing me home

Summer Solstice

 

This short sweet night is full of stars,
crossing slowly east to west,
the circle of the ancient stones
by dark and moonlight blessed.

The air alive with music now,
soft steps and voices echo.
Through the tender bending trees,
They enter to the clearing.

The circling dancers, as before,
leave traces where their steps fall
on grass in silvered shining dew.
The dark of night is fleeting.

They come to silent rest at dawn
to stand and watch in awe
the line of light rise in the east,
grow swift to sun, uplifting,
to reclaim the turning year
in blazing light and glory.

This day’s the longest in the year,
tomorrows will be shorter.

Each moon passes swiftly.

Then we’ll dance into the dark
retelling the old stories.
We’ll sit beside our winter fires
’til summer comes, repeating

On the Green Hill

She comes to me after midnight,

whispering soft in my ear

her face full of moonlight,

her dress is pale and blue

starlight glints in the weave.

I almost understand her.

I hear her whispered words

in a language i once knew,

or thought I knew.

She tries to tell me stories,

lost long ago in sleep,

stories lost in a dream somewhere

inscribed on a unicorns horn

and the print of a satyrs hoof.

I gather a word here and there.

I store them away with care

but all the next day

I long for her

and I cant untangle the words.

My heart is bewitched, enthralled.

I long for the night to come again,

the night on the hill in the wood.

Storytellers (a pantoum)

when the power went out we were ready
the oil lamps were already filled
the white candles stood in their holders
all was comfort and warmth

the oil lamps were always filled
we gathered more brushwood and bracken
all was comfort and warmth
we kindled the fire, made it crackle

we gathered more brushwood and bracken
piling on driftwood and logs
we kindled the fire, make it crackle
the flames rose high as they burned

piling on logs and driftwood
we sat near the fire as it blazed
the flames rose high as they burned
we sat by the fire, telling each other tales

we sat near the fire as it blazed
while the wind rattled the roof tiles
we sat by the fire, telling each other tales
life went on unchanged

while the wind rattled the roof tiles
the bread was steadily rising
life went on unchanged
until the power came back

the bread was steadily rising
we flicked a switch on the radio
when the power came back
the world stepped into the house

we flicked a switch on the radio
bringing nothing of value to us
the world stepped into the house
the house grew instantly colder

bringing nothing of value to us
now all would be darkness and shadows
the house would grow instantly colder
there is no source of heat these days

now all would be darkness and shadows
I miss the wood smoke and firelight
there is no source of heat these days
I miss the stories we told

 

 

(this is a re-write of an earlier poem I posted – called Without Power – I rewrote it as a Pantoum to see if the form improved it – I think it has)
 

 

 

without power

when the power went out we were ready
the oil lamps were always filled
the white candles stood in their holders
all was warmth and comfort

we gathered more brushwood and bracken
kindled the fire, make it crackle,
piling on logs and driftwood
we had dried in the yard in the summer

the kettle was boiling,
bread steadily rising,
as we sat near the wood stove,
silently gazing, drifting in dreams,
telling stories and fantasies

hot baths in steam and candlelight
snuggling under thick blankets
while the wind rattled the roof tiles
making a flute of the drainpipes
life went on unchanging, undaunted

when the power came back
we flicked a switch and turned on the radio
the world stepped back into the house
bringing nothing of value

tonight in another time and place
i live in another era, with no power
the house instantly grows colder
i wander about with a battery torch
in rooms full of shadows

i missed you more
than the woodsmoke and firelight
and any old luxuries of survival
but none of it matters now

The Soul is King

As large as the universe,

as small as our individual hearts,

joined as one,

manifest in many parts,

the blood of every woman and man

rises in the trees sap

and on the birds wing,

held in the throne of water and air

we live and die,

the flames of a fire.

The Soul is King.

 

We in our tiny lives,

brush against each other in passing.

I know my brothers and sisters

by their smiles,

by the light that shines in their eyes

and their glances,

by the stories they pause to tell when we meet.

 

There is an older wisdom

that stir in our dreams,

unnameable,

unbreakable,

that which binds us,

passed as a torch,

hand to hand,

written in stars

and the shape of the land,

the land where the Soul is King.