Surgery – Day 12

Day 12 and the task now is to write a poem which incorporates assonance and alliteration. A master of this was Seamus Heaney.

I will admit to a slight cheat with this poem, as it is a new draft of something I played with in 2016, but it did take a bit of tinkering to reach this state:

The less racket made, the better.

Subdue the sound of hammer, chisel, awl,

when cutting into sinew, tendon, bone –

a chisel can be hushed with a folded shawl;

oil can be poured on the teeth of a saw.


The largest knife will prove the best;

one clean sweep, carelessly placed,

is better than many, small, uncertain.

A novice makes weak cuts, she snips

and snaps, leaves heart and gut in poor condition.


What seems to work well with the knife:

hold it light but firm in the palm of your hand.

Smile. Slice.


Known as Jack – Day 10

Today, we write about somebody special to us. And we are directed to a poem by Thomas Roethke.

And I look at his biography and find that he advocated imitation, “imitation, conscious imitation, is one of the great methods, perhaps the method of learning to write. … The final triumph is what the language does, not what the poet can do, or display.”

So with that in mind, here is my poem, imitating Christopher Smart

For I will consider my soulmate; let him be known as Jack.
For at the first glimpse of the sun in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by falling to the floor and executing fifty press-ups.
For a press-up is a total body strength building exercise.
For it develops the triceps and the deltoid bracchi.
For it gives the arms a pleasing shape and forms them well for hugs.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this  he performs in ten degrees.
For firstly he looks for his socks and undergarments and
beseeches me to tell him where they are.
For secondly, he tells me that his trousers are unclean but that’s all right.
For thirdly he voids his bowels, and I must not interrupt his thoughts.
For fourthly, he tells me that I am lazy and smacks my bottom with his paw.
For fifthly he creates a white sea foam and spreads it on his face.
For sixthly he makes an amusing sheering sound with his sharp blade.
For seventhly he grins at the mirror and scrubs his teeth with a minty paste.
For eighthly he stands under cold waters and sings the praises of the Lord.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For he keeps to time and hunts his living in an office all throughout the day.
For he keeps my back in the night against the fear of dying alone.
For he counteracts that terror by his skin which is smooth and smells of honey.
For that he is sweet and beloved by the bees.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are lovelier than any other man’s.
For he throws frantic shapes upon the dancing floor.

For he hums with pleasure when I tell him he’s a blessing on my life.
For my house is incomplete without him.
For he breathes lightly on the pillow next to me.
For he do bring me peace and I do sleep.

Area C – Palestine – Day 9

And today we are asked to write a nine line poem, of which the most famous version is probably Edmund Spenser’s choice for his epic Faerie Queen. I will admit to a bit of cheating. I have taken some lines from an existing poem of mine about Area C in Palestine, and I have NOT followed Spenser’s rhyme scheme to the letter. But the poem  has nine lines, so I don’t feel so bad.

The caw of a crow, a clatter of stones,
a crackle of static, disquiet of drones,
constraining with cruel and callous practice,
curbing freedom and limiting access.
There’s water on tap for the occupier,
but we must pay dearly for all we take.
In Area C, behind the barbed wire,
hearts open up to a constant, dull ache,
deep as the wound that a razor blade makes.


Because of the Picture – Day 7

Again, I have not followed the prompt unless it be in a very random way. The suggestion was to write about something found, the place it was found, and a little about it, the poem to be about luck and fortuitousness.

Well, this poem is about something found, an object and an idea, but as to luck and fortuitousness – not much of either, except that I think that the idea or understanding attained through the found object is perhaps lucky for the finder. I leave it to the reader to decide.


Airbrushed souls of
the lost are spread
in layers on
countless pages
thumbed and creased – stained
by fat fingers
torn into fragments,
blown down city streets
swept up, hauled off,
pulped. Souls tagged
and shared and “liked”,
and tweeted, and trapped.

There is no recent picture
of the veteran. There is
a faded photo I’d thought lost,
but found it yesterday –
the veteran at five years old,
in black and white.

His soul looks out of candid eyes.
Eyes now turned dark
which do not meet mine.
Nevertheless, although
his body has mutinied, I know
his soul remains his own.

“In spite of the picture?”
“Because of the picture.”

The Settler – Day 6

We are looking at the same thing from different points of view.

I started reading The Wounded Storyteller   by Arthur W. Rank a little while ago, and although I didn’t finish it (or haven’t finished it YET – it is still in the small pile on my bed) I was taken by his description of the patient as losing control of her story, and being forced to learn a whole new language. I just wanted to put that idea into a poem, which is not quite what is suggested by the prompt. Maybe I will try looking at something in different ways at a later date when NaPoWriMo finishes.

Interesting that Maureen refers to Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. Another poem which looks at things in different ways is U.A.Fanthorpe’s witty take on St George and the Dragon, Not My Best Side a poem I have always liked.

However, this is my poem for Day 6.

She is the colonist who steals
your name, forbids you your language.
Foreign words stick in your throat.
Inhibitor. Acute. Resistant.

A missionary from a foreign land
who comes each day to enact
ceremonies of cleansing and blessing.
Her bright hum rises around her.

She brings gifts. Flasks of firewater,
bright beads in little boxes.
She is of the same tribe
as he whom Raymond Carver
may even have thanked.

Day 4 – the riddle or enigma

Today,  we are prompted to write a poem containing an enigma or riddle. I am writing a sequence of poems about my brother, a former marine and athlete, who has contracted MS. Before he was diagnosed, he was very vulnerable, depressed, and being exploited by a neighbour who had taken money from him, promising to show him how to kill himself by using helium from one of those gas canisters they use to inflate party ballooons.

I thought I would write a poem to Helios, creating an enigma by references to mythology and heliotropic flowers. It began with a lot of refernces to the sun and noble gases, but in the end, I decided to cut most of that out and just tell it like it is, just not naming the gas. I guess this means the poem isn’t really an enigma or riddle, but I can use it in the sequence of poems, so that’s okay.


The veteran rests on crumpled sheets.

Legs numb, he shuffles five feet west

to let his carers through the door.

He’s decades from the days he ran

through fields of gold, his lungs on fire.

His life drags on, devoid of any grace;

pain will increase, it can’t get less.

Best opt for sleep, leave sad snail’s pace

behind; let others clear away the mess.

Now, noblest element, is your time.

Suicide simple via an online search:

rubber piping, plastic hood and you.

Hood slipped over his head, a soothing hiss

ushers in a sweet and final peace.

Day 3 – Elegy in defence of an Epitaph in Hawarden Graveyard

 Neighbours once, and neighbours still – their earth brought

home from Flanders fields, from heat of Sindh,

or the Atlantic chill.  Falling asleep,

as in their mothers’ arms, they crossed the bar,

lie here under the trees, are scattered dust

and memories. They left us years ago.

Memories now marble, stippled with moss,

ancient and hallowed, shadowed by willow,

tenacious tree roots wrapping round their bones;

lichen stains their cold and silent stones.

Oh, to forget ambition; the stress and

rush of it, the fuss and fret and lust for

cash and stuff: power, mansion, riches, fame

all just selfish, rotten, worthless fluff. I

ache for an older way, desire that life

where a man kept faith with his close pals and home;

no flattering letters cut into his stone.

His epitaph be mine at my life’s end:

“Here lies an honest, inoffensive friend.”