Tag Archives: poem

Poem: The use of cauldrons

My cauldron will brew for a year and a day

Which is to say, forever.

No child slave labour,

No relentless using of the elderly

Never permitted to retire to ease.

Mine is not that sort of cauldron.

 

My children will eat from it,

The dark ones and the fair,

The nimble of mind, foot or finger,

And those slower in their ways.

All are beautiful to me and all shall be fed.

 

Some will say “must we have peas again?”

And “Mine’s got lumpy bits in it”

And “I don’t like it.”

They will eat the sweet and the sour,

The smooth, the chewy.

 

What comes from my cauldron is life.

None will have blinding flashes

Or burning heads

But I will feed them my potions,

Day by day.

Feed them with love, soil food, soul food.

Earth made, and nurturing.

I will answer what hunger I can.

 

This cauldron does not crack, or poison.

It offers everyday gifts.

Inspiration you can live with,

Ladled steaming into many bowls.


How to read poetry

Poetry, especially when offered in the first person, can seem profoundly intimate. I think it’s the most intense form of word expression available if you choose to use it that way. That intensity can help fuel the impression that the poetry is an exposing of self.

I suspect the whole business is further complicated by what we might end up reading and hearing – professional contemporary poetry is rare. The industry believes that people no longer buy poetry. As a consequence, what any of us are most likely to encounter at slams or online or in poetry groups, is people who do very much seem to be writing from the heart. Poetry as catharsis, as healing process, cheaper than therapy.

When I posted ‘my facebookfriend has unfriended me’ a bit back, there were sounds of condolence, ‘sorry you’ve had this experience’. There wasn’t a specific experience underlying it, and the emotional energy came from a different set of recent experiences that had annoyed me, but which I couldn’t write about in a way I found useful or amusing. Alchemical transformations in the writing process turn original experience into something that makes sense.

The ‘I’ of the poet can be as much a device as a story author speaking in first person. The ‘voice’ of a poet can be as much a construction as any other form of art. How much do we read the poet in the poem? I know I do it, encountering the poetry of friends, sometimes knowing about some bits they’ve drawn from experience, inferring something of the heart and soul where perhaps what I’ve seen is craft and inspiration.

A poem can be true, without being any kind of literal truth.

A poet can be honest and authentic, without revealing anything of their own story.

But to what extent do we, as readers and audience, need to feel that the poet is indeed hefting up a bit of their heart, or putting a slice of their soul in front of us?


My facebook friend has unfriended me: A Poem

I am so old I remember when unfriend was not a word,

We fell out, fought and argued, we stopped talking and moved on.

Liking took more effort than a little finger movement,

We shared clothing, books and boyfriends, films and bad ideas.

 

My facebook friend has unfriended me but given me no word,

To argue or explain and this puts me in a limbo

Between anger and confusion asking what was it I did?

What was unacceptable, which statement proved inedible

What ghastly tales have they been told by former facebook friends

Who should have better things to do since they too unfriended me.

 

Those we cast aside so easily with just a little click

Breed resentment in the dark net that lives inside our minds.

Hate-reading each other’s blogs for stimulants to anger highs,

Our most self-righteous anger yet, heady and delicious.

 

My facebook friend has unfriended me – I think it is as well.

Had I known they were this sort of soul, the sort to slink away,

The cowardly, the silent, the gone without a word,

I would have unfriended them myself, instead.

 

I don’t need that kind of shit in my life.

 

Keep my arsy moral highground by spelling out the problem

Old style unfriendly to send them on their way.

I didn’t need those likes or their empty validations

There remain thousands more people I have never met

Who are willing to send me kitten photos.


In spite of A.A Milne – a poem

The King asked the Queen

And the Queen asked the dairymaid

Could we have some butter,

For the royal slice of bread?

 

The maid asked the cow,

And the cow was not obliging.

I am tired of exploitation,

Is what the bovine said.

 

And while we’re on the subject,

What is it with monarchy

What kind of man can’t sort out

What he puts upon his bread?

 

The cow said, he’s a patriarch

I find him most annoying,

Look how he makes the Queen

Sort all the daft things in his head.

 

And why are you a dairymaid?

I think we should be asking.

The workshy Queen has hands of white

Your busy paws are red.

 

So tell the King we’ve gone on strike,

We will not do his bidding

We want fairness and equality

And better lives instead.

 

If he wants some sodding butter

Well, he’s got so much of everything,

He should try some of his money

On his royal slice of bread.


A poem about poets

The Poets have Gone Out

 

The Poets have gone to the hills

Free from domestic nuisance and noise

They can speak of deeper, manly things:

Literature, philosophy, their own most recent work.

 

Later, in letters they will reflect on

Each other’s excellent, worthwhile thoughts.

Later again, academics will delve,

Ponder these exchanges, write papers on

The insights, teach students, build careers.

 

All the while, the wives of The Poets

Feed mouths, clean, mend, sew and tend.

Darn the socks of Poets

Make the breakfast of Poets

Raise the offspring of Poets

 

No record remaining of what they say

Once The Poets have gone out for the day.

 

(I was thinking very much about Victorian and early twentieth century writers when I wrote this. And a line from T.S. Eliot’s literary criticism that haunts me about how poetry should be dry, hard and manly, and Robert Graves’ obsession with the idea that men are poets and women are to embody the Goddess and be muses, and an array of other such annoyances in that vein.)


Poem: Encounter

Eye contact.

Shy cautious checking

Each other out.

Checking for danger,

For interest.

We’re very still.

I offer; you gaze.

When you move

It is sudden.

Fluttering, hovering close.

I do not breathe.

You do not stay.

We try again,

The same dance.

I offer, you assess.

This time you move in

Bold, certain, landing.

Into my waiting hand.

Onto my skin.

Eye contact.

Still cautious, checking,

Your feet so small,

Your tiny weight,

A miracle on my fingers.

I do not breathe,

And when you

Have taken grain enough,

You fly away.


Thirteen treasures – a poem

I dreamed there were thirteen treasures in Britain,

Not the wealth of feudal kings, nor yet their power,

No weapons of war, no tools for control.

 

I saw the generous loom

Taking but a small handful of threads

To warm and clothe a humble back.

 

The log that burns and yet remains.

Come near it and find warmth

Though the winter be long and harsh.

 

A seed that is a garden, plant it now,

Harvest its bounty in the days ahead.

Cause the barren soil to flourish.

 

The wooden cup, hand-turned cherry

Fill it as you please for any draught

Brings ease for every sorrow.

 

Honey sweet candle, never smoking,

Burns but sets naught else aflame.

Lights the dark night of the soul.

 

The golden sheep shares wool to warm

You all, gives milk and comfort

Inspires kindness in all who meet her.

 

An amulet of Goddess power,

Protector of child bed and labour,

Safety to the wearer and her babe.

 

A touch of the toadstone eases all

Relieves the aches and pains of life,

Keeps none from death’s final blessing.

 

The ever full cauldron of porridge

Creamy thick and filling bellies,

No hunger unsated, no body refused.

 

The heroic axe, tree felling in one blow,

Drawing shape from wood at need,

Never will it bite flesh or taste blood.

 

The singing kettle, making golden tea

From water alone. Soul feeding,

Hope brewing, reviving the weary.

 

The wooden spoon, kitchen enchanting,

Stirring friendships, celebrations,

The feast that makes community.

 

Thirteen treasures. I would find them in kitchens,

At hearths, the magical hiding in plain sight

Wondrous only when we share this bounty with each other.


To the beautiful, unobtainable beloved: A poem

Longing writes poetry.

Contentment spends an hour more

In the duvet.

 

Longing burns and strains.

Contentment snuggles

Asks for little.

 

Longing relishes the bittersweet

Taste of its own frustration.

Contentment potters about.

 

Longing speaks with

A scorched, parched tongue.

Contentment doesn’t say much.

 

If I put my lips

To your skin

There are no words needed.

 

Couplets for the uncoupled.

Stanzas rather than stains.

Meter in the absence of meeting.

The cool comfort of rhymes.

 

Longing writes of love.

Contentment gets its kit off.


Hymn to an unexpected otter

An otter at a bus station

Is clearly in want of a punchline.

 

He might have been whimsy personified,

With top hat and cane, descending.

We knew he’d alight in Stroud,

The place is a byword for such fancies.

 

He might have been a metaphor,

Wild nature, back from the brink,

Dark pelt in yellowed street light,

Away to the secret urban stream.

 

The otter at the bus stop

Speaking to life’s absurdities,

Uncertainties, and little wonders

Before an elegant exit.

 

He may have been a God

In water resistant fur,

Sprung from the fabric of night

To re-enchant us all.

 

An otter at the bus station

Waiting for his punchline.

Probably three will turn up at once.

 

(This is based on something that happened – it was definitely a dog otter based on size, which is why I’ve gendered him, he was indeed very close to the bus station in Stroud, just passing through, as dog otters tend to do. We were very close, briefly, and it was wholly surprising.)


Poem: Other Voices

Let us speak briefly

Of the Shining Ones.

Silver are their tongues,

Pearls fall from their lips.

All who behold them

Have their hearts beguiled.

 

Let us speak in turn

Of the dark siblings.

Their words are broken glass.

Dead things sometimes fall

Out of their mouths.

Terrible their tales.

Jagged truth.

No compromises.

The stories no one wants to hear.

Hag words and tomb speech.

They do not write love sonnets,

For when they talk of love

Blood pours from their lips.

 

All who behold them

Remember, regret.

Few will embrace them.

To love those whose tongues

Never bear honey,

Is to heft up your guts,

Set fire to your soul.

Burning in secret, becoming Them

Becoming Other

Choosing to be unpalatable

To any mouth that brings forth pearls.

 

(Dedicated, with great affection to Lou Pulford, Cat Treadwell, Lorna Smithers and Sheila North, speakers of things that are vital, but generally unspeakable.)