Virtual workshop and a poem

I joined a virtual poetry workshop yesterday run by the wonderful Tonic and wrote this:


Singing soft chimes under her breath, she
kisses each ear of wheat, borrows
yellow from sunflower petals before

smearing each cloud with evening, takes
indigo from the blackberries, then stops,
not satisfied with her canvas. Sighing, she
grabs a cherry blossom and erases the day
showing the countless stars behind, waiting.

It was an acrostic and pastoral workshop. Working within those constraints was really challenging but really useful. By limiting myself, it challenged the language and patterns I usually fall into when making poetry.

One of the very few advantages of lockdown has been the proliferation of live-streamed poetry events. It means I’ve been able to attend a few more than I would do normally and from a wider area. I took part in an online slam the other day with the hosts based in Swindon, which would be too far for me to go for a night in ordinary life.

It’s a bitter blessing. Nothing beats being in a room with other people but this is the next best thing.

Napowrimo Day 28 – Guilt

The sky is a confusion of clouds
whereas just yesterday you could
see the galaxy spin. We are out
of coffee once again, the internet
is often on the blink and helicopters
are swarming day and night in hives.
The oceans are swelling, drowning
small coastal towns. The years are
now dandelion seeds in a gale.
I blink. Ten more have flown away.

All of this feels like my fault
somehow. I offer my hands as
an apology. You close my fingers,
pass them back to me, a gift.

Prompt was “Apologise or don’t” from AmyKayPoetry

Napowrimo 2020 Day 26- We Are Mostly Empty

As we tumbled through the void,
everything was calm and peaceful
if you ignored the constant drone
of spycraft. The air was pink
electric and crackled with potential

There was something struggling
within it, something hidden, unseen.

It shimmered in the air, made of
nothing at all, blinking on and off,
a broken sunbeam. It had walked for years,
over burning deserts, stumbling over
broken glass and sharp shingle beaches.
Whispers and noises from other dimensions
combined, a palimpsest of imagined voices.

As I surrendered, my head filled with static.
I forget the boundaries between us. We
became one living pulsing mass that screamed
and stamped and roared as one. Our teeth sparked.
We tasted foil. We heard a great tearing of metal,
groaning and wrenching, the stars screaming
at each other. We saw the strings of the universe
clear and shimmering, draped in golden silk.

Prompt was to “Look back through your old writing notebooks and make a collage poem from discarded lines and free writes.” from Apples and Snakes. I adjusted some for tenses and added in a few connectives, but mostly this is from my notebook. Wish I knew what this was about or what the lines meant when I wrote them down.

Napowrimo 2020 Day 25- Some Advice

I wouldn’t open that door if I were you.
Last year I stored the Atlantic ocean
behind it, stuffed it into every corner.
I only just managed to close the latch.
If opened, the room will fill with brine,
the house as well, the streets of this
sea-level town all submerged and we will
sink down to rest on the carpet below.

I probably wouldn’t open that door either.
for you will see a short corridor, leading
to another door, which leads to a short
corridor, leading to yet another door-
you get my point. After weeks you may
turn back, to be faced with the same
endless recursion of impossible doors.

That’s where I store my collection of
nebulae and black holes, that one there
leads straight to the hurricane hangar.

Only the last one is out of bounds,
the wooden door a foot high, there
above the skirting board in the corner.
I keep the key around my neck on a chain.
It’s alarmed, but you wouldn’t know it.
That’s where I keep my worries. Inside,
a cupboard of ink-stained shadows,
paper torn into confetti, a whistling,
quiet and high, with no visible origin.

Prompt became the opening line- “I wouldn’t open that door if I were you” from Apples and Snakes

Napowrimo Day 24 – Ripples

“It’s been a while,” the water whispers
as I enter, inch by inch,
“but what’s a few million years between
friends? I know why
you abandoned me for land. I forgive you”

Every part of my body
is held so tenderly as I submerge my head,
the cold slowing all
anxieties. I realise I have always been a wave,
never the same from
one moment to the next, always dissolving
into surf. I watch
my worries float away, turn into foam.

I kick forward,
make the first stroke and the water murmurs
“Welcome home”

Prompt was “Why are you swimming and how long are you in the water?” from the Poetry from the time of being alone group. I love swimming and miss it a lot.

Napowrimo 2020 Day 21- Confessions

I know they have secrets to spill,
given everything they’ve witnessed.
I’ve tried different approaches,
asking “How are you?” directly or
“Did you see the game last night?”
as an icebreaker. They never respond,
remain stubbornly shy. Perhaps
I have not found the right topic.

Some nights the floorboards creak
out curses as they shrink or expand.
At times, the computer sings softly
to itself, a single note to clarify
the air. I have heard these stories
too often, consider their secrets dull.

I know the walls understand more
than they let on, but I am unnerved
by their lack of reply. “It’s OK,”
I whisper, late at night, palm on
the cool bricks “You can trust me.”
They remain speechless. All I hear
is my own breath, slow and patient,
and outside the persistent muttering
of winds, yearning to find a way in.

Prompt was “The silent walls” from LemondaisyPoetry on Instagram

Napowrimo 2020 Day 19- The Movement of Boulders

Given the kindness and cruelty of time,
a majority forgot those years where
the tilt of the earth increased. Only
a degree. Or more. Scientists spoke,
we didn’t listen, lost in our own panic,
sick with adrenaline. Maybe others
were able to convince themselves
by repetition: It wasn’t that bad. We
pulled together. It wasn’t that bad.

What they omit is the months of still
night, a numbness that never left,
the dread- this situation was static,
we had buried our normality with axes
under the ice floes that spread arms
down from the north, over city towers,
consuming mountains, farms and futures.
A new ice age. Mostly I woke, limbs numb,
wondering how I would endure the day.

I always did. And given enough days,
even the glaciers melted and receded,
leaving behind new altered landscapes,
sun painted gifts for our patience.

Prompt was to “Write a poem including the words ‘forgot’, ‘maybe’ and ‘tilt’” from the Poetry in the Time of Being Alone Group

Napowrimo 2020 Day 18 – The Return

When I landed I felt the weight
of myself rush back into my body
like water through an open dam.
I was thankful for no longer
being a raindrop. I saw the sky
as an ocean we swim through daily.

When I landed I felt the spinning
of the planet under my shaking feet,
a constant treadmill, a dizziness.
I understood it was always this way.

When I landed I felt the breeze
stroke my skin and breathed in
all the blooms of the world.
For a second I heard the voices
of the stratosphere and spoke
in reply with quick exhales.

When I landed those dreams ended.

When I landed I left a part of myself
floating but never falling. I longed
to release myself from gravity again,
to leap and sublimate this limited body,
join the air currents and become diffuse.

Prompt was to “use anaphora” from AmyKayPoetry. I didn’t quite use it correctly as it’s meant to be successive phrases but I liked the end result.

Napowrimo 2020 Day 17- Waiting

My former body is discarded over
a plastic chair, abandoned to
numbness. Now I am these walls,
the vending machine in the corner
humming its constant mantra,
the flicker of that strip light
spelling out a morse code psalm,
the runes of mould creeping over
each ceiling tile. Aeons vanish.

I try to affect some small change.
Three thousand years or thereabouts
pushing at the door, another hundred
attempting to disturb the leaflets
which remain stubbornly motionless.
So this is eternity, the room thinks,
still, peaceful and yet repellent.

Prompt was “The Waiting Room” from Apples and Snakes on Instagram

Napowrimo 2020 Day 16 – Surface Tension

Between worlds the shine of the sea,
the light that marks the dividing line
between our world and our neighbours.

We see reflections of what we could be-
our limbs rippling, our throats opening
our eyes wide and dark, our skin slick
like oil. The salt crusting over our lips,
covering bare shoulder blades which almost
poke through the skin, sodium crystals
becoming scales. Our laughter now visible,
rebounding off submerged landmasses.

How we, stranded above, long to let
the glimmer into our lungs, breathe in
the perfection of each gentle wave.

We skim the surface of that blinding
mirror with cupped hands, searching
for entry. Clouds gradually gather.
Our parallel selves fade into foam.

Prompt was “The blinding mirror” from LemonDaisyPoetry

Napowrimo 2020 day 15 – Late fees

CW: death

Your library is now scattered.
Yellowing paperbacks you found
by chance in second-hand markets,
hardbacks with messages inscribed
on the first page, the much read,
the dogeared, the pristine copies,
the underlined, all now are removed
from your shelves and returned back
to the world. Those words were always
loaned. Given the absence of you,
the catalogue that arranged the spines,
we dispersed piles to charity shops,
disintegrated each memory and each
sentimental gift. Your neurons too,
were always borrowed, now separated
into atoms and thrown back into
the wild universe, to be reused or
discarded or recombined into new
words, new combinations, new life.

Prompt was “object permanence” in the Poetry in the time of being alone group. Halfway through!

Napowrimo 2020 Day 14 – Modified

Purple clouds transform and jitter
over the emerald sky. My limbs
are sprawled over silicone grass
as I observe butterflies flit in
and out of existence. Everything

is as it should be. Idly, I conduct
the morning, my arm leaving blurs
behind like a paintbrush. Memories
of another world, similar to this
one but seen through a petrol spill,
congeal at the edges of my vision.

I shake my head free. Leave me here,
in this field suffused with scents
of burnt cinnamon, with the chimes
of those distant crystalline waves.

A soft rain falls, melting trees.


Prompt for today was Purple Clouds from LemondaisyPoetry on Instagram

Napowrimo 2020 Day 12- How to hear the hills

You will need a clear night, far
from the city’s illuminated fears,
when the dust from the milky way
almost floats down around you.

You will need patience. The lucky
ones wait their whole lives just
to hear a single deep syllable,
one that echoes through their body,
into the dark caverns of the self,
shaking the silver wings of secrets.

Understand the hills are fickle,
there is never any guarantee.

Take your thickest coat. The nights
are unforgiving. Take a thermos,
for a link to your waking life.
Walk across the fields, to the
centre of the silence, where the
earth dreams. Place your hands
gently down onto the damp soil.
Slow your heartbeat and wait.

Prompt was to “Write a poem that gives instructions” from AmyKay Poetry

Napowrimo 2020 Day 11 – Lies the television told me

Potential pervades-
the message of every saturated
Saturday morning American import,
a call to action to try and fix
a world held together by outlines
and acetate cells, giving children
the promise of powers, illusions
of movement, simplified solutions.

Not every problem can be solved
with laser beams or mind control.
Villains are not obvious, no dark
suits, no laughter or eyes glowing
red like dead stars. They live
among us, changing each second, by
each action, no masks but sometimes
transforming into heroes then back.

The background detail is never
deliberate, never foreshadows
future episodes or story arcs.

Potential does not always pervade.
My mouth opens, closes, but the dub
is lazy and no sound comes out.

Prompt was “Reuse refurbish, recycle! Take the last line of yesterday’s poem and use it as the first line of today’s poem” from Poetry in the time of being alone” group