Category Archives: hoping


head heavy on the soft void of my pillows
I think about hope, as my tired mind
tries to construct pleasant futures
out of the broken fragments of old dreams

yet staring me in the face, (interrupting dreams
with all the subtlety of an alarm clock’s frantic buzz)
is the knowledge that hopes, thwarted, bring pain
my eyes (still gritty from last night’s weeping)
squeeze shut again, looking for sweeter dreams

yet the sweeter the dream, the harder the waking
into a world that knows nothing of my dreams
why hope? why search? when finding nothing hurts so
and yet what point is living without searching or hoping?

with a sigh, I throw back the covers
stand up, begin to face the day

perhaps hope
is not dreaming
but simply taking one step
after another


Against the night

strong against the night, the lights shining
red on the dark river, a bridge spanning
bright through the cloud drift, Venus glinting
slow down old alleys, our steps straying
outfacing old hurts, my heart hoping


The photo is Thames River panorama at night, London, originally uploaded by David Bukach.

Forest soul, savannah soul

A child of forest-bound generations,
my mind cannot grasp the infinite savannah
with so many,
too many,

The kaleidoscope of futures spread before me
dazzle and confuse with their glitter.

A tossing of trees on gusts of hot wind
and days spent striving
to make arid fields verdant.

passionate harmony,
rapt faces.

Eyes close and tender
as I inhale
my soulmate’s soulbreath.

These and a thousand other fragments of imagination
flicker tantalisingly in a crystal ball fogged by endless clouds.
Predictive arcana are uselessly arcane.

The fresh-cut smells of fields beyond countless fences
Endlessly beckon me to sniff, and roll,
And take sampling sips
of each unique greenness,
abandon the nourishment of stability
to become
a conoisseur of variation.

Sometimes it seems the only choice I do not have
is to have less choices. My forest soul
yearns for the security of close horizons
familiar paths and landmark trunks.

Yet I have seen
the savannah stage perfectly set for migration
felt the seduction of beckoning distance
thirsted for the lushness of mirages

And so I cannot go back to simple days.
Could not bear to have my life and its choices
tethered among the options of a small village
like a blinkered horse.

So I go walkabout,
confused but hopeful,
on the infinite plains of
what lies before me.

This poem started as a writing practice from redravine and readwritepoem, two of my favourite sites – the challenge to spend ten minutes doing uncensored free writing on the topic of “What’s in front of me.” For those who are interested to follow this journey, here is the writing practice:

What’s in front of me – 10 minute WP

Kaleidoscope of options – so many things I could be doing. Right now a computer screen, an office, a scattering of papers and pens. A humming printer. A calendar marking out the deadlines that will shape my working life over the next few months.

But beyond that? I hope sometime to be on a stage again, in front of an audience, pouring out my dramatic soul. My voce finally working for me in a way I am happy with. And a lover so close in front of me that our eyes can do nothing but merge in that intimate stare that is so precious. Different countries, too, perhaps – bright skies, palm trees waving, the hot air of the tropical day. New cities, new people, new places. Lots of beautiful things in store.

There is a blankness too, a feeling of bewilderment at the choices spread out in front of me. No map. No ariadne thread through the labyrinth. It would be nice to be able to predict where I will be, what I will be doing – and most importantly how it will feel. But prediction’s eyes are blind.

Strange to think that for hundreds of years people didn’t have these dizzying choices. My mind is still the mind of someone whose choices were circumscribed, who did not leave their home village, married someone they grew up with, did their parent’s trade. Now the billions of the internet stretch out before me. People all over the world have read my words, seen my face, heard my voice… of all these billions of people how do I chose my friends. It was simpler when people lived in small communities where you knew everyone, and had to find some way to get along. Now the choices are dizzying, bewildering – they hurt and confuse the soul.

And having so many choices, we are hungry for perfection. It’s hard to settle down when there are so many other lawns that could be greener. Yet there is a limit to the number of fences we can jump over in our search – easy to become tired forever chasing a chimera.

And yet I know, in my deepest heart, that I will not settle for less than what I want. Perhaps my expectations are too high. But I think, rather, it’s that the costs look different. When you had to get married to survive as a woman, the cost of being picky might have been too high. But now there are so many other ways of surviving. I don’t need a relationship, so I have time to find the best one possible. I do need a job, but I can change what I am looking for, look for different options, find the solution that suits me best. And while I may not be able to make all my dreams come true, I can head towards them, and make them come true as far as possible. Even if not completely, then in part. And for that I am grateful for the choices in front of me, even if they are confusing, bewildering, sometimes dismaying.

The future before me is a step into the air, each time finding a foothold just as the foot comes down. A journey into possibility.

Once the time was up, I read it through again and felt that there were some images that would work well in a poem. And started writing:

I live in a world of dizzying choices
With a mind not used to navigating them
A mind built from generations whose choices
Were limited, local – simpler
Than the kaleidoscope of alternatives
That dazzle me now.

I see myself walking countless futures. Choosing friends and lovers from infinite…

Which was OK, but felt a bit pedestrian – I wanted to take it to a more metaphorical, poetic level. And then I remembered hearing accounts of tribes who had lived all their lives in forest, and when brought out of the forest were unable to process the distances involved because they were so unfamiliar with this perspective. Which seemed to fit the idea of bewilderment I was trying to convey. And so I went back to the beginning, and produced the poem with which I started this post.

Just to complete the exploration of the process, you may be interested to look at another poem I wrote a while ago, maze, which approaches a very similar theme with a much less positive tone.

Finally – the stunning photo that starts this post is by Horizon at flickr.

Of love, dreams… and frogs.

I’m fed up with the idea of kissing frogs in the hope they’ll turn into princes. It’s all part of the feminine myth that we need to go and change men – to tolerate them and reform them until we get our reward by changing them into a prince. I’ve had enough of the idea that I can solve someone else’s problems by setting aside mine. If someone can’t solve their own problems, or is at such a difficult stage in the process that they lash out at those around them, then no patience or love of mine can change them.

Which isn’t to say that I’m demanding a prince, either. One of my favourite of Robin McKinley’s retellings of the story of Beauty and the Beast ends with the beast not transformed into a prince, but remaining as a lovable Beast – as the heroine says, “I love my Beast, and would be very unhappy if someone were to take him away and leave me with a handsome stranger in his place”. People are flawed, and not fairytale perfect. And they deserve to be loved warts and all!

I want to find someone who is strong enough in themselves that their light shines through despite their flaws. Someone who will not squirt poison at me if I get too close or try to touch them the wrong way. Someone who I can love as they are without always living in hope of a magical transformation of those flaws. Someone who takes responsibility for his own problems, and does not try to take his pain out on me.

Is this a mad dream? It reminds me of the song Sapo Cancionero, about a toad adoring the moon – the message of the song is that life would be sad without illusions. And even if the dreams never come true, it is important to dream.

And yet I’m not just a toad with delusions of grandeur. By no means! I have come to know my own light, my own strength and attractiveness. There’s a strange contradictoriness in the feminine myths – as well as the woman who saves frogs through her kisses, we’re also encouraged to be both the moon (remote and pure and passively adored) and the adoring toad that looks up to the shining example of manhood in the sky above her. I’ve been trapped by both these myths simultaneously, and neither is at all helpful in having an authentic relationship.

I am not perfect, but neither am ugly or earthbound. I am a frog whose inner light shines like the moon. A light of inner strength and beauty that outshines the warts of my weaknesses and fears.

I want to fall in love with another frog whose inner glow outshines their warts. Not someone whose warts I need to ignore or transform, but which in some way are part of the lovable whole. Someone whose warts feel like my warts too.

And while I’m not going to sit by the pond waiting passively to find that frog, I’m also not going to settle for less. I’d rather hop around the swamp in an endless quest for the right frog than settle down in the mud with the wrong one.

Yes, life would be sad if lived without illusions. But it’s also important not to underestimate our own strength, and worth, and beauty. A frog, in its way, can be just as beautiful as the moon, so long as it is content to be itself.


This is another writing practice on a topic from red ravine – this week on frogs and toads. I was rather surprised by the direction it took me in.

The beautiful picture, which also appears in the youtube video of the song, is called Moon Viewing Frog by Hikari Hirose, and was loaded onto flickr by berczeller.


“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. To ”Why am I here?” To uselessness. It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.” Enid Bagnold


I don’t believe in miracles

Or at least, I’ve never seen one that struck me
As truly miraculous, beyond chance and doubt.

And where others see miracles
I see the chances of life
The vitality of thousands of interactions
Seen through the prism
Of the human wish to see patterns.

A wish to see the world
As a movie which we star in
Where divine gifts and mysterious forces
Bless or curse our path – with intent.

(like a puddle, thinking how perfectly
the hole around it
seems to have been made
to fit its unique contours)

I’m just an extra, enjoying my journey through the backstage of the world
It’s not about me, but I am me. And I enjoy what I see.

Who am I to say,
that the pattern you see
Is chance, is pure illusion?
It’s clear to me that’s all it can be
But I don’t want to hurt your dreams.
– though I will, if I think they will hurt you too

For there are people who exploit
This wish to believe –
Cold reading. Horoscopes. Psychological tricks.
Exploiting the wish to believe in miracles
To create a financial miracle of their own.

I have been hurt, too, by the illusions that others believe,
the special sensitivity they claimed to possess,
the fear-driven intuition they called extrasensory guidance.

I have nearly been killed by a driver who thought himself
Divinely protected and therefore able to take risks
With the lives of himself and his passengers

(It matters, oh how it matters, what we believe.
For what we believe shapes what we do and what we are.)

Is it a gift, to believe in miracles?
Is it deprivation, to believe they are not miraculous?

I don’t feel deprived… I just enjoy
The passing slideshow of the diverse earth
And take joy when my searching eye
Finds a special beauty in random chance.
Without making it more
Than a natural thing.

(The joy of rolling a double six
just when you needed it. Of drawing just that card
from the shuffled deck.

Almost more pleasing, for being random!)

Everyone is always at the centre of their own rainbow.
Not because of rainbows.
But because of humans being human.
Our creativity. Our hopes. The stories we tell.
These, if you like, are miracles I can believe in.

This poem-ish reflection was a response to a post over on red ravine, about miracles. I wrote in response:

I think it’s all about what you want to see. We are very good at finding patterns when we want to see them. Some people see the dot of earth on the iris… Others just random splashes. Others see a pointy-nosed mouse face looking out from her left collarbone…

Is it a gift to believe in miracles? Should sceptics like me butt in when people talk about them? I don’t know. I know people take a lot of comfort in miracles and strange coincidences.

But I’ve also been hurt by people who believed in things like this, who believed in signs and patterns relating to me when there was really no such pattern. At the end of the day, I think it does matter what we believe in. And for me, believing that such appearances are random chance rather than miraculous doesn’t actually take the comfort away.


Clouds make the sunlight more interesting

And the dark times in our lives make us appreciate the good moments even more.