Tag Archives: fear

alchemy of flame

lost in a labyrinth of mirrors
the lives I chose not to live
tease me with their gold-red glitter
and against their glazed silence
the cries of long-faded passion echo
suffering and joy indistinguishable

where is the thread to guide me?

I have been seeking that tantric alchemy
that transforms the bitter almond tang
of old love’s pain into rich bright mead
now the drink simmers before me
its scent brims with sweet intoxication
saying wisdom has tempered the poison

does temptation cloud my seeing?

in the crucible metal shivers and curdles
before melting in consummation
to be shaped by the whim of the vessel
into which it once chose to throw itself
the first hot breath of that forging
traces my skin with sensual intent

should I give myself to the fire?

This started with a readwritepoem prompt about other lives… and took off in an unexpected direction.

The photo is Goblet of cognac, originally uploaded by Andrejs Jegorovs.



When I watch myself reflected in your eyes
Why do I see an ocean, surging deep?

What is it that makes you fear to set sail?
My waters run deep – but they are not cruel.
I caress many shores – yet endlessly return
with the constant loyalty of the tides.

I am no foam-born goddess. Just a woman
who knows her light too well to hide in fear
The wave-glitter is not a stabbing searchlight
Just my mind’s joy calling you to dance with me.

Meantime, my loneliness is oceans-wide
salty with my tears of longing for a man
who can surf the rip-curl of my beating heart
and come safe to the haven of my embrace.

Why do I see you staring like a grown man
clutching waterwings in a clammy hand?


The photo is Mermaid in the Ocean, originally uploaded by snuglyteaddybear2007.

I want a shell…

Once I thought it was strong and good
to drift naked through the world
making a virtue of vulnerability
a naturist beach of honesty
And I thought it was weak and timid
to crave a shell to hide my softness

Yet the wind is cold and the salt sea bites
and seagulls hungrily circle
And everyone needs a shell at times.

I want a shell that is light as a bubble
that does not weigh down my dancing

I want a shell that is strong as diamond
that protects me when beaks attack

I want a shell as transparent as crystal
with curtains I can close and open

I want a shell that fits me perfectly
that neither cramps nor outpaces my growth

I want a shell that allows my light to shine out
and still protects it from being drowned

And I want a shell where I can sit and sift
all the wonders of the worldwide ocean.


This poem is a response for the call from shoretags- the hermit crab poetry housing project, which Dana (from mygorgeoussomewhere) has been working on. It kicked off a poem which develops some themes from earlier in this blog (e.g. my posts on masks and fears) about getting the right balance between protection and openness.  The poem started with just the last 6 stanzas… which do rather stand alone, but I felt it needed some sort of prelude to put all that in context.

The lovely photo is blue shell, originally uploaded by peteypatriot.

What we thought was true…

We thought it was a sign, the sudden
shattering of the sky. The screaming prophets
scrying doom in lint balls scraped from the darkest corners
of their mystic pockets.

We thought it was a sign, the flying out of orbit
of the world; but maybe it was just a storm becalmed
in a cup of coffee, sipped by normality on the fields
of Armageddon.

We thought it was a sign. Yet in the street
slow traffic still gangles past the doors and windows,
fast bolted against the ominous black sea
of superstitious feathers.

We thought it was a sign, but the crones tell us
it’s not the sky above us we should fear.
Instead, we should fear our own unstable witness
of this unwilling moment.

We thought it was a sign. But later – if later comes –
we will know it was only the skreeling of fear
prophesying its own dreadful fulfilment in the confusion
of our lonely hearts.

This started life as a chain poem on the poetry collaborative. 14 poets each contributed a line, and we were then invited to do our own revisions of the original draft. This is my revision – click here to see the original poem and links to other people’s revisions. Many thanks to  Jo, Dana, Leslie, Rethabile, Dave, Nathan, Blythe, Christine, Susan, Whirling DervishSchmutzie, Kay, and Jessica for their inspiring creativity!

Speaking out… and listening

How do you get the right balance between speaking out for yourself, and being open to what others say?

I have a tendency to be far too open to the opinions of my friends, too sensitive, too willing to take them seriously regardless of whether they make sense or are fair. I forget that people have their own reasons for saying what they do, and often these reasons have nothing to do with me. Sometimes I’m so busy contemplating what others have said that I ignore what I’m thinking or feeling. 

It leaves me very vulnerable to the opinions of the people I trust. I often get to a point where I trust their opinions far more than my own, which is unhealthy. This sort of trust led to be me being deeply hurt by the things my ex said as he was falling apart. Because I believed him when he was describing my weaknesses, to the extent that those weaknesses became real where they didn’t exist, or worse where they did exist. Believed him when he said that my fears were all from my side, had no basis in reality and that I shouldn’t expect him to help me deal with them. Believed him when his “energy readings” were giving him completely misleading perceptions of me and my intentions.

Of course it eventually did become clear to me that his perceptions of me were deeply influenced by his own turmoil. But why did it take me so long to see this? And when I did challenge his views, why did I do it so mildly and quietly, rather than fighting back to defend myself?

To some extent there’s always a degree of fear in speaking up for yourself. But it’s more than that.  Why do I not trust my instinctive and emotional reactions? Why am I so afraid of getting angry with people? Why am I so reluctant to challenge other people’s views of me and things important to me? Partly because I have very little experience of doing so successfully. Partly because I genuinely don’t like to hurt others. Partly because I like to find compromises, intellectual truces where we can all be right.

But I know that I have changed. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t listen to yourself, when you allow yourself to make one compromise too many. I’ve realised that this is a way of shielding your own beliefs from arguments that might change your mind. I still prefer to speak with a voice that is gentle, and the rhetoric of snark is very foreign to me. But I am learning to be firm. To insist. To question. To demand. To respect others by disagreeing with them, rather than by tolerating them. To speak out as well as listen.


I wander lost in the maze of my life
Not knowing which way I want to go
Not knowing how to get there if I did
Not even knowing if it’s already too late
If the choices I’ve taken so far mean
That some of the exits I might hope to find
Have already been blocked long ago.

It’s dark down here between the walls
Lonely too. Sometimes I see others passing
Eagerly following their Ariadne threads
But when I seem to find a thread of my own
It vanishes into a dead end, leaving me
Crashing headlong into the blank wall
With the force of my enthusiasm.

Some days I sit still, unable to face
Even the simplest choice of forking paths.
Sometimes there are better days,
When I stride out positively. But it’s hard,
Being so wearily lost for so long,
To keep starting again, seeking new hope
And losing it again in the maze of my life.

But though the maze is infinite and dark
I am not trapped in a prison cell
Still I have the power to walk
To try to create out of confusion and fear
A path out into sunlight that I have found.
It’s dark down here between the walls
But still my hopeful feet keep walking.

I wrote this in a dark time a few months ago, but decided it was too depressing to publish. I revisited it again while going through old drafts, and thought that it did capture something very real to many people in this day and age. With the addition of the last, more verse, I feel it’s worth sharing with the world!

Awkward doubts – two poems

Awkward questions

I was once a rather quiet sceptic.
Tolerant of others’ cherished illusions,
(even those that seemed rather septic)
and unwilling to provoke confusion.
Why should I dampen their enthusiasm
with awkward questions and doubts
that might perhaps reveal the chasm
between what their faith made them shout
and what, meanwhile, I quietly thought.
But it always seemed that their credulity
was far too easily bought.
And having once let faith make a fool of me,
I know that faith that’s blind is no harmless charm
and I’ve heard too often of beliefs having effects that are fatal.
(If you doubt that belief can do active harm
Consider Nicaragua’s mortality rates – maternal and pre-natal).
So I find I must, politely but firmly, refuse
to tolerate sermonising in dissenting silence
(however good may appear the sermon’s news)
And so, without resorting to violence
I now ensure my doubts get said.
I try not to let dogma thrive uninterrupted,
or tacitly permit narrow-mindedness to spread.
And though it can sometimes seem disruptive,
I won’t believe someone’s words just because
they claim that they have seen the light.
When someone preaches fanatically about the wonders of Oz
I’d rather mention their emerald specs than be dishonestly polite!


Doubt and fear

Even when my eyes were damp with tears
You wouldn’t hold me close. Left me lonely.
I, the sceptic who wanted to believe in you.

For you feared my doubts would interfere
With the strange things you needed to believe.
You, who told me I was afraid of what was true.

But it was not my awkward doubts, but your tearing fears
That in the end were fatal to our love. How we grieved!
We, who had not imagined the pain our love could turn into.

And so you rejected me, and disappeared
To chase your illusions uninterrupted. With only
They who would not challenge your strange world view.

Mere differences of opinion can’t tear friends or lovers apart
It is only fear that has the power to choke the loving heart.


These two poems were written for the Friday Five at Poefusion – to write a poem including the words sceptic, awkward, uninterrupted, fatal, damp.

The first one is roughly clerihewish – deliberately using clumsy or eccentric rhymes and odd line lengths, which seemed to support the idea of awkwardness. The reference to Nicaragua was inspired by this article.

The second poem is more or less a sonnet – though the rhyme scheme (ABC ADC ADC ABC EE) isn’t typical. And I’ve thrown in a pronoun pattern too. I did wonder whether it would be better to use just the first twelve lines without the “moral” at the end – what do you think?

Though they may seem very different in mood, there is a definite connection between the events in the second poem and the attitude expressed in the first.