Tag Archives: read write poem

meaning is optional


Below a synaesthete’s numeric rainbow
Daffodils thunder along the roads
Petulant stoats skittle sharply
Past a tigress, smoothing on suncream
And drooling lackadaisically into the dust
I jettison my heart and its whimpering satellite
And my forgotten core hollers with the joy
of metamorphosis


I really find it difficult to write poems that don’t make sense. Indeed I do tend to make my points a bit too explicitly, rather than gracefully (poetically?) allusive. So I found this week’s readwritepoem prompt to experiment with nonsense verse quite challenging.

I also drew on their wordle cloud prompt, and tried to jam together some surreal images… at every step trying to resist my mind’s tendency to try and make some sense out of it all.  It was surprisingly hard!

I wouldn’t claim the result has any particular artistic merit, but I’ve posted it as evidence of my struggle…  and because in the process I’ve learnt that a lot of my satisfaction in poeming comes from finding a pattern and making things fit together!


stories from the surface

a strange story, ours. One to baffle a historian
rubbing at his forehead in puzzled concern
squinting the fragments that alone are visible
(a meeting, a smile, a crisis, a proposal)
of what flowed beneath our surface
of the feelings too vital for analysis’ neat jail

childstrong, unfamiliar with daily routine’s jail
you were too fleet of foot to be caught by a historian
holographic depths playing in your surface
head ever turning to follow some new concern
darting round life’s questions with your own proposal
and in your dancing you made the music visible

and I, once so bound to what was visible
saw you offer me the key to my jail
eyebrows tipping in an infinite proposal
(can you calculate that angle, historian?)
and suddenly there was an end to old concerns
as the world opened up its fractal surface

immersed in wonder, who would choose to surface
when through love new dimensions become visible
a universe more profound than others’ concern –
their whisperings the bars of the broken jail
mouthing the advice of the historian
that teaches us to fear an unusual proposal

and then suddenly you rejected my proposal
told me cruelly that I was merely surface,
as dry and empty as the pages of a historian,
words that blamed me for seeing only what was visible
words that kicked my heart into a writhing jail
words that saw selfishness in my sincerest concern

and now I see the wisdom of others’ concern
but cannot regret I accepted your proposal
for now as I walk once more through my jail
I stroke the pearls I brought back to the surface
sole souvenir of the magic only darkly visible
to the wisest and most thorough historian

(we are all historians, tied to the visible
entranced by the concerns of the surface
dreaming in our jails of strange proposals)

A tough challenge this week from read write poem. As if writing my first sestina wasn’t tough enough, the crucial six words that repeat at the end of every line were to be generated randomly. I ended up with – concern, proposal, jail, surface, visible, historian. (My original list had “toast” but I decided I really couldn’t make that work, so I gave myself a joker!).

It was tricky because most of these words (particularly jail and historian) have few alternative meanings, which makes it hard to keep using them in a different way each verse. I did allow myself plurals occasionally but tried to keep them to a minimum.

I rather like the result… it has some personal echoes but tells its own story.

Ochre afternoon

Ochre afternoon sifts as dry as daydreams
Dim horizon lies brittle-hard as bone
Just shadows play – just echoes laugh and scream
Who hears my aching heart singing alone?

Hoop and hopscotch memories are all washed out
Bleached arcades will not echo to my voice
Tears of ripped up rainbows fail in the drought
My soul weeps quietly at the end of choice

Ghosts have no shadows by night or day
Yet creepier far than the midnight hour
Are these sad streets where only shadows play
A childhood shorn of youth’s maturing flower

No living warms these streets we used to know
Just empty dreams that faded long ago.

Thanks to Christine for sharing the image above , “Melancholy and Mystery of a Street,” by De Chirico, which triggered this poem – this is all part of a read write poem prompt where various people shared different poems, pictures or songs that have inspired them.

Sorry to share two melancholy poems in a row… things are basically fine but I just need to work a few sad reflections out of my mind!

Man in my mind

gvvic-drawing-of-torso-statman in my mind
when I find you
be kind and say
in what way I
have strayed in
imagining –
for in dreams I
invent wildly.
what minds devise
it is wise to
revise and see
if it be real
or merely hope.
I will cope – shed
no moping tear-
if the feared truth
appears swiftly
before the dream
is sweetened by
habit’s lies and
you my dream-mate
kindle hate in
my aching soul
– for the sole cause
of so much pain
is refraining
from claiming truth.

This poem responds to two prompts – firstly the image prompt from readwritepoem, which set me thinking about how we create images of people in our mind that can be divorced from reality. And secondly the Miss Rumphius Poetry Stretch, which made use of the challenging climbing rhyme form, which has lines of 4 syllables with a rhyme scheme that looks like this:

X B X C… and so on

It’s an intriguing form and I enjoy the challenge of trying to fit what I want to say into such a difficult structure. I find I always want to add another couple of lines because I’ve not managed to fit what I wanted into the previous ones… but strangely the end result feels quite compact!

Monkey mind

Chattering, wriggling, niggling
The monkey on my shoulders
Can’t keep still

You’re too lazy…
Your dreams are foolish fantasies…
They’ll never happen…

Why bother trying?
Your mind is too blunt…
Will too weak…

Thought after thought
chases its tail – restless, futile
Lost in undergrowth

Remember when you…
And when you failed to…
It’ll happen again…

Only if they…
Or if you can avoid…
But what if…

You ought to…
Why can’t you ever stop…
You really must…

Pen against paper
Whispers a subtle lullaby… until
the monkey sleeps

The nagging voices
The ghosts of old memories
Fall sweetly silent

And the mind
No longer monkey-scattered

For me there is a real magic in writing. Somehow it focusses me, calms me, and allows me to focus very clearly and purely on something. Sometimes so much that I forget to eat, or ignore the fact that my feet are getting cold and I ought to put slippers on.

When I first started blogging my mind was churning with endless thoughts and reflections on my old relationship. Hopes and fears and if-only’s made the space in my head feel untidy and uncomfortable. But writing settled down the churn a bit, allowed me to take individual strands and explore them until they stopped bothering me. So that I could move forward, rather than round and round in circles.

And when I saw the prompt on readwritepoem, to write a poem about being in the moment, I wanted to find a way to convey this feeling. I’ve also tried my hand at a lune chain for the first time. You can read how other poets have responded to the same prompt here.

Oh, and the photo is one I took a few weeks ago – her face seems so innocent that it seems unfair to attach her to this poem, but I couldn’t resist sharing it. And the monkey mind often pretends to be sweet, innocent, and on our side!

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.