A trio of triolets


To ride a bike today, a man must be
A hero or a fool. So which am I?
One thing that I can say with certainty:
To ride a bike today, a man must be
Gripped by great need – or why else willingly
Leave warmth behind for hard roads, hostile sky?
To ride a bike today, a man must be
A hero or a fool. So which am I?


The mistletoe hangs in the empty hall
And somebody is knocking at the door.
A year’s passed since you promised me you’d call.
The mistletoe hangs in the empty hall:
To let my hopes rise is to risk a fall;
And yet, what else have I been wishing for?
The mistletoe hangs in the empty hall
And somebody is knocking at the door.


He haunts the hedge; longdogs pad, patient, behind.
No intention of heading home hungry tonight.
With his eyes on the field and a kill on his mind,
He haunts the hedge; longdogs pad, patient, behind.
Wary, quick as the rabbits he’s hoping to find,
Checks the lamp, whets his knife in the fast-failing light.
He haunts the hedge; longdogs pad, patient, behind.
No intention of heading home hungry tonight.


For my final post before Christmas, I thought I’d experiment with a form I’ve never tried before. The triolet is rather haughtily dismissed in one of my books as ‘slight’, which I think is a little unfair. Originally, it was used for quite weighty subjects, but for reasons unclear it came to be a ‘light verse’ form, reserved for the frothy and the fanciful. I thought I’d try to redeem it, at least a little, and quickly discovered that it’s both more complex and more versatile than it first appears. The rhyme scheme is an interesting one – ABaAabAB – with the first two lines (AB) repeated at the end, the first line (A) popping up again as line 4, and only two rhymes for the whole thing. Having written one it seemed inevitable that I should write a trio of triolets, just to explore the possibilities. Since there’s no set metre for the triolet, the first two are in iambic pentameter, because I can’t help myself these days, while the third uses stressed syllables by way of a change. I shall definitely be writing in this form again.
I shall be off the grid for the next few days, so let me take this opportunity to wish every one of you a very happy Christmas, and a peaceful and joyous New Year. My heartfelt thanks, as always, for your encouragement and fellowship – God bless us, WordPress poets, every one. N.


Winter solstice



No. Darkness shall not rule the earth.
Though woods and fields lie still and cold
This day brings promise of rebirth;
The great wheel turns, a gift foretold.

Though woods and fields lie still and cold
The road leads back to life and light.
The great wheel turns, a gift foretold;
Hope blazes in midwinter’s night.

The road leads back to life and light;
Raise fire and song – Yule has begun.
Hope blazes in midwinter’s night;
We greet the great, unconquered sun.

Raise fire and song – Yule has begun.
This day brings promise of rebirth;
We greet the great, unconquered sun.
No. Darkness shall not rule the earth.


Haven’t written a pantoum for ages; its measured, rather portentous pattern of repeating lines seemed just right for a poem about the rolling of the year, and the long walk back to Spring that starts at 11.11 GMT tomorrow. Can’t wait! The line that ends the third stanza, and comes second-to-last in the final one, is a reference to the Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (‘Birthday of the Unconquered Sun’) which took place on 25 December: some claim our Christmas Day was chosen deliberately to coincide with, and thus suppplant, the old pagan rite. In much the same way, I’ve unashamedly borrowed the ancients’ lovely ringing words for my own purposes here. N.

Last stand

Gull war-band. Gutter-mouthed, they scream their scorn,
Sweep circles, swoop on broadsword wings, their cries
As rough as dockers’ hands; allegiance sworn
In fo’c’sle oaths, hate hardening their eyes.
Incongruous, the heron holds the roof
Against the rabble, pleading peace. But they
Are pitiless; won’t let him rest, aloof
And dignified. The mob will have its way.
There is no patience in them for the still
And patient soul: the kind who’ll watch the stream
For fish to rise; who feels no urge to fill
The days with noise; lives quiet, content to dream.
The gulls reclaim the airspace, as my mind
Flies with the heron, leaving them behind.


Inspired by actual events. Poor old heron – he did his best, jabbing away with that long neck and sharp beak of his, but the gulls (who had no more right to be here than he did, what with our being seventeen miles from the sea and all) weren’t having any of it and drove him off our neighbours’ rooftop with a concerted aerial assault. Discretion may be the better part of valour, but he still looked pretty fed up as he flapped away. The incident made me think about how unsympathetic the world can be towards we quieter, more contemplative types: noise and bluster and ‘attitude’ are much more highly prized, to the extent that ‘introvert’ has become a perjorative term. Anyway, this one’s for my unfortunate friend the heron: hope it’s peaceful on whichever pond or river he’s haunting now, and that the fishing is good. N.

Sonnet Cycle: The Field – Part 4

building site



The hips and haws hang heavy on the thorn;
Dew-silvered cobwebs glitter in the grass
Along my headlands. Fox and badger pass
Like footpads, hastened by a scarlet dawn.
My fleeting furlough ends: a settled spell
Marks me for autumn sowing, and I feel
The tractor’s weight, the thrust of polished steel
From landside, tine and drill I know so well.
Then strangers come, survey with greedy eyes
My empty acres. It’s not whispering wheat
They see: a tightly-packed and tidy street
Of huge five-bedroomed houses is their prize.
They’ll break my ground their way; and in a year
There’ll be no sign that I was ever here.

Sonnet Cycle: The Field – Part 3




No rest in these full, fiery days: the trust
Placed in me months long gone must be repaid
In fat, gold grain. The combine’s twelve-foot blade
Leaves me stark, convict-cropped. They raise my dust
With ten-tonne trailers, roll my ribs of straw
For steer and stable; when the men depart
The patient crows come gleaning – every part
Of all I’ve made picked up and set in store.
And in a monstrous sky my exhaled heat
Is gathered too. From thunderheads I’ve stacked
Ten miles high, blessed rain renews my cracked
And gasping soil. The circle is complete.
Once more I keep my promise made to Man;
Just as I have each year since time began.

Sonnet Cycle: The Field – Part 2

JD ploughing



The first bite of the coulter wakens me;
Five mouldboards turn my face to greet the sun
That climbs above the wood. Work has begun.
Gulls flock my furrows; on the easterly
Crows ride like witches. Celandines appear
In my hedge-bottoms; harrow, roll and drill
Pass over me with steel and noise until
The seed lies warm and deep. Another year.
Then ancient war breaks out. In elder days
I gloried in my arsenal of flowers
And weeds: now men have new, undreamt-of powers
And subjugate me with their soundless sprays.
The urging in the warming earth grows strong;
My young shoots rise up with the skylark’s song.

Sonnet Cycle: The Field – Part 1



Cold, silent, colourless. A kind of death
Has taken me; my mourners are the crows
Who stalk my stubbles as the land-drain flows
And swells the swirling ditch. My shallow breath
Hangs in the air at dawn; at dusk I bleed
Where sunset strikes the still-raw chevron scars
Of tractors; while the Hunter’s seven stars
Burn over me, I dream of sun and seed.
For life still smoulders in me, though it burns
Its lowest as dark days die young, and men
With hounds and guns find food in me again;
Beneath my sleeping soil the great wheel turns.
The year is buried deep in me for now;
Awaiting resurrection by the plough.

No going back

Out on the dream-dipped dawn-run road once more,
Alone, but less than lonely: stop to drink
A pot of supermarket tea; restore
The caffeine balance, shake off sleep, and think
About the life I’ve chosen, all that’s brought
Me to this place, at this ungodly hour –
Freewheeling, independent, never bought
But just for hire, beyond all corporate power.
And though I am not rich, still I possess
Great things unseen, more valuable than gold.
Long years have proved to me that more is less.
I do what’s asked of me, not as I’m told.
A hard and twisting path, rebuilt each day.
This is my road. I know no other way.


Last week I received a very tempting offer of full-time employment. I agonised over it before deciding to stay freelance: I couldn’t quite let the security of a regular payday win out over the freedom to walk, ride and leave my mobile phone switched off in the kitchen drawer. So, yesterday saw me hauling west to see some of my favourite clients as though nothing had happened. But on a subtle level, it clearly had, since I wrote this little affirmation to myself on the way. Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but it seems to be right for me. All is well. N.


The constant clicking of black plastic keys
Like rodents scratching, as we stiffly sit
In silence, staring at our screens; release
Four flat hours off. Sound-proofed, fluorescent-lit,
The office keeps the untamed air at bay
Where it belongs. The only wood to see
Is desks; no green thing grows; and fleeting day
Is glimpsed through glass as trees wave helplessly.
And this they call the Real World – the place
We’re all intended for, prepared from birth
To enter; this small, subjugated space
Our portion of the riches of the earth.
Connected to the planet, we’re removed
From all the ancients understood and loved.