Doha: Charmed

No warmth left in the cast-iron soil, or weak winter sun.
A cold, colourless world, emptied of all life.

Silence lies on the leafless woods and bare, frosted fields;
Ice lurks in shadows, a wicked, watchful eye.

Naked hedgerows, armed with thorns, frown over dank ditches;
Half-lost lanes languish, scabbed with old farmyard filth.

And in this desolation, your swirl of red and gold
Sparks hope of brighter days and tales to be told.



By this stage in an English winter, everywhere is looking a bit dead, grubby and neglected. But Nature has a way of redeeming herself, as she did yesterday with a charm of goldfinches, who burst out of a hedgerow as I rode past. At that moment, all was forgotten and forgiven. N.

One last doha

Sometimes in sleep I walk the forest, wrapped in bear-skins,
Giving voice to tree and river, sky and stone.

Or ride a clean-limbed horse across the high dun prairie
Tuned in to the silent song of wind-washed grass.

Of nights my restless mind runs frantic through lampless streets,
A blade in every shadow, I will not speak;

Nor of sheet-twisting hours caught on some lightning-laced cliff,
My eyes and soul drawn ever towards the drop.

Today I wake to sun, empty roads, the west wind’s kiss.
What dream could conjure such a world, or promise?



Loving the doha, so just one more before I move on to something else! The first two lines were given to me by my friend, mentor and inspiration Thomas Davis, for whom no praise is too high, or expression of gratitude sufficient. N.


The frost hits late; a hard bright scattering of crushed stars;
A white fallen sky, lit by daffodil suns.

A slow-waking winter, gripped with sudden jealousy
Snatches back the earth from spring’s warm, outstretched hand.

I could rail, resentful, against this cold selfishness;
Point to all I have endured, hoped for, dreamed of.

Yet with this day’s unlooked-for sting comes a clarity:
A sharper sense of all that is, and might be.


Doha is an Indian metrical poetic form, with each stanza consisting of two lines, the first with 13 syllables and the second with 11.  In Hindi, there are specific stress patterns within the lines, but these are pretty much impossible to replicate in English. A true doha should also be a rhyming couplet, which I managed by the time I got to the fourth one! N.