Table of Contents




Within the blood of the nettles

And the scorch of the sun

On a bed of plaited moss, you will find it.

Surrounded in dandelion sweat and apple sap

And a grassy green stain upon its spine,

It lies there, a bundle of bones in one heap.

The earth around it has the smell of coffee beans,

Freshly ground coffee beans.

In the background you can hear

The chorus of the cars climbing the hill

And the thud, thud, thud of the child's ball upon the ground

Around the tiny cluster of veins and bones,

Are a thousand green needles

Threading the rain from tree to tree

And weaving cobwebs of willow silk.

The continuous drip of the clay rusty drain pipe

Is the lullaby for the baby rabbit.


Maternity Ward

Number 124,

Born 10,

Dead 2.

The maternity ward,

Dung hissing, the bloodstained floor, the piglets' inside skin.

The sow lies,

In her cot of metal bars, *

Rolls of fat, tidal waves,

Underneath, no room for expansion.

A piglet stands in her tiny stiletto shoes,

Her heel stuck through the orange, plastic floor,

A sieve for muck and membrane.

Her mother gently woos her

With soft grunts of Wisdom.

The piglet totters for her first found food

To find the wonder of outside and inside combined,

The pig's soft skin, gently woven by nature

Into a spider web fleece.

Her skin, the colour of heaven on a sunny day.

A new beginning

Ending for the day to come.

A whirl of blood.

No more.

And the piglet sucks on.


First Sight

A flaming fire,

flames like people, star-shaped people dancing,

flickering red, orange, grey, and blue,

with crackling wood and snapping coal,

glowing red.

Bird egg green carpet

and chairs like mountains with snow on top. -

Soft warm fur and black sandpaper pads...

and the first warming taste of milk,

of sweet milk on the tongue.

Then sleep...

crackling lullaby and dancing flames

with cradling fur;

ears envelop the puppy,

asleep in'a twitching dream.


The Tadpole is...

The Tadpole Is. . .

A priest,

Swimming among his congregation,

And wearing a rough robe of black

As he preaches to the shimmering stickleback

The tadpole...

So soft, but so swift, and speedy, and slick.

The tadpole is an ink smudge

Spilt from the finest of pens.

It quavers like a shrill note,

Then stiffens to that one pose.

The tadpole is a stowaway.


Evacuating from its every home.

No safe place to hide for the tadpole.


The Red-Veined Butterfly

The Red-Veined Dragonfly

The red-veined dragonfly is...

A pen

With the nib as a tail

Lying on four tiny rags of paper

Covered in little red lines

Shining brightly.

His two cartridge ball eyes

And pencil lead legs

Float through the air,


I watch him

Till he is out of sight,

Writing in the sky

That message...

He told me

How he had come from

A carcass

At the bottom

Of a deep, dank swamp.

And how he had

Fought his way

Through reeds and bulrushes

And met an army

Of Water boatmen.

And had fought them,


And been captured

And been put in a mud cage.

How he had broken out

And swum to the surface.

Then flown off at top speed.

And how the brightness

Nearly blinded him.

But he had fought it.

And now he is

A silver knight

Fighting for the light

In the World of

Air and clouds.




I gaze down.

Her large, midnight blue eyes stare back;

No tears when she cries.

Her arms wave about,

Fingers opening and closing like sea anemones

On the seashore,

With fingernail pearls on the end of each finger,

Shining in a cluster.

Hair sticking up,

But not untidy,

]ust fuzzy,

Masses of it,

Completely covering her tiny head.

Her small rosebud mouth,

Blowing up an imaginary balloon,

Seems to smile,

Then laugh,

Almost shape up to whistle.

Her fascinating face is chubby,


But peaceful.

Gown far too big,

Spindly arms and legs sticking out.

She doesn't cry.

My four hour old sister

Is contented,

Lying in my arms.

I hug her close,

My lovely sister.



Nicholas is small to the onlooking world,

a frail miniature child,

but inside,

energy overflows

and his mind strengthens from day to day

His small roundish face

is alight with a smile

which seems to be

four sizes too big for his mouth.

His ears,

almost pricked like a dog's,

waiting for the faintest noise.

His foot, bent, stiff

as if frozen,

ready to kick the ball.

His eyes stare

solidly, but almost delicately,

full with concentration,

aiming to hit the ball.

His foot swings

like a clock's pendulum.

The foot makes contact

and the ball bobs

for a short distance

like a car

using up the last drops of petrol...

Then it stops.

His face screws up

with disgust

like a shrivelled apple.

He turns

and starts running on his short stout legs,

almost like a partridge. ~


First Day at Church

It was a day of relaxation,

supposed to be anyway.

Slowly we pushed open the door to the church

Given a book, we took a seat.

I turned the fragile pages,

each page identical.

The smell was stale and the colour,

an aged yellow.

A scent of wallflowers floated on a breeze

and passed softly by.

Looking up, I found them,

standing in fresh water on the pulpit,

which took me back to my infancy

when the flowers were in full bloom

as I rolled on the fresh grass...

and the sun at its hottest.

A smell of candles filled the nave,

a touch of smoke and stale burning,

just like when dad over-cooked the toast.

The vicar trotted up the aisle,

a soft squeak in his shoes,

like a baby mouse.

He spoke in a deep crisp voice

as the sun lit the stained glass window

and a faint smell of old tobacco

drifted round and round in a loop of infinity.


Creatures of the Classroom

By the table sits the lesser common schoolgirl,

clean, frosted,

with plaits carved from rock,

quite the opposite to the lesser common school boy,

in a corner, hiding from the hunter,

battered from fights to protect his territory.

His shorts hang loosely from bruised hips

and the markings are unique.

He lives in a wild environment,

never safe from the bellowing call

of the lesser spotted school teacher.

This species is distinguished by

a large Roman nose and jutting chin

and is usually found

in Victorian village primary schools in Suffolk;

though it has been sighted

around the coast of Scotland.

Then, the biggest of all creatures,

the check-pinnied dinner lady

who feeds the creatures of the classroom.


First Love

School! . . .a strange place.

Love!...even stranger.

Kirstie Leeming...six years old,

yet a real shocker.

Pigtails like silky hemp

wrapped around two pieces of wire

held together by two red ribbons.

She would parade around the playground

like a model on the catwalk.

Five year olds would stare.

Eight year olds would wolf whistle.

And teachers would sigh.

She wasn't at all boastful or proud,

but considerate and happy,

like a dizzy ballerina.

I adored her at primary.

I would sit staring at her, dreamily...

a drunken bat flying into the moon.

Until I was woken by my friend's elbow,

as the teacher passed.

Michael Aldridge stood in my way.

He was like the Berlin Wall;

I was West Germany;

and Kirstie was East Germany.

But those times are long gone

and the wall has come down.

Kirstie and I are older.

And just friends;

all is just memories

of primary days long gone.



Chicken Lucky

I Walk into the yard,

Mud squelching round my sodden boots.

The hen, a Sussex Black,

Struts, casting her foot into healthy mud

The chicks tail behind.

Their tinsel-like down

Blows as a baby's ruffled hair.

I move suddenly, tugging at my boot;

The chicks scatter, all but one.

I step on a soft lump,

Like a sponge.

I lift my boot, and it reveals...

Dark red pipes and tubes

Moving as the chick lies,

Mouth wide, gasping for breath,

Eyes half closed,

Legs kicking widely into space.

Clawing for a hold. a wound-down clock,

They stop,

The eyes closed.

Like an old man's,

They're grey and wrinkled.

I murmur a prayer

As other chicks use it

To clamber over,

The sticky grey tinsel

No longer fluffy.

I go for a shovel.


The Old Chicken

The old chicken cackled

Like an old woman,

Her beak strung open,

Gasping for air.

Her eyes,

Like deep holes in her head,

Sunken and dull.

She blinked, slowly, in the dim light.

Eyelids flicked down, and up again,

Thin flaps of skin,

Like scales of a snake.

Her crimson crest flopped over her left eye

Like a red beret.

The wattle, a double chin

Or a pink scarf,

Flapped as she turned her head.

Scaly legs,

Like the body of a worm,

Fold and wrinkle, loose flaps of skin.

Tail feathers overlapping one another

As a fan of cards.

The old chicken gargled softly

As if trying to sing herself to sleep. .

Then peeked slowly in a puddle in front of her.

The barn was dark,

But a patch of light lit up the two hen boxes in which she lay

Her neck hung out of the box

Like a dog's tongue from its mouth

And dangled limply in the puddle.

Her eyes closed, as if still sleeping.

She gargled no more.


Mole Trapping

The heavy thump of hobnail boots

And the sharp retort

As a moling stick strikes a flint.

You can feel the soft lack of earth

As you push a stick

With a quick jerk into a tunnel...

Then, the grind of the jaws

As they slowly open and click into place.

Tiny droplets of dew

Slide off the grass

As the turf is lifted

And the trap is slowly pushed in.

And you catch a whiff

Of stale air as it forces its way out.

Then sitting, after setting a good number of traps,

Under my favourite oak,

Eating a packed lunch,

And leaning back to look at nests

As they sway and rock in the wind...

I wonder if they get seasick.

Then, it's back off to the well-remembered spot

To dig up the trap, to see a dead mole, '

A cold forgotten pair of ear muffs,

Lying limp in my hands.

I suddenly push it into the bag.

I shrug and tell myself,

Never again.



Grandad smelled of fish boiled in milk

And liquorice root on which he continuously chewed,

Grumbling about taking pills,

Although they were all that kept him alive.

There was a pile of pipe cleaners

By the fireplace

Smelling of dust

And used too many times,

Like the bleached chicken bones

On the birdtable.

He had been working on his allotment

In his better trousers

So they got muddy

And he had scrubbed them

With a wire brush.

Then had to try and darn them again.

The hardened globule of denture cream

Looked like a birdsplash

On the side of the vase,

In which flowers melted into the water,

Staining the glass at the waterline._

When I was very small

There was always a toy phone

On which we played a game

In which he ordered sacks of potatoes.

So I used to bring them round,

Out of the garage.

He gave me 5 pence per sack.

Then he died,

Mixing with smells

Of camomile tea

And boiled fish.



A gull, its wings stiffly flapping,

Calls to a mate who'll never see home.

The landscape looks as if

Feathers by the million have fallen off a bird

And a dead tree flowers again.

Flowers that no one can pick.

A goose, scrabbling frantically,

Falls through to abrupt silence.

And a sparrowhawk, so frail,

But made deadly with hunger,

Flicks along the hedgerow.

And last year's nettles,

Stork's legs in a sea of white,

Killed by the frost,

While a swallow lies,

Dead and entombed in ice,

The perfect grave.



How she suffers,

A cow.

When her udder is hard,

As cold as winter's web,

She strikes her calf away,

As it tries to suck,

Strikes, not meaning to hurt!

She bellows!

The icicles form on her breath.

Her udder bursts,


White milk flows,

Rapids on water.

She falls,

Sleeping death.

The ice overtakes her,

And the cold wind tears her away.


Death of a Mole

A furry drawstring purse

Wobbles through the field.

Blind in the upper world

But a ruler downstairs.

Its body black

But its nose brown from furrowing,

All its tunnels dug out gently,

Not ploughed like a bulldozer.

The calm pace of its scuffing

Makes it a genteel ruler.

The mole is not a savage,

But dinner coils past,

The purse opens

And dinner rolls into the inner lining.

Hunger satisfied,

The mole scurries on up to our world

Blind again.

The farmer has his shovel;

The guillotine descends.



I watch Grandad pick up a potato.

With his other hand

He rubs the wet mud off with his thumb.

His eyes scan the potato,

Searching for blight or slugs.

His crinkled hand slowly puts down

The potato.

A drop forms on the tip of his nose.

He shakes his head.

The drop falls to the ground

And soaks into a clod of mud.

He groans with pain as he stoops.

He coughs and it sounds as if a small baby

Is choking in a cave.

His hair waves up and down as

He moves.

He finds a sack

And carefully starts to put them in.

The sack rustles as the potatoes roll in

And make a thud as they hit the others.

Then all is quiet as the bag is full

And all I can smell

Is fresh earth and the flavour

Of tobacco on Grandad's jacket.



Gran sits at the old scrubbed pine table,

riddled with woodworm.

'Only worth a halfcrown in old money,' she says.

She breakfasts on homemade soda bread and marmalade

In the wink of an eye the breakfast is gone

and then she's on to her second helping.

She must be ravenous, I think to myself,

as I watch her old hands, with veins thick as knitting needles,

spread each slice of bread with butter.

She stretches and burps with satisfaction.

Then she slowly clears the table,

and even more slowly she washes the dishes.

She takes down ingredients from a shelf in the larder,

bought in bulk because its cheaper...

flour, salt and baking soda which she mixes together

with milk and some water.

She kneads the dough over and over,

her old wrists rising and falling as if by instinct.

Then she stokes the old oven and leaves it to heat through.

At last she puts the baking tray into the oven

and within minutes an invisible perfume wafts through the kitchen

Out comes the bread, crisp and light brown,

with a cross on the top.

Gran, exhausted, drops into a cane chair and watches television.

Her old face, crinkled with worry lines

and tanned by years of working in the open,

creases into a huge contented smile,

like the flat round shape of a soda bread loaf.


Tiny Tovell

He mumbles about a wife

he almost had

until a shell killed her.

Now he wanders,

his coat torn to shreds beyond repair,

lasting probably since the war.

His shoes, bright and shiny,

probably used to a bit of spit and polish.

His arms point, angled away from his body,

as he looks right through you

to see the other side,

cutting himself off,

shocked into oblivion,

not knowing who you are or where you are,

staring at an object and going for it.

Some say he's mad.

Some say he's extraordinary.

But the only thing wrong with Tiny Tovell is that he's


Not mad or extraordinary, like everyone says.

But in a mind of his own.

Mumbling and grunting,

walking along the road.


The Drowning

The Drowning

On the river opposite -

A man in a canoe.

Down the rapids he went

Faster than an arrow.

He knuckled against a rock.

He capsized.

He slammed his head on the bottom

And stayed there.


I sat, hoping he would surface.


The lifeguard slicked into the river.


The man lay there,

A dead salmon.

His friend cried.

And I who didn't know this man


A little.




I sat and stared

At a world I knew,

But didn't.

The reflection rippled

On the oily surface

Of the vase.

The reflection rippled

On the oily surface

Of the vase.

The light was pink,

My face dark.

The table hung

Like a hammock,

And the walls

Domed in around me.

The fruit bowl was swollen.

Over the side of the vase

Drooped wilting flowers

With petals like waxed pencil sharpenings

And as I reached to touch one,

My hand, green, grew

And fingers stretched and widened.

My little finger

As big as the rest,

And my hand looked unbalanced.

I held the room;

From one end of the table to the other

Loomed my fingers. '

As I let go they shrank

And I just sat and stared

At a world I knew.


Sailing with Reflections

The jib-sheet

Slaps at weeds,

But penetrates them

As if they were just images in a hologram

My face,

Cushioned on a cloud,


Like a silken scarf

Trailed over sand

Left furrowed by the ebbing tide.

A seagull dives,

Meeting his twin at the water line,

While a Happy Shopper Coke can

Drifts through the sleeve

Of my life-jacket,

And out through the neck,

Bobbing up and down over my chest.

My hair,

Tangled with weed,

Blows haywire in the water.

Stones, debris, murk

Show through my transparent body

As we glide over the estuary.

A pine tree on the far bank

Stretches up to the sky

And down to the deeps

Like the North and South

Points on a compass.

A duck

Swims synchronised

With her double.

Never pausing to wonder

At this topsy-turvy world of


I trail my fingers

Loosely in the water.

The reflection fans out,


Like tresses of hair blown back in a wind.

Never to be captured

Quite that way



Rockpool Reflection

Rockpool Reflection

Morning came.

Red rays threw the water picture.

The pinky sun hung from the weed on the bottom

Its heat too great and harsh.

Cold water fought back,

And the heat sizzled out on the surface.

Where a faint rainbow

Filtered on the back of the crab

Whose claws clutched the light grey clouds.

The gulls floated,

Breaking the surface,

But without a quiver.

On the stones lay little barnacles.

From the sky's many-a-face.

The salty breeze backcombed my hair.

And the surface rippled.

I looked up and the clouds smiled

And melted away.

Just like the image in the rockpool.


The Shimmering Brook

The Shimmering Book

A pond,

A pad with many pages,

A pen made of light.

A new face shimmering on a new page.

Tiny insects

Scamper around.

Secretaries laden with work.

The face still shaking,

Shaking with silence.

The same face on every clean page.

A book shimmering with pictures

The insects

Run around,

Busy drawing a face,

With bubbles.

Carved with detail,

On a page,

In a book,

On a pond.




Ripples on a pond

Delicate and mild,

Yet ferocious,

Dividing your head

In a bloodless way.

The water settles,

Like tracing paper

The surface traces the sky

It films the moving,

It reads you like a book


Upside down, and backwards

This time the dog does not ]ump for the bone

Yet tries to stroke the underwater cats

Who dart, like their cousins,

For a safe haven.

The pond is liquid quartz

A two-way mirror

For the water beetle.

A transparent cover

Better than steel

For it can never be dented

By the swift blow.

A water beetle

Does not know what he is,

For the Water can cause him no


Which he can like or loathe

To have inflicted

Upon himself

Night or day

To haunt him,

Taunt him;

Or is his mind too small

To worry?



The rushes on the banks of the lake

Stretch out to touch.

The reflection of the old mansion

Is so still...

A painting,

A perfect mirror image.

A pond skater on a lily

Pulls on his boots,

Laces tight.

Off he goes.

He spins around and around,

Dancing on his reflection,

Stretching it.

A frog jumps.

The water pot spills,

The painting runs.



My Grandma lived in a basement flat.

I imagined it as an underground hole,

And my Grandma, a creature, hiding scared

From the outside world.

Caught in time.

The staircase bent around

Like a huge Chinese Dragon

With a million bright colours

In the carpet.

The carpet itself was shaggy and heavy...

A big, hairy dog could easily get lost in it,

Or so I thought.

From the window two rectangles of light

Melted onto the carpet.

The dust flew,

Caught in those two rays of light,

Caught like Grandma,

Caught in time.

And if I, too, stepped into those rectangles,

Would I be caught forever, like dust?

Would I be caught like Grandma?

For the very last time.


The Time of Day

The Time of Day

A tiny, near-bald rat,

Out of a sun-coloured mother.

He grew, suckling milk as warm and rich

As compost.

A knock-kneed puppy,

One ear tumbled over his eye,

Like a stubborn forelock.

His fur was imitation gold velvet,

The gold at the fringe

Of a fresh sun-risen autumn stream.

It is morning.

He has grown,

His legs have straightened,

His coat has mellowed,

His muscles ripple as water-filled balloons,

As he leaps, the blue and green ball


In memory

As he comes to earth

The sun has climbed; it is noon.

He will tire,

The balloons will burst

And the water drain away.

The blue and green ball

Will wear thin, and rot from damp.

The light from his sun-coloured mother

Will have been extinguished long ago.

He will lie in front of a new fire,

Lapping cold treated milk,

As hollow to taste

As licking Christmas envelopes for the world.

And his coat will lose its shine,

Grow unfocused,

The halo of a summer sunset

In the late evening.

And his face will wrinkle,

His sight will blur,

Eyes trying to look through seawater.

The new-born kitten,

Trying vainly to pump blood through his ancient body

Will give up, tired of work,

And he will die.

For the Sun-dog's coat will shine no more;

For one day all stars will die,

And there will be eternal light.



Small detail sustained in time, right down to a fish's scales

printed shadow and light.

A shell protecting its treasure,

never to be broken.

A stone skeleton.

A snail a thousand ages old,

bailed out into the cold rock...

Hard prints of a once lived life,

light filtering the mind's eye

until the world's shape is moulded into stone.

Corrugated iron, rock, cobweb?


Grooves engraved into mud, into rock, into our minds.

Or a wax moulded chrysalis, waved, wax burnt to a crisp.

I touch it. It is taut,

pulled into naked design

and left to be folded and kneaded into shape

in the soft rock -

made into hard rock.

God's art work is in the form of a fossil.


The Goldfish

The goldfish is

A gold bracelet

Dropped in the sea

By a pirate

In the days of old

And magically transformed

Into a fish.

Then it swam

Into a treasure cave,

Half underwater,

And was rightfully named

The goldfish.

One day

An underwater diver came,

So fascinated by the goldfish's shine

That he put him

Into his glass helmet

And took him to the surface.

And ever since

He has been kept

In the diver's glass helmet

On the sideboard,

Swimming round and round

Like a tiny boat in a whirlpool.


Shelter Scene

'Bunks and Sleepers'

(From the pen, chalk, watercolour and gouache

of the same name by Henry Moore)

They lie, frightened,

cocooned in their own shelter.

They try desperately to stop the noise,

hiding their heads with their arms, .

six kittens pawing their faces.

No one sleeps in this shelter tonight.

They are restless, like nervous children.

Worried about relatives,

dead relatives.

Though these families don't know that.

Outside they hear a fire bell,

carried through London

on the howling wind.

The dust scratches at the door.

It tries to shelter too.

The lantern hangs,

creating a dull light.

Its swaying and creaking

reminds them of the pub sign where they live.

'The Romping Donkey',

hardly a name to be taken seriously.

And now it's gone,

caught in last night's raid,

but living in their memories.

Suddenly the lantern burns out.

Then, a gigantic bang,

an explosion upon all explosions hits them,

like a giant puff ball,

thrown by a playing child.

Lives burn out...

Like the lanterns...

And the all-clear sounds.




(From the painting of the same name

by Walter Richard Sickert)

A case of stuffed birds imprisoned by glass,

Flecks of colours that the artist has captured.

An old woman stands in the corner of her kitchen.

Gazing at them,

She is also trapped,

But by the finest of brushes and the thinnest of paint

Her husband,

Slumped in an old wicker chair,

Stains the air with his cigar.

Remembering. . .when he was young,

And the birds he trapped.

He wants them all to be free.


Farm Field & Garden

Farmyard Chatter

Farmyard Chatter

There they are, every day without fail.

Leather breath and graciously plodding,

The local gossips.

Listen to them whisper, listen as they trip

Over the caked ground.

Fresh straw. . .smelling like that

Box of Weetabix I opened last week.

Sizzling silage in large grey tanks.

Hear it bubble, then splurt against the cold tin

Breathe in,

And your lungs will fill with roasting dung

And fresh cut grass.

I passed through that farm;

The smells pierced the back of my throat.

And those graciously plodding local gossips

Whispered and stared.


The Cow

The Cow

Warm desperate eyes

Looking down on me

Pitifully, as if it was terrible to be human.

Ears folded like wrinkled-up shavings;

Softly-smiling mouth with strings of spit

Hanging from the gentle pinkness of lips.

Warm smelly breath reaches out to

The cold air like the steam from boiling milk.

Wet nose like a sponge

With drips of mucus running down it,

Then mixing with the strings of spit.

The udder is baggy with milk,

Drooping down towards the cobbled ground.

Shoulders sticking out

With skin pulled tightly around them.

And the tail - muddy and soaked in rain

Swishes carefully from side to side.

The cobbled yard is embedded in

A layer of mixed-up cowpat,

Steam rising thickly from it.

The cow, a beautiful caring creature;

And we take her milk,

And sometimes her calf and her life.


The Silent Cowshed

Lumpy mud settles down,

With snow over it like sugar lumps.

The cows,

Black and white minstrels

Lying under a roof.

The hay,


An aeroplane flies over the cowshed,

Sounding like a cat purring.

I shout to the cows,

'Come along here, you lazy cows, _

Food's ready.'

My voice falls dead and small

Into a silence,

Like a stone slipping into a pond,

Without a splash.

Sealed up in a silence you can almost touch


Truth of the Cockerel

Truth of the Cockerel

Bold, upright, head held high with pride,

Haughty, a prince going into battle,

To defend and protect his ladies,

Scales like fish skin on his legs,

Spurs like ivory tusks.

A gentleman with gold sequins on a shirt of silk,

But ready for rugby in padded football shorts.

He shrieks like a horn, telling everyone to take action

And charges the foe.

He returns defeated,




And sits on his perch in the twilight.



Apple blossom blows,


down onto the hutch.

A guinea watches from the wire;

it can't be snow!

He waits at the wire;

bored, he nibbles at a wisp of hay.

His deep dark eyes scan about,

looking for predators.

He stops nibbling.

A noise.

He heard something.

He turns and runs into the undergrowth,

and camouflages himself.

An army recruit in battle

The scuffle has ruffled his hair.

He has rosettes on his back;

it is as if someone

has blown on his hair,

hair which is soft to touch,

yet looks coarse,

like the Timothy grass that grows by the back door.

And while I feed him,

Chestnut peeps out from under the hay

as the blossom blows.


The Pheasant

The pheasant is the convict of the bracken world,

as he runs stumbling haphazardly.

A line of beaters stands ready to advance.

The signal is given

and the air rings

to men's bellowing voices

and sticks banging the bracken

that cracks under the frying sun!

The convict is sighted

and the only way is up,

up into the vast empty palette they call the sky.

He takes off like an uncoordinated puppet,

but where is the getaway car?

As the pheasant heads over the trees,

The enemy works the puppet.

He looks down the silver-plated kaleidoscope eyes

at the double barrel gun

and in a feather ruffling


eyes rolling second,

the pheasant falls like a clod of soil

earthed by a shot that drained the Electricity of life

A last nerve flickers

and he dies.

Now he hangs by his neck in our garage.


The Peacock

A Japanese fan,

Each feather an old man's eye.

A circular disc of fishy scales,

Splinters of blue glass tinted by the sun,

Oriental colours held in a china vase.

The peacock is the petals fallen from many a flower,

Stuck with morning dew and stitched with spider's web

This peacock is a Prince riding his white horse,

And wearing a cloak of rainbow.

He swoops away to the maiden's rescue...

Then, he is the turquoise sun,

The fire in the sky,

The shimmering haze on a tarmacked road...

The Prince arrives and the fanfare plays.

He releases his legs like a vulture to his prey.

Grabbing the ground with onion-ring feet. '

And, slowly, he stops and stands tall.

He combs his feathers with fork-like claws.

He stalks on.

A proud and particular creature,

Made into a word.

Beauty in disguise.



I saw it...

Suspended in a dull spectrum of

Straight edges curved

And muzzy sharpness.

Black from Shadow and Birth,

Light and Earth.

Caught with its hand in the till.

Found out.

A simpleton,

In a deep velvet gown,

Soft and cuddly...


A hardened criminal,

Wearing a balaclava and jumpsuit.

Wads of ill-gotten notes

Lie bulging out everywhere

On its burnt wood body,

Cracked into a thousand tiny snippets of wire

Its puffed out sleeves are

Crowbars, heavy with power,

Light with arrogance.

Bulging long at one end,

Short at the other,

Studded with diamonds of lead.

Its face held me,

As it held itself,

Clear, yet shrouded,

Showing itself naked

As a poor creature caught

In some harmless mischief.

But hiding the charlatan.

A black angel,

Hell-bent on hell.

Whiskers and nose,

Probing out a victim.


Gold watches streaked by fire,

Glazed, corrupted,

Yet totally in command.



Fat feathers pruned to perfection

Arranged tastefully in black fur.

Twin cloth caps

Rakishly placed

For its old fashioned interests.

And its tail,

Young and vibrant,

Boasting to do anything.

But the reality is nothing.

Its teeth,

White splinters from a cracked china marble.

The implements in ten hundred deadly games

Scene: Anywhere.

Suspect: The Cat.




Amerian Cat in London

Dressed smartly in his fur coat,

The cat is a businessman,

With no guarantee.

The Cat,

With his gas mask face,

Is a dirty dealer.

Cat Capone is back in town.

The Cat,

Carried away with his shortcomings,




Bail paid and Cat walks free.

Cat's eyes stab the dark,

As he strides out of his house,

His coat almost merged into the Victorian bricks of the terrace

His whiskers, a moustache,

His claws

Are his pens,

And his mouth, his briefcase

This Cat's ears are Sky television receivers.

As used by his nextdoor neighbour.

The Cat is a cat burglar no more.

Yes, the Cat is a businessman,

In a big bad backyard.


Winter Churchyard

Not a churchyard,

A courtyard

Armed with white wigged gravestones.

Silent with silence.

Their dirt grained faces

Stare with stiff necks

At one another,

Each one,

Guarded by its own bumped-up shadow.

The church's eye slit windows.


Lost in the winter's white.

Its frost-frilled doorway

Peppered with boot grit,

Swimming in footprint puddles;

Escaping water hangs from the gutter.

Caught in the cold,

Waiting for its freedom.

The sun pokes its head out

From the smoke-patched sky.

Unlocking the trees from their winter sentence.

For how long?


The Graveyard

The Graveyard

Dull colours,

Sorrow and sympathy,

A boy in a picture,

An unborn baby,

New-bedded soil

On unsettled turf.

A sad tune

With a meaning so true,

A sweet verse,

A White cloth,

A last footstep,

An old vicar,

A plaque on the wall,

A silver cup,

An everlasting candle,

And the carvings of the woodlouse

That, as skilfully as a craftsman's,

Are embedded

In the wood for evermore.



Summer smells like...

Pot pourri and the bunches of daisies

Peeping out of the rich grass,

Green with goodness.

It fills your lungs and makes you gasp.

And the dog puts his nose into the breeze

And closes his eyes.

The warm smell of rabbits alerts him.

He races, transformed into a greyhound.

You can't stop him now.

I run after him.

He stops, puts his nose into the silent breeze...

Suddenly, a burst of energy

And he leaps into action!

I can't see him anywhere.

Suddenly two ears pop out of the field,

Where wild flowers grow.

He is running, barking,

Sniffing the fragrance that flows out of them


Flaming June

Flaming June

The pond skaters

Skate on a tightened elastic band

Stretched too far.

It breaks with a snap and a plop

As a gold fish moves.

Ringlets flow out,

Like the ripples in a wavy hairstyle.

The cress weed with coal roots

Grows through the wire bird-stopper.

My tadpoles, like two developed apostrophes,

Live in amongst that cress,

Legs of it making a slalom course

Upon a sloping ledge.

A frog sits sunbathing

On the waterlogged branches

Of a fallen tree

And the fiery sun

Suntans the field

Towards its future harvest.


Apple Fire

Apple Fire

Tall grass

Stood sharp

And smoke boiled up,

As we sat in the damp steam

Of the roasting apples.

Apples, once sour, once tough,

Now smelled bruised, over-ripe.

Flames stood like warriors,

With water as their only conqueror.

Not afraid, they stabbed, carelessly,

Through the fretting fruit.

The skins sagged, red,


Rapidly browning.

Loose, like the cotton and cloth round a button hole.

A button hole letting a button gradually out of its grasp

Tall grass

Stood sharp,

While we let smoke bellow up in our faces

And pulled the grass away from the pampas

To keep it alive...

Poisonous fumes made our eyes water.

Whipping, coarse smoke exploded in our throats.

Our clothes stank

And the apple Waistcoats fell,

Green to black,

To reveal the flesh,



A pleasant warmth to swallow.



A frilled lip of gold, of gold dust falling from sunshine,

The puckered mouth of the silently angry dragon,

Wavering up on his green stalk tail,


Curl of scarlet velvet, his fire scorching the dust,

Licking the wall in a cluster of flames.

In cockerel comb splendour, the plump cushion

Is heavy. And the delicate neck is wrapped in wax paper

For protection.

A splash of rippling flag and he is crowned with gold fringing

Triumphant but brooding.

He is a cavalier's doffed hat, flamboyant feather

Picked out in gold.

Battle colours charge the wind on a beige charger of lace,

His jousting pole, a beam of piercing sunlight,

Pretending to be jolly.

But the flushed skirt of rage does not fool anyone...

The tight collar strangling the light,

And the false smile, weatherbeaten into his lips.

The stem is strong green raffia,

But elastic, stretching further than it should,

So that when you pinch, he lurches to bite,

Clamping sour lips on flesh.

But the crusty dragon, old and lemon lipped

Cannot harm.

He has little perfume.

That which he has is stolen from the rose and dried.

In winter, he shrinks back

With rheumatism, his one master, the wind.

But always back in the summer.

A bumble bee, sensing blossoming danger,

Buzzes near and far.

The hum mingles with the hiss

Of wind on earth and leaves.

The hiss of the dragon.


Pitcher of Nepenthes

It hangs,

Its beer mug pitcher brimming over

With the fine ale of its digestive juices.

Its latest meal,

A Queen Bee,

Fresh from the nest,

Its wings stuck to its sides

By the treacle-like substance.

Its leaves are spread out like flames

And the red and yellow mix

To create a miniature sun,

Drawn down to earth

By a fragile green thread.

Its rim,

Like a lover's lips,

Leads down to a witch's cauldron,

Brewing and bubbling with the remnants of a fly,

Drawn into this rank pit.


Dreams & Hauntings

Ghost of the Sea

Ancient fingers

Search for you

Through to your soul,

Shiver down your spine as if her hand is on your back.

Her fingernails of fish scales...

And she is biting your mind.

Mist is reaching to your heart

When it crawls over the frantic waves.

The waves foam,

The strands of her past life.

The cliffs crumble like her chalk teeth

Where seaweed hangs.

Little shells, carrying the water,

Climb to the beach

Like maidens of old time

Fetching water from the well.

Whistle in the wind and the ghost will appear.

Her face,

Lacy like fishing tackle,

Moulded from a gull's nest...

Feathers and cracked shell left behind in her dreamless mind

Her silk cloak and cobwebs hang from her armpits;

Her bleached hair

And her wispy voice tell you...

'Never come again.'


The Ghost of the Orchard

She walks through overgrown grass,

With apple silk feet.

Her face is round and sweet as an apple,

Yet tainted with the sourness

Of apples gone bad, dreams gone bad.

Crystallised thoughts, held still in an empty head,

With beads that rattle as she walks, talks.

Her breath is the mist on cold morning air,

As her dry silk ball gown, moth eaten, brushes past

Dead trees and wilting flowers.

She smells of old cider and mothballs

And apples in wicker baskets,

Tunnelled by wasps.

Her eyes are twirling apple pips.

Sad and forgotten.

She shakes her head and her coils of ebony hair,

Like blackberries, shake too,

Shaking out smells of smoky straw and rotten fruit.

Her voice is like a feather falling through the air...

'Who will dance with me?'

The wind shall dance with you, my dear,

Dance a cider waltz around your trees,

Through your veins and your hollow voice

The wind blows through and through...

'Who will dance...?'


Moon Thoughts


Against the dusky dome of sky,

Painted with stars that spin white light wetly.


Marked black from soot and ashes

From its own long ago funeral,

Its sunken in face imprinted

On its crusty dry surface.

Channels thrashed in by once flowing rivers,

Icy and bubbling like a frosted breeze,

Choking with weed and bright eyed fishes,

Roots and trees bursting from the ground,

Like green silk thread pushing through cloth

On a flashing needle.

People laughing, buying round, bright fruit

From market stalls with stout ladies,

Mountains sprayed with snow like shaving foam

Peeking, piercing the dark blue sky,

Like swords buried in the ground.


The river's icy channel, filled with emptiness,

Only fishes' bones imprinted on dry rock.

Rock on rock, rock on rock.

The mountain's pinnacle is grey and dry.

The lake's hole is dry and splashed with dark.

The people are gone, the bones melting into

The vast whiteness, crumbled with charcoal.

There is no form of life,

But many forms of death.

Shadowed by darkness around it,

It spins on, its surface rolled with black ink.

The face on its face does not smile.


Memories from Space

I miss the Earth from up here.

Now I see it as a roller

Used for printing patches on newly born cows.

I remember walking through the fields

In which they grazed...

The smell of dung, earth, dead leaves and twigs

Was a smell sweeter than honey.

Now missed but before unnoticed.

The leaves, fossilised trees,

And me fossilised within my




He stood, gazing at the earth, dreaming of his flower garden...

Green tips of seedlings poking from the compost,

opening their leaves to be warmed by the sun,

the sun bouncing off the greenhouse:

tomatoes turned orange to red

and worms crawled in the damp soil, sunning their skins.

His wife planted seedlings; making a hole with her index finger

she eased in the marigold.

He missed catching the 7.56 to Leeds,

the click of the typewriter printing A's and E's

on the headed note paper.

He missed the tone of the telephone

and the lift saying 'Going up'.

Then there were. ..

Sunny afternoons on the heath

wandering down sheep paths,

in amongst the heather.

Heather, a blaze of colour like fire,

reds and oranges.

And when he got home there would be

crumpets rich with butter,

crumpets like the moon. . .'

Like the moon.


The Earthsick Astsronaut

The Earthsick Astronaut

He is yearning for his earth senses.

He wants the smell of burning wood to swirl up

And tickle his nose

Like a coarse, rough feather from a bird on the earth;

He Wants the sight of a fire,

The flickering fish tails

That make his eyes see nothing else;

He wants to taste bacon, the real bacon,

Tingling on his tongue to evoke

The smell, the sound, the flavour...

He wants the touch of cold air on his skin;

Air, a free spirit, teasing, running;

A brush-past kiss on a warm cheek is

His memory;

And then...the sad things;

Gravestones like babies' teeth, yet

Decayed with lichen and moss.

But still he is yearning,

Yearning for air, for fire,

For Earth.


A Ploughing Dream

At midnight - still.

The old plough turfed up clumps of wet mud.

A slash with a whip

and a kick up the ass.

'Goa on!'

roared the farmer.

A great crack in the purple sky

opened daylight for a split second.

Gran's old tablecloth

flapped in the gale as rain started to pour -

she'd left it out all night.

The leather strap unreeled

to slash its guts

to bloody ribbons, slithering to a bucket of eels

The horse pulled away -

snapped the straps,

heeled on its hind legs

and stumped the cart with its front teeth ~

the size of building bricks.

Storming off into darkness,

only two massive haunches showing,

like loose muscles dancing.

The farmer

stumbled to the ground

and started to pull ~

heaving -

slipping his feet

in the mud,

The thunder roared

and the sky reopened,

leaving a maroon mist.

His muscles snapping

and breaking all over,

getting nowhere.

The plough no longer ploughing,

he fell to the mud,

studding his back -

slapping his arms down to the puddles,

tying his wrists down with his whip.

He gave up,



Dream of the Fisherman

The line sways in the breeze.

On the end,

A bright orange float.

There is a tug.

A tug of strength,

As if gravitation pulls on the sea.


In a flash of light,

Silver leaps from the lake,

And lands on the bank,

Where flames form a circle.

This fish is a demon.

The sea demon.

It darts,

And with a flip of its fins

It is a bird,

Beak shimmering like petrol in a puddle.

Each scale is a feather,

A raindrop on a window.

It swoops

Back into the sea.

Its world forever.

I wake

To find mist merging over the lake,

And I leave,

With an empty net,

But a full mind.


Hibernating Dreamer

I must sleep...

I don't know why...

I sink down down down

To dream of leaves of fire

And apples rotting.

I smell the musty smell

Of wet leaves.

The trees shedding their last few flames of life

Before sleeping...

The misty evenings of warm autumn days,

A sensation of mouth-watering

Bugs and beetles.

The leaves that fall

Are falling to death,

Falling from a forgotten tree.

Everything is but a skeleton of

What was once a wonderland.

Autumn is a dead memory of days gone by.

Here I sleep in my tent of warmth,

While outside

Frost-lace crochets the world.


A Fly Dreams


Adventurer extraordinaire,

Each scrap and every smell

Examined with eye and tongue.

The military brigadier.

Honoured for bravery in the face of danger.

Foods galore

Laid out in a banquet.

The brigadier stands on his six spindly legs.


And then he cries,

'We are the flies!

We rule the air!' ~

And then...meringues, sausages, grapes and bread

Tucked neatly into mouths,

Helped by long and sticky tongues.

The foolhardy flies, noisy in their merrymaking...

Wake up the fruit.

A huge peach,

Not yet touched,

Sprouts eight black matchstick legs,

Two antennae.

And then it sheds its pink fleshy skin.

There it stands,

A huge black spider.

They don't stand a chance;

Flies are dead everywhere.

Some still twitch legs as nerves die.

Most lie still.

The brigadier dares not move

As the spider closes his jaw around the tiny neck


He wakes up,

His antennae searching the air.


His honeycombed eyes focus on the doorway

As he heads towards the kitchen!


Dream of Persephone

The Dream of Persephone

Persephone dreams,

Dreams of a meadow

Where nothing is still,

Nothing is sad or lonely.

A giant multi-coloured spotted quilt -

A patch of picture-book poppies

Sways in the wind.

A stronger breeze blows them

And their petals

Turn into thousands of red butterflies.

A cloud forms,

Blotting out the sun,

Leaving a red light.

But soon it scatters

And just long grasses remain.

Slug trails cover a large stone

Like a child's first drawing.

The trees lining the meadow

Have crows' nests on their tops,

Hair with specks of dirt.

And an apple tree grows ping-pong ball fruit.

A brook runs through this paradise

Like a silver ribbon

Binding it up into reality.



The Ford

The Ford

I trot to the ford

On my pony,

Holding my breath

Because I know what happens.

He sees the talking, whispering water

And stops dead,

His legs stiff,

As if holding a heavy weight.

Then, he veers to the left,

His every muscle straining mine.

His hooves chatter on the road,

He rears like a flame,

And lands like spilt water.

Then, upset and shaking,

His feet touch the water,

His legs vibrating like a rubber band.

His neck is tense

And hard, tautly strung.

He leaps,

As if jumping from rooftop to rooftop,

And lands,

And trots shakily on.



A jeweller's skilled hands shaped a small jet stone

That was born an eye.

An eye that now stares, so terror-stricken.

The eye is looking out from a starling's torn feather coat

The broken china bird limps across the arm of the chair.

And flaps his stiff wings in a last attempt to escape.

He lands.

A dead heap on the floor.

Lost the battle with the closed windows,

And now is battered and bent.

A young bird and yet so old and crooked.

The jet stone eye, so beautifully crafted by the jeweller,

Still stares.


Truth of a Bullfinch

Last night it happened...

There on the wood painted doorstep

the murderer had left it.

The light orange of its breast

clashed with the colour of the bricks.

It lay with its head slightly flattened

against the concrete.

Cold, dead, no reviving.

Its eyes, closed,

Slits like button holes

in a baby's waistcoat,

and rimmed with an outline of black.

Its feet were cushioned in its stomach.

Its loose plumage blowing '

in the wind like sewn-in segments

of feathers from its tail,

divided into five

different colours.

Then, its black helmet, where underneath

its black eyes were hiding.

Its beak, the colour of slightly burnt wood,

thick and ugly.

And its black wings

brought closely together, rolled up

like the ends of two cream horns.

Next was its tail,

a spatula, slightly bent.

And there it was. ..

propped against the doorway,

unable to venture through the storms and the sunshine

left in its death.



The stream falls away steeply,

Not quite a waterfall.

Roots curve over from its crumbling mud banks,

Twisted arches of the Earth's bone.

He sniffs the air, smelling the dripping leaves.

The stream dribbles quickly by,

Weaving and halting

At fallen branches.

Damp rotten twigs

Flake only slightly under his soft weight.

He feels the damp Earth between his toes,

Delicately picking his way through

The scattered pebbles;

Stumbling only once.

Downstream the foundations of a tree

Have been gutted by rain and wind;

And the tree rests across the water,

One sinewy branch hanging, bending against the rush.

He flits up the bank,

His steps flicking brush strokes

On flaking canvas.

He reaches out his paw to the mossy log,

And they go hand in hand.

Cautiously he edges out on to the log;

Tail raised for balance.

One of his first few steps slips

On the thin wet moss.

It starts to rain, heavily;

His fur is drenched, and is stood on end,

Clustered in little spikes.

His tail comes down;

On line with his back, it bristles, the white tip darkening

The rain washes away his caution,

As he runs lightly across

And up the crumbling, sodden bank,

Off through the trees to the holt,

Churning the wet pine needles,

Leaving the bare earth to the patchy sky.

And through the trees, to his left,

The fiord is painted grey by the rain.


Winter Seashore

The Winter Seashore

Frost nipped at our ears and ankles,

Leaving them pinched pink.

We dodged tiny wet mirrors of water

And our mouths breathed eggs of steam.

Climbing the great bank of sandy shingle was impossible.

Each footstep of sand tumbled down

And took you with it.

Then, at the top of the giant barricade,

The almighty mouth of water

That had swallowed sand and cliffs

And if we were not careful, it would swallow us.

And now as I looked out to sea,

There was no skyline, just a vast palette of murky paint.

We walked, but the wind was so strong

That it blew us into a sidestep,

Then a lunge,

A dislocated pattern.

This wind played games with our minds.

This sea,

Frosted in motion, took us in his hands,

And swallowed us.


The Journey

The train pulled away,

Another rhythm on the rails returning

The early morning sunlight

As fresh as a new fall of snow

Pure and untouched.

A splinter of sunlight glinted on the window

Fields wrinkled away from the line,

One looking like velvet,

Tractor marks -- brushing it the wrong way.

A deer playing tag with my eye,

All its limbs

On loose hinges,

Ran into the trees.

Startled rabbits dotted about,

Mistaken for tufts of rotted grass.

Then. . .the old disused station

Holding many a memory,

Waiting for a new coat of paint

And like an old clock

Waiting to be wound up.

The train shuffled through the countryside

Like a caterpillar.


Slowly, it slurred to a stop.

My journey's end.

I opened the door

And stepped out

Onto a platform

Buzzing and busy.


Old Man Cactus

Sports Day

The sound of cheering died,

as the heavy door closed behind me.

I looked up and down the corridor.

No one.

Nothing but the silence.

I shivered...there was something...

I opened the juniors' door

and looked in.

Sun shone through the ivy in the huge windows

and picked out the falling dust showers.

Pencil shavings lay by the bin

and pictures and paintings hung on the wall.

But I saw no one.

The infants' door swung quietly open...

a spade lay discarded in the sandbox

and a curtain flapped in the breeze.

No noises of laughter, chatting or singing.

No one was there,

but the gerbil asleep in his cage.



I run about in the playground

with William, playing 'It';

it's just like the Grand Prix,

dodging here and there like kingfishers.

Then I meet up with Roberta in the kissing corner,

and say, 'Boy, you're ugly!'

She slaps me round the cheek;

it feels like a Whip across my face.

The field is a glorious wave of grass and daisies.

We all just relax and talk

as if we are on 'After Dark'.

One slight movement from a bell sends everyone running

doors burst open,

letting streams flow into the empty spaces of the school.



The sound of cheering died,

as the heavy door closed behind me.

I looked up and down the corridor.

No one.

Nothing but the silence.

I shivered...there was something...

I opened the juniors' door

and looked in.

Sun shone through the ivy in the huge windows

and picked out the falling dust showers.

Pencil shavings lay by the bin

and pictures and paintings hung on the wall.

But I saw no one.

The infants' door swung quietly open...

a spade lay discarded in the sandbox

and a curtain flapped in the breeze.

No noises of laughter, chatting or singing.

No one was there,

but the gerbil asleep in his cage.

As I walked down the corridor,

cool, dark air hung about me.

I heard a whistle blow in the distance,

then cheering.

And as I walked out of the door,

someone crossed the finishing line.


The Old Lady

The Old Lady

The day we went bob-a-jobbing

We met her.

She sat there

In a dainty old chair.

She never moved,

Her faint white hands

Perched on the chair

Like two shot birds.

She was wrapped head to foot

In blankets and shawls

As if she was a hermit crab

In her neutral home.

Wrinkles curved over her soft face

As if a snail had left its trail.

She opened her mouth

And mumbled, 'Hello.'

She looked pleased with herself

Like a child who had just

Learnt to write her name.

Her hair -

What was left of it -

Looked like tiny spiders' webs

Knotting all over.

She took my hand

As if to say, 'Come closer.'

She felt my face

As if wondering whether to buy me or not.

She clutched my hand harder,

Then let go.

I sniffed a pricey perfume

Over her clingfilm skin.

Then with a great sigh

She leaned back into her chair.

I knew then, it was time to go.


Sat on the Wall

They spent hour after hour,

Day after day,

Year after year

Sat on the wall.


Thin and frail looking.

Long chicken neck

Sprouting up from the faded collar

Of his whipped-up shirt.

His eyes,

Short-sighted slits

Swollen round the edges like pink puffballs

Lost in the stubby bristle of his face.

The other,

Plump, like a puffed-out cockerel.

His face,

Wrinkled like apple peel

On a compost heap.

Torn nets of burst veins

Knotted in reds and blues

Round his cheek bones,

Overcast by the shadow

Of his flat cap.

They sat on the wall,

Staring in bewilderment at me playing swingball


How once they amused themselves

Throwing pebbles at tin cans.

They sat,

Pondering over the differences

Between their childhood

And mine.

The frail one held tight

To the lead of an old dog,

Which nosed between his legs,

Pining for attention.

The other

Shuffled the dust

With the toe of his boot

And leaned with clasped fingers

On his walking-stick...

For year after year,

Sat on the wall.


The frail one died.

And I never saw the other again.

The plump one never

Sat on the wall.

It wasn't the same

Without his friend...



The cat's bowl,

Cream curdling,

Sits on the doorstep,

Still on that old chipped saucer.

The door creaks as I enter.


The wallpaper,

Tea stained,

Peels off the wall.

In the kitchen

A tap drips,

Dripping like the blood

From an old friend.

A wife runs to hug me

But I have forgotten what love is.

A window ledge...

With dead flies scattered

Like bullets.

Out of the window

Yellow rape sprawls

Across the fields

Like a never ending marching army

The church bells sound

In the distance.

But I am lost in my memories

Of the dark trenches

Where the war songs still echo.



The Grasshopper

The Grasshopper

He's been wound up,

then set off,

springing like a mad flea.

His yellow body of patterned plasticine

springs in and out like a trampoline.

His slim grim face

and his cold slit eyes

seem to stare, but not see.

He's the grasshopper.

The wound-up green jet.


The Fly

The fly is a scurrying maid

humming a tuneless melody as she works,

cleaning the unseen traces of sweetness.

She cleans around an empty mug,

her legs moving like a nimble gymnast

walking the beam.

The maid is a fearless creature,

always entering without being invited,

not afraid to remove rotting food,

her translucent wings fixed to her body,

folded down to make a crocheted shawl.

The maid has lemon-fresh wits,

sharp, sour and bitter.

She walks on my bare arms,

her light legs gently tickling me.

I move my arm, command her to leave,

and she hurries away, only to return

through another door.

The maid spots a spider's web.

The dusty silk threads tempt her,

This web which looks like fishing line,

and has similar purpose:

but to trap a fly, not a thrashing fish.

The maid flies into the line,

and is caught;

her body struggles like a fish on land,

her furry legs splaying in different directions

Angrily she hums, sounding like water

hissing on a stove.

The maid is exhausted, her shawl is split,

her charring overalls are hung up.

As the angry humming fades

I feel sorry for this maid,

always hurrying, scavenging for food.

Even as her busy life

leaves her.


The Bluebottle

A metallic bubble

Hovers about the room,


Like a stub of blue chalk.

Still and floating.

It settles on my hand,

Licking and caressing my skin, cautiously.

I jerk my hand.

It's gone on its loud frantic flight, ,

Round the room,

Then it stops dead,

Eyes watching.

Swivelling motionless.

Body glinting purple in the sun,

Like a small diamond.


The Truth of a Bluebottle

A thief.

Buzzing away, with greasy butter

Stuck to his back legs.

Escaping death by an inch.

Then again, daringly,

Down on to the bread - the cheese

And once round the sweet sticky glass of orange.

Then, just missing the hanging graveyard.

His friends stuck there, glued down and dead.

He sits, resting on the window sill.

Licking ofi' the tasty, dirty mixture.

Legs quickly flipping,

Up and over his back

Like a twig over an oily puddle.

His big sieve eyes,

Mysterious looking.

Then, with a flit of his delicate wings,

He is off, singing his irritating one-tone song.

Past the window.

Shining like a drip of water caught by the sun.

But this time,

The great slapping swat

Comes straight for him.

Sudden pain

Then he drops

And with a bump, lies stunned on the table top.

An injured soldier not wanting to die.

Sudden panic.

For hours he lies on his back,

Loudly buzzing.

He rocks and slips in a small circle.

Hopeless legs stick up, kicking out in front of him

Then, at last, he closes his eyes,

The buzzing stops

And tired and hopeless he dies.



A worm comes wriggling

through the earth

as if it's been buried,

its dark purple body

stained by blackberry juice,

lines every little way

as if you could pull it to pieces

like an orange in segments.

Lines move in, out, in, out,

as if it's trying to pump out

blackberry juice.

Veins are grey and look brittle.

Here comes another one.

His head lifts

under a clot of mud.

His one big purple muscle

refuses to move.

Then the body

trickles along the earth...

but now he lies

perfect in my memory,

the stained worm, dead. .

The worm earthed

the blood-clotting movement dead.



jaws like steel,

Jaws like steel clamps.

Legs fixed precariously, three on each side

To the body

Which is joined to the head

Which has water-drop eyes,

And antennae

Moving frantically on invisible looms

Neck, strong like a crane,

While the body is the engine.

An ant hill is the opposite

Of a bird's nest;

Instead of long winding twigs

An ants' nest has thin,

Long winding tunnels.

The nest is a cow pat

Peppered with an air rifle.

Invisible roots spread down.

And on top they grow like moss.

Inside are unplanned catacombs

Weaving drunkenly,

Often falling, then rising,

Crawling, and at times,

They sleep.

Like man

An ant wants to fly.

Ants with stained glass windows,

Drained from their holy splendour.

Flying ants, like corn being thrashed.

The ant's body is grain

Lifted by husks

Which vibrate in the wind

Propelling the grain forward.

The husks are strained, weary

From flying up and down.

Slowly the husks loosen,

Turning the grain more earthbound

Every flight.

The glass is lost,

Only leaving the lead

Bent and smashed.

The grain lies dormant...


The Bee

The bee is...

a seed,

never been planted,

caught in air currents,


until now.

The bee is planted into my brain,

already growing into my life.

Its body...

a pencil-shaving

curled up

and held together by elastic bands.

The wings are wound up, then released

like aeroplanes Won at the funfair.

(sold by the man with a London accent),

but which break on their first flight.

Each Wing is made from...

decomposed leaves

half turned into loam

so you can see through them.

Its dance,


speaks to you...

left, up, right, down.

Dr Dolittle's tango of the night

is finally translated.



The snail is an old,

wise creature

whose shell was borrowed,

borrowed from an unborn chick

and carved by the snail's

soft, soft body.

The shell, wafer thin

but curled strongly,

almost delicately like a

whip of cream.

Underneath the shell,

a body,

soft with age

with a never-ending supply of moisture.

Two antennae,

upright; soft but

stiff like a flower's stem.

He moves steadily

in his own pace

and leaves a line of silver.

Lengths of fishing line coiled on the ground

In ever decreasing circles.


The Autumn Snail

A snail,

a ridged and broken pot

engraved in grime,

budges along my boot

on a juddering mini conveyor-belt,

leaving sticky patches like glue on the black,

determined to get to his home -

a leaf,

but like a huge canvas to him.

His antennae

feel the way, going crazy

like wild and bendy knitting needles

finding the way to a feast

of maggotty apples

left from summer.

He takes a look.

Then Crunch. He engraves the mud

beneath dad's big brutal boot.



The Moth is a clumsy overweight snowflake.

Its feather-like antennae sense danger,

Receiving light beams from a high up torch.

Snowflake wings that flap with no sound.

Like an owl in mid-flight. ..

And the dusty fur coat that will rip at a touch,

Like a piece of brown charred paper.

Six furry legs stolen from a spider,

The nocturnal beast,

Like a flying tiger.

An armoured fighter,

As soft as a raindrop.



I hang on to any quiet space,

A forgotten creature of the stable,

House or barn.

My wings are not pieces of stiff cardboard,

But beautiful folds of thin gold leaf,

Dusty with age.

I have seen many different sights.

I have heard the most secret of all the secrets,

As I hid, unseen in folds of thorn-torn materia

Or in an undusted corner.

Some people hate me,

Throw me outside...

But I was there in the stable

That Christmas night.

Hidden in folds of thorn-torn material.


Christmas Spider

The spider is an eye

Watching the world

With eight scaly eyelashes blinking,

Watching, Waiting, Thinking.

It is a black sheep

Legs multiplied by two.

It is a lost shadow

That someone didn't want,

Didn't need.

The spider is a sharp black flint

Cutting its path,

Like a winding knife.

It spins its Web -

A story so long,

So sad.

It is...

A black star

Shooting eight ways

Into the air

And the silken thread

It spins is fit to make a robe

For the babe it watches.



Letter to a Friend

(Not to be openedfor 50 years)

Do you remember the pit?

Our hang-out, where we swung

on old matted rope,

out over logs that held our imagination

and shaped our thoughts.

Those logs were Wizards and witches;

and the tangled mass of roots

looked like old tennis racquet strings.

But they were sturdy and covered in clay,

moulded over an old man's face.

Do you remember freestyle biking

on my tricycle,

or Walking on in the stream?

Each step cracked the ice, leaving footprints

spiked by frost.

Do you remember

sliding down our hill on plastic bags in the snow?

We were dressed for the Arctic

but soon we were hot and slid down the hill

in T-shirts and trousers.

When you read this

you will probably have forgotten me...

I will be an old school friend

and nothing more.

But when you read this

your crocheted web of memories

may hold Emma and Hannah,

the inseparable pair.



We sit on the bank of a ditch.

Two lazy fishermen

In our own lazy way

Throwing stones,

Arms swinging back and forth.

Our boots

Camouflaged in mud,

We are bored.

Minds like blank bullets.

Nothing to talk about.

I kick the Water.

It sprays up like a sparkler,

Feasting the banks.

Then something leaps into our minds

We both start to speak...

'Let's go down the pit,' he says.

Off we go.

A couple of troopers going into battle

Up on the cliffs -

Last one down does it again!

I jump, 4

flinging myself ofl'

like a stone from a catapult.

He does it again.

We stagger to the lake,

Wounded soldiers

Suffering from the jump.

Half-Way over...

'Let's go home.'

Back we march.

'See ya, ]ay.'

'See ya.'



A ball hits the fired red Wall

on which heat is reflected -

stinging my eyes.

A game of girls in a circle,

catching and throwing a ball,

bouncing on hot ground,

like a heart beat,


pumping the blood of earth.

I wish I too

could stand side by side

With girls my own age

and play,

while the sun grows smaller but hotter.

Rejected am I

by vicious tongues -

tongues that beat my eyes more than sun

A tear,

salty sweet,

mingles with sweat and heat,

and is lost,

smudged into my face by the world.


The Tree & Uncle George

The tree stands,

Charred as a used match.

Lightning destroyed the mighty oak,

But still there stands a four foot stump

Fifteen years after its fiery fall.

The death of Uncle George

ls woven into the tree's departure.

The way he used to limp

Through Henham Woods

As the rain slowly seeped

Through his battered raincoat.

His half bald head

Covered in a film of water

That shimmered in the sun

Like an over-glazed pot.

At times the sun

Shone down on his wrinkled face,

Lighting the creases

Like furrows on a field.

And his worn shoes

Were the cut-off roots of the stricken tree,

Wedging him firmly

To the living earth.


Great Uncle: the Death of a Friend

Great Uncle: The Death of a Friend

His face was like tired paper,

Creased and dirty;

He did not wear his cap then

As he always used to '

And his bald head was so rosy

I could have eaten it.

National Health glasses

Propped on a run-of-the-mill nose

And hooked around

Ears of stamped clay.

His eyes were those of a young' lion.

Pawing through the bars of age,

Yearning for hedge and field,

Wood and stream.

We talked about life,

Though he was closer to death.

Close to death...

But still the urge for life.

He needed no charity;

No home would have held him.

Not this lion.

A hospital? Pah!

For the sick.

Weak in body,

His mind took him

Places beyond himself,

Even in his boyhood.

Now only hospital could hold his mind.

And it did.

One week in hospital

Tamed the lion,

Cut hedge and wood,

Ploughed the field...

And he died.




Like fragile worms

making their way through the earth,

fat ones that bulldoze through,

so slow but so much power

and ending in white threads of cotton.


dark trees underground,

the lifeline for all plants,

sucking up water,

a giant pump

which feeds the tree.

A giant underground maze for moles,

Great ropes that spread metres through the soil

The rough bark that protects the roots,

old person's fingers.

The tree,

unable to stand without roots,

a bicycle without stabilisers.

It is like an iceberg,

the tree,

so little on top,

but so much below.


The Marsh Man

He lay under the bed of reeds

at Oak Field Marsh.

Protected by peat.

Until one day an archaeologist,

who was digging for bones,

stumbled across this human dinosaur,

held together by the thinnest of threads

Like the shadows of two


touching tips together

but never colliding

until the thread snaps

and then he's truly

dead in our minds.


Until, one day,

we dig again.


The Sparrowhawk

The Sparrowhawk

I was only seven

When I saw the sparrowhawk,

Sitting, confused and bewildered

At the back of the cat basket.

He looked around him

As if nothing was right.

He didn't recognise

The criss cross pattern of his wicker cage,

Or the black and white printing

Of the newspapers beneath his feet.

I felt so sorry for him.

I Went outside and picked some grass.

'Got something for you to eat,' I said.

And poked it through the bars.

The bird jumped up and lunged at me,

Trying to peck me.

I ran off shouting,

'I only wanted to be friends!'

But I soon came back,

Fascinated by the way he peeked at the cage

He saw a spider and fell flat

In his hurry to catch it.

I sat for ages just watching

Until it was time for school.

'I'm not going,' I said,

'I've got to look after my friend;

He's hurt his Wing.'

I did little work when I got there;

I just sat and thought about my friend.

At home time I ran all the way.

'Where's my friend?' I asked.

'His wing's better,' said mum.

'Where's my friend?' I asked again.

'He's gone back to the other birds.'

I started to cry...

'He didn't even say goodbye.'



The first of many goats to come,

Her coat a wiry gloss of brown,

Ears flopped beside her head

And huge pleading eyes of a hazel colour.

Her Roman nose making her look superior...

The mouth that was always chewing

And was passed down to her kids

Who could undo shoe laces, pull buttons off.

Her most outstanding feature was her head,

Constantly butting people playfully.

It was like the waves bumping against a boat.

She was tough and obstinate,

A bully amongst our growing herd.

When milking time came, she would stand, a statue,

Occasionally looking round to check everything was all right

Then the day came when she fell ill.

She walked around, dejectedly,

A solemn face, set, hard as a stone.

Gradually weaker every day,

No longer the bully of the herd

But a meek and feeble lamb.

She didn't even attempt to butt,

Just lay, a victim of illness.

It got too bad, too painful for her and us to bear.

We had to call the knackers. . -

It was for her own good.

The men came with their gun.

They weren't even going to take her away

To do the work of the devil.

I ran, trying to escape from her weak face.

Bang! .

I cried all of that day.


She Called it her Robin

She called it her robin,

And once she took me to see.

All she did

Was outstretch her hand

And sprinkle

Cheese crumbs

On the palms.

She would call softly,

'Robby, Robby.'

Nothing happened at first,

But then,

A rose bush

Sprang to life

As her robin,

Wings vibrating,

Flew from his nest in the roots.

He landed delicately

On her palm.

His breast was brick red,

The edges a musty orange

Fading into the brown of his back

His eyes shone,

Chips of wet flints

Smoothed round.

His beak was like the tip

Of a rose thorn

As he peeked for the cheese.

She spoke to him soothingly,

Dragging out the vowel sounds,

'Robby, my little Robby,'

The tip of her little finger

Tracing down his back

As she lovingly stroked

Her fickle friend.



The Robin is the creep of the class,

with his discoloured hunched back

and his small crocheted head,

which holds his close-set compass-point eyes.

When around people you're a gentleman,

a prince of good manners.

But alone you're a bully, pushing and shoving for food.

You're a prison officer, the one that lets nothing pass your eye

You think no-one knows

but I saw you through the window.

You have no neck; you're just a lump of clay,

moulded by a three year old,

and burnt in the kiln.

You're a tramp,

living in kettles and old broken boxes.

Your legs are knock-kneed, backwards.

Living on other people's mistakes,

and learning from nothing.

Your song is a war dance

and your red breast says,

This is a warning:

red alert



The Goldfish

The Goldfish...

is a splinter of mineral,

mined by Neptune.

Nothing stirs

in its own narrow world of undisturbed peace.

Its comfort. . .


The duel begins -

a quick bolt from watching eyes

from above,

a challenge with no end.

The goldfish is a sort of...

delicate feather

made from tiny mirrors,

reflecting everything beautiful.

Its eyes look like frog-spawn

with minute tadpoles in the middle.

I feed it. I clean it. And talk to it.

But I get nothing in return...

As if its body is here,

yet its mind is in a coma far, far away.

I wonder if it can hear me.

I get nothing in return

from this delicate splinter of a fish.


The Thought Cat

There was a bowl

Of cream in the kitchen.

Inside my head a cat mewed

And spelt its name 'CAT'

In creamy letters.

The cream was a projector screen

Which enabled me to see the cat.

He was licking his paws and cleaning his face

Getting ready to JUMP,

JUMP out of my thoughts and into reality.

I looked at the bowl of cream.

There was my cat,

Drinking the cream,

My cat.

It leapt out of my reach

And curled up by the fire,

Purred and melted away

Into my memory,

My cat forever.


The Call of St Francis

Come to me -

And bring me your truths.


Swim to me;

Let your fins

Like softened seashells

Hear my call and bring

A lock of my hair,

Turned green by algae,

Sealed in your memory

Of plants and stones,

Forward to the sea of my making.


Fly to me;

Let your wings

Feel my Call and bring

The snap of your beak,

As sharp as the sound that you heard

When you broke into my world,

Forward to the tree of my making. 1


Run to me.


Let the spring uncoil and

Leap to me

With bent-back ears

Like ballerina's feet.


Crawl to me

On your chess board stomach

And tell me the secrets of the ground.


Run to me

With your mane of arrogance

And paws like clover leaves

And share your jungle with me.

Hear my call and bring to me

The space of your desert

Like the palm of my hand;

My sweat,

Your feverish heat.

Walk by my side

Or fly at my shoulder;

Swim at my feet

And give me your souls;

Make me whole with your stories of life

And make yourselves whole with mine.


At Risk

The African Elephant Speaks

There used to be thirty

when I was young;

now there are only five.

The rest are dead;

their mothers carried them for nine years

They wasted their time.

They're on the mantlepiece now,

well, part of them.

The other part is lying on a pile, rotting.

Some were as young as one year,

their little ears flapping

and their bodies wobbling, caked in mud.

Their eyes were like black diamonds,

fitted in wrinkled rock.


The Rhino

The rhino is a child's model

made out of clay,

the crinkly folds casting shadows

over its rainy day back.

Its big sad eyes stare at you

as if to say, 'Help me.'

His creased eyelids blink

back the tears.

His legs ~ stubbed-out cigarette ends,

wallow in the mud, making craters

in the soil.

The horn - a huge cornet

of matted hair -

is the jinx of the rhino.

That is all he is hunted for.

And the lead from the bullets

has turned his skin grey.


Highland Ox

I once knew a beast that roamed

In the Highlands;

Its horns were a truncheon,



The matted hair was an orangutang's chest,

Or a half dried wig

Tossed and strewn about.

Its legs were oak stumps,

The rings showing age,

With a dry crust of mud for bark,



It had the skin of a rhino

And was tough as leather.

It was wild,

Could have known ]ohn the Baptist,

The locusts and honey.

He wandered all day,

But never moved,

Chewing the same cud for years,

Worn white.

Until, one day,

Some men parked a landrover on the-brow of a hill

One wielded a shot gun. ' '

Suddenly, a crack!

Doves shot out of a nearby forest;

A dog whimpered half a mile away.

And there was a thud

Of rock,


And heaving bones.

I never saw him again.


The Hare

The Hare is a messenger

taught by Hermes.

He has speed as a sword,

the elements his shield.

His eyes are ocean depths,

surrounded by a brown ring,

a twisted root,

a mind's eye.

His ears are two golden plates

with a trapped urge for man to hunt.

On his bow back

lies a black stripe, a battle wound

to go with his March madness.

The Hare's whiskers are sensitive to life

the ultimate defence.

His nose is - just drawn,

and left,



The Hare is created.

It leaps out of infinity

and bounds its way into life.




I had seen the hare twice that summer.

The sleek ears

Draped back over

Mottled fur.

The first time,

The lean body had leapt

From my view

As quickly as an arrow

Loosed from a bow.

When I saw him again

I lay in the grass,


Under the oak tree.

He sat upright in the field,

His wary eyes watching.

Glass marbles held between fingertips

And now the lean body

Spread out like the blanket,

Stained with poppy petals.

The wire, flung to one side,

Knots in a piece of string.

The patches of darkness,

Of death,

Creep over the lifeless body.

I turn my head away.


The Winter Hare

The furious blizzard...

like my brush

flicking water colour

over the finger-smudged canvas.

But there...

a flash

a stroke of soft shiny oil.

A hare,



through the slush,

the slush, like

my mixing tray,

wet and sloppy.

The hare runs

into the hedgerow,

the bare bushes

like a flaking frame.

It stops in the

wet damp leaves...

Its little soft nose twitching

like my wet black sponge,

its whiskers like

some of the finest

bristles out of my stiffest brush

Its bulging eyes are...

like blobs of oil paint

shining and glistening

in the wet winter's light.

Its mouth, a small

smiling mouth,

nibbles at a rotten twig.

Its ears,

two finely cut pieces

off an artist's rag,

frayed and smoothed.

But there it sits,

a beautifully made animal,



with a future of



A Shrew

A Shrew

A shrew

is fierce.

A versatile sort of chap

with a long pointed nose,

like a pen nib with a black pimple on the end,

which sniffs its way through pebbles, stones or wire netting -

or gives each obstacle a nudge in a temper.

Its long brows hang over its eyes with a sharp look.

It's like water trickling over pebbles in a stream

as it scurries about.

Just bones,

with a short covering of fur and a long pink tail.

The trap goes.

This shrew was fierce.


Red Squirrel

Leaping as a dash of deep orange inferno!

Delicacy in its dance -

over green (damp) limestone, dry stone walls.

In the Lake District I saw it

in a soft peat wood

of steep wet walks.

Overlooking Windermere

on a rainy day,

near an old ruined castle

with tall green pines

- it scuttled up one.

Gnome ears pricked up

with a tuft on the tip

like a sprig of fresh water.

And big globe eyes.

A gush of wind blew drops on our heads.

Swivelling its body,


it clutched a nut and chiselled its teeth along the lines

to eat it.

Turned once again

and a tail flew down a hole.

And that's the only time I've ever seen one.


The Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is the Duchess of the woods.

She lifts her wings

As if hitching her skirt to her knees.

Her silk bloomer legs throw her into the air,

And then comes her magical flight...

Her wings beat with grace - and power.


She glides through the air. _

Her X-ray vision scans the ground beneath. .

You or I would say that that was just a pebble.

But the owl knows that that pebble is a mouse.

The mouse knows that the Duchess wants her rent

But, of course, he cannot pay.

So she takes his life.

She stops,



And lands on the pebble exactly.

Her cat-like talons pierce the mouse's skin

And now the mouse has paid with his life.


The Bat

The bat is...

an overgrown owl pellet,

grey fluff and bones,

blowing around in the wind.

Or maybe he is the piece of rag

we gave to our cat,

that he tosses up in the air.

He is a dirty sidekick

sleeping in any hole

planning to kill the king,

together with his lord.

Or maybe only a rodent, cruelly strapped up with silk

pushed off a cliff,

and told to fly.

At night he is a living cannonball

flying out of his cave at 90 mph

like something out of the circus.

When he hangs motionless as a coathanger,

he is a living insecticide,

eating all the bugs.

But how is he rewarded?

He is outlawed,


for something he is not.

ALAN Sheilds, 13


On the sand by the rippling water

his coat gleamed in the moonlight

as if coated in thin silver.

Or had dust fallen from the star overhead?

He slid into the water,


as if covered in grease.

Oily colours drifted in the waves

and the moon's rays threw lazers

through the night sky.

Webbed paws were his paddles,

racing his clay body away from the hunter

The star beckoned him on.

And he followed the light once more.


At Dunwich

At Dunwich

You can wander through the forest,

The ground sprinkled with pine needles,


As the floor of a bird's nest,

The moth-wing prints

Of rabbits' paws

Winding through bushes,

The pine trees

Spearing the sky,

Giant quills

Sucked dry by blotting paper clouds.


Knotting through a barbed wire fence,

That has rubbed off rust

Onto the blistering stems.

At Dunwich

You can shuffle through sand

On the oil clotted beach,

Swelling your head

With the salty smell

Of fresh cod.


Gliding on air currents

As they fly in the wake

Of the fishermen's trawlers.

At Dunwich

You can walk the cliff tops.


Bristle cut in tufts

Sprouting out from behind mole hills.

Skeleton trunks

Of dead trees

Lining the path,

As the edge creeps gradually nearer,

Falling prey to the sea.

At Dunwich

You can stand,

Looking at the last gravestone

Eaten by lichen,

Branded by the irons of decay.

A subtle mound

Of darker grass,


Waiting to melt over the cliff

And join other graves,

Lost at sea...

At Dunwich.



On the corner, there is a walnut tree.

Stretching its gnarled limbs .


For the wind to turn its leaves

To face the sea.

To face the sea that didn't used to be;

When the Walnut tree had no reason to stretch before the wind

Now a car park, one or two tufts of rope blowing

Commands the bottom of the picture,

A picture unframed, wild but tamed.

The new cafe to the right,

Marshy dunes to the left.

But, at the top,

The sea, the sky,

The fishing boats.

Carved, wood splintering,

Lying like a herd of well-fed

But hollow sea cows.

Then the sea.

Grey, tops of the waves just brushed with white,

With the furthest curve of the stony beach

Stuck niggling in one corner

With the crumbling cliffs

A line of formless village elders;

Elders of the village of Britain

Sat in a never-ending war council against the sea.

And losing the cold war.



The teacher sits perched on the very edge of her desk, as if at any moment she might launch herself into the air, as she discusses poetry with her class of mixed-ability 12-year-olds.

The children rise to her enthusiasm and intelligently question one another's work: 'What made you describe a walrus walking like a drunk?' - 'My dad runs a pub and I've seen the men walking home.'

'Why did you say the whale had a face like a depressed chess champion?' - 'He reminded me of a character in a book we were reading.'

'What made you call a dolphin a knight in armour?' - 'It's the same shiny greyness.'

Their teacher, Jill Pirrie, has taught English at Halesworth Middle School, deep in the Suffolk countryside, for 20 years. Children know about her long before they reach her class. Poetry underpins all English teaching at Halesworth and Miss Pirrie's pupils regularly win major national awards for their writing and poetry. The poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, as chair of one panel of judges, once said she equipped her pupils with 'a superior kit of language techniques'.

'Poetry has the capacity to empower children to achieve mastery of all literary genres,' Miss Pirrie says. 'It encourages reflection and the powers of criticism, for the child has to be both intensely involved at the moment of writing the poem and then objectively detached, equipped with all the criteria for assessing the poem.

'I think poetry should pervade the entire English syllabus. Of course, this view puts me at odds with the system, which stresses balance, but for me balance means identifying the priority, not allotting each genre its own little slot.'

Her class is full of intense busy-ness, with constant referral and cross-referral to other poems and writers. Images are discussed and explored, alternatives suggested, criticised and developed. Throughout the process the children are constantly encouraged to dig deeper and deeper into their memories and experiences. Miss Pirrie, too, makes considerable reference to her own childhood; the phrase 'Now, that reminds me' is never far from her lips.

Children love her classes. Clare, whose poem has just been discussed in class, is excited by the power of controlling poetry. 'Nobody in my family reads poetry, but I really like it now. A story takes too long to write. I get bored with it. But a poem can be short enough to work at until you get it perfect.'

Perfection requires complete concentration and the class is often required to spend long sessions in silence, while they work on their poems. A strict code of consideration for one another is imposed.

'We're always told that if we talk we might interrupt someone's thoughts and prevent them writing a masterpiece, so everyone is very respectful of everyone else,' a pupil explains. 'Anyway, you're so busy and relaxed and happy to have that time to think about nothing but a flower or an animal - it's nice to be quiet.'

Another pupil confesses that he was not doing too well in English until he got into Miss Pirrie's class. 'Poetry's different. It's all yours, it comes from your own imagination, so it's unique. It's hard work, but it's very exciting.'

CANDIDA WINGATE; Independent, Wednesday 3 August, 1994

Apple Fire:

The Halesworth Middle School Anthology

Jill Pirrie Ed

Bloodaxe Books (1993)


In London annually a set of judges, chaired by Ted Hughes, grapple

as best they can with an astonishment that does not lessen for

becoming familiar. It is the astonishment of finding, and having

found last year, and being sure one will find next year, that from

a single school come poems, forty, fifty, sixty of them, sifted from

many thousands received from schools all over the British Isles: and

that these poems are of great quality, true poems, exciting in their

phrasing, startling as a good poem must be, but never startling for

the sake of it, all strongly individual, all clearly from the same stable.

They are written by pupils of Jill Pirrie, who has said 'English

teachers never work alone'. They are the work, indeed, of an

extraordinary teacher and the young poets she calls into existence,

liberates, in children who have in common only the fact that they

are pupils of Halesworth Middle School. Unless there is something

in the air of this corner of Suffolk that under encouragement makes

ready poets of its natives - and that plainly is nonsense - then

what is proved is that most children, certainly between the ages of

ten and thirteen, are able (and, as it turns out, most seriously and

unfussily eager) to make the response to experience that we

recognise as poetry. But a feat of teacherly magic is required, of

an obviously rare order.

]ill Pirrie has given her own account of the achievement, and

does it again in her introduction to this anthology. But (and it is

one of the facts of our imaginative lives of which she assists her

children to be aware) there is a view from inside, and a view from

outside: and I went once to Halesworth in pursuit of the latter. As

an old teacher myself, Pm anxious to keep at bay, as I tryto describe

what I saw, the usual vocabulary in which teaching is discussed.

One root of her beautiful power as a teacher, I'm certain, lies in

her freedom from conventional pedagogy. I don't mean that she is

any sort of conscious maverick. But she has invented for herself,

out of a passion for originality that becomes the children's passion

for it, the form that work in the classroom will take, the character

of her own presence in the classroom, her relationship with the

children and theirs with her: the pace at which they work, and the

way in which their eagerness is tapped.

I suppose one has to start with that last. She knows how to cause

children to be eager. And that, like everything else she does, lies

in the work. They are eager because from the moment they enter

the classroom they are at work, and because an atmosphere is created

in which it is obvious to everyone present that the work is deep

and worth doing, and leads to an extraordinary sense of well-being.

]ill Pirrie talks of peer expectation being as important as teacher

expectation. The fact is that here is a room in which you cannot

imagine the teacher ever saying, in whatever refined form, what

some perfectly decent teachers commonly say: You have let me

down, or You have done well by my teaching. In ]ill Pirrie's class-

room that is never the point. After sitting there for a memorable

day during which the presence of an intruder was absorbed into

the busyness, I could not explain how she made herself the plain

mistress of the occasion without ever causing her power to dwarf

or lessen the power of the children. But I guess it is a political

matter, partly: her whole conduct, out of which theirs springs,

makes it seem desirable to the children that they should have high

expectations of each other, and that each should attempt to justify

those expectations.

Add to this a curious and very robust delicacy in her. She does

not thrust an observation at her children. As I felt it, what she did

was to enfold them in it: it was hers, but it was instantly theirs. A

great courtesy - but, as I say, robust. She simply and convincingly

takes it that they are with her. I've never seen a teacher so close to

those she's teaching, without reducing herself in any way. Her lang-

uage is at times quite grand. It's one of the reasons for the success

of her teaching, I think: that the children know she's giving herself

as she is, not some teacherly simplification of herself. I was reminded

of those marvellous lines of Lawrence's, in the.poem he called 'The

Best of School':

I feel them cling and cleave to me

As vines going eagerly up; they twine

My life with other leaves, my time

Is hidden in theirs, their thrills are mine.

Except that in ]ill Pirrie's classroom you feel that it works both ways:

the teacher's thrills are also theirs. It is an order of reciprocity I

haven't encountered elsewhere. And a swiftness and attentiveness of

it: nothing is spilled, because there's a constant readiness to receive.

Nothing priggish about it. They're too honestly busy for that.

Their being country children, many from working backgrounds in

which it would be daft not to be down-to-earth, may help in prov-

iding that 'robust commonsense' that ]ill Pirrie points to as an

essential ingredient of their work: but I would guess that this is a

teacher who could just as well tap the commonsense in urban

children. Another point about what I saw: she roots what she and

the children do together in the plain - or fancy - facts of their

experience. That's where the commonsense comes from. They

may send their imaginations far beyond the daily scene, think of

ghosts, or of looking down on the earth from space: but it's the

need to note what's really felt, what might really be seen - the

practicality of it - that is clung to even when, perhaps specially

when, the aim has some touch of exaltation about it.

They form a guild whose business is the making of poetry, and

the exchanges between them, provided by Jill Pirrie with a quite

tense timetable, are craftsmen's exchanges. They struggle privately

with a subject: switch urgently to swapping news of work in prog-

ress: return to privacy. It's all urgent, but easily urgent: all tense,

yet relaxed. They'll switch again, to reading aloud completed or

half-completed work, and discussing it. There's a floating of ideas

and principles and perceptions and guesses and suggestions some-

times instantly withdrawn and replaced...about handling an image,

finding the useable items in an experience, borrowing from one

experience to enrich another. It's poet's talk, not a doubt about it.

Theirs is a poetry of images, resemblances, connections. Audacities

are admired. I said they didn't startle for the sake of it: what Jill

Pirrie constantly says in the classroom, in one way or another, is

that the seizing of attention is everything, and that attention can't

be seized unless you discover what is fresh in your response, or

locate the oddness there is in everything. Their alertness to this

notion provides some of the tension there is in what they do. A

feature of a lesson, if that's what it is, is the exorcising of cliche: a

running labour, but sometimes attempted by giving attention, for

a packed ten minutes or so, to a poem or story that demonstrably

has no laziness or staleness in it.

Because what they create together is so unusual and stirring, and

one wants to celebrate and insist on that, as well as to think about

the extraordinary implications (for instance, how much of this can

be copied, and what there is to copy), it's easy to make Jill Pirrie

and her pupils sound like prodigies and paragons, which is exactly

what theyare not. I remember that classroom in terms of the 'state

of concentration, dreamlike in its intensity' that Jill Pirrie says is

her aim. Iremember it rapt and unlazy as no other classroom I've

ever been in. I remember realising that they'd all been infected,

with complete success, with the habit of looking hard at what they

saw, registering keenly what they felt, and finding words and images

for sight and feeling (and clearly doing it all the time, and not just

in the classroom), and that they'd very simply become intolerant of

idleness of language. But the classroom was full of the usual human

stuff. They rallied each other amusingly (though never with irrel-

evance to the matter in hand. The irrelevant had ruled itself out).

The secret of it is not to be sought in the phenomenal. It is an

astonishing achievement: but one thing certain about it is that it

springs out of a very great diligence in the matter of being ordinary,

everyday, plain observers of the world, plain recorders of what is


The ultimate excitement of it is that, working with children who

are like other children, and making poetry her medium (and no

one should under-estimate the professional strength and courage

required in doing that), Jill Pirrie has demonstrated that plain liter-

acy is an infinitely larger affair than most of us ever allow it to be.

You can aim to promote it through cautious banalities, anaemic

exercises, dullnesses and smallnesses of every kind, believing that if

you know one thing about those you teach it is that grandness is

not for them: they are incapable of it and do not seek it. ]ill Pirrie

works on the perfectly opposite principle: and gives her children,

by way of literacy, a fantastic measure of what makes a poet: and

habits of language and outlook that must, for a lifetime, be grander

than they would ever otherwise have been.

This happens to be a moment in the history of education in

Britain when it is a particular joy to celebrate the achievement of

a defiantly original teacher of English.



For many years the poetry written by the children of Halesworth

Middle School has attracted attention and it is a particular pleasure

to bring together a selection of some of the best work written lately.

It is always difficult to account for quality in children's writing but

W. Hart-Smith s words provide a starting point:

Someone seeing me

staring so fixedly

at nothing

might be excused

for thinking me vague, abstracted,

lost in introspection.

No! I am awake, absorbed,

just looking in a different direction.

W. HART-SMITH (from 'Observation')

Here, Hart-Smith writes of the special wakefulness and attention to

detail which is the mark of the poet:

like this crack in sandstone

perpetually wet with seepage.

Only when children achieve that relaxed intensity in which they are

thrown on their own resources in an act of memory which returns

them to their own narrow world are they freed to write well. Within

their ordinary experience lies the impetus to write and it is the

teacher's challenge to release this impetus in opportunities for 'just

looking in a different direction'. The English teacher must provide

new perspectives on the ordinary world. And this is a relentless

quest for ideas.

In 'The Language of the Night' Ursula LeGuin says:

...experience isn't something you go and get - it's a gift, and the only

prerequisite for receiving it, is that you be open to it.

She uses as her illustration Emily and Charlotte Bronte within whose

narrow world so many have been released into a new awareness

which transcends time, place, and circumstance. LeGuin continues:

From the time they were seven or eight years old, they wrote, and

thought, and learned the landscape of their own being and how to des-

cribe it. They wrote with the imagination...They wrote from inside,

from as deep inside as they could get by using all their strength and

courage and intelligence.

The children in our classrooms have all this 'strength and cour-

age and intelligence' and it is most particularly the business of the

English teacher to harness such seriousness in those moments of

reflective wakefulness that so often have all the appearance of ab-

straction. There is a moment in Alan Garner's 'Elidor' which em-

bodies in story form the intensity of the creative artist's act of

memory and makes it entirely accessible to children. Roland must

make a door if he is to enter the Mound of Vandwy. To do this,

he must remember the door he knows best. In a supreme act of

concentration he sees:

the blisters in the paint, and the brass flap with 'Letters' outlined with

dry metal polish.

And it is not enough. He must try again and this time the 'true

porch' emerges, 'square-cut, solid'. He opens his eyes and there

indeed is the doorway into the hill. Then Malebron speaks and his

words are crucial: 'The door will be open as long as you hold it in

your memory.' In stories doors are so often magical. They are

thresholds. No man's land; neither here nor there. Always we must

try to open the door, cross the threshold, breach the barrier, and

Miroslav Holub's poem 'The Door' provides the most compelling

reasons for doing so, concluding with the unarguable:

even if


is there,

go and open the door.

At least

there'll be

a draught.

When children write their own "threshold" poems, each poem must

be a password. Their words must have all the power of the ancient

'Open Sesame'. Clifford Black's 'The Ford' on page 82 is such a

poem. The words effect the crossing. So it is by dealing in the

concrete images which make story and poetry, that children absorb

and assimilate the abstractions of the creative process.

Most especially, the poems in this anthology were written by

children learning to think, look, and listen within the good company

of other writers. It is when children make that essential personal

connection within a text that they recognise themselves and grow

into the self-knowledge which is dependent on mastery of language.

Poetry, as the most conscious and structured of all language, is the

basis of the English teaching at Halesworth and the means by which

children gain access to all the various genres. Poetry imposes an

economy of form and structure Within which they learn the power

of the noun and verb and the need to discriminate carefully in order

that adjectives and adverbs complement rather than compromise

that power. They must weigh the merits of the strong active voice

against the weaker passive and, above all, develop the listening ear

which establishes criteria and, in the end, aspires to mastery. In

this way, they learn to talk and think about language within a

literary context which is by no means exclusive. Rather it encour-

ages powers of criticism which discriminate between and adapt

readily to other genres. The ability to discriminate, adapt and

criticise is a natural by-product of developing thought, feeling, and

sensibility. This is a rigorous route to literacy; it is also a sure one.

Particularly, it is when children have learned to make connections

through leaps of imagination that they are best equipped for a

technological age. These are the children who will write clear,

correct reports, give and receive coherent instructions, and, most

importantly, make their own unique contribution to an increasingly

sophisticated society. The reductive face of sociolinguistics is today

as effete and ennervating an alternative as the mindless rote learn-

ing of past decades. It makes concessions, compromises the imag-

ination in trivial exercises in which lists are compiled, games played,

charts plotted. There are, of course, areas of the curriculum where

there are proper and meaningful contexts for all these activities. And

English teachers have a special responsibility because it is through

story and poetry that children will join the great and good comp-

any of writers within which they will receive our infinitely adapt-

able language. A literature-based syllabus which is structured and

rigorous is, above all, catholic in application. This is its power.

The ideas behind the poems in this book are attempts to recon-

cile the reflective involvement of the poet in a moment of memory

with the necessary detachment of the conscious artist. There must

be an acute act of memory and, at the same time, a distancing, if

children are to write well.

Ted Hughes's 'Thought-Fox' is a usefulastarting point for child-

ren growing into consciousness of their craft. Clearly, the i poet

writes about one particular fox. But a fox in a poem must aspire to

universality in having about it something of all foxes everywhere.

As Hughes says: 'It is a fox and a spirit. It is a real fox.' Moreover,

as it nudges its way out of the poet's memory it is rather an amal-

gam of many foxes known. This is the power of the writer. As

one of my own pupils said when questioned by his peers about an

image in a 'fish' poem he had written: 'Well, actually, that was

another fish.' Another day. Another pond. Another fish. This is

not important because within the unifying power of his words, the

poet connects the disparate, makes whole, transforms the particular

into the universal. Hughes's Poem' in the Making read alongside

the 'Thought-Fox' does more than initiate children into the poet's

secrets or give them a glimpse into the rough note book of his mind,

it explains the frustrations, the complexities of a task which can

never ultimately succeed. When children like Marie on page 114

write their own 'Thought-Creature' poems, they attempt to name

one particular creature by asserting its universality and in doing so

they grasp, at least at an intuitive level, the processes of memory

and imagination which must combine to make the poem.

Many of the poems in this book s have been directly inspired by

Ted Hughes's What is the truth? A farmyard fable for the young.

This is a dream sequence in which, tested by God Himself at the

behest of the Son, the villagers aspire to describe their chosen

creature in words so startling, so accurate, that they seem to

challenge the very act of creation itself. They speak in their sleep


'...In their sleep, they will say what they truly know..."--'when they are

awake, they are deepest asleep. When they are asleep, they are widest

awake. Strange creatures!'

Sometimes they come tantalisingly close to the Truth, but, always

constrained by their human condition, they must fail. God's dis-

satisfaction with their efforts is at once at odds with our own res-

ponse to Hughes's earthy animal poetry and an endorsement of the

sense of unattainable reality we glimpse in such writing. Again, this

is the measure of the supreme dissatisfaction of the poet. However

he chooses and patterns his words, the permutations are endless,

limited only by our human condition.

Throughout the fable there is the special tension of knowing that,

at the end, God Himself must answer His Son's question: 'What

is the Truth?' His answer:

'The Truth is...that I was those Worms...And the Truth is...that I

was that Fox. Just as I was that Foal...I am each of these things...'

is unsatisfying to the human ear because such ultimate Truth is

beyond the grasp of our finite minds. We are permitted glimpses

only, glimpses found in the daily round of our ordinary experience

and caught in lines like:

The Hare is a very fragile thing.

The life in the Hare is a glassy goblet, and her yellow-fringed

frost-flake belly says: Fragile.

The hare's bones are light glass. And the hare's face -

Who lifted her face to the Lord?

Her new-budded nostrils and lips,

For the daintiest pencillings, the last eyelash touches.

Our preference for such animal poetry over God's stark 'I am...' is

surely an affirmation of our human condition, rather than a rejec-

tion of the infinite. Moreover, at the end, as God returns to Heaven,

the Son chooses to remain on Earth. And there is a doorway: 'And

the middle of that cloud glowed like the gilded lintel of a doorway

that had been rubbed bright.' Then the cock crows. This has such

connotations within our culture that again we know our weakness,

the vulnerability that flaws us, binds us to this earth where we must

find our own Truth within ourselves if we are, at last, to turn out-

wards, articulate and whole.

Not only does What Is The Truth? enable children to write well,

it equips them with the criteria they need to judge their own writ-

ing. They engage readily in the role-play which takes them on to

the hillside prepared to speak the Truth of their chosen creature.

They must enter a state of concentration which is dream-like in its

intensity because they are being put under test by God Himself.

Then there is the judging and they know that words, so elusive, so

clumsy and wayward, cannot measure up to ultimate Truth. There

is excitement in this knowledge because it is our destiny always to

attempt the impossible.

Children cannot reflect upon or discuss' their writing until equip-

ped with the criteria which will make them their own severest

critics. Fables like What Is The Truth? make such abstractions both

concrete and accessible. Again, most especially, it is in the company

of the poet and storyteller that children come into their rightful

inheritance and receive the forms and symbols of the language

within which they will know themselves, and the grammar within

which they will make meaning. They must learn that while this

grammar is not absolute, neither is it arbitrary.

Above all, English teachers never work alone. Poets and story-

tellers collude with them to entertain and instruct their pupils. The

'ghost' poems in this collection, for instance, were made possible

by a reading of Leon Garfield's short story 'A Grave Misunder-

standing'. Ghosts are dangerous. They are so bound by cliche they

may dull the vision. Leon Garfield's story is set in a graveyard and

has all the ingredients of the predictable. But this is a master story-

teller who creates a ghost which is the very essence of the place,

an elusive concentration of the earthy autumn air, leaf mould and

pine. This is the basis of the children's poems - a ghost which is

dynamic, with at least the latent power of a catalyst on her sur-

roundings. Most importantly, her claim is on the senses. She is real.

She is the place. The 'ghost' poems on pages 72-73 were written by

children who had received a new perspective on the ordinary simply

by reading a story which opened up areas of their own experience

to new possibilities.

Other poems in this book arose out of a dream theme. Myth is

a powerful impetus for writing and, in particular, I have found the

Persephone myth a means of distancing children from this earth in

order that they return to it with a sense of discovery and awareness.

The very young child explores his world with a natural and keen

curiosity. We see this in anthologies like Timothy Rogers's Those

First Affections. Here there are tantalising glimpses of perception in

words like three year old Patrick Buxton's:

The owl is the mother of the dark.

And the moon comes up

From under the mud.

Spoken while being driven across Bodmin Moor, these lines testify

to that response to place and atmosphere which is so much the

peculiar vision of the young child. It is teachers' challenge to

enable older children to recover this vision by looking as though

for the first time ever in order to transform the mundane. The

Persephone myth is one of those stories which must, be told again

and again. This is the acceptable face of rote learning ~ when

familiarity deepens and illuminates perception and, in the end,

resolves itself in understanding. Then the poem: Imagine you are

Persephone trapped in the cold darkness of the underworld. Home-

sick, you dream of the fruitful earth you have left behind. Again,

within the dream sequence is the freedom to make unusual con-

nections, sometimes even bizarre, but always apt.

This leads so easily to the making of myth for our own time:

Imagine you are an astronaut exiled in the clinical austerity of your

spacecraft. Your senses crave the good earth which is your home.

This time the physical distancing returns the child to his familiar

farms, fields, and gardens with a sense of discovery and urgency.

Ursula LeGuin has said: 'The only way to the truly collective, to

the image that is alive and meaningful in all of us, seems to be

through the truly personal.' And strangely, we must lose our world

in order to find it. In the 'astronaut' poems in this book, for ins-

tance, Sara savours the memory of crumpets because she has flown

close to the moon whose pitted face restores reality and the time

when there were crumpets for tea. Meanwhile Leanora's senses

explore the minutiae of a lost world in lines like:

He is yearning for his earth senses.

He wants the smell of burning wood to swirl up

And tickle his nose

Like a coarse, rough feather from a bird on the earth.

The 'At Risk' section in this book represents the Halesworth

children's close involvement with environmental issues. These are

country children whose attitude to the natural world of the Wave-

ney Valley is entirely unsentimental. Indeed, I hope their robust

commonsense is an essential ingredient of their writing. But it is

all too easy to take so much for granted and country children must

learn to look in ways that regenerate thought and feeling.

Above all, as an English teacher, I do not teach environmental

awareness. Rather, I attempt to inculcate it at the deepest level

through poetry, fable, myth, and story. Nowadays there are so many

attempts to identify and teach areas of moral and aesthetic concern

outside the literary, scientific, or humane disciplines within which

children should grow into sensibility and knowledge. Poetry, espec-

ially has the power to enable them to know their creation in the

literary sense. This is to transcend easy sentimentality, reverse

alienation and return them to the wilderness earth which has been

their home for so many millions of years. From this homecoming

grows an atavistic sense of recognition and a responsibility for an

earth which must be held in trust by and for each succeeding gen-


Language and environment are inextricably linked and it is when

children articulate a sense of kinship with earth that they acknow-

ledge their source and affirm responsibility most surely. This is

particularly evident in Matthew's poem on page 106 as he comp-

ares the death of Uncle George with the fall of a tree in the woods

where the old man worked. Both come from Earth. Now they ret-

urn to their beginnings:

And his worn shoes

Were the cut-off roots of the stricken tree

Wedging him firmly

To the living earth.

Sometimes there must be a sense of fearfulness. On pages 127-28,

for instance, Stephen contemplates the the awesomeness of Nature

in the crumbling cliffs of Dunwich as it sinks inexorably beneath

the encroaching sea. Man's culpability in the changing climatic

conditions which are accelerating erosion in this part of the Suffolk

coast is, at least, a matter for conjecture and concern. Stephen's

words restore to us a sense of our vulnerability, our place in the

scheme of things. This is frightening but it is also the beginning of


In poetry children find the detachment which confronts reality

and refuses to compromise the facts. Therein lies the integrity

which is the hallmark of both the poet and the scientist. But the

poet must transform as well as instruct, so that as fact is assimilated,

feeling is stirred and thought provoked. Then the beginning of

wisdom becomes the beginning of hope for Planet Earth.

Above all, schools must value children's writing. Over the years

the Halesworth children have attracted a wide readership which has

fuelled the impulse to write for all levels of ability. I find that it is

in the mixed-ability classroom that all children are most likely to

fulfil their true potential. In this situation the less able are enabled

through peer expectation (at least as important as teacher expect-

ation) to read texts of a much deeper intellectual and emotional

level than would otherwise be possible. There must be success

and the criteria for success must be high and shared by teacher

and children. For some children this will be no more than a line

or an image read aloud and celebrated. Speaking has a deservedly

high profile in classrooms today and discussion before, during, and

after writing is an integral part of the process. But writing is a

private act and when a poem is written there is a silence which

must not be invaded. This is not to discount the value of collabor-

ation but, in the end, it is when the child withdraws from the group

in the private act of reflection that the poem is written. Then, the

poem may be made public and the group may reconvene to listen,

talk and criticise. This is a celebration of the poem which confirms

the writer's sense of identity within his or her text. It is an integral

part of the act of writing.

Some children go on to share their work with the local comm-

unity in concerts and readings. Some have their work published

and they know all the pleasure and status of authorship. This is

most especially a shared experience, a matter for celebration with-

in the whole school community. Also, and not least, children's

writing should be widely accessible to the general public because

it has much to offer.

In the brief pages of an Introduction it is possible to describe

only a few of the ideas and strategies behind these poems. Much

remains unexplored. Some children, for instance, have looked at

paintings and poetry using the Tate Gallery anthology With a Poet's

Eye. Others have entered the world of magic images in their 'Reflec-

tion' poems. For them George Tardios's words:

The world is troubled

With a lack of looking.

('Irnages Cyprus 1961')

were a starting point. There is also that great parable of language

and environment, Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea which

has enabled generations of Halesworth children to reflect on the

power, structure, and inexhaustible resources of language, and to

write with new insight.

But the poems must speak for themselves, independently and

outside the context of any vindication. It is enough to end with

Ted Hughes's advice to teachers in his Introduction to Poetry in the

Making: 'Their words should be not "How to Write" but "How to

say what you really mean" - which is part of the search for self-

knowledge and, perhaps, in one form or another, grace.'