After the Rain

AFTER THE RAIN:  Barbara Hepworth’s Garden, St Ives, 17th October 2013

After the rain the morning light in this garden is dappled.
 The smooth sculptures, flecked with shadows,
 glisten with bright puddles,
 and the late autumn sun conjures a steamy warmth.
We look up through the green canopy to a cyan sky.
 Yuccas find a space between the oaks and beech
 and shout at the sun – we’re here, look at us.
We notice dark barks, some knobbed and knotted,
 others smooth, with chalky striations, upright,
 Accentuating the sleekness of the statues.
And at our feet, emerald bergenia 
 and dark green ivy are teased
 by the taller stately spikes.
The garden envelops us, deepening its mysteries.
 Paths guide us to hidden treasure
 as the sculptures and the garden merge as one.
The damp has awakened
 the field green, lamb's tongue ferns
 and they shine with delight, glossy and sleek.
We cross the stone bridge over the square pond
 where the mosses
 and maidenhair ferns are gathering.
We feel the smooth silkiness of the polished stone and metal,
 honed in a workshop by long-fingered hands,
 brittle nails chipped from hard work.
There are new surprises.
 The little shed and cot made up for sleep.
 And the workshop hung with overalls
 where organic forms were hewn from bare rock.
And as we leave, we see that the garden 
 is a magic creation, defying gravity.
 Held up and embraced by a high wall of granite gray,
 hung with tiny bright-hearted daisies, craving attention.


The Women’s War Memorial

As part of my MA, I was introduced to TS Eliot’s, The Waste Land.  This long and complex poem describes the world after the devastation of WW1.  Eliot used different voices throughout the poem, and I was inspired to write a poem about the important work women undertook during WW2.  The Women’s War Memorial in Whitehall is an enigmatic tribute to their efforts.

Whitehall 2013

The coats and hats hang
On the monument in the
Middle of the road,
Reminding us of what these women did.

Does nobody notice the huge brass wall
which counterpoints the stately Cenotaph?
We speed past along Whitehall,
or walk with noses down looking at the pavement,
and we miss their presence.

In this city women
Left their homes and went to work
As the men did
Resolute, unconquerable.

Maisie must not talk about her work
But takes the bus to spend long hours
Deciph’ring codes at Bletchley,
Protecting convoys if she can.

Freda works in Ordnance, making bombs
A perilous trade so close to the city.
Her Stan supplies the troops in France.
He’ll come back, but she’ll be lost,
One small life in so much devastation.

Mollie’s flying freely up to Biggin Hill,
From Winchester across the Downs,
And on towards the Thames.
For this short while, she’s in control
Of the shining Spitfire, engineered for speed,
Agile and lethal.
Then hands it over to the young men that worry her,
And with longing, hopes the planes will serve them well.
Next year Lancaster bombers.

Did Mollie watch the sky that July day at the unveiling?
To see the military girls fly past
In helicopters and fighter jets,
Accomplished in battle
Flying high above the city,
Serving airwomen.

Mr Brown, Mr Brown, my Derrick’s home on leave,
Can you stretch the ration?’
‘Not so loud, Daisy Proud, let’s see what we can do.
Anything is possible with a little squeeze or two.’

Anne hates gas training most,
Masked up and claustrophobic,
Crawling on her belly, across the floor.
In this dark cavern of a place, so full of smoke,
Scrabbling to find the sacks of hay.
She emerges, clutching her spiky prize, wheezing and choking.
Tonight it will be real,
And from that smoke filled abyss she will appear,
Broken, by the weight of the dead child,
Will never sleep again
Without seeing his sightless eyes staring up,
and hearing his mother weep.

Up above the Ritz, Flora and Ellie shine their beam,
Watching nightly for the foe,
The drone of engines, heralding fire and fear.
They are the beaters at the shoot
Raising the game for the guns.
Around them London burns,
But they stand true, celebrating hits with shouts of joy and tears,
For they too know boys in planes

Deep underground old Gladys is working
With her back bent like a collier,
Making up beds with cots and trestles.
Deafened by the trains that squeal and thunder.
Sweating in her navy serge as she hauls stoves and fuel,
Stashing milk and food in huge lead boxes
Away from the gnawing teeth of the filthy rats that watch her.

The coats and hats hang
On the monument in the
Middle of the road,
Reminding us of what these women did.

Perhaps now we’ll notice.


Mathmatics and Curiosity


In 2014, I was lucky enough to meet Anthony Preston, a scientist working at the University of Southampton, who is investigating the acceleration of the universe.  This effect is called dark energy.  My role was to write a poem which explored the science.

This is my poem – Mathematics and Curiosity (Starobinsky R2 Correction)

Within the cosmic web are vast, mysterious spaces
Which lie beyond our galaxy, beyond the Milky Way,
Implicitly acknowledged,
not clearly understood
Deep within the shadows, dark energy lurks,
Formed by fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution
Framed with invisible ribbons of dark matter,
Littered with citrine stars,
aurilian fireballs
This universe is turbulent, full of voids and lumps,
Disorderly, rebellious,
Stretching our accumulated wisdom.
With calculus for light and mathematics for perception
Capturing conclusions on paper with ink,
Interrogating fluctuations
in this celestial wilderness,
A new law of physics leaves its sign.

If you would like to see the full poster and other collaborations between writers and scientists, go to the Litmus webpages.


Burgh Island

Burgh Island Devon
Burgh Island Devon

We went to Burgh Island in October 2012 to walk, sketch, explore and have lunch.  I noticed the cliffs were of different colours of slate and the grains of sand are very coarse.

I had written a few notes about the area as a basis for a short story.  But I was attending a Creative Writing course at the time and we were given an exercise of turning a piece of prose into a poem.    Here is the result; I used free verse or prose poetry style.

The cliffs are of slate: 
some are blanketed in emerald and crimson in coddled bliss: 
until they are roughly revealed by the sea's cruel kiss
Look back at the slate: 
the sun is out and the cliffs are glinting from silver to pewter: 
there is a knight in full armour awaiting the call to war
Walk to the island: 
peer over the deep fearsome cleft, hewn by the sea - take care, don't slip: 
here the shining slate is burnished gold, hidden pirate treasure
Walk back to the land: 
prepare for another surprise, slate pink as a summer rose,
and strewn about soft, flat rose petals, confetti for a bride
The cliffs are of slate: 
and now the quality of the sand makes sense, coarse, gritty, solid: 
not the shifting soft sand of shells, but a beach of hearty slate