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As if nurtured

From the fallen log,
A sapling grew.

Now an upright bark,
With an outstretched canopy:

From the waters of the lake,
It skims the heavens.

A friend sent a beautiful card for my birthday (in July). The photograph was originally selected for the National Wildlife Photographer of the Year (2012). Please admire the original image by Adam Gibbs here. Alongside the photo he gives us an insight into his thoughts on seeing the scene at Fairy Lake, “To me, the little tree looked as though it had been nurtured by a bonsai master.”

Struck both by the image and Adam’s description, I thought about a possible poem a good few weeks ago. Two versions of this poem, that included more rhyme, I lost. They came to me while I was walking and then I didn’t write them down in time. Maybe those versions will come back to me.

This last week I have been reading a novel about the last Dowager Empress of China, hence the influence of heavens.

For other poems inspired by art, books and music

A Bequest of Wonder

Phillip’s Log: Entries about my Moonlit Sylph

Leo’s Entries

What We Were all Thinking (The Symphony Seldom Played)

Nos Liberavit

See @beadedquillwrites (Insta) for photo’s plus micro, everyday poems.

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Books are for sale on Blurb, including Jangle between Jangle, poems written during the London commute.

Residue / Our Pride

Photo by Earl Wilcox on Unsplash

I was told
there were regrets,
sadness over the things
gone sour.

Still to this day
it’s never been confirmed
to my face
by you, the one concerned.

I am determined
to maintain
it will always be
a little too late.

As it is, your stupid goodbye gift –
I’ve thrown it well away.

It might be pre-birthday angst, hormones or summer-fuelled heat, but when I sat down to write this month’s blog poem there was annoyance in the pen. I had been toying with a poem about the cost-of-living crisis (“levelling up with price matches”) or being left with an empty bed and sheets needing washing (“changing sheets again”) or being confronted by time’s speedy passing (“left too late”). (Interesting that in their descriptions both a laundry chore and the passing of time become states of being in my sentence.)

My mother has a philosophy that if she hears from someone a relay of something said about her by someone else, and especially if the something is criticism, it counts for nothing. If you want to say something to her, you ought to do so to her face. It’s a view I’ve inherited. And let me share, it isn’t always shined on as a response to managers in the workplace: “Whatever the Head of the Unit has to say about me, he can say it to me himself, otherwise I’m not considering it relevant.” I’ve learned with time to react differently, but in the realm of poems it means nothing unless you say it directly, to my face.

In this poem the matter is a pseudo-apology from one party to another expressed to an intermediary. Forget such nonsense! Say it to my face.

But it may be a little too late.

I looked for poems with a similar tone. It seems my poetic pen has a knack for diluting negatives into whimsy. Here is a selection of poems that have a darker undertone:

At the right age

Livelihood – Listen to me you golden beauty

An overdose of summer

Small talk

The overdose of score

See @beadedquillwrites (Insta) for photo’s plus micro, everyday poems.

You can also follow on Facebook for updates on blog posts.

And do sign up for occasional emails from the poet’s desk on the website homepage.

Books are for sale on Blurb, including Jangle between Jangle, poems written during the London commute.

Visitation

All in white
descended on my doorstep,
in a cloud of cologne:
the amoretto, the deuce,
the quicksilver son
of Mercury.

Some spells
are an intercession.

Other poems about visits, hellos and good-byes:

Different rides

My heart was a rogue balloon

Pavement Writer

On a traffic island halfway across High Road, evening

The mattress turned over

In this place, I eat butternut soup

Winterreise: on the table – a glass of water

See @beadedquillwrites) (Insta) for photo’s plus some micro, everyday poems.

You can also follow on Facebook for updates on blog posts. And do sign up for occasional emails from the poet’s desk on the website homepage.

Books are for sale on Blurb, including Jangle between Jangle, poems written during the London commute.

Palette of an overcast spring day

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Seen from the poet’s loft:
Red London bus, double-decker,
then a postal van.
Grassy yards where in the beds
Tulips, bluebells, wilder forget-me-nots
Now show.

A man in puffy jacket,
fluorescent against ground grey
far away.
A neighbour shakes a sheet
up to the washing-line.

Pigeons, magpies, parakeets,
finches, robins, full-bodied crows
frequent the rooftiles,
Conifer,
Wooden fence below.

Some say on such a day
The only colour to be seen
Is grey.

You may also enjoy these other spring poems:

In an English spring-time

Spring Wants

The first of two poems about blossoms

Supportasse Boughs

They’re purple but blue better rhymes

See Instagram (@beadedquillwrites) for more photo’s plus some micro, everyday poems from my recent trip.

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On the secret beach

Photo: (c) poet’s own taken at the secret beach, Mauritius, Feb. 2022

When we’re not there
Or if we are
the waves
draw up resolve

To putter out on shore.

Great energy, momentum
Dissolves in frothy white.
The rest draws back
to charge on blue

To roll a course infinite.

After two years of serious COVID-anxiety, I flew to Mauritius. In the two weeks there I planned to write, read and exercise. I’d packed leggings and trainers to go running. In 30C heat and 85% humidity my willpower wilted. In the mornings, a cooler and more sensible time to run, I instead pottered around making breakfast porridge and then drinking vanilla tea on the balcony until finding my resolve. At that point I’d focus on what one should do on a beach holiday: go to the beach.

I’d take a secret route (over rocks and a hotel’s wall) to a secret beach. I can’t tell you where it is, or its name, but locals and long-time insiders know of it. It is beautifully scenic, with little shoals of fish that dart in pockets of the shallows. In the garden of one of the houses on the beach they keep chickens and a rooster. The rooster spent much time cock-a-doodle-dooing. For me, this was an unfamiliar accompaniment to waves breaking. I’m more accustomed to seagulls.

After the cyclone, I spied a dead crab spread out over one of the rocks. He did not smell too good, but by the next day all of him was gone. Coming and going seems to be a way of the shoreline.

On the beach and in the day-to-day I did so much staring. Yes, like an activity. I stared at the waves pulling up their energy and dissolving it on the shore; at the seemingly still far horizon; at tossing palm fronds; at a bamboo-framed mirror on my bedroom wall that resembled a sun with rays; at my feet and legs; at the sand; at the beige cushions on the sofa in my rental apartment. Sometimes you have to charge, it seems. Or dissolve.

See Instagram (@beadedquillwrites) for more photo’s plus some micro, everyday poems from my recent trip.

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And do sign up for occasional emails from the poet’s desk on the website homepage.

Out of Office

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels

Talk with trees You won’t find the poet at the desk; it’s out of office time. On vacation, sabbatical, gardening leave, AWOL. Out of the cubicle of mind; in, instead, in long walks, lie-ins, in time with trees. I asked today if one could carry me.

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Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb, including Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written while jangling to-and-fro during the London commute.

New Years, New Times

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
Necessary Work

Types of Necessary Work:
Getting up.
Going to work.
Eating breakfast; taking meds.
Watching for my eye to mend.
Watching as the candle burns.
Letting go to say goodbye.
Waiting. Letting a breeze
into the room.

More Types of Necessary Work:
Devising shapes with pens and 
Filling lines. New fonts
embossed on diary covers,
new years, new times. 

Necessary work finds a rhythm:
It’s necessary work to rest
So as to carry on
The necessary beat,
The necessary song
The necessary commute
The necessary job. The necessary 
tasks to pay the necessary bills.
The necessary ways that take
the necessary tills,
and toils.
The necessary hurts and the 
necessary pains, to be lived,
maybe lived again.
(For you, I hope not.)

It’s that day of the year when, as a yoga teacher I once had might say, many of us are already in the plane. We are thinking about the promises of the New Year, skipping through the motions of today, while perhaps looking forward to an early night or a celebration. For many of us, the thought is “Can it just be 2022, already?”

Despite the 2020, too/ two/ part II jokes, an abiding hope is that all in all the year to come will be a better one for all, in all manner of ways. My go-to message for birthday and Christmas cards is often along these lines, “May the year ahead be filled with all good things.” Of course, realistically, we know it is unlikely for a whole year – especially a whole decade – to be without trials and even tragedies. But celebratory card greetings are not the socially acceptable place to reflect on the width and breadth of life. Like the classic happily ever after ending in a candyfloss fairy tale (or contemporary K-drama) such greetings are a fictional parallel universe where we can indulge in all is good, all is well. Even the end of this poem, unlike What is it even all for?, ends with a fairy tale ending for you, dear reader: the poet’s wish is that you will not have to (re)live life’s necessary tilling, toiling, hurts and pains.

Such a candyfloss life or marshmallow world doesn’t make sense, of course. The sentiment is what counts. I wish for you that things will be good, better, best. As I wish for all of us that 2022 will be good, better, best. May it be a year of happily ever after for humanity and for the planet.

This poem is in Necessary Work, an unreleased collection that BeadedQuill still has in the wings and has no steam to typeset. In the meantime have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written in 2018 while jangling to-and-fro during the London commute.

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And

From an original photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels
a poem to be paired with With

And, another word –
verboten in excess,
the Creative Writing Rules
would warn.
And then another thing
And, and, And, and.
Dandy and, 
Like but, not to be 
ushered in at sentence starts.
And so for years, and 
carefully was placed or
 erased.
But now the rules are weaker.
Butands, andbuts
Buttons, and boîtes,
All found in these small words.

15/03/2020

Today’s poem is a companion to With. Both poems are about a personal rebellion against recommended creative writing rules. Don’t end sentences with with. And don’t start sentences with and and nor should you use and in excess by using it to tag on extensions and meanders to your primary thoughts. Of course, I have an affection for these two small words. With and. And with.

There is a third word in this list of to be used correctly words and that is but. Like and, it should not be used to start sentences (with). In the poem, you can see how the association with but finds its way into the playful end list:

But now the rules are weaker.

Butands, andbuts

Buttons, and boîtes,

These three little words are little buttons as they attach and close the gaps between meanings and sentences. And they are little presents that add an extra thought (And then this other thing happened…) or swerve the original direction (I had planned to, but…) or bring in the possibility of open adventure and movement (Let’s go with).

Don’t do this in your homework, kids. You may have to wait until you are the final arbiter of your writing style.

This poem is in Necessary Work, an unreleased collection that BeadedQuill has in the wings. In the meantime have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written in 2018 while jangling to-and-fro during the London commute.

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Having accomplished

Photo (altered) by Andrey Grushnikov from Pexels
There is that lull
Where you can’t unhook
from sinkhole hours lost
to nothing with nothing
to show for it.

Having completed no task,
cursory to dos
eating, basics, coffees, two
evening closes in
and mad-desperate panic
of IS THIS ALL YOU LEAVE?
will be your watching gong
of dervish disappointment.

17/05/2020


With a book token I was gifted for my birthday, I bought Four Thousand Weeks (by Oliver Burkeman). The title comes from the calculation that if one lives eighty years, one lives four thousand weeks. (I find this calculation as terrifying as the estimation one will spend 80,000 to 90,000 hours in the Day Job in one’s lifetime.) Four Thousand Weeks is about how one may, or may not, make best use of this time. In some accounts, it is identified as a time management book for not managing one’s time. What I took from reading the book is, you will do what you will do – and will not do what you will not get around to doing.

Which is an apt start for this Monday morning (25th October 2021). I have a week’s leave ahead of me, during which I intend to accomplish All Manner of Things: 7,000 word output for a study deadline, Korean language homework, exercise, bleaching and washing the white towels and getting a stain out of some linen. There was this post that in my mind I’d prepare for a 10am posting; here we are nearing midday. Usually I join an online writing group for 7am(ish). It was during that slot I was planning to write this post. I slept through and would still happily be resting my aching self under the duvet, only – really – it’s nearing midday.

This poem is very similar to What is it even all for?, which was posted back in March as Airtime will be of little use. Of course, we get things done day-to-day, week-to-week. It astounds me though, that I and so many of us, have this ability to sidestep the big project. The “big, hairy, audacious task” as time management lingo might call it. It’s no surprise that a whole industry, which in turn can morph into procrastination, has ballooned around setting out to conquer your BHAT to do.

The sinkhole in this poem may refer to that moment in a day, or when you’re reviewing your week, when you realise, there is no time left to make significant or minute inroads into your BHAT or SmaTs (smaller tasks). For me, that’s usually 11pm. At 6pm, I convince myself I have another 2 to 3 hours to accomplish a few items. The most dangerous is the mornings, when I’m convinced – at 7am – I’m going to Get Stacks Done with my fresh brain before 9am or 10am. My aching, tired self protests and it takes a lot to overcome this do otherwise.

Yet, as Burkeman suggests, here I am having done the thing I was going to do and having not done the thing I have not done. The October 2021 blog post is complete and 600 words of study writing and a short jog are still on the list. I have resigned to being underprepared for tonight’s Korean lesson and have had my first cup of coffee for the day.

This poem is in Necessary Work, an unreleased collection that BeadedQuill has in the wings. In the meantime have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written in 2018 while jangling to-and-fro during the London commute.

You can now sign up for rare to precious newsletter-type emails from BQ. Sign up at the bottom of the website homepage.

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Things you do with things

Photo collage by BeadedQuill

The sun comes up,
the sun goes down, what
does the sun do in the 
middle of the day?

Answer:
It stands in the middle 
of the sky.

25/01/2020

I am preparing this blog on the day of the autumn equinox 2021. At 7am-ish, the big, white moon was still in the sky already blue with morning light. I took a moment to log the scene in my poet’s files: the sun had risen in the East, on the far side of my loft, while that white moon was descending to the horizon in the West, where I stood looking out over my Juliet balcony at the face-brick, 1930s tube station and that hovering moon.

In my online yoga session last night our teacher shared that it has been the season of a full moon and the Harvest moon. Paired with the autumn equinox, this makes for a time of review and change. I read somewhere else that this is a season for nostalgia, for stoking over the memories.

The poem in this post is a funny little one. I really wrote it in September 1989 when we went on holiday as a family to Betty’s Bay. I compiled, as children do, a diary of the trip. I found the notebook in a box of papers when I was in Cape Town at the end of 2019 and decided to courier it, along with a few other sentimental keepsakes, to North London. The little Croxley Exercise Book includes: daily entries; drawings of the animals and plants, a mermaid and the house we stayed in; a comic strip about a fight between my parents; maps; activities like a crossword and a series of “riddles”, this sun poem being one of them.

For some reason, when I read the riddle page (after reading about brushing my teeth – that resulting poem perhaps to follow), I burst into a fit of teary laughter. I know that as an eight-year-old I was not writing about the movements of the heavens, but the thirty-eight-year-old me imposed an adult’s interpretation. The other riddles are also amusing when read on multiple levels. (And the detail that each is followed by “Answer” amuses me, too.)

You eat rice with a spoon. 
You eat cut up your vegtabels (sensible spelling I would say) with a fork, 
What do you eat with a knife?
Answer

Fish swim, people walk, what do 
Butterfly’s do? 
Answer

Sun may come out and the clouds may 
come out what other two
things could come out?
Answer

Answers on page 25

The answers on page 25 are headed “Answers to pages”. For those of you who are avid Morning Pages (or general pages) writers, any “Answers to pages” would be quite the welcome find. Returning to the riddles, the answers are:

Oranges
Fly
The rain could come out or the wind. 

There we have it. Oranges are eaten with a knife. Butterfly’s (sic) fly and beyond the sun or clouds, it is rain or wind that could come out.

My time capsule notebook currently lives on my bookshelf between an anthology of Chinese Poetry in translation and Petra Müller’s “Swerfgesange vir Susan en Ander”. Perhaps one day it will have outlived its harvest and be sent to the fire (it deserves an end more symbolic than mere recycling). For now, I still page through those back leaves and note how much of that eight-year-old still endures, and how much has changed. Or, in this season of shift, it is to contemplate how much might need to change.

In the extract below I can hear my work email voice and the responses I now send on WhatsApp to a degree that’s uncanny. I still love garden spaces and need an annual pilgrimage to the sea. In this season of harvest reflection I wonder: how much are qualities deep-seated “for a person like me” and which ones need to be felled in preparation for a new season.

A little say about Betty’s Bay
Betty’s Bay is really a
lovely place; it’s got the
sea and flora which 
makes it perfect for a 
person like me.
I enjoyed the botanical
gardens the most.
I also enjoyed the
sea.
I am looking forward this
time and sincerely hope
I will enjoy it. 

“Things you do with things” is in Necessary Work, a forthcoming collection of BeadedQuill’s 2020 poems. In the meantime, have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a recent mini-book of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London in pre-pandemic commute times.

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