Archives for the month of: July, 2014

It must be the time of year for food thoughts, because ‘Tightly Sealed‘ from this time last year took fridge leftovers as its starting point.


Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury and one of my favourite image sources.

Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury and one of my favourite image sources.*

When baby bear had left home
and then had had a pot,
it would’ve been, I like to think,
like the silver one I did adopt

from outside someone’s wooden gate
in the back roads of North London.
Either the owners had to relocate 
or make space for Christmas plunder.

Into my little pot, thrice daily go all things:
breakfast oats, reheated soup or split red lentil dhal, 
popping corn, or frozen veg like spinach, broccoli,
then pasta and basmati, in their single servings.

My just right pot has no lid,
a single handle, straight.
Burnt raisins catch in crevices,
but generally it’s great.

The first winter I was in London, I picked up the most ‘just right’ sized cooking pot for a single diner outside someone’s gate. In all these London suburbs there are certain times of the month and year when residents chuck stuff. Someone once told me that they would regularly go skip hunting on the last Saturday of the month, and even took a guy on ‘skip hunting’ as a cheap date.

I have not taken anyone skip hunting as a cheap date (I’d rather visit an art exhibition in someone’s company), but I do have my own skip hunting-buddy experience. Through my volunteering at a local soup kitchen I befriended a guy who knew (probably still does) the best back alleys for skip treasures in affluent middle-class, North London suburbia. There are a couple of finds from that evening that I still put to good use today.

My little silver pot was not a skip find, though. It was simply there on the pavement, sparkling in the blue winter sunlight, simply inviting me to take it home. We have seen many breakfasts, soup lunches and reheated rice and bean/lentil or pasts dinners together. When those raisins or sultanas from my morning porridge catch, I have to scour out the burnt bits, which I do with love for my just right pot.

* Visit the original image at The Old Design Shop here.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

This image is a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. Via Wikimedia Commons.

At the bottom of my road is a lovely green space poetically known as Cherry Tree Wood. Like the promised verdant idyll of Heather Green (explored in my poem of the same name) the Cherry Tree’s title is slightly deceptive. There are neither cherries nor much of a wood, unless you count the encalve of tress at the far end as woodland. But it is still a wonderful spot for adolescent boys to ride their bicylces and play football, for parents to bring their children to the playpark, for mums and toddlers to have playdates. Young lovers disappear into that shadey enclave and perspiring fitness hopefuls meet with their personal trainers alongside the tennis courts. Dog walkers greet each other by name and, since the newly refurbished café has re-opened, sometimes they stop for a coffee or juice.

Cherry Tree Wood is a rare site for mostly uncommercial communal gathering. The local schools make use of it for fresh-air time. After outings to the Phoenix, the reputable local indie cinema, the schoolgroups picnic on the grass before shepherding small groups of the children to the nearby facilities. It was from observing such a group on their outing that the poem ‘Packed Lunches’ came into being.

A Blow-fly (Calliphora, probably Calliphora vomitória). Photo by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen via Wikimedia Commons.

Soft to the thumb,
the pear I sliced
was gone.
It was rotten inside.

In a wither of ruffles
the rose-heads have browned
dry in the heat.
They sodden after it’s stormed.

Even the blowflies ferocious
have stopped their wings,
landed their green torpedoes
for the last time.

Something from lunch
churns in my stomach –

the rice, three days old?
the dhal, two days defrosted?
the sliver of cheese, too sweaty?
the coffee, a cup too many?

Now I, too, struggle 
to hold down this summer.


At the moment in London, it is exceedingly warm during the day. Not that it doesn’t get hotter in other places, but here nothing is equipped for the heat. Flowers wilt, flies buzz themselves out, food perspires and no sooner have you laid it in the bowl, the fruit ripens. Even the broadband at the house has conked out.

So I shall have to venture to the library to post this poem and a few scheduled archive items. It was my plan to do so early, when the day was still cool from the night rains and the school holiday crowds hadn’t descended. But I went dancing last night… I too am not quite sure what to do with myself. This is not so much because of the heat. I am a born-and-bred Cape Town girl, after all. (In truth though, I – and my Medea hair – do struggle with the humidity.) My muse seems to be awol once again.

Perhaps my muse has also surrendered to this overdose of summer.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Plate 226 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting Hooping Crane (1827 - 1838), [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Plate 226 of Birds of America by John James Audubon depicting Hooping Crane (1827 – 1838), [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons














Recycled” is one of my favourite poems for the tides it captures of creator-artist dancing with raw materials and the finished work. In this example the artist dances with the (helpful) sticks and the resulting beautiful bird sculptures.

The poem is accompanied by an explanatory essayette about its source and my magpie tendency to collect pictures from magazines and catalogues. Here is a taster extract:

“In the last ten years, as my life has been more transient and nomadic and my views about a life filled with objects have changed, I have become more restrained in such collecting. After my time in the USA, I did gift my sister a stapled book of glossy San Diego estate agent advertisements and Pottery Barn pull-outs in an imaginary décored version of My Californian Life. In my ever-growing collection of notebooks, you will find the occasional image of quiet studies, verdant gardens and cool kitchens drawn from Polish, German, Austrian, English and South African publications. On the most occasional of occasional pages you may come across a hurried line-drawing of a hotel room in Istanbul or a tin of pens against a window-view in Grahamstown.”

Read the full post here.

"". Licensed under Public domain via <a href=“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


In the unposted letter
patterned with tiny birds
and rows of tiny fishes,
I refine the matter.

A tight little poem inspired by one of my favourite occupations, letter writing.

There are three other poems on the blog inspired by old-fashioned written correspondence:

Pavement Writer
It should not be polished
Things of the heart, told in quiet

These poems appear in my books In the Ocean: a year of poetry and Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys .

At the end of last year, I wrote these two companion poems inspired by the postman’s deliveries:

Without realising it, the postman leaves a poem
Another drop in this week before Christmas

Find me on Twitter where I tweet about my letter writing and Bachata dancing. I’m @BeadedQuill.

I also have a third book (which was actually my first title) – Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012. Preview it by clicking here.

Image with thanks to Dark Roasted Blend

Image thanks to the blog Dark Roasted Blend*.

From this time last year, a poem about little creatures getting up to mischief.

* While searching the interweb for images of ant and insect circuses, I came across this diverting article about flea circuses on Dark Roasted Blend. DRB is self-billed as “a highly visual ‘Weird & Wonderful’ online magazine to complement your daily coffee ritual”. It’s worth a peek.” by Adrian PingstoneOwn work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Words cast spells through the magic that is poetry. Here is today’s verse:

Cast them together

A bra, a bit,
cad bitty, a bra,
bo bitty boo:
read the magic
these words spell for you.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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A merry poem from the archive about summer’s sunny kisses.

Vintage postcard image courtesy of Postcard Diva.

Sunflower courtesy of the Old Design Shop. Illustration by Kate Greenaway on sheet music from c. 1881.

An old favourite revisited, because artists are allowed to have their obsessions. “Exalted thus, we left” is a reworking of a poem from 2011:

I love the Dorothea Tanning painting that spurred the original “Jacob’s Dream for crinolined girls”. When I’m in Tate Modern, I’ll usually try to pop into the Surrealism gallery to gaze at the image, my crinolined protagonists and the yellow angel wrestled down.

The first version of this verse is one of twenty selected poems in Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012.
My other books include In the Ocean: a year of poetry, which came out in last month, and Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys.

Find me on Twitter as @BeadedQuill and on Facebook.