Saturday, 31 October 2015

Bingley WMC

The men beer in hand
Thumb tucked in belt loop
Trousers slung below bellies
Shirts and sports shirts, shiny nylon.
Polo shirts with ancient embroidery from the 1950’s.
Tan slacks made for men of a certain age.

And the raffle…
Arthur reads, “number 650 - the road to Leeds”
The band white shirted, white haired
Surviving heart bypass, divorce, WWII, conscription, rationing
Boom and bust British economy
The wax and wane of Trad Jazz
And wane

Until all that is left is this WMC in Bingley
A barmaid with blue plaits
A scattering of older people
Sitting in couples and groups of three
A semi-circle around the guys.

Trombone, trumpet, clarinet, double bass, drums, banjo
Most sit. The songs croaked
And cracked in brittle beauty
In fragile filaments
Saw tooth songs.

The audience takes up the refrain
“Down by the Riverside”
“Lilly of the valley”
It’s an old beaten drum
patterning the blues and New Orleans
Rhythms over and over.

I opened a draw and there was a box
I opened the box and there was an old battered book
A Set List book
Written in copperplate fountain pen
My Father’s book
“Down by the Riverside B flat”
Lists of numbers, chords, keys
With dates, jobs played when and where.

Not everyone pleased to see us
People are territorial
Have you paid your dues in beer and nights of your life?
Dad’s fans imagine scenarios of Bohemian fantasy
A carefree life of beer and wild music.

This is not our reality
Not our world
Ours is the world of silence and imposed quiet,
“shhhhh don’t wake Dad
He’s been playing all night."

Key in the door
The first sound of it and I’m off
Like a shot, upstairs don’t get caught by Dad
Angry, aggressive, interrogative
Or is it just plain bothersome?

Best keep as far out of his way as possible
Avoid interaction
Avoid stilted conversation
Blurred chats

These people in the room – what do they know
They just see what they want to see
A beautiful illusion
A fantasy
Make believe jazz band
Every day it’s Student Rag
A Bohemian Ball
Re-live those student memories and make them last 50 years

I give it back to you - grey couples
It’s yours - not mine
This image is not my Father
It is someone else
Keep him yourselves.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Banana Skins for Mo Jupp:

Sometimes life is funny
The wholeness of an orange
Before peeling it, the unpierced skin, the layer of pith, the segments enclosed, all perfect.
But it’s unbroken, so how do I know it’s perfect?
Because when I’ve peeled it previously that’s what I’ve found.
I was looking at edges today.
The way edges are made, the way I have chosen to represent edges.
Selvedges, the edge of a weaving, the edge of a newspaper,
not straight cut like the Pudsey Times
but pierced with a small pin made hole and crimped.
Once Mo Jupp said to me that a skirt on a woman was an edge,
dividing the legs from the body.
When I paint an edge it’s about separating the paper, the support from the layer of paint.
Mo was from the old school. Old school potter. I went to meet him in my best charity shop dress.
And felt like I was in his category of woman.
Being young and agog.
Not yet ready to think, not yet ready to have an opinion, a question.
In my painting I like to paint in layers, like an archaeologist, keeping a small strip of each layer
Visible, all the better to see the journey through time, through learning, through experiences.
Mo’s repertoire also a journey is pre-digital as many a post war artist was, is available in 1960’s and 70’s copies of crafts magazines and Ceramics Review.
His journey is out of control. In the public domain, he can’t change it or take it back.
Evidence of previous layers like icons of the past with their rough scratched unkempt edges, beautiful in their gold leafed disorder.
I’ve seen it now. It can’t be unseen.
Like looking into a foggy day, uncertainty, is it light or dark? Its light and dark and both.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Ashes on Ash Wednesday

Ashes on Ash Wednesday
Brr of cold – but not today
Blue of sky mottled with cirrus in peach, corn flower, baby blue
Today spring is gently warming the wind
And I working feel warmer than I have
For weeks and take off jumper and tights
And dress lifting and carrying my slip

All around us boxes and bags
Stacks of frames, captain badge
Beer mats, fountain pens
Old watch batteries and the smell of
Mahogany from a draw of the partner’s desk.

In a green bag on the desk
Is a casket of ash
And tomorrow, Shrove Tuesday
Eat up the goodies, the egg
The sugar, the flour for
The 40 days of shriving.

Ash Wednesday – show the colours
Wear the ash
Be a believer
A witness
Carry the burden of belief
For all to see.

The ash in the box to stay safely hidden
Securely buried
Like treasure
Like the pearl of great price in a field

And we will stand around a dug hole
We will make our final goodbye
With the good earth of East Leeds
In this piece of Catholics generations past
In the presence of Ted, Mary Emma,
Pauline, Leo, Paul – all there
Scattered in the vicinity
And others are here too
John, Jessie, Joe, and the tiny baby of Tricia

And at last here is Dad
One year later
In his place
In his time
With his kin
It is done
It is finished.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

 Anniversary poem

Eighteen years later we two
By pools and sea, rivers and lakes
Our love waxed and waned like the moon, full, gibbous, fingernail

Deep stabs, to the heart many times
Pierced by a sword
Love, stab,
death, stab,
a new baby, stab.

Until perforated the hearts strength
Squeezes on, pump, pump, pump
Although tired and sore
Although painfully exercised.

 in one time
The gift, the fall, the walk
of shame, the pain and sorrow.

Consequential – grown-ups now.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Angel poem

Angels and archangels
Lift, lift, lift me up
Malchus, Julius, Kiaus, Angelorum, Jonas
lift me up, lift me up
Cushion my steps with air
Feather my air with steps
Lighten my travel with your hands of love
Lift me up, lift me up
Soft lightness of light
Beings of radiance
Beings of prismatic light

And the glory of God.

And You my Poem.

And you my poem, born of imagination
O Bless the Lord
All you words in a row
O Bless the Lord
And you wild words and tame,
O Bless the Lord
 Bless the Lord
And you holy and humble of word
O Bless the Lord
And you all you words
O Bless the Lord
Ananias, Azarias and Mitziel
O Bless the Lord. To you be highest honour and praise.
And you haiku and sonnet
O Bless the Lord
And you narrative and surreal
O Bless the Lord
And you saga and legend
O Bless the Lord. To him be highest honour and praise for evermore.
And you Sexton and Plath
O Bless the Lord
And you Joseph, Glück and Kay
O Bless the Lord
And you Rilke, Kan and Hillsum
O Bless the Lord
And you Atwood and Carter
O Bless the Lord
And you Dickinson and Bronte
O Bless the Lord
And you Barrett Browning and Von Bingen
O Bless the Lord. To Him be highest honour and praise for evermore.

All For Your Glory.

Night and moon beams
Golden wonder of it all
Purple clouds
Indigo horizon
Brownest bread
Reddest sky
Purplest beetroots
Orangest geraniums
Whitest silk
Greenest, greenest grass
All for your Glory
Your Glory
All for your Glory
As for myself what can I say
Except thank you

El Shaddai

Friday, 23 October 2015

After psalm 137:6
“may my tongue cleve to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you”

May my tongue cleve to the
Roof of my mouth if
I praise Him not
If I love Him not
If I worship Him not.

That the best of all I do
Be in honour of you
May the striving of my
Heart and energies all be in the service of you

May my best smile, kindest act
Highest praise, most beautiful
Art work all be for you.

After Mass. 

How come I’m sitting here; An amazing scene beyond compare.
An alter, a chalice; God’s willing accomplice.
A cloth a paten; not one word forgotten.
A Bishop, a choir; incense rising higher.
The Prayers, the psalm; The Word’s healing balm.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Thoughts on the Expulsion: 
After Louise Gluck's Matins

"Exit by this gate" the Angel said
Like an airport terminal
We walked through and a door
and it closed.

We never did go back in
Although many times we looked
and looked for it.
It was beyond our perceptions,
out of our reach.

We were home sick – the first people
To be homesick.

But no – we tried to make the
Best of it – Adam farmed and
I farmed  - I gave birth to
The boys and what a time I had
With those two.
Always squabbling.

An egg for breakfast
Milk from the goat
Bread from the field wheat
God provides – but its not like it
Was once.
God’s hand always extended
Now we have to work for approval
We are not our own bosses

It's hard work – it is still
give us a lift on your bike
it’s back to work time.
Nice chatting –

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

In the Garden; 
After Louise Gluck's Matins

And in that garden
How so the first foot print
Angels high and near to pardon
The first frost, the first snow to dint.

We were there you and I
My life was in your eyes
Our hearts in God’s hands held high
Together, present under sky.

Ahead we knew not what
We were present to each other
In our embrace none forgot
Shoal of perch, flock of plover

Mountains, rivers, seas and shore
Savannah, grass land, marsh
Forests hedgerows, earth core.
Hurricane, tornado, volcano ash.

A garden moist, lush, green
Fig, grape, pomegranate, apple
Through deep leaves, snakes green sheen
Oh happy sin, oh necessary fault, leaves dapple.

Image result for praline elephants
Praline Elephants;
After Jenny Joseph's warning.

When I’m an old bag lady
You’d better shift
I’ll never wash my hair or self
I’ll have nits and fleas and be very
Unsociable to be around.

I’ll sleep in the dog basket
In a barn
And eat things people throw in bins
When I’m an old bag.

You will be an old bum
An old hobo
And wear the same set of clothes
All the time
And drink out of a brown paper bag
Just for fun.
And read all day and make fires
And burn all the furniture all night
And you’ll never call be darling
But witch or hag or old cow.

And I’ll answer because sometimes
There is glee to be got in being uncouth
I’ll have big silver streaks up
My sleeve where I’ve wiped my nose when it runs
And old food down my dress.

Everything will be so mucky
And will have a shine of worn grease
Just right for keeping the rain off.

And we’ll never ever be cold because
There is always furniture to burn
And I’ll wear a sleeping bag for a coat
And five socks and wellies for shoes
And four skirts for extra warmth
And vests and jumpers and body warmers
And a dressing gown with a zip
With a fur coat on top, fake fur

And I’ll have a parrot called Georgie
on one shoulder and a chameleon
on the other and he won’t know what
Colour to go because I have that much stuff on.

And life will be sweetened with
Praline elephants and savoury with
Steak and ale pie and we’ll drink a
Lot of tea.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

After Hsu Kan floating clouds III

Floating clouds how vast, how vast
Would that I could send a
Message through them
But we are at different ends of the sky

My mirror has grown dim
Since you went away
You sir are gone and nothing can bring you back

Floating clouds how sad, how sad
And you and they are parts of the sky. Not a telephone or a mobile
How can I message you
Now that you have gone
And although you sit
Ashen in a box on your desk
I cannot receive an answer from the casket

Floating clouds how vast how vast
Where are you?
If only I could be sure
You were in Heaven
I’m just not – sure
How can I know?
No text connectivity in Heaven
Anyway – you would have to have an invisible mobile

Floating clouds how vast, how vast
So true – the sky is without
Limit from here
Standing in my garden and looking up
Although I know there are satellites and space stations
‘up there’, if they are up-  where is Heaven?

Floating clouds how vast. How vast
Maybe a cloud is heaven
Maybe Heaven is a different scale to Earth
Could be fitting on the head of a pin
Then a cloud really would be vast.

Floating clouds how vast, how vast
I think you are in Purgatory
Yes you lived a good life
How many years do you get for being emotionally immature?
Here’s hoping for a quick release
I’ll say another decade for you tomorrow.
You’ll be out in no time
If you’re already up there

No hard feelings – smiley face. 
After Hsu Kan Floating Clouds II

Sun and moon how far, how far
The sea how wide, how wide
The wind how carefree, how carefree
Shooting stars how bright, how bright
Crashing sea how strong, how strong
Drifting boat how light, how light
Starry night how bright how bright
Rolling hills how rich, how rich
Vast forest how tall, how tall
Whispering grasses how loud how loud

Rustling trees how full, how full

Tanka Poem: After ‘Drifting clouds’ by Hsü Kan 3rd century

Drifting clouds, how vast
Messengers ephemeral
To send you my thoughts
But you are quite gone away

And my mirror has darkened.

After Grace Nicholls ‘Thoughts Drifting…’

Thoughts Drifting Through a Large Legged Irish Yorkshire Woman’s Head While Waiting for her Daughter to Finish Piano Lessons.

Vaporous clouds
Vaporous sea
Vaporous mists
Vaporous me.

Irish, Norman, Ancient Britton, Viking.
All those cold-blooded
North-Sea coracle paddlers.
Windy wing moors subsisters.
Earth scrapers.
Low-stone-sod-turf-thatched dwellers.
My ancestors.

As I sit in this cold, wintry, wet morning
trying to be spring. Slate grey day
in a centre surrounded by rooms.
Shards, broken music, fragments with
an overall Big Band underlay of
‘Hakuna Matata’ and two little boys
playing shop with the books.

Is my lack of awareness of
time, structure, being there
part of turning my back on
the ‘Authority’ of the ‘Father’
he said it – I will oppose and resist aggressively
be angry and polite at the same time
loose myself in the red mist of stupidity
the anger haze that obstructs
my life.

I let this great red anger
distort and
De-fragment and re-fragment,
confuse and castrate
my best efforts to be:-
punctual, professional, emotional
ambitious, proactive
self-determined, self-motivated.

My great red anger
is my spoiler
to my constant
mess ups.

Vaporous clouds
Vaporous sea
Vaporous mists
Vaporous me.

After Denise Riley – affections must not

This is an old new fiction, gingerbread
Snapped by teeth, dunked in tea, softly mouthed
One, two, three, gobbled.

And how on earth shall I know
When in Heaven
To stop the gobbling, the slurping, who’ll tell me?

You know what? I will not leave off eating when
Husband can say, “I will not tolerate this bad example.”
Children can say, “I will not own a gobbler for a mother, gutsy.”

And as I drift in and out of the kitchen
Work undone, pots not washed
Washing oozing out of smelly baskets
Why all this domesticity?

F*** it.

What is dust to me? From dust we were
And to dust
                                We shall return
Ad infinitum – so toss it off boys

I.                    Reject.          The.       House-key.

Submerged Cathedral: after Debussy's 'La Cathedrale Engloutie'

The blue green light in the knave of the submerged cathedral.
How did it come to be under a reservoir of water?
The drought of  '77 dredged it to the surface
clotted with mud and the surface clay
tiled in hexagonal trapezoids of baked 
silt from the dregs of the waters.

The submerged cathedral would hold
Songs and poems.
Blue light, turquoise light, blue-green light.
The day would be blue every day,
the night would be black every night
and we would never see snow or rain anymore.

Never see clear stars,
they would always be constellations
in geometric fragmentation and fractals
as through dimpled glass.

The bottoms of boats would be our birds of the air
seaweed would be our plants,
coral would be our trees.
And we would never cry.
How can I cry underwater?
How would tears show?

We must find an air lock of negative space.
Up and under a bell,
the last air.
We can go inside the tenor
and breathe the last air
of the submerged cathedral.

Inside that bell all tangy with iron
will be a breath or two
Then what?
How did we end up at the bottom of this lake?
In this submerged cathedral, inside a bell,
breathing the very last
that there


Saturday, 17 October 2015


The Small Pleasure of Folding Clothes:
After Anne Sexton’s - Consorting with the Angels.

What has changed Anne?
I am a mother, the spoons and pans are still here to anchor me to life
And the parts of life that take time and are a bore, are part of the routine of
Cooking, cleaning, washing, feeding, caring, solving problems, combing nits, cutting the grass, vacuuming the floor, feeding the pets.

Part of the joy of this manual labour is its simplicity
Its rest from the poem, the painting, the teaching
That occupies my mind and hands the rest of the time.
There is a small pleasure in folding clothes and putting them into each ones hands.
In a freshly made bed, in things ordered and put away.

God knows – you do know God
How I have struggled with the house and all it entails
How I have fought being needed by little ones
And been disappointed by rejected caresses as they grow and change.

My head and hands yearn for Paint, a pencil, making, thinking creating
Always some task asks for my attention
Before I can begin with a brush
Or note book.

Interruption, controlling temper
Fragmented thoughts
Paul asks ‘why do I do what I do not want to do and
Leave undone the good I want to do?’
Priority and duty are not the same thing.

Anne talks of angels and patriarchs
Lord these people teach us by their
Lies, murder, misdeed, betrayal, fraud and adultery
We are them, they are us.

Anne talks of Psalm 45 on your right stands the Queen in Gold of Ophir
The king shall desire your beauty… your sons shall replace your Fathers
A woman’s lot – to be parcelled up
For her king, a sacrifice
To bear, to labour in the field of wifeliness and motherhood.

Our children, the greatest gift and the greatest burden
One we accept and try to understand
The blessing and the commitment
God gives me love for my husband, He gives me love for my children
And I persevere
working towards acceptance of myself.

Polished Stones:

After Meg Bateman’s Lapidary.

I like the idea of creating poems of
Hand polished stones
Revealing the hidden depths of colour.

Trapped rutile, sparkle of quartz
In the stone
Grey or ochre
Or black.

A window is ground
With carbarundum
Until the poem is revealed
Trapped slice of thought
Suspended in luminous beauty
In glowing colour and hue.

In oil medium glazing
Layers of colour in the resin
The slices of tints and shades in shapes
Trapped in the layers of glaze.

The oil glazed painting
Is like a hand polished
The painting in words
The slices of thought
Suspended in layers of time
A polished window on the
Grey exterior of lifes patina of repetition
Show the inner light.

The icon luminosity
No external light can produce this
No blonds or redhead spots
No halogen desk lamp
Can throw internal light on
These images and words.

The poems hewed from dreams
Abstracted and fragmented thoughts
The paintings pulled through
Fighting presumptions, fear, being allowed
Not to be a potter
Allowed to paint.

Allowing myself the pleasure of
in composition and balance of shapes
The pleasure of the process
and slow,
Crafting of the image and the poem.

When are they finished?
When did they begin?
Building layer by layer the rich beauty
The inner fire – difficult expression

Awkwardly, learningley, here now. 

Throw off the Wet Gloves
After Anne Sextons  - Consorting With Angels

I was tired of the early mornings
I was tired of the computer screen
I was sick of the drive around the gyratory
Day after day, after day
Meaningless – days sliding by
And I said to myself
Where is the meaning in my stale existence?

And the answer came – “look up”.
And as I looked up, snow fell like angel feathers
And a voice seemed to say
‘Be playful’
When the snow falls it’s a game, a full stop.
A clean slate as the Symbolists say
It’s fun, let go of troubles
Cares gone to the drifts of snow
Climb inside joy
Igloo up misery and disdain
Throw off the wet gloves of being a wet blanket,


A View from Saint Joseph's

Home from Mass
Bowing, processing, catching up.
Cups of tea from an oversized teapot
Pancakes with sugar and lemon.
Through my most grievous fault
Chocolate spread
I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof
Money in this glass bowl
Money in this collection bag
Buns for Nepal
Confirmandees writing their own creed
Singing from the back
Romeo on his Grand dad’s knee
Agnes so watchful and serious
Luka happy as a bean
Nathaniel running for the candle
His St Stephen’s medallion
Banging against his chest
As he only just makes it to the lectern
Before Fr Richard reads
And next to me Naomi all in black
Watching a baby who plays on her Dad’s shoulder
And I remember Naomi
Quiet baby on my lap
On friend’s laps through Mass
Josie, Helen, Tim
Quiet and observant, trusting and waiting
My baby girl so precious
So nearly snatched away
in the hospital as a baby
Every corridor appeared to be ten miles long
Don’t touch my baby
I silently scream
Don’t hurt her.
But here she sits her arm in my arm
still quiet
still content to observe, to trust
for the future.

One, Two, Three, Skipping Song

One, two, three, stitch
Everyone get in the ditch
Follow the piper into the hill
Hide in the cupboard be very still

Three, four, five, delve
Cash in the teapot on the shelf
Rainy day money
For when the wind blows
And knocks down the house
When the bomb explodes

Five, six, seven, pop
Corn in the pan on the stove top
Safe here together
Now don’t say a word
Papa’s gonna buy you a mocking bird.

And if that mocking bird don’t sing
Then t’worms will come
And eat thou up, eat thou up
Hey death where is thy sting?

A Hardy Tragedy of Sorts

I’ve given all my barley for a single silk purse
My bonnet drenched wet, my face white and terse.

The inn is bolt-up and my horse is dead.
Take that look off your face or on you I’ll tread.

The barge is smashed up, the house did fall down.
I’m leaving you now to step into town.

Don’t dare follow me, I’m going right now.

A farm hand I’ll be and follow the plough.

My mind is a bag of marbles II 

My mind is a bag of marbles. Thrown, rolled.
Dropped in haste and rolling off everywhere

I said to myself in my distress
“Gather together”,
"focus, centre in"

I point to the place below my rib cage
And visualise the marbles rolling

As a film played backwards the marbles curve
And plop into the place of the pointing

I breathe and take a moment. It’s going
The marbles are all back
and all is well with me.

(photo, taken by F.Norton, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Not Vital Jan 2017)

Harvest Home

The afternoon
Spent luxuriously
In a plastic chair
At the bedside of mum
Dozy, pale, frowzy

Her legs just like mine
Under cellular blankets
The kind I look at and think
“that won’t keep you warm”
But turn out to be toasty

Drip and cannula, blood pressure
Cups of sweet tea
Dry air, warm air
Nurses chat

I tune out
Who knows if this is normal?
We close the door and
The quiet envelops us
I close my eyes to pray

Apart from kind nurses popping in
It’s a flower centre
With petals closed
It’s a cocoon of blissful rest
It’s a four poster feather bed
With the curtains drawn.

Its enwrapment of love
And one, two, three hours go by
In quick succession
And I with my book reading
A poem at a time.

The costa guy asked what I was
Reading – “Modern Women Poets”
And he said
“Nothing there for me”
Why not? Men can read
Poems by women.

And the time runs through a sieve
And the next thing the nurse says we
May go
Luckily we haven’t been fed
The institutionalisation
Hasn’t set in yet

We feel no tie
And are able to quickly
Change into our out-door
We head for the taxi rank
I feeling like an escaped convict
Hoping our luck won’t run out
Before we make our get away

Lost in the Middle

Mum in hospital
How did it come to this pass

At last?

Once there was
Its all grown up stuff
Is this play?

Her face on the pillow
With an arrow drawn
On the right hand side
In blue felt pen
The gown with a missing tie

The support socks
British racing green

The dog alone in his basket
The time
Like when we were babies
The house is the spot

The house is the place
Not to leave
Not to go from

And mum lost in the middle of
Two lives
Lost in the middle
Between her mother
And her daughter.

And she
So long lost, so distant, in exile from
Her mother’s world
from the workplace
From my world
Work for joy, pleasure, necessity

And she
Lost in the middle
Between two worlds.

In a small boat for one
Floating on a pink and gold cloud
In her coracle.

My spirit leaps
At the thought
Of her safety.

Of her insulation from the waves
And rude wind
Chapping her cheeks

May I be her Cordellia?