Sunday, 29 November 2015

It’s Over

Not now but when I ask you,
I hear myself reply
I know what you’ve been thinking,
Not expecting this good bye

Not now but when I  ask you
For the keys to the front door
Your presence here is irksome
You’re not needed anymore

Not now but when I ask you
The answer to my plea
Do you, have you ever loved me?
The reply is plain to see in your eyes and your face.

Not now but when I ask you
Rapt out in anger sharp
You could not, would not see my pain
Or reach out to me with your heart in the dark.

Not now but when I ask you
Why, why, why, why, why, why
Did you propose, and I agree
And rend our lives and peace did flee
Not now but when I ask you
The fumy smoke and ash
The rosѐ wine, and whiskey vodkas
I took them all and turned happiness to trash and oddness

Not now but when I ask you
So why did you have to ring?
It’s over, gone, speak my name no more
Our time together bound by a ring
Is no more a precious thing
But out of sight and time and place
Not now
Not ever

Friday, 27 November 2015

It’s all of a Piece

It’s as if I’ve been here before
It’s all of a piece
The watcher and the watched
Who is sleeping and
Who is watching?
Their heads so close so their thoughts run
Together in a pool
Of reflective light
On whose surface
Marbling inks swirl
And curdle in blooming paisley leaves of colour
Calling to mind old books looked at in an antique bookshop on Woodhouse Lane
Who is dreaming whom?
Malchus my Angel
What lies trapped beneath
The ice of my mind
What thoughts wait?

Thursday, 26 November 2015


Is this going anywhere?
What’s the criteria?

Can we capitulate
If I excommunicate?

My heart is expiate
I can’t foil to extrapolate

My soul is expatriate
My body is nitrate

Ready to explode.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


Holidays and markers of the year pass
You are not there
‘Nothing will come of nothing’,
Me and Dad
‘How sharper than a serpents tooth it is to have a thankless child’
Infinity – nothing will come of nothing
If I don’t do anything – this is counted as an action or an anti-action
Nothing will come of nothing - like the sin of omission.
It’s my fault to leave undone something I should have done
Its negative, ‘nothing’ is not a good idea, negating responsibility
It’s acting the child
It’s stepping back, stepping away, side stepping, stepping out
All the stepping is avoidance
Put them all together and a kind of dance of avoidance begins to be choreographed.
Infinity- nothing will come of nothing
A step into nothing
A leap of pure faith
A step into the unknown
A blind leap
Infinity – stretching before, reaching back behind
And where I am
What do I see?
A hall of mirrors repeating the same image
Me - framed in a mirror – going back and going forward infinitely.
Infinity – my eyes become unfocused not knowing which me to rest my eye on
So zoom from micro to macro
Shut down
Overload of imagery
The eye gives up, closes
Infinity inside my closed eye
Retinal afterimage.

Monday, 23 November 2015

In The Computer Screen

In the computer screen today
I watched my contours
The computer is taking a long time completing a task
It draws in my eyes
Dawning in my eyes is me reflected in the black screen
In the black
I don’t see it at first because I’m thinking about my next computer action
But then I see me - it’s a black me
with harshly contrasted blacks and whites
The window on one side throwing a strong white light
and the darkening room on the other side and in the screen
And I’m there in the screen and there in the room
and somewhere in between neither in the room or in the screen
but like infinity between the two places
travelling having left a long time ago and knowing I have a long way yet to go.
Committed to the journey
fatalistically committed
I don’t have a choice this is a reality, an immoveable, irrefutable, undeniable truth.
And my journey is one every one of us has to go through.
The Father has abandoned me.
He has left me.
Now I have to carry on
Without his presence and guidance
Without his comment and judgement
Without his say so.
I am now an adult, free of childhood, free of the person I was.
I am reborn.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

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

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Green Hench I

On a green hench a tumulus earth works
I lay my head on the steep slope
And look out, look across, look around
Directly opposite, the Ring of Brogdar stands silently
Each stone, a stone of immense weight, a slab
Flat sheared like paving – special stone
Red sandstone and the circle, unbroken
Yet has missing teeth, fallen where they stand, or gone
The magnetic power of the ring is strong
Rings of magnetism emit silently from the ring
Emanating until they reach
The stones of Stenness
 A smaller circle
Next to a lake
Deadpool lake – still – uncut
And under the lake is the water to be
Silent, black pool
And above the lake is the cloud filled
Sky full of potential water
And the stones like a moon pull
The water down, down into the earth
Where they collect and lay until they
Are tidally pulled up – into the lake
Up into the vapourous cloud – the stones
Direct all – speaking silently to each other.
Brogdar to Stenness

Triangulating over to Maes Howe
the Green Hench on which I am sitting.
Maes Howe an underground circle of stones
And each stone
Reveals behind it a built alcove
Turf covers the circle
From the passageway underground is
A clear view of the two points of Brogdar and Stenness
Old geometry
Old thoughts
Old plans
Paths to the next life
Paths to the stars
Paths of story telling
Paths of lives long gone yet
Whispered still.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Green Hench II
Maes Howe, Orkney Isles:

Like a tortoise asleep in a field
The Green Hench sat
Solid, rounded forever.

The way to it zigged and zagged around the edge of fields
In fenced off walk ways
Until we reached the gate
And pavement around Maes Howe
Neolithic Orcadian

The Howe prominent on the flat
The greenest sward of grass
Succulent well fed grass
Gave no hint of what lay beneath
This softly organic form.

Entrance and passageway narrow and low
Some reluctant to enter
Claustrophobic, fear gripped, white faced, wide eyed.

The way, a reverse birth
Re-entering the womb
Remember the way out?
A hard difficult squeeze
Clamped by muscle, gripped by bone.
Now choose to re-enter.

Not a light and easy choice
I go – to know.
Inside as dark as pitch
Filled with the huffing of the other souls
Standing still and circular as the stones of Steness.

The only light – blocked by more entering
Until we are all assembled
And the daylight flushes down the long entrance passageway
With the last person
Light falls in slivers of silver
Illuminating the chamber and ceiling
A beehive of rocks a cairn over our heads
Faintly lighting the alcove opposite the door

Others are now dark negative spaces
There is a hush
I stand captivated by thoughts of
Master builders
Times past, lives past
Seasonal, planetary ceremonies
Held here
in awe of the age
The beauty
The ingenuity of this
Green hench.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Gone but Not Forgotten:
A Victorian Sentimental Verse.

Mourning Handkercheif 11; by  F. O'Donnell 
Gone but not forgotten, Days drag into weeks
Fighting for the meaning, my mood in troughs and peaks
The valley once so verdant, is now a misty lodge
The mountain peak a bright sharp ledge, now a snow bound block

Gone but not forgotten, the weeks stretch into months
My torpourous black clad form to others is a bore
The bright and breezy outlook is low and drab and grey
And dancing love and laughter is very far away.

Gone but not forgotten, the time it goes so slow
And still I look upon your box and know that you must go.
The cemetery at Killingbeck where all the family lay
In scattered graves about the place
My resting place one day.

Gone but not forgotten, the year draws to a close
Close of life, close of face, laid in the coffin dead not in a doze
And now reality is like a knife a cut to show it’s not a dream

And I must travel ever on until that day we meet again.

Monday, 16 November 2015


Alizarin Crimson.
Indian Yellow.
The colours in tubes squeezed fatly onto paper,
the texture of soft butter,
the smell of woody linseed.

How good
to be sitting here today,
plastic taped to the carpets
and set out, around the studio, vignettes.
Over here autumnal squash and conkers,
over here silks and Buddha’s head,
on the walls paintings in different stages of finish.

Bean tins of beautifully kept brushes,
neat boxes of colours and sets of brush-wash pots.
Everywhere order, stacks of canvases, a tidy mind.

Thalto green – tint strength high.
Raw Sienna – medium transparency.
Thoughts applied to images
like the stripes of coloured glazes.
Yellow for greed.
Red for anger.
Blue for down.
Green is nothing.
Burnt sienna for Bronze light, good and getting better.
I apply stripes of transparent colour to previously painted images
from the ‘Room’ series.
My studio
my arena of work.
The place I work in and the subject of my current work.
Till now executed in black and white monochrome.

Fourteen canvases and boards
all black and white, depicting ‘Room’.
My Father’s study.

Yes he’s dead.
Yes I’m still working on getting over it.
Yes it’s still about this,
It’s all about this and me
and me
and this fact.
This boulder.
This pit.
This invisible stumbling block.

These glazes over-layering ‘Room’ change it.
With their beautiful, transparent, shiny lacquer layers.
They metamorphose the past.
They are present to the colours,
the ‘Room’ is transforming.

 Rainbow prisms overlay images and lifts them.
The lines of perspective extend to Venus,
the light bends as it passes the sun.
It splits and bends, overlays, double images,
and split white-light mixes to perform a dance.

A shooting star
through the midst of the room.
And my world is expanded
and Mobius stripped.

Nothing will ever be the same,
the colours have changed
and are continuing to change.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Dream Poem 16

It was Dad’s funeral
I was all in black with white tights and a long black veil
I was writing my name in black – on my shirt hem - over and over.
At one point I lay on the floor
People were a bit shocked but just looked.
The funeral service was held in a school class room, the children had put their chairs on the tables.

And I was thinking ‘I only have to do this one more time and that will be three funerals for Dad’.

For Muriel

Muriel Spark born 1918
Poet, woman, life liver
A Scott, why not? In Rhodesia.
Changed her mind, swapped Vicar for Priest.

Priest for Vicar and took the Host
On her tongue, Latin in her mouth
Missal in her hand-bag. Heavy
Rosary in her hand, slipping decades

Through her fingers.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Thinking About Infinity

I‘ve been thinking about infinity
But perhaps it’s not infinity I’m after but eternity
My infinity
Where the sea and the sky meet
Where the sea fades into the sky fog
Where the fog and the horizon merge
Smoke obscuring vision
Rain lashed window so the landscape outside is obscured
An open peat fire smoking up to the ceiling working its way up a shaft of light
Cut in the roof tiles
a vent
from which the peat smoke acrid and earthy
delightfully brown and wholesome
inexorably is sucked out into the morning sky
creating from the outside
a sanctuary of the home
a prayer
a lit candle in front of a domestic Madonna or a house-hold saint
small – propped, surrounded by offerings
a single ear ring, a piece of Lego, a bowl of last year’s conkers, a chrysanthemum petal,
drops of spilt wax.
Our household shrine
Our slim passage to infinity, to eternity.
On one wall my constructed iconostasis.
Cobbled together photocopies, tiny tourist icons, post cards, St Francis in four different versions, St Julian of Norwich for writing and wisdom – good sense and down to earth kindliness. Jesus, a hand raised in benediction over our dinner table. A sprig of olive from Assisi home of Il Povorello,
a rosary from La Verna place of the stigmata, hanging.
Momentarily covered all by the kitchen door opening.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Death and Life; An Anniversary

mourning handkerchief number 9 by Frances O'Donnell
One year ago; eighteen years ago – today
Dark as this dark morning can be
A spike of hope rising in the throat of Mr Blackbird
As he woos and harmonises for his wife.

One year ago today
And how?
everything that has passed.
Eighteen years ago today – he and I in our first and continuing embrace.
To this morning clung like a limpet to a rock and the eighteen years
Of tides in and out, Tsunami,
Spring showers, blistering suns,
And just days – have passed.

But this particular day one year ago
Has left a gap like a hole
Worn through a stone on the beach.
In my hand smooth contours that fit,
the hole intrigues and I look
My eye like a soft bodied anemone
For a moment fills the space.

But the negative space is real
Heartbreakingly real
As when my mother and I sat sobbing
On a step and we despaired at our loss
The air pulsing between our loss and our gain of new titles
And the host of new actions and intentions

We must set our minds to.

And yet on that same day my lover and I entwined for the first time
And our presence became a unity
The start of our children
Began on that day eighteen years ago

This day also is the eve of pink hearts the world over,
cliché bouquet of
Long stems and alcohol
Long may my memory be for this date
It has set its heart in my mind

And opened a chink in the door of mortality. 

David and Goliath or 
the Earth and the Moon on the way to Holy Rosary

The clouds part
On an indigo sky
Violet shades
To reveal an Earth of a Moon
Cresting the horizon
Silhouette city
And shorn trees
Arises the most full Moon
So close
So huge
The colours of it are the reverse
Colours on the colour wheel
Instead of the green and Blue Earth
Red and orange are silk screened onto the surface of the Moon
So clear, so pitted and shadowed
Detailed and sharp
Alive with the colours of Australia.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Dream Poem 17: 
Part 1
Inspection in the classroom
Inspection in the kitchen
Inspection in the Georgian house of wide and deep proportions
The light of turquoise and white
The social situations of awkwardness and tongue tied crossness.
Part 2
Her caustic, demented lover.
S_ that enigma of a woman who is now a man.
On a bike with a porcelain toilet full of water
Cycling round Leeds.
There are many road blocks and bollards and diversions, it’s quite difficult to travel.
In a rooming house, a student house.
Its dark, always dark – semi light.
The police are out there has been an explosion at the university.
A policeman is arriving –
Move road blocks and cordons and redirections several times on the bike
Going round Leeds Civic building – always semi darkens like dawn or dusk
On the bike.

Monday, 9 November 2015

 Cold Sea

Mountains of steel ice
Cold and hard
Brutal yet beautiful
Ship sinker ice
Bone freezer ice
The bell of the buoy rings
Out at sea, who is to hear but whales?
Explorers explored
Died, never buried on the ice
Left where they fell like a battlefield
Who’s to remember?
Who’s to know?
Who’s to care?
The pattern of frost bite
Couture lace shrouding face and hands
The last embrace of pure crystalline cold
So sleepy, so tired, just a little nap
So easily the spirit is cut
From the marrow and loose from its tether
Is off and away
Leaving behind pain, frostbite, lost fingers
The sorrow of revival
I want to go.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Poem for Cimabue’s Madonna

Paris Louvre Painting 1280 Cimabue - Madonna and Child in Majesty Surrounded by Angels.

Streets and snow
White paint freshness
Ladders and the angels
Going up and coming down
Into a manhole in the street

Telephone boxes and demons
Circling the ring-road
Boulders and centaurs and flying angels
Billowing cloaks alizarin and corn flower
Wings in hues of cobalt and lapis
In tints of madder.

Layers and layers of antiquity
Their green faces peer from Cimabue’s plank
Gold deadly gleaming Madonna
Secure in her entourage of heavenly bodies.
“Angels. Up” she cries
And at once the eight wings of rainbow extend in an arc over her halo.

And she rises with the colours
Prismatic in her face, in her eyes
Permeating her body in a
Heavenly cloud –

Christmas Day Poem

How can it be Christmas? This year Christmas is set on its ears.
The lead up, the preparations, the time of penance and charity.
I have been most unwholesome, unhappy, grumpy, sullen, angry,
and at odds with all things Christmas.
Grinchy Christmas tree, begrudging decorations, baking that has gone in the bin.

I want to be quiet,
I want to be silent, I want to be in myself with God.
I don’t want to party or be festive
I don’t want to party or be festive
I don’t want a load of nonsense chatter and small talk.
I want peace

I want to lay down at the bottom of a riverbed looking up through the green clear water
Up through the aqua ripples up to the sky
And watch as clouds slowly move across
And dawn parts to reveal full day and afternoon atomises into cool even
And the dew falls and the sun falls behind a green hill
Clustered with trees and the moon rises from the opposite side of the hill
And still I lie peaceful
Soundless, quiet and at rest under the water looking up and watching and watching.
Waiting and waiting

At last I see in a cave on the hill a refugee couple labour through the night
The hardest work, the most difficult, confusing, unknowable, painful work a woman can do.
She works all night, watched, guarded, kept safe by her man. And some sheep
A goat, a cow, some chickens.

And at the end of her nights work she holds the fruit of her labour, a baby.
She has sewn soft blankets and coverings to keep him warm
and she holds him so close.

Everyone is asleep now as dawn breaks, it’s been a long and difficult night.
Now the danger is over she snuggles with her son nestled close to her and she sleeps too.
The first hard work of life is to make the journey from warmth and safety into the breezy world so loud and bright and unexpected.

In that cave on a hill they rest. Gently neighbours call in to offer joy and congratulations
A coin for the baby’s hand, a dish of something hot for the mother,
A prayer offered, a blessing accepted, health and life given thanks for.
And the hill will play its part again later.

A seat for crowds of listeners, a gog at the stories and illustrations he will give,
The place of miraculous cures and healings and temptations,
The hill where a heard of swine all jumped off possessed,
The scene of accusation, torture and a cruel death.

But this hill with its cave is also the site of redemption, the place of the ultimate miracle
 Life regained and claimed
Feet on the ground standing on grass
Feet that were nailed
Now walking, living.

Not dead – alive, back alive again and walking up cloud steps growing larger
And more colossal with every step higher
until he encompasses the whole world in his heart
and he stands on the Milky Way with the planets as his halo.

And from my place at the bed of the river with a rock for a pillow and weeds for a mattress
Looking up and up and up at the shooting stars
And the Northern lights and the dancing sun.
I know that nothing is impossible for him.

And I am happy to accept a blessing of the season, and I am content to give thanks
For the season, and good will is restored.
Don’t lose sight daughter
Of the hill,
And the cave
It’s the beginning and the end of the story ad infinitum.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Child on the Cusp of Post-Modernism

My childhood was immersed,
Drowning in Modernism.

My parent’s formative art practice
Absolutely at the cutting edge
The industrial heart
The break through Bauhaus Basic Programme
1950’s Leeds College of Art
Received a tornado of European teaching.

Finally the Dessau school, Staatliches Bauhaus idealism
Made its way to the industrial
Heart of the North.

Harry Thubron brought his Knowledge – To Leeds
on the back of beer mats and cigarette boxes in the Cobourg Tavern.
His vision and skills communicated
To the ready ears of the
Students and teaching staff
At the College.

My mother agog with the new System,
the Basic Programme.

Ann was taught by Miss Noble of the
Old school as was thought.
Taught in the Art Deco style.

My mother was ready to move
Design in a new direction
Modernism arrived in
with the Bauhaus philosophy and its
inspiration brought new thoughts.

As for me myself and I
I was born
On the cusp of a decade
On the cusp of 2 houses
On the cusp of an hour

Crazy balancing act
A foot in both camps always
But never on the fence
Seeing both sides of every story
And every history.

But this is my herstory
This is the legend of me
This is the narrative of my life
This is the tapestry woven
Row by row
Slowly – so slowly but surely
The pattern is everything
It is not completed
It is not time to cut my life
From the loom.

The pattern is emerging in bloom
And my life expands and contracts
In shades and hues of ever
Changing fortune and Plot devices
showing a maze
In which the centre is not always achieved
Only to S-bend into the
Next complexity.

Back circling upwards
Passing the same point
But with a slightly different angle
To make
This Behemoth begun in the 1890s
As with my life
I was born on the cusp of
Modernism changing to Post-Modernism.

Brought up in a household
Enthralled to the ethos of Modernism
Surrounded by paintings, engravings and jewellery
Of Modernism
The geometries, the flat planes of flatter colour
In neutral prismatic greys and earth tone
Cubism has done its work
And in the minds of young Northern
Students the palette and forms of
The continental milieu,

The expressionist paradigm
The Futurists, Dadaist, industrialist
Manifestos of Europe
Rang the same bells in the
Opened minds of art students
Surrounded by mills and mines.

It makes sense
Back turned firmly against WWII
Rejection of the values of the past
Idealist Marxist cant
Takes hold in art college leftism
In Bohemian minds.

Wanting freedom from the past
The Orphist blaze of the electric lantern
The Surrealists slide into blissful unconscious
Pulling out taboo subjects of
Sexuality, emotion, dream state trance.

How this tidal wave of Modernism
Ever reached the far flung shore
Of our front door
And seeped into colour schemes
Collections and design work.

My spirit was awakened amidst Modernism
My first objects to touch
Were modernist sculptures
I was consumed in my womb house
With Modernism so it became my touch-stone
So no other art movements mattered
As much as Modernism
So alternative feelings for new ways
Were rejected for a long time.

Post-Modernism is the thing of
My formative college days
Without taking too much notice of it
As if glancing obliquely at it
It was going on while I watched
From the bushes to see if it was safe.

Post-Modernism isn’t safe
It is unstable
It asks questions
It is always changing
It rejects
It is against
It poses danger to body and soul
If misunderstood
If taken too literally
It is chaos and must be handled wisely,

But strangely it too has had its day, 
given way to
Speculative Realism, 
the cusp is reset
and just at the tipping point between one and the other
I sit again, ready for the ride.
 Image - Cobourg Tavern 1965, Leeds 
(Leodis Archive Leeds City Council)