Sunday, 31 January 2016

Throw off the wet gloves
After Anne Sexton’s 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 distain
Throw off the wet gloves of being a wet blanket,

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Time is a Patchwork Quilt

Time is a patchwork quilt
The pieces are different times
The peak is a lofty top
And a nut
The walnut is a maze
Time is a watch in a pocket
Threads hold the weave together
And make the top-quilting patterns:-
Wine glasses
Tree of life
Bowl of roses
Twisted rope
Like the narrative of a span.

And we are covered from cradle to grave.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Treacherous Ice of the Past:

The treacherous ice of the past
With its black-ice unseen until
Unwittingly stepped on and brought down
Face to face with
The unbidden, unwanted memory.

With its thin spots
Unawares trod on and transported
Crashing through into the
Icy water of a past remembrance.

With its glacial thickness
Capturing and freezing conversations
Excruciating to re-live
And experiences mortifying.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Why is everything so blue?
Blue tint
Strongest hue strength and lightness of blue
All the shadows are blue violet
The night sky deepest indigo
Down to the horizon line
Invisible next to the burnt umber of the land.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Winter Light:

The light is so subtle at this time of the year – the short light time.
Softest of white grey,
a stripe of pink grey
and black to white-grey
purplish tinge – tint.
So soft it’s like a hidden ache,
a twinge to make me briefly bend at the waist.
The night comes so quickly,
the morning dawns so late that full day-light is momentary.
Swiftly to pass to another state.
I’m tired of waiting for it to be light.
It must be night if it’s dark, Nathaniel used to say,
but sometimes
it’s full dark with a moon,

in the morning. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

You are my Rock 

You are my rock, my High Tower
You are my fortress, my butterfly
You are my rainbow, my quiet breeze
You are my reflective rock-pool, my blue sky
You are my soft day, my springtime breeze
You are my mighty oak, my buttercup
You are my front door, my safe house
You are my full stomach, my rested head
You are my job, my labour, my work
You are my friend, my counsellor, my love
You are a hazelnut in the hand Julian
You are the inspiration of the writer Augustine
You are the author of chaos to order on the first day

You are the potter, the sculptor, the artist.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

These Boys Again.

These boys again
Not playing shops today

No, today they have a five second
Recording device

And they have spent the last half an hour
Recording funny noises

Playing them back
And laughing – giggly to each other

Lion king continues in fragments
Mums chat
Children laugh and run and bob and weave

There goes Suzanne who I have
Seen for years since toddler group

Gang gang style going on with the boys
New boy has joined them
Glad to run off from hovering parents
“Just can’t wait to be king”
Grandmas Louis, Tiago, new boy.

This man

This man, once unknown, still unknown
Aged three years older than I am
Together we have braved, towns and cities.
Our lives have twined together
In accord for many a year

This man older now than when we first met
The jobs and places he has worked
Have kept us in bed, kept us on bikes
And all the time at table together
At pillow together

This man full of poetry in his head
Not a sharer, not a talker
A writer, silent at this desk
The only solitude he can conjure
In this tiny house

This man full of words, novels
Poems, plays, writing,
It’s all to come
His genius cannot be

Underground forever.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Veil and the Wheel: For Jane Eyre.

My strength
My resolve is beyond all bounds.
All Celtic curiosity
Up in my chest
And almost absolutely.
How did I arise?
Where is the horizon I wished so ardently for?
Again it telescopes in and in
And lands up
On my doorstep
The compass is redirected
The true pole
Magnetic North
Revolves not around a distant ice-cap
But burning white hot
Around this man
This son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
This mirage, this distorting heat haze
Scintillating around this soul
Making him imperceptible, opaquely glimpsed.
As though through fog.
Do we ever truly see each other?
First passion is another myopia, another veil.
Wrought on a loom of steel weaving a cloth of milk thistle
Not easily torn in the first heat of knowing.
The second is a veil of my own making
A mythological veil
Of Golden Fleece qualities
Glistening, entrapping in its bewitching curls and spirals
A self-made maze of dazzling blinding gold.
I want to be lost
I seek blindness
Let me loose myself in this consuming Other.
The gold tarnishes to alloy paint and I see it for the bitter gall of the Other side
The Shadow Side of the myth I created
The Golden Fleece I had robed my love in
Is a painted prop in a school production
And I forget my lines
In the horror I have led myself into
My mummery
My delusion
My hand stitched narrative
Ripped and rent
In two
Before my eyes.
O happy sin of Adam, O necessary action of eve
How many times in this act will I repeat my lines?
Re-enact the plot?
Ah what?
Don’t I know myself by now?
This is not child’s play
This is deep water.
This is a circle of fire.
This is everything I know cut through.
Painless until the deep purple ebbs
To the surface and stains the furniture
Inward drop.
The deep wheel turns
In the cut
Of the pit
Of Black Water
And I know
I feel
I sense
The depth
The black, black water and the turning of the wheel.
How it feels to
Drop like a stone
And be dragged
Under, deep, deep
Suffocating, pressure, so dark and cold.
To the apex, far under the water
But I never see it.
I’m gone

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Dream Poem 1: Things have Changed

Things have changed and changed again
And what was once the norm
No longer is so
Through this change the story moves on

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The drumming of the fingers: a Skipping Song

Knap, Burlap
All in together girls, never mind the weather girls,
Playtime, hay time
Any time you weigh time
Waiting together
It’s always the way
Time stands still
While we tap our feet

And drum our fingers. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Cleft Stone

In a cool dark damp ferny forest
a water source springs up in the midst of the undergrowth.
Without drama or shifted landscapes – there is water.
It rises an evanescence erupts into the outside world.

It is unstoppable
Unbearable pleasure
Its presence denotes depth
Deep sources unseen from above
Grooved and gorged deep underground
Collective potential
Of life giving water.

Springing, singing, splashing up
At this point in the forest floor under canopy and branch
A woven house of tree, a high cathedral vaulted with branch
And thatch of living leaf.

In this place, low to the ground, sheltered by fern and moss and leaf mould
In this place, mythical springing
Is the cleft stone
It lies huge and silent
Granite or something hard and softly grey, mineral that darkly glints.
It is satisfyingly rounded and smooth
Although I’ve never touched it.
It is marked for my mental furniture.

This cleft stone
When my eyes close
And my internal eyes close
And the internal narrative is shushed
And I settle into my internal self
At the point of between-ness
Concentration and letting go
The cleft stone appears in my sight and I know it’s time to
Step into the water and let go for a short time.
I don’t step over it – it’s too big.

The cleft stone
Rounded and pressed down
As a ball of dough depressed by the heel of a hand
Flattens and is impressed by
The weight and shape of the hand that presses
It is round and flattened
A lozenge, thick and generously curved
Deep, full, heavy
Down one of its long edges has been worn
A spigot, a spout, a pourer, a beak.
The cleft stone is a receptacle
The water sprung freshly on the forest floor runs over it
It drops down a vertical cliff of sandstone
Lime water
Plants growing greenly out of the cracks.
The cleft stone
Is the tipping point
Between smoothly flat water and the edge, the point of the fall of water
Its cleft is a tool
Its cleft is water carved
Its cleft takes my body
Over the edge of consciousness
Its cleft takes my spirit
And the stone becomes enormous as I transform
And become other than my bodily self
And I float light as a leaf on the surface of the water
And again am taken over the edge and down into myself
And the journey of contemplation begins.

My rising to the surface
Out of the black water of contemplation
Re -sight
I re-see
I re-site myself in the now
And the cleft stone is present to me again
And I use it to lever back into the dark night
Out of the world of sense.

I don’t see it on the journey out
It is not part of that stage
It is behind
Waiting softly
Heavily submerged
For the next attempt.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Temps Perdu

Songs and wreaths
Waterlilies in their fractal beauty
Tessellated triangle quilts
A gift of love, a gift of death
Veiled behind mists of misunderstanding
This state suits it’s not time yet
To remember
To understand
That comes when I become into un-time
For now, times lost play-through
My mind in memory
Times forgotten resurface in the mist
In visions from the past
Dreams capture fragments
In crystalline paraffin wax
Murkily, creamily, warm still
Fresh still
Still so near and yet gone

When will this feel normal?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Dream Poem 11: sunset on snow.

There is an old man in the room
It’s time to leave
A night dress is great idea for a fancy dress costume
It has snowed deeply
We are going down a low hill- not steep
It’s so beautiful to see the orange colours of sunset on the snow
We travel down and down on the sledge
Across the snow.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Shake it Back:

And how did the elephant get its trunk?
An alligator got hold of its nose and pulled
And pulled
And pulled
Sometimes I feel like I’m being
Pulled and pulled and pulled.
Family life – this way
Mum – that way
Sister – this way
Church – that way
Work – this way
Friends – the other way
Pulled and pulled and pulled
My nose is ok so far
But it’s my Spirit that’s out of shape
So much so that I can’t remember what shape it should be.
The Great Potter
The Great Creator
She fashioned my Spirit – Help me shake it back into shape.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


Purple Zion
Green Amazon
Black Lebanon, White Ganges
Yellow Farnham, red Beaconsfield
Orange Whitby and Redcar
Grey Glasgow
The North Sea is Thallto Green
The Channel is Indian Yellow
The Irish Sea is very pale White Grey
The British Isles are Brown.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Dream Poem 24: Shadow Me

The quivering woman in the depths of despair
The camel coloured hare springing gracefully through the field
“That’s mine”, I said on a factory production line 
A sealed pack of white gleaming lard from Italy, with herbs on top and the thinnest streak of ham running through it.
The thought of going on without him mad my heart wring with grief.
Who are you?
My mirror me.
All the emotions and stories are inside out and back to front.
The opposite of what’s going on, on this side of the mirror.
Don’t worry about us, we’ve seen you before.
You are all soft and gentle
But we are hard like a lemon grater
You don’t know how to speak for the fear in your mouth
We speak freely and as rudely as we like – who cares?
You smooth over and placate,
We throw fire bombs of disaster among polite conversation.
You’re a milk pudding,
We distain like lemon juice.
We curdle
And part the liquid.
We are the mirror you and do everything opposite to what you would do or say
We enjoy inflicting emotional pain and hurt
We exult in it
We love disappointment and horror and dis-ease.
We love the dark and fear and dangerous situations and
You do not.
We laugh when you should be silent
And provoke the hurt
And prod the sensitive.
We are mischief and mayhem
We love ruining your life and relationships.
Sardonic – yes
Pain giver- yes
Unjustifiable cruelty – yes
And it’s you too.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Saturday Night

Tell me true – you are Grand at Grandways
Grandmas shop with mini trolleys of single portion tins of beans and tuna.
Shoplifting in the cheapest supermarket in Leeds
Store detectives have hands on you
For a bag of cheese and onion Seabrook crisps
“It’s a code thirteen” over the tanoy
A small pool forming under the feet
Of the elderly gentleman
Who is crying and confused.

The checkout girls in overalls
In all the wrong sizes.
Mr Yellow, wishing
He’d popped to William Hills at break time
A roll of fivers from the cash wage
Packet already half spent
Small square brown envelope
Ripped and burning a hole in his back pocket.

The aisles of the cheapest of everything
Bags and bags and palates of white sugar
White sliced loaf, gallons of squash in neon orange.

No bar codes or electronic anything
Number punching all day
Type it in correctly
Or I’ll have to change the price on the next item

“price please Val”
Waving groceries in the air
Waiting for Val to run the aisles
Looking for the numbers.

Can’t wait till cashing-up time
A conveyor belt full of
Tuppences, fiftys and pound notes
Stacking it all up just as Dad taught me, into stacks of one pound values.
Plastic money bags from the bank.

Then it’s up and off and out
Saturday night up to Jane’s
Chips with her mum and dad in front of the telly
And the bevelled glass mirror made by Joe

After tea clicking down alleys to Corpus with Jane’s Dad
For the Saturday night mass
Then out.
Looking for “a laugh”, handsome distractions,
The chat, the music, the dancing, community.
Walking home up York Road because

We spent the taxi fare on a chip butty to share. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016


Construction lines like scaffolding
Build and criss-cross in my mind’s eye.
On paper, in drawings and paint.
This room once so forbidden
strictly keep out,
no admittance
Do not enter,
keep out
Yes this room – is now mine.

But I feel like Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch
When her old croc of a husband dies
And she is left with a promise to ‘complete my life’s work’
She enters his study and is overwhelmed by bundles of papers, scrolls and books.

I too am engulfed by the scale and breadth of objects amassed in that one room.
Like Miss Havisham surrounded by her decomposed wedding feast of fifty years
I am encroached upon by photographs of ‘jolly japes’ from the 1950’s.

Like Mrs Rochester my addled desire is to take my revenge
by a small pocket fire.
Just to eat up these useless things.
Taking care of business.

Unfortunately Miss Havisham and Mrs Rochester died
in the small flames they desired
for a small amount of
-          Just for fun revenge
-          “I’ll show you”, revenge
-          “This will teach you”, revenge.

Well it doesn’t have to end like this.
I’m definitely not going up in flames
but the past is.

Even if it’s metaphorically
cleanse the room.
Not in anger
but in a Spirit of creativity
the Spirit of renewal
The spirit of change
new growth.
O’Donnell tenacity.
In Hoc Signo Vinces.
(Under this sign we are victorious)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Room, (after floating clouds by Hsü Kan).

‘Floating clouds’
in the window of the room,
‘How vast, how vast’.
The panes of old glass,
have moved and distorted themselves.
What have they seen through the age of O’Donnell?
Transforming to distorting mirrors as if by magic each sundown.
Like Little Nutbrown who pulls a ball gown from a Sweet chestnut shell and changes
from Goose-girl to Queen.
‘Would that I could send you a message through them’.
How would I do it?
A paper aeroplane?
A text message?
Does your white angel robe have pockets?
Perhaps I could take a seat in a cloud like a number 28 bus and wait for my stop in the sky
to personally give you my message.
And what would it say?
‘Thank you’
written in blood?
‘You are welcome’
sewn with beard hair into your hankie?
Bin it!
Throw out all useless messages.
How can I even begin to express all the pent-up things I imagined saying to you
but did not.
By the time I could speak to you as an equal you were not the same.
You had changed into another person.
I wanted to go back and speak to the 50 year old you.
Inarticulate child – I.
Now – now I can speak…
But the time has passed
‘Since you sir have gone away’
We are dying to each moment.
-          Unrepeatable.
So I must – make all the words count.
Say some words,

give space for a reply,

give generously, welcome interaction,
Find peace.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Dream Poem 10: In Italy 

In Italy
With alleys, palazzos and fountains
And shady doorways.
It rained shoes one day
A gift.
My friend got two pairs
of crocs, size 8
“Why is it” she asked
“This pair is fine but this pair make my toes bleed?”
Through the alleys and the doorways
I was being pursued by someone
And they meant me no good
But I managed to give them the slip

Going down an alley to a palazzo. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Dream Poem 5; Rag and Bone Poetry

I have to go to fulfil a task
My task is to collect a poem on a post-card and
Perform a piece of ballet.
I’m in the rag and bone shop to collect my poem from the Irish trader men.
It was very difficult to get the poem right.
My ballet performance was not well received.
“who does she think she is?
You can’t expect to do a performance when you’ve only just started.
We’ve been doing this since we were children.”

Saturday, 2 January 2016


Yes it’s there, yes its real
No I’ve never been there.
No I don’t know anyone from there.

One day in 1989 we went on college residential to NY City.
NY is NOT North Carolina, oh No,
It’s capitalized, it’s a hub, a port, statuesque, self-important, vague, corseted, and knowing.
In this place I met Papua New Guinea for the first time.
A most unexpected meeting.

It was a cold February day, so cold I had to buy an extra jumper and hat
So cold I thought I was going to throw up walking there
Then Metropolitan Museum – Grand, Vast
It eclipses nations and gobbles them up
Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and here in this room named after a millionaire’s son (who died there), the Oceanic rooms.

I must have seen this work before, but didn’t have eyes to see it really,
I must have encountered this culture at British museums but in small fragments as part of other collections.
There is was a vast array of never before seen items, as if from another world.
Warrior boats to seat 100 men inlaid and carved totem poles
as high as a 4 floor Hebden house, masks, costumes, shields.
How have I never seen this before?
Have I seen it and not looked?

As long ago a trip to Heraklion museum, pulled by the arm on a quick march round the show-cases by mother with the promise of ice cream if we submitted meekly.

Here and now, this Bisji Pole from PNG is the most amazing piece of art I have ever seen.
Intricate in its piercing the carvings narrating creation, battles, animals, tribes, warriors, outsiders.
This made my body respond, it was raw, powerful. It had meaning, it felt important.
This was the greatest art I had never seen, it was like falling in love. It was my obsession.

Why had this been hidden? And revealed only now? What did it mean? Who made them?
How could I understand more deeply the meaning, intention and purpose of such items?
It was my task to find out,

To know.