The Ash Tree

from an ancient wood trapped the garden of the tiny terraced house in south London was the reason I bought the house. I imagined it whispering words of comfort and even singing to me if things got tough. As the seasons passed I watched from my bedroom window, sprightly sparrows, blackbirds and occasionally a bright red woodpecker tapping for insects. The new green growth appeared in spring, giving way to leafy summer shade, the shredding of autumn leaves, the snow covered it’s bare branches in winter.
The dry earth around it’s roots became a secret den for the children, it’s weathered trunk created footholds inviting feet to climb, sturdy ropes supported a swing and a wooden tree house perched amongst its foliage. Only once did I cautiously climb up it’s twisted trunk to rescue a terrified cockatiel in a torrential storm.

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Eating Apricots in France

for Jean and Mado

Under the sun umbrella
on the terrace
old friends meet.

Watching the mist on mountains
listening to the call of the cowman
urging his herd to milking.

Eating apricots, sipping wine,
a gentle informality,
born of shared memories.

Reconciliation

Seeds take flight with the softest blow,
on dandelion clocks you know.

Forever?

How long can that be?
And who’s in charge of time. Tell me?

Twin spirits drift and sometimes fly,
but cannot separate or die.

Distance is all in the mind,
a word for space I think you’ll find.

Alienation is a choice,
but takes an angry tone of voice.

Despite the walls, the gates, the locks,
think of the seeds around that clock.

They drift, they fly, they find some ground,
and safely grow until they’re found.

Granny’s Corset

Push open the door and enter her room
with heavy beige wallpaper
and brown gloss paint.

Grandma, propped up with pillows,
crisp white sheet,
pure silk eiderdown,
raises a frail hand in greeting.

Time to cram her into her corset,
I stagger from chair to bed
with the well washed cotton contraption.
I am eight and grown up.

I fasten the buckles, thread tapes,
tug at cords, clip on suspenders,
under her orderly instructions.

I help her into her flowery frock,
brush her hair, dab on some powder,
pass her a mirror for her approval.

A bomb damaged Grandma’s back
but mother says she is indomitable.
She glides downstairs ready
to organise the rest of the house.

Smiley House

I have had a beach hut for over thirty years, my partner bought it when he lived down here thirty years ago in the 80s.  He had to move back to London for several years but westill came down with my mother, sons and later daughter – in – laws and grandchildren.  I often came down with Joshua then eldest grandchild on the train.
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Smiley House

(for Joshua 15 years ago)

 We are off to Granny’s beach hut

so we are waiting for the train,

with buckets, balls and sandwiches,

umbrellas for the rain.

Gran says we’ll walk for ages,

so the buggy’s just in case.

My legs are not quite long enough

to walk at Granny’s pace.

Gran talks and talks to all her friends,

so I wait patiently,

But now we empty everything

because she’s lost the key.

At last we open Smiley House,

The name is on the door,

It’s full of lovely things

and I’ve been here before.

There are nets to do the fishing,

a kettle for Gran’s tea,

a chair for her to take a rest while I

throw pebbles in the sea.

If I want a paddle

I have to tell my Gran,

I’m not allowed to go alone,

She has to hold my hand.

We eat up all the sandwiches,

At four we catch the train,

We’ve had a really lovely time

and now here comes the rain!

———-

Weaving Spells

He was a magician to us
weaving spells with wood and clay.
Other people’s dads went to work
and reappeared for supper.

Ours spent his days
and most nights
carving marionettes
in his cluttered workshop.

He was always engrossed
kneading clay or carving wood,
the music of Glen Miller blaring
from a battered radio.

We would clink through the chaos
with mother’s homemade cakes,
the smell mingling with the stench of glue
boiling on an ancient cooker.

Our faces shone with shy smiles
as his hand took the teacup.
He had been whisked away to war,
we barely knew him.

We lived at Gran’s
and discovered him one day
in the hallway
with a battered trunk.

A soldier
in a coarse khaki uniform,
a clarinet in a case
and chocolate in his pockets.

The Passing Season

Hidden from view he hums
deep resonant sounds of age and wisdom.
My neighbour’s steady beat on wooden stakes
marks time to his labour and his tune.

I peer into my wintered pond for life,
heavily pregnant newts glide in waiting.
Bluebells challenge crocuses for their space
buds of blossom spring from spiky branches.

Ash tree seeds scatter in the wind,
making space for waving fronds of green.
Birds compete for feathers for their nests.
The capricious sun hides its features.

A silence falls on secret thoughts,
as winter’s drama melts away at last.