I’ve been typing up notes from a Zoom writing workshop with Liz Berry. The focus was on short poems – some of them only two or three lines long. One was a two-line poem about a chess game and a raised hand by Charles Simic, the Serbian American poet.
In the early days of the spring lockdown, Dutch TV showed famous places somewhere in the Netherlands which are usually thronging with tourists: Volendam, Giethoorn, Kinderdijk, Zaanse Schans. One night the Red Light district in Amsterdam, empty and quiet.
Here is my short poem about clogs, a cliché along with the tulips, bicycles and cheese. I hope you remembered to put your clocks back!
Poem of the Clog
The clog was crying. It wasn’t lonely: there were thousands of shiny clogs. I am addicted, it howled, there are no tourists …
A fellow psychologist I worked with for many years lived near Loch Awe, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. He’d often told me about the splendid views they had from their small house. Loch Awe is the third largest as well as the longest (41 km) freshwater loch in Scotland. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s famed for trout fishing. The ruins of Kilchurn Castle must be one of the most photographed castles in Scotland!
Before visiting my colleague, I stopped for a coffee and something to eat in Inveraray, with its splendid Georgian architecture. There were coach loads of tourists at the Castle, but I went for some retail therapy: bough a comfortable, warm jacket that I keep in the caravan for those below zero April days.
My next stop was Kilmartin Museum in Lochgilphead. The area round Kilmartin with Kilmartin Glen is rich in historic monuments, 150 of them prehistoric: standing stones, stone circles, cairns, rock carvings – often with the familiar cup and ring mark.
I was almost the only visitor at Kilmartin Museum which, surely, added to my experience …
slowly rotting the shell of a coracle
standing stones rock carvings cairns are projected on the walls of a dark room
the floor throbs with pre-historic sounds
i am pulled into this distant past of hunters warriors and i am crying
I am pleased to be one of the 43 writers who have contributed to this anthology by Printed Words. It includes fiction, creative non-fiction and poems. They cover writing about cancer and loss, but there are also pieces of writing that provide some lighter relief. The profits of the book are going to several cancer charities. Words to Remember is edited by Amanda Steel (@Amanda_S_Writer) and is available on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle Edition.
One of my two poems is Bitterne Park, Southampton. A friend who also used to work for P&O bought the house that I shared for just a few years with my late husband. I can still visit…
Bitterne Park, Southampton
The blackout curtains don’t let the sun through. I wake to the small sounds that come with morning: squirrels jump around the oak tree at the heart of our cul-de-sac. A bus strains up the hill.
At the Triangle, the bank opens and the smiley greengrocer limps his vegetable crates outside. On the river Itchen John strokes his beard, thinks about brewing tea.
It is meant to be an ordinary day. But this month is a long-distance runner, this month is a marathon.
On the other side of the narrow bridge, a woman is taking two large black bags into a charity shop. Suits and shirts, all washed, dry-cleaned, ironed. She had forgotten the silk ties. Now they’re rolled up, placed in a see-through Biza bag that once held duty-free cologne.
World Animal Day was started in 1925. I was looking for an animal poem in my file. Looking back on this experience, we might question the animal welfare aspect. The horse seemed happy enough at the time.
The Arabian thoroughbred and his blue-blood spinster lodged with a middle-aged couple living in the Dutch bible belt.
My parents despatched my younger brother and me that summer to acquire circus skills in two weeks.
Each morning a child took turns standing on the horse as it walked round the ring inside the stuffy canvas tent.
In the afternoons we swam in the local pool, tried to get the couple’s fat ponies to obey. There were prayers, a lot of eggs.
By the end of the holiday we balanced, arms outstretched, on the trotting horse. We swung off and on as it cantered.