Spring in the valley

Creation called me to worship
this fine April morning with the clouds scudding
And the sky patched and sun-spotted.
This valley still surprises me and lifts my soul;
For the blackthorn is white with fine blossom
And the black-legged, black-eared ewes,
long suffering and nervous,
As my two mutts mooch then tug on their leads.
Nettles and hogweed, dock leaves and fireweed
Prepare to impede the path.
This valley, with its river and mill rushes,
Man-made lakes and commuter highway,
Is bursting with life.

(April run, Wellingborough to Earls Barton, along the Nene Way. 2015)

I Spy…

an alphabet in the Nene Valley

Buzzards soar, cuckoos call
Egret, geese and goslings.
Herons stand, kites search
Swifts, swans and signets
While over all the skylarks sing.
Bridges span, canoes drift,
Cycles, ramblers and dogs.
Gravel taken, lakes filled
Locks, mill race and weirs
While through it all the river meanders.
Badby rises, Barnwell mill
Cogenhoe, Everdon and Flore.
Islip's spire, Oundle's school
Woodford, Weedon and Yarwell
While in each place, a church proclaims.

Scratching the Surface

Beneath the soles of trainers and boots,
Under the rubber tyres and padded paws,
The sand and gravel, stone and dust
Is pressed and beaten, levelled flat.
A walker's highway, a circuit for runners
Where the beeps of fitbits join the mix
Of blue tits and warblers and LBJs,
And a returning cuckoo announces Spring.
Beneath the path, lie coal dust and cinder,
Long rusted nails and chunks of wood,
Where the iron rails lay and engines steamed
East to West on the valley floor. 
The rhythm of the wheels over the track
Approaching, deafening then receding from sight
Combine with skylarks, thrushes and rooks,
And a cuckoo returns to announce Spring.
Beneath the tracks, lie lost and forgotten,
Signs of invaders become home makers,
The Normans, Danes, Romans and Brits.
Broken pots, coins and fragments of bone
Litter the valley with its gentle slopes
While standing tall as sentinels on watch
Ancient monuments to the eternal Divine,
And in the heavens a skylark sings
Under the pots and fragments of bone
Lie the valley's wealth, its rich bedrock
of sand, gravel, ironstone and lime
Jurassic in time, sedimentary in nature,
Layer upon layer
Bivalves and tusks,  
Ditritus and "toe nails"
Sank and 
Under the melt water
Before the first Spring.

A Garden of Memories

I remember, I remember
The garden at my grandma's house,
Where honesty and nettles grew
With ferns, rhubarb and the odd mouse!
I remember, I remember
Goldenrod and Solomon seal;
The nettles where my brother fell
Then smeared with calamine, to heal.
My mum remembers the garden
As a pleasant place to play
Fish, newts and frogs swam in the pond,
Her dad's shed as a hideaway.
She remembers, she remembers
Rabbits and chickens roaming free,
'Til the potatoes were lifted
Then skinned and eaten for tea!
She remembers, I remember
London Pride, and a rambling rose;
Marguerites with large white petals
But no place set aside to doze.
I remember, I remember
Kinloch's bakery was next door.
The tall trees and meadow remain,
But the shop and house are no more. 
I took some plants, dug up some fern
When the house granddad built was sold.
They took root and each Spring emerge
With treasured memories, like gold.

Locked in/Set free

A Pantoun is a type of poem where the 2nd and 4th lines are echoed in the 1st and 3rd lines of the following stanza.

Hopes were dashed when He died,
Betrayed mocked and crucified.
Together, they stayed locked in
Grieving, with nerves wearing thin.
Crucified, betrayed and mocked
They waited for the soldier's knock.
In lock down, the future dim,
The way uncertain, without Him.
The soldier's knock never came.
He arose, peace to proclaim
And with Him the way was sure.
God with us for evermore.
Proclaiming peace, allaying fear
Is the message for all to hear.
God is with us, see the sign
Where selfless care and love combine.
Hopes were dashed when He died
They stayed locked in, petrified; 
Til opening their minds, they let Him in
So joy, peace and new life could begin.

Sonnet for Georgia

Welcome, my darling Georgia Mae McCabe
To a world in lock down and national crisis.
You are precious and loved. Don’t be afraid.
You have Isla, as a best friend and big Sis.
Your lovely little face with peach soft skin,
Button round nose and eyes dark blue;
I wonder if you’ll have the Hacksley chin
And your hair be auburn, as mine was, too.
While grief and doubt and fear were felt
Your Mummy protected you in her womb.
You were born, kicking, and made our hearts melt
Dispelling this world’s perpetual gloom.
See, Springtime flowers in the March sunshine,
And new life brings hope and all will be fine.
VA 26/3/20


I’m laying still with my jaw clenched tight,
Fear gripping my legs so I cannot move,
While through the curtains the sun shines bright.
Chinese coronavirus 2019-nCov under the microscope. 3d illustration
This nightmare will end and I'll be alright
But a viral thought worms its way through,
So I lay still with my jaw clenched tight.
Fear gnawing reason...I've passed the blight
Til no one is left to grieve or blame
And through the curtains the sun shines bright.
A diary that's full, now appears trite.
The day ahead lies blank and unformed
So still I lay with my jaw clenched tight.
Fear forces my mind to The Infinite
Revolving thoughts stop and limbs relax
Because the sun through the curtains, shines bright.
The Earth eases and nature sighs,
Apple trees bud and birds own the skies.
I'm laying still and my jaw's not tight
For beyond the curtains, the sun shines bright.


Two Colours

Blue and green should never be seen, together
In the bruised face, punched-swollen,
In the crusty scab and oozing puss from a night-time brawl,
In the purple lips and sticky phlegm of death.

But Nature's palette seen, together
In the flash of the kingfisher skimming the river bank,
In the darting mayfly and green hair-streak,
In the meadow grass and everchanging sky,
In the merging hues of the rainbow's arc,
Is divine.

Margaret Thatcher

She was the honourable Margaret to the right,
But to the left, as Margaret Thatcher
Vilified and infamously renowned for
Being the primary school milk snatcher.
A humble grocer's daughter from Grantham
A tory in thought, words and deeds.
Rising through the ranks to become
Prime Minister with a strict capitalist creed.
For eleven years, this Iron Lady
Gagged the unions and trampled the poor,
Sold off the utilities, making shareholders rich,
Announcing "Society is no more."
The lady would not turn, so a bloody coup
Turfed her out and now thirty years on
Her legacy is still felt by the homeless needy
Cos the council houses were sold and the profits gone.

Society will exist as long as someone cares
About justice and peace, parity for all.
She may be sainted by those on the right,
But socialists cheer her downfall.

Small and Powerful

If you think you're too small to make a difference
You haven't spent the night with a mosquito;

Not the mossies that irritate and bite
Leaving swollen red spots in unlikely places

But their tropical blood sucking cousins
That arise from swamp and stagnant pools.

Not the mossies famed in the Scottish Isles
Arising in clouds and hovering above heads

But their nasty relatives arrive at night
To wheedle their way in carrying a gift.

Our soft pampered skins touched by a mossy
May itch and swell for a day.

But a nip in the tropics can signal death
To the child asleep and uncovered.