Poetically retentive

With mathematical precision I count every beat
From beginning to end of each line
They must be concise and perfect and true
And every so often must rhyme

No freedom of verse or lyrical waxing
No skipping a meter or two
Iambic, trochaic or even dactylic
I just can’t get away from this view

So give me the sound of a heroic couplet
At the end of a sonnet’s quatrain
And leave out the free in the dreaded ‘free verse’
From such abandon I choose to abstain

This looseness, this freedom, this modern approach
Would make Shakespeare quite turn in his grave
Sestinas and pantoums or even a haiku
Is the poetic challenge I crave

But sometimes I wish I could open the window
And let all the verses run free
Oh, the burden of being so precise all the time
Is boring the hell out of me!

Childhood dreaming

I wished I was a Persian cat
With long grey fur and amber eyes
I wished I was a greyhound dog
Fast and sleek with coat that shines
I wished I was a jungle lion
Smart and fierce and roaming wild
I could have been all three of these
If I had been a different child

But I was timid as a mouse
Who never dared to venture out
I lived my life inside the house
Fearing gentle words of doubt
It’s too late now when childhood’s past
The mouse is me, the die is cast

Saving the roses – a sestina for the environment

If the world ends life will hang in the balance
Ended by ignorance, famine and greed,
To return to love is like climbing a mountain
Pricking ones fingers and hands on roses
In the dark, your path lit only by a lantern,
I can help you, I am music, listen.

I woke up this morning and began to listen
To the music of the birds singing in balance
With nature, the sun rising like a lantern,
So pretty, yet clouded by systems of greed,
Birds’ feathers like the petals of pale roses
Flutter down the side of the mountain.

I will climb to the top of the mountain
And stand at the peak in the stillness and listen,
I am music and I can hear the petals of the roses
Flutter down and the birds create the balance
Between the love and the hate and the greed
And in the darkness shines the lantern.

Out of the darkness shines a lantern
And the people are climbing the mountain,
Leaving behind the famine and greed
And asking for mercy, they want to listen.
They know they upset the perfect balance
I am music, I’ll play out with the roses.

Stripped to the skin and pricked by roses
They walk up the mountain lit by a lantern.
The path is narrow and it’s hard to balance
The love and the hate on the side of the mountain,
The music once played but no-one would listen
And now there is only the loss and the greed.

It’s not too late if we punish the greed
And follow the music which saves the roses,
The birds and the trees ask you to listen,
They light up the dark with their pale lantern
And reach for the skies from the top of the mountain.
I am music, I am silence, I am balance.

The balance is fine between love and greed,
From the top of the mountain I can see the roses
Still lit by the lantern and hoping you’ll listen.

Outlandish Tales of Folklore

Apologies for having posted the first three before, albeit ages ago, but I wanted to keep them altogether somewhere.

A sonnet is a 14 line lyrical poem traditionally written about beauty, unrequited love, romance, faith, death etc. Contemporary sonnets use modern language but the subject matter is often the same or similar. These attempt to break the mould, hopefully.

As they are a sequence, I thought it would be fun and challenging to link them. I used something similar to the film technique of ‘leitmotifs’ which are described as ‘poetic images that repeat like refrains in each strand’. This linkage can be seen in the 3rd line of each poem which is always ‘captures (kidnaps, snatches etc) babies in the night’.

Outlandish Tales of Folklore

A sequence of sonnets

Cooking with Elves

Around the campfire they sit and
Squabble, the Dark Elves, the Svartálfar,
Who capture babies in the night,
While slumbering peacefully in their beds
Tangling their hair in elflocks
They squeal with horrid delight,
Throw them in… Throw them in…
No beauty here, just the sharp pain of fright.

So before you sprinkle Buckthorn in a circle
And dance wildly under the full moon,
Think wisely if you cry before he flees
Dark Elf! Halt and grant my boon!
And wish not for help or harm
Or harm will harm you soon.

The Curse of Baba Jaga

Where are the servants? Don’t ask or
She’ll kill you, Baba Jaga, of the forest
Who kidnaps babies in the night.
The cat… The dog… The tree… The gate…
Her invisible servants, silent like the riders,
I am Day, says one, all dressed in white,
Who comes in red? I am the Sun,
Then dressed in black, I am the Night.

She’s coming now, look out, look out,
Sweeping their hoof-tracks with her broom.
The wailing wind begins to blow
While trees around her moan and groan
And shrieking spirits follow in her wake,
Leading you flailing to your doom

Hansel and Gretel

Deep in the forest, two children cry alone,
Finding a friend; a witch, a fiendish hag
Who snatches babies in the night,
Fattens them… Cooks them… Eats them…
Oh Hansel, Gretel, be afraid and run,
Hide in the bushes, stay out of sight.
Too thin, too thin, I like them fat,
The witch-hag cries with sheer delight.

Gretel, now her servant, fetches sweets
To force feed Hansel, trapped alone.
She’s coming now, the witch, she squeals
Be he fat or lean , I’ll eat him soon
But it’s too late, in the oven she goes
The children flee and the tale is done.

The Faerie Queen

Made from children’s laughs and squeals
She skips and flutters high above
While stealing babies in the night
And changelings substitute in their place
The faerie queen with faerie dust
Will disappear when it gets light
Shape-shifting now as if a ghost
Taking the dead with her in fright

Oh faerie queen with angel wings
And charms which magic potions soon
From sage and rowan, herbs and spice
Will stir her magic ‘neath the moon.
So if you think this faerie kind, just
Think again, she’ll cast your doom.

The Hag of the Mist

With filthy hair and stark black eyes
She stalks her victim through the fog
And snatches spirits in the night
And death to he who hears her cries
Calling his name she laughs and wails
He hears her call and dies of fright
And not a jot cares who you be
The banshee screams with sheer delight

So if you hear your name out loud
You cannot hide from what comes soon
The ugly hag has found you out
She calls your name, what’s done is done
You catch a glimpse, a second split
She’ll drag you down and down alone