Downs

There was only the sky-

clean as blades of sunlight,

scrubbed by paths of clouds

flung by the gale in its shivering joy.

 

There was only the answering sea-

purging snowy breakers to bound

towards an infinite ribbon of sand,

shaded to intricacies beyond depiction

for their exclusive appreciation

from that brink of earth;

sandstone ridge washed by time

and pooled by rain.

Heather-crunch of their running feet

stopped at the top,

stilled by the call of sky for sea.

 

It was only a moment

in that halfway place

between rock, air and water,

where all was sound, yet all was peace.

And wonder-

for the earth, and the other.

 

Polly Oliver 2018

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Channel swim

I can smell the invigorating, iodine-laced whiff of brine in this maritime masterpiece from Lance Sheridan!
A layered poem that immerses the reader in the submerged worlds of the ocean and the mind.

Lance Sheridan

Where breakwaters shove the stones
And suck the channel water,
Clouds unfist the sun, black coating the shore.

The chalk-colored cliffs statuesque
Over a lighthouse curtaining the stubborn dark,
And I in a swim past the huts of fish.

In a blue unchanging world, I stroke through
The narrow crack, through the odors of an
Old sea; in a backward look, the shore is drinking the waves.

The map of my swim lies beneath, along the
Silver streak of pilchards, they cast their
Scales ousted from fishing nets; cleave forward in a fury.

Waves wallop me in a freestyle, assaulting my body,
Riveting cold, yet I take the challenge;
Sprawling, hunched in a wincing mask of agony.

Far from the Dover beach, I see a French window ajar,
Boats retching in a basin; I marvel at the onslaught.
In a harbor, I’m greeted by ring-billed gulls and casual valor.

I…

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Jealous sun

I wrote the following micropoem this morning in response to a Tweet by The Micropoetry Society @pssms. Their writing prompt was #PERFECT.

jealous sun

Dawn’s fingers

Trace your sleep-still face.

The Sun wants you too.

Mountain

For a long time and increasingly, I have been overwhelmed by my own inadequacies and failings. A futile and hypocritical position given I’m seemingly incapable of overcoming them, but there we are.

The small neighbourhood in which I live is not a microcosm of the city or region as a whole but a place where each member of the community is a success and succeeding in life. They are kind and confident, focussed and competent. It makes moving about amongst them hard when you know you don’t measure up and that they don’t carry any darkness with them.

I am a daydreamer and drawn to places where the rocks and wind seem to speak clearer than the voices of society. Feeble escapism I know, but I’m not the only one.

I’m fascinated by the role of the landscape in history and prehistory. Its high and inaccessible places were sites of ritual of retreat- take for example the habit (pardon the pun) of early Celtic monks eke-ing out materially meagre but spiritually robust lives atop mountains or on wave-bound islands.

This poem is, on the surface, about a Welsh mountain- a small one that barely deserves the title mountain, but it’s prominence in the landscape was a draw for prehistoric communities and Dark Age Christian spiritual pioneers alike. For want of a better idea I called it ‘Mountain’.

Mountain

Thorn tree faces down the flinty stare

Of a Welsh Winter’s sky. Last year’s berries,

Boon for raven and crow, cut to black

In a wind of frosted knives:

Last year’s blossom, last season’s bounty;

They cannot last.

Take sustenance instead from the rocks,

From this tower of gale-bound silence.

Like the Saint who knew to rest his strange cap

On the bare-boned high places, and build a wall

Against the worst of the whirling air

With chinks enough for the cold to cleanse,

Exhilarate, enlighten. The thorn,

Blasted to its essence, worn to the shape of  storms;

It’s strength is its scarcity,

it’s magic rooted in centuries.

I want to retreat to the eirie,

To run to the heights. To be rock,

To be mountain, to be wild,

To be still.

 

Polly Oliver 2018

 

 

Shine – a Haiku

Cliched as it may sound this Haiku about mindful awareness of breathing in the present moment genuinely came to me in my Tuesday evening yoga class- testament to my amazing teacher Rachel Parkyn, a true guru! Here goes:

Shine

Now breathes into now;

Each moment a shining bead

Strung on strands of life.

 

~Polly Oliver (2018)

Rider

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I’ve been flitting around this planet getting distracted by the smallest thing for long enough now to know i will never be a knuckle down and produce a world-shattering great work kind of writer. Poetry, flash fiction, Haiku etc take the thoughts, images, emotions and phrases bumping about in my brain and give me somewhere to put them, for better or worse.

We all have our triggers; visual, emotional, literary, landscape. Recently I have been enjoying responding to an assortment of people on Twitter who post writing prompts such as an image or a concept and reading the responses of other strangers who felt compelled to create. Egalitarian, refreshing and inspiring.

Some time ago I wrote a poem on this blog prompted by my excitement at receiving a print of a painting by Cornish artist Jo March (not she of Little Women fame). A lot of her work is a beautiful response to the rolling yet rugged, myth-filled Cornish landscape, fertil ewith secrets and history. You can see some of it here. https://www.jomarchart.com/2017gallery-block/

This poem was a response to some of that work and love, quest, myth and time are also twined in its lines.

Polly.

Rider

Through wet-silver’d lanes

arc’d over with green

deep as myth you rode

under flying moon and pale sun-

rinsed pure and meek

by the adolescent year’s flurries.

The dough-soft hills of your kingdom-

whispering land startled awake-

rolled away under thudding black hooves

driven on by your urgent legs.

But how you wished instead

you could ride astride raven or hawk

whose route would not be thwarted

by the twists in ancient lanes

or sudden bends in old ways;

but direct as a feather-tipped dart

taking you and your love to the waiting heart

of the flower-cheeked one you loved before

your days flowed apart

carrying dreams to unplanned shores.

But you, beloved, stare down the dark,

riding with fury against the push of Time,

That rolls boulders to pebbles which lie

silent in the endless wash of tides.