Zarafa, my love

With your tiny fingers and toes
Nails so sharp to rake new lines
In your young cheeks
With the fresh sensation
Of shock and awe
We welcome you to this place
Unknowing how to tell you
But with soft touches
Gentle words and careful
Rubs to soothe your stomach
As it navigates for the first time
Those aspects of life
That are harder to swallow
If we are not perfect
Trust us when we swear
We will try ever harder
To understand and be present
For and in all things
That matter to you
Please know that
You are wanted, and needed
And best of all,
You are loved

Body Building

Comfortable in my own skin
For a thousand years or more
Inner calm and outer grin
Oozing from every pore

Tender care for follicles
That blossom forth with fur
Showing off unruly curls
That underline his ‘her’

Nibbled nails that niggle
Catching, snagging, telling tales
Tiny scars that wriggle
As hands flex and curl and wave

Gentle as a monolith
That towers high above
The pillory of Lilith
For whom Adam held no love

Feathered Misfortune

What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
But no.
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.

Winnipeg

Cry me a red, red river
A river of dust and bones
Of hearts that bleed and shiver
From broken and bruising homes

Blow me a kiss of willow
To echo a mourner’s moan
The ache of an empty pillow
Another child’s fate unknown

Cry me a red, red river
To fold me within its bed
And comfort the cares that slither
Through thoughts of unending dread

Bring me a message, finding
Too late what you had to face
My anger a knot, a binding
A coiling of thoughts that race

Cry me a red, red river
Reflecting a distant star
A chorus of souls, a quiver
That calls to me from afar

Paint me a cold moon rising
Surrounded by frozen waste
Still warmed by a hatred, blinding
For victims that leave no space

Cry me a red, red river
From words that no longer mean
An end to the dreams that linger
Its path a forgotten scream

Soothe me to sleep through Winter
To wake in the roar of Spring
With gifts that are carved to splinter
Where birds cannot bear to sing

Cry me a red, red river
And lay there upon this shore
The past where I long to wither
And hold you again, once more

This was written for the Red River Women.

A Little Number

Before I was born
Just a twinkle
In the universe
Of possibilities

Reflected in eyes
Both bluest grey
And olive green
Did you know me?

Or was the I of me
And mine all one to you?
My seedling promised,
But unplanned

Was a meeting of
Hearts and minds
Foretold in song
To bardic strains

Or merely Cast
Upon the plain and
Simple lines
That sprang and pranced

This two-fold dance
Of fire and ice
Your foreign couplings
Kept apart

By Mother Earth
Who did not dream
Of feelings torn
From the widening

Womb-like walls
And shallow shores
Of an underground
Kingdom

Nuts and Colonels
Carried away
With crowns of pine,
From slender hopes

To careful, caring
Tender traps in
Wadded cotton
Whose snoring sheets

Wedded Pluto’s
Darker dreams to
Persephone’s Oblivion
Before there was me

Last one standing

When they came by
For a cupful of sugar
Took my old man
And waltzed over the hill

I was still standing
Polishing silver
Gonna be standing
Forever, until…

Next time a caller
I’d hoped would be smaller
Tripped on her doorstep
Got carried away

I was still standing
To see to a Mother
Gonna keep standing
Another long day

One time you told me
That things never mattered
Half the amount I
Pretended to say

I was still standing
Alone with no lover
Not understanding
Which words made you stay

Then they came by
With a warrant for searching
Hoping to find
What I’d hidden away

I was still standing
In need of your comfort
No one to hear me
And nothing to say

Turn from the shadows
If you fear to follow
All those who greet us
And pass on their way

I am still standing
Myself and no other
One day I’ll falter
But never today

Flounce, Fluff and Flattery

There is a world of difference
Between those who seek the
Company of women
To bask in it
Hanging on their every thought
As one transported
By the beauty
Of a strange and fantastical mind
And those who fancy
A quick in-and-out
Ego-boost before
Zipping their feelings,
Upping sticks and moving on
To the next conquest.

The difference is obvious
Even to the most casual observer:
One is the stuff of
Fantasy and freedom
Of late-night talks
And deep discussions
Long philosophising over
Personal projections
Maybe with a bit of
Barefoot dancing
And a casual pinch of laughter
Thrown in for good measure.

On encountering the other,
I will take the lonely
High road to nowhere
Hiking in stupid, pretty,
Too-tight shoes
Risking my own skin
To preserve sanity
Rather than share transportation,
Food or drink
In exchange for temporary
Flat-footed flattery
With bondage-grade
Strings attached.

I enjoy womanisers
Who enjoy women
In all their complexity,
But have no time
For bed-notch chasing
Egotists with
Straw for brains
And cloth for ears.

For Harry Rabinowitz

My grandfather died last week at the age of 100.  Unfortunately, thanks to the French law requiring cremation within six days of death, and to generally poor timing, I, along with several other members of the family can’t get to the funeral.  Only a member of my family could manage to die in the middle of a European football tournament, my cousin’s GCSE exams, immediately prior to the collective insanity of our EU Referendum, and find his funeral being scheduled abroad at the whim of a disinterested foreign bureaucrat, on the day of a national transport strike.  (To explain my mild cynicism, another member of my family was once genuinely late for their own funeral when the hearse got lost… some days my more theatrical relations do seem to be living in a situation comedy.)

As I cannot be there in person tomorrow for Harry at his final send off, I wanted to write something expressing what it meant to me, growing up, to have this person in my life.

“Not everyone can be bothered to charm a child. For someone who loved an audience, Harry was, rare in a musical obsessive, also someone who knew when to be quiet.

I have fond memories of long walks in the woods with a battered basket, hunting for edible mushrooms, my sister getting her wellies stuck in a bog and needing to be rescued, then watching in fascination as he insisted he cook and eat what we had picked. Other adults wringing their hands, forbidding us from partaking, convinced he would suffer the consequences of his own stubborn refusal of natural caution.

I remember piggybacks and very serious games of pooh sticks using the stream at Hope End. I remember visiting Mr Pumblechook, looking for sweets in hollow trees, and I remember my earliest form of musical education, when Harry used to ask me to help him find all the Cs on his piano.

A lot of people knew him as a serious, charming, professional musician. I knew him as the charming joker who taught a shy, seven year old girl to clap polyrhythms and tend bar, and who preferred his favourite music, clothing and even footwear to be loud.

He surrounded himself with laughter, and enjoyed wine, women, and orchestral music wherever such delights were to be had.

Little doubt that he will start organising some sort of a gig surrounded by friends, old and new. Woe betide the third desk violins if they miss the F sharp in the third bar of the second movement. The maestro’s grimace will not balk at halos.”

Harry’s obituaries can be found on the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, the Classic FM, and the London Symphony Orchestra websites.

Harry’s Desert Island Discs episode can be found on BBC iPlayer Radio here.

Leadership Training

Welcome dear, to the asylum
Where the grown-ups are not in control
Mummy’s out chasing a rainbow
Daddy is home but not whole

So what do we do with our brother
Who needs to be petted and fed?
Just sisters supporting each other
When parents don’t get out of bed

If you grab a hold by one ankle
Then I’ll take the other and try
To tease out the worst of the tangle
Then soap, rinse and powder him dry

I’m sorry your tummy is grumbly
There isn’t the money for S’mores
I’ll find what I can if you’re hungry
And we’ll have a picnic indoors

I guess we’re not going out playing
While youngest’s a hole in her shoe
I’ve mended the bits that were fraying
But darning the rubber won’t do

Besides which it’s no longer summer
And coats are too short in the sleeve
So even the common’s a bummer
With chilblains it’s better to leave

The exercise video’s starting
We’ll all sit together to stretch
Now reach for your toes if you’re hurting
And think of the rich and the wretch

If we can just keep it together
As family’s good for the soul
There’s almost no storm we can’t weather
To pursue an impossible goal

So try not to pick up your plimsolls
Don’t want anybody to know
If they catch a glimpse of the cardboard
When walking along in the snow

Then mummy and daddy are over
They’d ship us all out to a home
And though there’d be food there forever
We’re better off here on our own

Weather Woman

I am a whirlwind, a whisk of storm
Bustling hustler, shucking pain
I, tornado, brave and warm
Quite immune to storm and strain
 
Problems scatter at my touch
Tossed aside on threads of steel
Fly to cloudy puffing, such
We pay no mind and bring to heel
 
Arms outstretched, ten fingertips
Sweep through the tactile charged air
Perched for flight the moment strips
All concern from simple care
 
I am the calm in the storm’s grey eye
Twister turns a tidy groove
And dancing miles across the sky
No one sees my fleet feet move