In a very different place,
I called you
just to hear your voice.
You asked how
I knew you needed me
to talk to. I didn’t,
until you told me
of your morning, the abortion,
the hard ache of loneliness.
Later, I listened
to Paul Simon sing about the day
and Penny Evans mourn
one death among sixty thousand.
A choice you made: Odd
how it eclipsed what
men such as I had done
in different places.
Sandburg and Photograph
I am sitting on the floor
and you are reading Sandburg.
Ten months from now,
I will recall this
against my better judgment.
And later I will listen
to a photograph of you.
This is two years before
my wife will tell me
of your liaison with drink,
and the death by fire
of your children.
Your voice and face decaying
in the telling,
the reliving of your child’s death:
This is universal truth
(for even me,
with children smiling in their sleep,
the tragedy becomes each day
an ever-un-numbed pain),
forever truth which passes on
and makes us scream at birth.
Your Blue-eyed Boy
It’s not the mid-night pains
that make me stare into the dark.
It’s the ones I’ve loved,
even those who never knew,
shuffling off their paths.
And the ones I’ve learned from,
even those who never knew me,
laying down their pencils.
And it’s not my fault,
for growing older every day.
Ah, Death, Death,
you’re really beginning to
Another January Night
To be honest with you, I have no clue
if it was starry during the night.
I was doing my best to end the day
with the woman I’ve given my heart to.
Forty-eight starry-night years before,
you insisted that all men are bastards
but wouldn’t share the secret that you kept,
preferring instead to say you might love me.
You spoke of finding an empty field
tucked out of sight behind a thick windbreak,
of wrapping yourself in snow, and sleeping
until spring released you once again.
Sitting on a bench by the grayed town square,
I couldn’t disabuse you of those thoughts.
Still, by morning I felt you were, if wounded, safe,
at least for the time being. Death is patient.
Over the years, and the miles, and the changes,
one and another of us talked you off the ledges.
In the end, we were outnumbered by that one demon
you never gave us more than glimpses of by night.
Your favorites saw you off the stage, beyond us:
A bottle of the finest Irish, the pills to be chased down.
I lean against the car, while my wife gives me space
to set a flame to memories, to fill the sky with stars.
(“Your Blue-eyed Boy” first appeared in Lake Poetry
“The Telling” first appeared in Pictures of an Other Day (Writing Knight Press, 2012)
“11 November” first appeared in Copperfield Review
“Sandburg and Photograph” first appeared in Thunderclap
“Another January Night” first appeared in Hitchhikers in Mississippi, 1936 (self-published, 2015))
Ashes In The Wind
I can smell the moor, the green
I can hear the wind humming cold
I can remember the day in Omagh
When we travelled together by plane
All gathering from different corners
Of the great green globe, for this
And there was I, carrying you
In an anonymous square box
Your paperwork tucked in snugly
By air and car and all, to the moors
We stopped and we deliberated
Your wishes were, take me home, pet
Take me home.
Bury me in Ireland.
Scatter me there.
Take me to my homeland.
Let me seek the Irish winds.
I regret, that I never had a lesson
In scattering ashes into wind
I was nonplussed. Unaware
Of the propriety of such a thing
So we improvised. I called to you
We told you we were finally
Letting you go, to the winds
And I released you, your body
That became an errant grey cloud
Meeting a mischievous Irish wind
You flew so high and focused
Into a nebulous hulking shape
Shifting into purpose as the wind
Started and changed, and back
Chasing your mourners up the road
As they sprinted laughing hysterically
From a pursuing ash cloud
That followed them relentlessly
I did not run. I collected your ash
On my coat, on my hair, my skin
As I walked away from those moors
From the place you called home
I kept those parts that you meant for me
For us. We breathed them in
On our desperate laughing flight
And I fancy still that you laughed
As you flew past so fast
That your formidable strength
Fell into ashes in the wind.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse
Of a tawny eye, with a wry smile
And I want to rush over
With a thousand questions
Did I get it right? Do you miss us?
Are you happy –
And then your eye shifts to
Be a warm-eyed stranger
And I turn away.
Sometimes when the west wind moves
And I smell the waft of cool moors
I can hear your laugh dancing in the air
The timbre of your voice like rain
And I strain to hear, to catch –
And the wind slips away.
Sometimes when I sing at night
I hear your shadow, singing too
The crescendo of mingled voice
And then it fades to a resonance
Just my echo
I keep your tobacco stained fingers
And your warm laugh
And your head held high
Your spark of joy
I carry them wrapped in a west wind
In the sparkle of a hazel eye
In the shadow of a song
In our hearts
I start the story with
Once upon a time
There was a man
A strong and flawed man
And we keep him safe and whole
In our hearts
In our songs
In our clasped hands
We won’t forget
I remember the day
Frozen in the view of mountains
And Staind on the radio
Frenzied electronic denials flying
Voices across the world denying
But no, not really? How could he?
Someone larger than life can beat death
Just stop the world, they said
But we can’t get off. You know that too.
I heard the shriek of tyres
Repeated in my dreams
And the murmuring voices
Reassuring you to sleep
I heard you when you visited
To say it would be OK
That you loved me once
I remember the day
When everything changed.
You gave up in service
I honour your great dignity
– Eryn McConnell
Last night we lit a log fire for the first time this year. The walls of this old house suddenly cold in autumn rain. Cherry wood burns sweet and good. That tree my neighbour’s husband felled the year before he died.
And while the flames lick, I hope that the Prime Minister was not the last to bow their head and say goodbye. I hope it was a friend, long serving footman, the ghost of Philip. Or, better still, a corgi. Who kissed her hand and snuffled a cold nose under her caress.
Was she already dead, I wonder, before I lit that flame, before the rain had stopped. Had she breathed out, but not quite in again.
Bio and Links
is a poet, photographer,, historian, and short-fictionist. His work has appeared internationally since 1965. An online search will return sources for much of his work, along with information about the Swedish actor after whom he was reportedly named.
is a poet originally from the UK who now lives in South Germany with their family. They have been writing poetry since their teens and is currently working on their second collection of poems.
is a teacher and writer. Her chapbook A Walk With Scissors will be published by Infinity Books later this year.