The Photograph

“Who’s the man in the photo Nan?” A small boy asked one day
And as she saw the photograph the long years slipped away.
She saw a man in uniform and, standing at his side,
The image of her youthful self, so keen to be his bride.

How could she tell this little boy about that awful war
That took her soldier from her more than forty years before?
And then she’d married Grandpa, ‘on the rebound,’ as they say
But, though their lives had been fulfilled, some thoughts don’t go away.

They’d had their sad and happy times, but often, in between,
She’d think about her first love and the life that might have been.
It would have been so different; the many things they’d planned
She couldn’t share with any one; they wouldn’t understand.

The question – in its innocence – had caught her by surprise
And with rekindled memories the tears welled in her eyes.
“Who is it, Nan?” He prompted as the tears began to show.
With winsome smile she answered, “Just someone I used to know.”

Autumn Dying

Winds are stronger;
Leaves descending;
Shadows longer.
Autumn’s ending.

Light is failing;
Days are shorter;
Willows trailing
In the water.

Age-old wonder:
Birds migrating;
Distant thunder
Resonating.

Berries massing
In profusion;
Season passing
To conclusion.

Fading flowers
Seeds are spreading;
Heavy showers;
Old blooms shredding;

Fog that lingers;
Frosty mornings;
Icy fingers;
Winters warnings!

Merry-Go-Round

I was only a kid, but how well I recall
All the rides at the fair, though the best of them all
Was the thrill of the chase and the joy to be found
Riding horses on poles on the merry-go-round.

They were just wooden horses with fanciful names,
But they all came to life in our wonderful games.
We went over the jumps as they upped and they downed
On that circular ride on the merry-go-round.

We were jockeys on thoroughbreds, rounding the course
As we galloped full pelt and we each whipped our horse,
Or we hunted a fox and were riding to hounds.
Such a fantasy world on those merry-go-rounds!

We were cowboys defending a lone again train
From the Indians, circling, out on the plain.
We stayed firm in the saddle as, bound after bound,
We were pitched back and forth on that merry-go-round.

We imagined so much and were lost in our play;
We could even hear hooves as we galloped away.
I can still hear the sound as they pounded the ground
And I’ll always remember that merry-go-round!

Oblivious

A patch of land beside the road
Where cars and lorries rush on by,
But no one sees the crouching toad,
Nor yet the gorgeous butterfly.

Unseen, a squirrel scampers round
With graceful, agile ease on high;
A mole peeps out from underground
As cars and lorries roar on by.

A fox seeks out the nest from where
A skylark rises to the sky
Folk journey on, quite unaware;
The cars and lorries race on by.

A newt hides underneath a ledge
Beside a pool, where eyes can’t pry,
While sparrows quarrel in a hedge
And cars and lorries rumble by.

Quite unobserved, an adder glides;
A pheasant gives it’s raucus cry;
A cautious, little rabbit hides
From cars and lorries speeding by.

A hedgehog stirs from daytime sleep.
He’s been disturbed, but knows not why.
He climbs a little mound to peep
At cars and lorries streaming by.

A badger shuffles to its sett
— a cosy haven, warm and dry —
Where sleep allows him to forget
The cars and lorries zooming by…

A driver gives a sideways glance,
But nothing seems to catch his eye,
Save for the featureless expanse
Of lifeless meadows gliding by…

Window on Wonderland

On a dark, dank, dismal morning,
When the winter wind was blowing,
Dimly, a new day was dawning;
Outside it was sleeting, snowing.
In the house the fire burned brightly;
Little children played together.
Door and windows fastened tightly,
Keeping out the winter weather.

One girl wandered from the others
— though just why she wasn’t certain —
Left her sister and her brothers;
Crossed the room and raised the curtain.
In surprise the girl’s gaze lingered
On the window’s icy traces.
On the panes Jack Frost had fingered
Pictures of a thousand places.

Images in great profusion
Jostled for the girl’s attention,
Jumbled in a strange confusion
Begging tales of her invention:
Here a church and congregation;
There a fort to be invaded.
Lost in her imagination,
Sounds of siblings playing faded.

Fairy castles, watercourses,
Minarets with twisted towers,
Wicked witches, flying horses,
Frozen trees and crystal flowers.
As each one revealed its glory,
She was instantly transported
Through the lands of mist and story
Where an awesome dragon snorted.

Even as she concentrated
Warmth was building from the fire.
Driving snowstorms had abated
And the sun rose ever higher.
On the windows drops of water
Washed away the snow-topped mountains;
Minarets were growing shorter,
All becoming dripping fountains.

Icy panes were slowly clearing;
Walls of stately castles crumbling;
Magic landscapes disappearing;
Fairy grottoes crashing, tumbling.
One by one the pictures vanished;
Palaces were robbed of splendour;
Dragons, knights and witches banished,
Forced by water to surrender.

She could hear the children playing;
Suddenly the spell was broken.
What she’d seen she wasn’t saying;
Secret thoughts were left unspoken.
Just returned from far off places
To her brothers and her sister,
She could tell from all their faces
That they hadn’t even missed her!

Grandpa’s Medals

When grandpa died, we found his campaign medals in a drawer;
He’d never even mentioned them or said what they were for.
The medals, since arriving, hadn’t seen the light of day;
Secure inside their package, they’d been hidden well away,

But letters, found in grandma’s things, soon helped us understand:
Strong echoes from the battlefields, in grandpa’s shaky hand.
He’d tried to hide the horror of the bullets, shells and mines,
But they could not stay hidden as we read between the lines.

His letters mentioned comrades who’s been there the day before,
Then spoke of them in past tense as a consequence of war.
No sense of pride or glory could be found on any page;
Just anger and resentment and an ever-mounting rage.

When grandpa left the army and his civvy life began
He tried forgetting just what man could do to fellow man.
He put aside all enmity and any thought of war;
All memories of conflict — with his medals — in a drawer…

A Walk in the Wood

As I walked through the wood, on a bright, autumn day,
I was dwarfed by the trees that were lining my way.
In amongst all the broad-leaved, with branches half-bare,
Were the conifers dotted about here and there.

A few broken off branches lay scattered around
And I ploughed through the debris that littered the ground:
There were pine-needles, conkers and moss-covered stones;
Lots of beech-mast and leaf-mould and squirrel-chewed cones.

There were sycamore keys and a spread of acorns
And a tangle of brambles with menacing thorns.
I was choosing my path and avoiding tree roots
As they all seemed determined to ambush my boots.

With the feel of the breeze in a small, open glade
And the dank smell of bracken in sun-dappled shade,
A small rabbit caught sight of me trudging on by
And was suddenly gone in the wink of an eye.

I saw squirrels cavorting with consummate ease
While the birds chirped and cawed in the tops of the trees.
I was filled with delight at each sight, smell and sound.
They were all just for me, with no others around.

Near the edge of the wood, it was both dark and bright
Where the trees broke the rays of the low-angled light.
Then I came to a stile where I stopped and just stood
And I savoured the joy of that walk in the wood.

Pictures in the Fire

I warm inside when I recall
Those far-off days when I was small
And found such pleasure sitting nightly
By a fire that burned so brightly.

Time has flown, but I remember
Staring at each glowing ember
Lost in dreamy contemplation
Of the coal fire’s fascination.

Weird shapes and gaping holes
Were formed between the balanced coals
And pictures of all kinds of things
Appeared in my imaginings:

Strange images of distant places;
Animals and grotesque faces;
Jungle trees and mountain ranges;
Phantom scenes with constant changes;

Fairylands, all clean and bright;
A giant’s lair in dim, red light,
But — steadily — the caverns grew
As walls between them burned right through.

A sudden CRASH and down they came,
Surmounted by a dancing flame
That flickered with a yellow glow,
Becoming orange; burning low.

Today, coal fires, in many ways,
Remind me of my childhood days
And of the times I’d take a look
Inside and find a picture book.

Village Fete

We had walked for miles over hills and stiles
When a strange sound filled the air.
Then my wife and I were confronted by
A delightful country fair.

There were crowds all dressed in their summer best;
Coloured bunting hung from trees;
Lots of girls and boys making lots of noise
And the flags flapped in the breeze.

There was roll-a-ball and a hoop-la stall
And a brass band on the green.
There were childrens’ slides, little donkey rides
And the village beauty queen.

An old lady sat, with her wide-brimmed hat,
Selling homemade lemonade
And a flower show in a gazebo
Had the blooms so well displayed.

The tombola stand held a winning hand
As the punters came and went.
A man juggled fire as he walked a wire
Near the fortune-teller’s tent.

Then a mighty roar from the tug-o-war
Rent the sunny afternoon
And the children pranced as the folk team danced
To the fiddler’s catchy tune.

We were swept along by the dance and song
And we wandered to and fro,
But the time sped by and my wife and I
Had a few more miles to go.

Then she tugged my sleeve; it was time to leave
And she gave my hand a squeeze.
So we left the scene on that village green
— but we have our memories!

His Old Shoes

She’s lived alone for many years
Since her dear husband died.
She long ago ceased shedding tears,
But she still aches inside.

She cleans and dusts and polishes
And mops the kitchen floor,
But doesn’t touch the dusty shoes
Beside the kitchen door.

They’ve been there since he came in from
The garden on that day,
But fate decreed that he would never
Put his shoes away.

As time passed by, in loneliness,
She parted — one by one —
With personal belongings
Until almost all were gone.

She’s found her single role in life,
But doesn’t care to lose
The comforting assurance of
That pair of dusty shoes.

Biker

He’s raced this course for many years;
A hero figure to his peers,
The marshals, fans and scrutineers.
He revs up hard; the moment nears.

He leaps away; his front wheel rears.
His fans are giving shouts and cheers
That scarcely reach the rider’s ears.
His engine roars; that’s all he hears.

The group of bikes he’s chasing veers
To race downhill; a gap appears.
A corner looms; he drops through gears.
His kneepad scrapes; he has no fears.

His line is wrong! He perseveres.
He compensates; he oversteers.
He loses it! His bike careers…
…A family is left in tears.

Tranquility Base

There’s a shed in my garden, behind the beech hedge
That divides off the flowers and lawn from the veg.
There’s a clutter of seed trays, plant labels and twine
And the overall smell is of dust and old pine.

There’s an overstuffed armchair, set facing the door,
Where I often relax amongst plant pots galore.
So I often nip in if it comes on to rain;
Kick the mud off my boots; let the chair take the strain.

On my trusty, old stove I can brew up some tea
And then sit back and balance my mug on my knee.
There’s a biscuit supply in a battered, old tin,
But they don’t last for long once I start to dip in!

I can watch little acts — as though part of a play —
Like the robin that pops in to see me each day,
Or the backdrop of clouds that drift lazily by
While the resident spider’s devouring a fly.

There’s a shelf to one side full of old magazines
With a wealth of old pictures of countryside scenes
And idyllic descriptions of halcyon days
Before progress decreed that we’d have motorways.

My old radio’s there — for the weather and news —
Though I often don’t bother and just have a snooze
When I dream of the day when all conflict will cease
And we live in a world of harmonious peace.

It’s a place to be private with no one around
And I’m able to think as there’s scarcely a sound.
Just the twitter of birds and the buzzing of bees;
It’s as if they’re all doing their utmost to please.

It’s a wonderful place to relax and unwind
From the everyday problems that clutter the mind.
In a mad, crazy world there’s a lot to be said
For the solace and peace of my old garden shed.