Tuesday, 17 February 2015

In the Mail

My mother sent me my retainers a few weeks ago with a note. I don't remember the exact contents of the message, only that it was brief, something close to "Here you go. Love, Mamma." Where was the superfluous show of affection?

For years I've watched my American friends unwrap their care packages and pull out peach rings and vitamins, chewing gum, Kool Aid, and Twizzlers from their boxes like some unending magic trick. Care packages aren't a Swedish thing: we're a hardy people, a nation of stiff upper lips and personal space. We have no need for such showy displays of--UNDERWEAR! LONG UNDERWEAR! My mamma sent me LONG JOHNS to keep me warm in these dratted British houses. AND SOCKS AND SOUP AND CHOCOLATE!

Monday, 16 February 2015


Today I went to the seaside. My friend Katie is writing a novel composed of short stories which take place in a cafe in a declinging seatown. On Friday we wondered: why not really go to the seaside to see what we can see? Said and done. We looked up train times and dedided that yes, Monday would be a good day, and off we went!

Katie in sneakers, me in my new boots

 It rained.

The first glimpse of the iron sea 

Gazebos along the shoreline 

Pose, I said, and he did. 

It was a cold day, a wet day. I hesitate to call it spring when it felt so much like winter. Still the lonely shores were comforting. Despite the blustery weather, I found my thoughts turning towards sunny Singapore. Something about the architecture, the wrough-iron gates and fences, the manicured promenade of Weston-super-Mare made me think of Sentosa in its olden, golden days. #bringbackthemonorail

We had arrived in time for lunch and we dined at the Victorian Cafe. 

We had a laugh at the fudge boxes. Gran's box has flowers, Grandad's has classic cars and trains, and Dad's toffee box has a set of golf clubs, a soccer ball, and a drag racing car. My dad wouldn't like any of those, and I'm pretty sure I'm more into classic cars and steam engines than my grandpappy ever was.   

 Fish and chips! What else?

And mushy peas. Because it's England and I had to try.

Then we worked on manuscripts.

We bought donuts and I asked the donut guy to get a picture of us. 

We took a walk along the shore and found fresh adventures. 

And then we chanced upon an abandoned pier. Since its closure in 1972, there have been several attempts at its revival but nothing has been done. It lingers under people's good intentions. 

It cries in rust,
arthritic knees creak under wind.
Can I see the doctor now?
Then when?

And at long last, the clouds turned whispy and broke apart because after rain comes sun, always. 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Two Poems

My former student Ellie found a poem in a kid's poetry book called I Saw Esau, and it pleased me so much I had to share it with you all.

The rain it raineth all around
upon the just and unjust fella
but chiefly on the just because
the unjust stole the just's umbrella

And for good measure, I give you the poem I put together when I should have been working on my manuscript.

Kate eats cakes quickly
but sweets slowly,
and I eat plum jam
because I can

What's your best poem of the day?

Sunday, 8 February 2015


A friend asked me the other day if I wrote any poetry. I took a poetry class a few years ago, and the teacher advised us in the well-mangled epithet to "write what you know," so I spent most of the time submitting poems about dragons. I branched out once and wrote a sestina about whales. While I would love for my work to be validated by a recognized poetry journal, I had a hard time finding one with a category dedicated to earth's great flying mammals. 


It was the day that hung in perfect agony under
the heavens, and the sun sank its claws into the plains and cast
an unfamiliar light into the world; the birds fell silent in the red.
The earth, arrested in its turning, trembled at the sudden sound
of wing-beats in the east—the dark and dreaded sky-whales
had returned to face the dragons and mock them in their keep,

and now they numbered endless on the horizon, all eager to keep
pace with their gold-gilded leaders, sworn into allegiance under
oaths strictly taken at the Great Gathering in the north to sound
the depths of their devotion to the tribe. They flew, minds overcast
by tight tremors of war—silent, swaying, brine-crusted war-whales,
strapped with silver helmets, delicately hammered with scrolls; red

war-paint around their eyes and down their curving spines; more red
around each fluke, drawn in twisting loops and circles, to keep
with old traditions. Blowholes, too, were marked on each whale,
according to their rank, and pressed ‘round with gold. And under
each fin, leather lashed a metal strip onto its edge, a shield cast
in the hot mountain-fires of the north. A hollow, steady sound

beat out across the land; whale-tongues clicked, a martial sound
that throbbed inside their hollow bodies, pulsing, a red
drumming that echoed through the air. The smallest ones, cast
in doubt by their small size,  were made to earn their keep
in other ways. They bore the banners, belted tightly under
their bellies, and held the flags—a crimson whale

emblazoned on a golden cloth.  As they approached, a wail
rose up from among the mountains, a terrifying sound
that lifted from the land’s bourne like a ghost under
the beat of the war-drums. A winged serpent, red
and silver scaled, rose up—a lowly guard, ordered to keep
watch over their borderlands, hissed and quickly cast

his eyes out to the sea; his wings beat fast, and he cast
away his post and darted back towards the mount. The whales
soared over the spray of the ocean, stilling their ranks to keep
to their call. In unison, they swooped low to cross the sound,
glittering in the sun, a low murmur with every stroke of their red-
stained wings—the stillness before the storm, the under-

tow beneath the waves. The keep was emptied; the dragons cast
themselves up, a surge from underneath the earth, up, up against the whales.
Thunder deafened the air—a great sound—and the blood ran red.

Have your dragon poems been overlooked too, fragile poet? 
Send them to me and we can rejoice together.