Poetry, Uncategorized

Eliza Long, The Gypsy Girl

Hi everyone, I know it’s been a while. I’ve just finished drafting another book, so while I recover from that and other things, I thought I’d share a little poem I wrote for my nan’s 97th (I think) birthday, titled ‘Eliza Long, The Gypsy Girl’. For a bit of context, my nan’s always loved reciting John Keats’ Old Meg, and she used to tell me stories about when her mum was little and hid under her grandmother’s large gypsy skirts during storms. Also, my nan’s maiden name is Long, hence why it appears in the poem’s title.

Anyway, it’s just a fun bit of verse:

Eliza Long, the gypsy girl,

Danced daily atop the grassy hills;

Vibrant skirts twirling about her,

And around each ankle, chains of bluebells.

The townspeople, far below,

Whispered and muttered behind their hands:

“Hark, there’s that bold lass again,

Ignorant of how she endangers our lands.”

“Tempting the wrath of fairies

With each idle flick of her feet;

One day they’ll come swarming

And magic us away in a single beat!”

Jigging merrily between bush and tree,

Eliza heard their gossip on the wind,

But their worries did not trouble her,

For she feared no such thing.

True, the delicate bluebells’ ringing

Was said to bring unfortunate events,

For it alerted the fairy folk to any

Who might disturb their woodland dens.

Yet it was for Eliza’s loyal service

Of healing countless sacred animals,

That the Fairy Queen herself, no less,

Had gifted the girl her very own set of bells.

Talismans granting swift protection

(Should she wear them every day),

Against any who followed her home,

Or strived to put her in harm’s way.

Eliza Long, the gypsy girl,

Danced daily atop the grassy hills;

Calling upon the Fairy Queen’s aid

Whenever strangers tried to exert their will.

“How many have been spirited off now?”

The townspeople hissed over the years.

“Caught by scores of terrible fairies,

All due to those bluebells’ peals?”

Ignoring their suspicious chatter,

Eliza sang their curses away over the hills,

For she had not the heart to tell them

Every single victim had wished her ill.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

In the Sculpture’s Mouth – Week 51 #52weeksofnaturepoetry RSPB Fundraiser

Mouth agape, silent war cry.

Body hammered scrap metal,

dusty, coarse red

from the elements.

Hardly a place

you’d expect to find three plump feather-balls

chirping for their parents.

Yet, in the gap between those rusted fangs,

they huddle within their nest.

A blush of yellow and grey

flicks from the rooftops to the sculpture’s head,

tail wagging up and down,

dripping water caught on its plumage

(a tell of its quick visit to the neighbour’s fountain).

Eyeing people in the distance, it pauses:

just another feature of the motionless guard.

All clear, it returns to its young

and fills their empty crops

with plentiful spoils.

Little worry for nimble predators

happening upon its modest family,

for, as in previous years, the imposing figure

proves a mighty deterrent.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here.

I was inspired to write this poem by a letter I read in the RSPB’s Nature’s Home magazine that had been sent in by a member of the public. The letter and accompanying photos featured a family of grey wagtails nesting in the mouth of a scrap metal sculpture, going on to say that the sculpture’s owner had seen the birds nesting there the previous year too, and so never wants to sell it. Cool, right?

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

More To Moles – Week 50 #52weeksofnaturepoetry: RSPB Fundraiser

Underground shadows,

excavating with spade-like paws,

redistributing nutrients,

aerating, creating

vital drainage in otherwise compacted ground.

Above, we see marks of their passage –

mounds of well-turned earth,

from clearing their intricate tunnels.

Occasionally, they emerge,

noses appearing first

like eager bulbs shooting up debut leaves.

But tunnels don’t dig themselves;

back to work,

shifting between activity and sleep

every four hours.

Shy creatures, they disturb few.

Still, they are called out,

considered ‘pests’,

driven away.

Caught. Killed.

Bodies strung on fences to prove the count.

And all to protect land

reserved for nothing more

than human pastimes

and profit.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

A Plea to the Wizard’s Tree (or Fid Na Ndruad) – Week 49 #52weeksofnaturepoetry

Oh, Rowan! Fine, sturdy tree!

Won’t you grow beside our house

to repel wayward spirits wishing harm?

Mischievous fae; witches

threatening to curse family, crops

and land.

Your clusters of cream flowers

invoke days full of joy,

and each sour, scarlet fruit

wards against malevolence.

From the silvery grey of your bark

to your feather-like leaflets,

you could shield our grounds from unsavoury folk

without even trying.

In return, we’ll protect you

from woodcutters’ metallic bites,

mulch the ground by your roots,

restrict the harvesting of your berries

(which, you should be proud to hear,

 make wonderfully tart jam)

so each thrush, redstart, blackbird and waxwing

who visits won’t starve.

Dear fid na ndruad,

I don’t believe you acknowledge

how wonderful you are:

spoons turned from your fallen wood

keep milk from curdling,

a charm of bark in our pocket

eases rheumatic limbs,

and when we find our path unclear,

you’re the key that helps us divine.

So please, I know it’s a lot to ask,

but would you kindly indulge us

one last time?

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Little Might – Week 32 #52weeksofnaturepoetry (Raising money for the RSPB)

Wilted leaves.

Brown, crinkled things dangling

from a branch.

That’s all they are, right?

Wrong!

Perception only,

exactly what the transforming life inside

wishes

casual onlookers to see,

instead of its carefully placed chrysalis.

But today, this guise

will be shed;

next stage imminent.

Softening the hard casing, a scratch

becomes a slit,

with just enough room

to drag its reborn self

into the open.

Breaking free; possibly the greatest struggle

of its life.

A cape of folded wings,

long limbs, antennae, curled tongue –

all new, barely a hint

of prior form left –

easing from a space now several sizes

too small.

Vulnerable the entire time,

each wriggle

requiring a rest period

where anything might snatch

at its fragile state.

Yet the very act

of this mammoth task

activates internal hydraulics.

Fluid pumps into wing veins,

expanding them

into powerful, scaled beaters.

Then: off to flowers,

toes tasting each flavour.

Deciding what’s a feast,

and what’s foul.

Unaware of the tales its species inspires

each time a human stops to notice.

Yarns of good fortune, joy, fertility, love.

The birth of a new soul,

the last passage of one who is lost.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Bluebells, bluebells! (Nature poetry to raise money for the RSPB – #52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 28)

Striking violet-blue, a rich carpet

of fairy flowers

(or perhaps you’d call them witches’ thimbles)

nodding to one side,

snoozing throughout the day;

brush past

and you might smell sweet puffs

of their snores.

Take care not to remain in range

of the bells’ delicate peal –

that playful tinkling

might bring an untimely death

(at least, that’s what fairies advise).

And should you pick a bluebell,

well, those devilish forest sprites

might have you trekking eternally

through woodland groves.

If you evade such a fate, however,

you could try

turning a bloom inside out;

manage without a tear,

and there’s a chance of enticing

the one you love

deeper into your life.

Beware, though, if lies and deceit

are your native tongue:

should a bluebell wreath

be placed upon your head,

truth will become the only language

to spill from your lips.

So take heed and be mindful

around anyone you’ve ever wronged.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, social fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 22 – Chattering

Some say

trees speak to each other,

whispering pasts and presents our kind cannot comprehend.

These tales were woven as folklore, myth

but

keen minds have been at work

to research, ponder, analyse.

Their findings? Remarkable things.

If a tree is starved, its neighbours sense its desperation

and pass along nutrients to sustain it.

Their network of doing so is a curious one – fungus, they employ.

A phone line

of fungus which latches on to roots

and connects them to others.

In return,

a small percentage of sugar food must be paid.

Typical service charge.

Warnings can be given, too.

Of drought, pests, disease.

With the time

these messages bring, the collective

can change its behaviour.

Each sapling, each grandparent,

altering, slightly, to protect themselves.

In China, a bright green flower –

picked often for its herbal properties –

grew tired of the picking.

Plucked at again and again.

So it bloomed duller, then duller still,

until it matched its surroundings.

Hidden, protected

from eager hands.

Aerial footage, sped up

enough for us to discern the goings on,

shows a forest’s movement.

How each tree sways, branches linking

then parting,

trunks leaning first this way, then that.

Not unlike brain activity,

synapses pulsing with signals,

leaves drifting between.

Watching this slow progression, I wonder

if Tolkien was on to something.

Maybe trees and other plants can talk, but,

like Entish,

the delivery of their words is not

for the impatient.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

Reviews

Review: Three short stories by N C Stow – The Leshy, The Kupala Night, and Voopyre

All of these short stories are based off of Russian folklore, which I’ve never explored before, and as well as introducing me to new concepts and ideas, I learnt a few new words too:

Izba – a traditional log house of rural Russia, with an unheated entrance room and a single living /sleeping room heated by a clay or brick stove.

Pech – a large stove used not only to cook with, but also to heat the izba. They normally have a nook (the small space between wall and stove) where small children can sleep to stay warm.

Although these terms aren’t explained in detail, you get the idea of what they are quite quickly from their usage, so it doesn’t interrupt the story flow in any way.

Now let’s get to the actual review (before I get distracted and end up running away with the fairies). I’ll start with The Leshy, which is the first one I read and I believe the first one to be published. This story was very poetically written, with beautiful imagery and strong characters, despite its length. Without giving away too many spoilers, the plot focuses on the onset of Winter, a spirit. Winter kills the Leshy, a tree spirit, and Mavka, a young girl, wakes up having seen this happen in her dream. She the ends up being summoned by Winter herself, a summons that she can’t refuse.

I felt there were a lot of whimsical, magical touches to this piece that reminded me a lot of more well-known fairytales, but this story had the edge in that it stayed with me for a long time after I’d finished reading it.

I read The Kupala Night next, and as with The Leshy, spirits/gods played a large part in the story. This time, however, the focus was on Night looking for his true wife, Day. Kupala refers to a night of traditional celebratory dances, of which there are six. However, Varvara, a girl who has just come of age to go to the Kupala games, is warned by her grandmother (or ‘Baba’) not to stay for the seventh dance, which confuses Varvara because there isn’t one…at least not one that she knew of.

This wasn’t written as poetically as The Leshy, but there was still a lot of strong imagery and a soft touch of romance, too, plus a nice twist at the end.

Voopyre is the newest of these three stories, and though I did enjoy it, something about it just didn’t click as strongly with me as the other two. I can’t fault the writing, it’s just as good as The Leshy and The Kupala Night, but there’s still something that didn’t gel. Then again, I was very tired when I read it and I did get interrupted quite a bit…

Anyway, in Voopyre the story focuses on Zverovoy, the beast master/spirit as he takes an interest in a girl who walks through his forest. But he can’t get to her, so he calls upon the Voopyre, a creature that can tear apart the Kerchief of the world, to do just that. Zverovoy knows that to save her friends, the girl will need to call on him to find the Voopyre to replace the torn part of Kerchief, and thus he will see her again.

It was interesting and the idea that “‘Earth is a headscarf, and we are the thread'” really gripped my imagination, as did many other parts of this story. So, even though it wasn’t my favourite of the three (my favourite is The Leshy, because it’s just so beautiful both in how it’s written and what it’s about) it’s still worth a read.

They all are, in fact.