Jostled by Ghosts

You never would imagine he could close up like that,
like an oyster, wrinkled mouth sealed shut
contours of hermetic rock.

I tried to prize him out of his privacy,
bore through the crustaceous shell
but everyone told me he was impenetrable.

They did not know
I once lay couched in the shell of his inner mind,
it was cool in there, and silky.

We went to Skye where the sands were even cooler.
I told the hotel staff to leave him
thinking in his chair.

The waiter was polite, he smiled too much
wrung his hands with stiff embarrassment
he was only trying.

That night I slept alone.
His silence eats away my mind
hollow cries trapped in airless caves

I fear madness in his crinkled lips.
Something dreadful stalks the world
I cannot see

“They’re building a bridge to Skye now,
I heard the waiter call.
Some-one coughed, a dry whistle from the throat

we are all diseased but the world spins on.
I lay five days waiting while the sky slid by.
We had sea-blown salmon served on briny green.

The sun cut through the stained glass pane.
“It’s something about the marrow,” someone said,
“it aches and aches.” He looked up,

laid his hand on mine.
Cold streams of broken waters
yet dry, ungiving.

Our room was dark
someone was sobbing in the hall
he leaned over, caressed my hair

I cease to be afraid.
Someone screamed behind the wall
“It’s nothing,” a voice said but the scream came again.

There are those who join the legions of dishonesty
they march on in madness up the mountain
come hurtling down, all folly, to the sea.

I turned to watch his mind uneasy on the pillow
heard sighing seas and heaving hosts of restlessness
once-wise words withering in disillusion.

The truth lies locked up and no-one can find it.
An even worse misunderstanding
strides across the earth.

“We only see what we can alter,” some-one said one evening long ago
“the rest does not exist.”
He laid down his knife and fork, stood up,

He left them in their fragile world. I followed him,
further away than you can imagine,
watching the glow fade on his back.

I had to follow.
Is it madness, sadness?
This is part of my torment.

Someone knocked on the door,
the waiter bowed, clutching a platter:
Breakfast, tea and oranges,

he lingered, leaning in, too curious
I had to reassure him, then made him go.
I brought the tray gleaming to his chair

his eyes lit up, examining the label,
”All this has come from far away,”
I thought I heard him say.

I looked up, saw life persisting, resisting,
drowning ghosts trapped behind his eyes,
desire fleeing human hands.

He swallowed firmly, damming back the demons of the past.
I caught his hand, could not let him go.
Some thread, invisible, binds me

yet some sing in churches bondage should be freedom.
We stepped over barren land out towards the sea,
the still-grey surface stunned by an empty sky

we walked to the edge, he took my hand
and still he did not speak
but there were caverns echoing.



I took to the woods, walking as we used to do
underfoot the leaves decaying
the earth beneath us soft and mute.
I take a stick, am knocking, knocking,
it won’t let me in.
not here, not here, you whisper
keep walking, walking.

I follow the stream, glacial clear
peer in to the pebbles and boulders
hear your voice murmuring over the stones
not here, not here.

So I take to the hills, climbing, climbing
cannot get high enough, find the mountains
where the wind picks up, where the clouds lift
revealing grandeur in the sky
‘here,’ you are calling, ‘here, here!’




Scrabbling for the last of the blueberries
bearberries, crowberries, crab-apple –
anything left of the dying autumn
to stock up your more than mountainous frame
copper sheen in a slanting sun
soon ready to curl up in a
bomb of a ball in a den.
But the berries now shriveled slip through your claws
into the brown of your wintry fur
you comb your way in, thrust in your nose
it’s in there somewhere your berry
between hair and more hair in the crook of your arm.
How did it get there?
You slope off with a huff on the heels of your paws
hungry, hungry the king of the mountain
trumped by a berry.



Feature picture by Heather Cuthill on Flickr


Jaeger Bird, Barrow, Alaska

He flies in ribbons like my hair undone
loosely in this arctic breeze
like a kite in the wind his long tail trailing
above melting icefloe, along costal freeze
alert eye searching to feather his nest
he swoops down, snatches my hair
off in a rush with his prize secure
and I rejoice that he ever dared
for my locks will be part of a new birth
here by the Chukchi Sea.


On the icefloe in Barrow, Alaska, by the Chukchi Sea. Photo : UNICEF/Vlad Sokhin. Source:



Cranes, Cook Inlet, Alaska

Like a queen’s downy bed fluffed up for the loving
featherlace wings drifting aloft
they glide with the wind
two graceful lovers sweep over Cook Inlet
calling to the snowbound range.
It echoes back beckoning
they sway over scree
brittle legged, stagger on stone
fold their wings trusting