Saturday 16 December 2017

Christmases with Uncle John by Sheila Ash

John Keer
29 Dec 1900
Aberdour, Fife Scotland
8 March 1957 Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland
As soft as powdered snow
His white hair lay under his post man’s hat
In days before push trolleys eased their load
And high vis jackets proclaimed their presence
on dark winter mornings he walked the unlit streets
in silent solitude before dawn.

His life was spent in two uniforms
Of Institutions that defined him,
That shaped his life.
The first initially worn with pride;
The second finally worn to shield.

The first took away any semblance of the young farm lad
Who, in courage or foolhardiness, signed up to fight at fifteen
Then bravely ran to face the enemy at Ypres
His Black Watch turned to black shadow
Constantly shrieking
Hauntingly shrinking his capacity to cope
He ran from a world no longer understood
To the safety of home and family
Who never asked
Who always accepted
Their changed brother.

I never knew the innocent youth left lost somewhere in the muds of France
I only knew the older, odder, man next door, my uncle John
Who never married; who never had children.
But as we played
his potting shed my second home,
his garden pots my mud pie castle makers
I saw my joy reflected in his eyes
and on his face a momentary smile of carefree happiness.

Only later did I understand the cause of his quietness,
His shell shocked search for stillness and seclusion
And how it must have been so very hard for him each year
at the noisy crowded Post Office Christmas party
as we walked hand in hand to see Santa Claus.
As a child I simply saw his love
the fun we had unwrapping presents
I did not see the chaos clanking in his mind
his rising anxiety amidst those festive hordes
and the struggles he endured to balance his daemons for my sake
Each Season of Peace and Love.

© Sheila Ash 16th December 2017

Monday 4 December 2017

The Hat Girl by Sheila Ash

Battersby Hat Works, Offerton c.1910

Shaking with shyness
she strolls silently along The Strand.
Her hands hold hats
folded from felt for daylong hours
into the night when
mercurial madness moves memories
from her maiden mind
as an earie erethism (*) enters in.

(*) -Erethism is a neurological disorder affecting the whole central nervous system derived from mercury poisoning. Known as the mad hatter disease, it was common among old England felt-hatmakers who used mercury to stabilize the wool in a process called felting. This occupational exposure to mercury vapours gave rise to the expression “mad as a hatter”. Its effects include characteristic behavioural changes such as irritability, low self-confidence, depression, apathy, shyness and timidity, and with prolonged exposure to mercury vapours, delirium, personality changes and memory loss occur. People with erethism find it difficult to interact socially with others, with behaviours similar to that of a social phobia and they experience physical problems such as a decrease in physical strength, headaches, general pain, tremors and irregular heartbeat.

© Sheila Ash, 4th December 2017

Sunday 26 November 2017

Grant Me Atonement for Mesostics by Sheila Ash

A mesostic is a poem arranged so that a vertical phrase intersects lines of horizontal text. It is similar to an acrostic, but with the vertical phrase intersecting the middle of the line, as opposed to the beginning of each line. (

Jackson Mac Low developed a type of non-intentional composition using index words to select pieces from an already existing text. This he called “diastics” or “reading through” the source. This was further developed and used extensively by the experimental composer John Cage

When Cage began to write mesostics, he adopted Mac Low's acrostic procedures, but with an important difference. Whereas Mac Low lets chance operations generate the entire text, Cage uses these operations to generate the word pool to be used and the rules to be followed, but he then fills in lines with "wing words," generated, as he repeatedly put it, "according to taste." (see

There are two types of mesostic:

· In a 50% mesostic, the given letter capitalized can occur between it and the following capitalized letter

  • In a 100% mesostic it cannot

Luckily, there is a mesostic generator to help in this process which takes as its input the source text to be “read” and the word or phrase to be used as the “spine” of the resultant mesostic.

The theme of this week’s Writing Class homework was “penance” so I took as my source text the text of the “Song of Penance” , using as my spine phrase “Grant me atonement” and applying the 50% mesostic rule.

Song of Penance

Against You alone have I sinned,
and have often done evil before You.
You see the guilt that deserves Your curse;
see also, God, my suffering.

From You I do not hide my prayers and sighs,
and my tears are before You.
Ah, God, my God, how long should I suffer?
How long will You leave me?

Lord, treat me not according to my sins,
Treat me not according to my guilt.
I seek for You; let me find Your face,
God of forbearance and patience.

May you fill me early with Your grace,
God, Father of Mercy.
Help me for Your name's sake,
You are my God, who gladly helps.

Let me once again happily walk your path
and teach me Your sacred law
so that I can mold myself daily to Your will;
You are my God, I am Your servant.

Lord, hurry to my aid, my Protector,
and lead me on the right path.
He hears my cries, the Lord hears my prayer
and takes my soul in charge.


With minimal changes this reads -


© Sheila Ash, 26th November 2017

Monday 20 November 2017

Forgetfulness by Sheila Ash

A missing button left undone
My half drunk cup of coffee
now cold. Where is my scarf?

Buster paces round unsettled
“Mum, I still need my dinner money”
Where is my purse? I must be daft

to leave it in the bathroom sink
Now why’s the snake atop the cooker
when its meant to stop the front door draft?

© Sheila Ash, 20th November 2017

Sunday 19 November 2017

The world according to - by Sheila Ash

Lets go to Ben Brown in Harare, a momentous morning.

Yeah. When you think about it….

Lucy, tidy those toys up. I won’t tell you again.

- for almost 4 decades….whom she forced out – gotta find a way to constitutionally remove him – - that’s if he doesn’t go voluntarily -

Rocky. Basket. Now.

Always under my fuckin’ feet

- everyone pretty much would like to see - he’s being pretty stubborn about it as he has been for years -

Jake, what you want with your bacon?

- the dawn of a new era, he can go farming -

sausage? you got sausage?

- the decision has been taken - - has come 180 degrees since last week –

Josh, get dressed, out of those PJs now, move

- how much more humiliation he’s prepared to accept –

Where’s your brother, he up yet?

no make that fried eggs, luv.

- what his demands are? What potential fate –

Tim, get up or you won’t get to the game on time

- we will go back on the streets and we will sort this out ourselves – - was running out by the minute –

Watch the timer Rosie, when it’s emptied, you shout me, OK?

- veneer of legality –

Rocky! Not again

- trying to find the right words –

Luce, get hold of that pup.

- legal process still has to catch up with that – he simply becomes irrelevant -

You wanted a dog now learn how to control it

- a key part of negotiations -

else it will have to go

- his own sense of his own dignity -

- he refuses to accept reality ….his world has vanished -

Mum I can’t find my football shorts

- we’ll fix this -

On the ironing pile

- most people do not know another leader. The fact that he’s being turfed out…

- respect for elder, elders should be treated with dignity

Rosie, go get your dad. Breakfast is ready

- it was extraordinary, he dressed up in academic robes - - for him it looked like business as usual

Ding Dong

- what follows?

Mum, Rocky’s messed the floor! Yuck.

- people power, things have changed –

Jake, can you get the door, it’ll be Amazon

- ruled by autocracy -- to move on, whoever –

Mrs Johnson?

Yes, sign here.

Can you lift that in for me.

Thank you.

- transitional government leading to elections next year - - fractured opposition… - the path ahead uncertain -

OK. Luce, Rice Crispies.

Rosie, Boiled egg.

Josh, bacon sannie.

Jake, bacon, sausage, fried eggs.

Tim! Porridge is getting cold!

- at the moment people are just celebrating –

Where’s the coffee?

- Ben Brown in Harare, thanks very much

© Sheila Ash 19th November 2017

Monday 13 November 2017

List poem – messages in a bottle by Sheila Ash

A bottles of bargains bought and sold
A vial of vintage vitriolic venom
A flask of famous faces frozen
A keg of kept ‘kerchiefs scorned
A jar of Jessie’s Jams and Jellies
A can of couldn’t careless confessions
A pan of pleasant people’s pooches
A bag of breakups from bastard lovers
A cup of curious cameos carried
A tube of turbulent arguments traded
A sack of sacrilegious sacraments
A dungeon of dangerous daggers drawn
A pot of portents passed over
A cylinder of silly songs and sayings
A glass of glories past and present
A drain of dying dreams

© Sheila Ash 13th November 2017

Thursday 9 November 2017

White noise by Sheila Ash

Sex scandals scream incessantly
Fumbling breathless depravity
Stirring popular empathy
Media’s trivial recipe.

News and truth lie abolished
Is our BBC still honest?
Languishing in luscious lethargy
Mortgages paid but integrity
lost to an afterthought
Today’s commentariat comments not.

Musing at ministerial meanderings
Bar-room badgering and bantering
Concealing governmental incompetence
Whispering in gossipy confidence
Resulting in little but resignation
A mild muttering of indignation.
Acquiescing window dressing
Hidden agendas constant progressing.

Moghuls masquerade in many guises
Manipulating their enterprises
Shifting slight of hands accounting
Millions mounting, thousands drowning.
Distance denying food bank lifes
Children deprived of basic rights
Housed in unwanted offices
Siding stranded odysseys
Residences on roads to nowhere
Pushed away by warfare
Armed by welfare that doesn’t care
Charge ‘em for water, charge ‘em for air.

Dreams decay in desperation
Delusions despair in domination
Life imbalanced souls lie calloused
Quietly seething spite and malice
Against the empty mansions
Funded by offshore factions
Sunlight glints in benefaction
Incurable illusionary putrefaction.

Paradise papers light the nights
Scratching the itch of parasites
Lesions lacerating our nation’s health service
Dropping through austerity’s deepening crevice
Disenfranchised, lied to, left to fend and Brexit-less
Festering wounds map the side of social justice.

© Sheila Ash, 9th November 2017

Thursday 2 November 2017

Breaking bends by Sheila Ash

imageStep on a line, break your
Jump the tracks
The road to nowhere
Less travelled
Is fraught with dangers
Approach with caution
Best foot
Forward into the breech
Enemies at the gate
Closed behind
No way back
The point

© Sheila Ash, 2nd November 2017

Creative Writing Ink Prompt November 2nd 

Yanking my chain by Sheila Ash

20 minutes -
don’t prevaricate
dash to shop
all in hand
- bugger it!
doesn’t work
where’d I go wrong?
- make tea

© Sheila Ash 2nd November 2017

Monday 30 October 2017

Variations on a theme by A.L. Kennedy

A.L. Kennedy wrote an extremely short story “He didn’t. She did. Big Mistake” (1)

Here are my “Variations on a theme by A.L. Kennedy”

He didn’t. She didn’t. Big mistake.
He didn’t. She didn’t. Another baby.
He didn’t. She didn’t. Conception imminent.
He didn’t. She did. Never knew
He did. She didn’t . Conception foiled.
He did. She did. Belt ‘n’ Braces.

© Sheila Ash, 30th October 2017

(1 ) Microfiction at The University of Essex, see No. 28

Sunday 29 October 2017

Chronoscape – by Roger Ley

Please support a fellow writer get published - Share but more importantly Nominate / Vote on Kindle Scout website !.

My writing group colleague Roger Ley has his new novel Chronoscape on Kindle Scout for 30 days - he needs nominations!

Do it now, here 

I've read this sci-fi book and liked it a lot. or I wouldn’t be recommending it.  All about changing the future by adjusting events in the past and the consequences thereof - news, history changed through backward time travel done via piloted drones on miniature scale (I'll say no more now!) but beware "The future is flexible,we can change it "

In case you didn’t get the message!

Nominate now -

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Ghost in the Attic by Sheila Ash

The figure looks out through the window
to the world beyond,
the people outside
the figure
behind the grubby glass
of the resting room
looks out longingly
until that moment when the outside
languidly looks up
to their window
vacant except for the sun’s reflected glare

© Sheila Ash, 25th October 2017

Saturday 21 October 2017

How I sound how I sound by Sheila Ash

Nursery rhymes and ballads
Humpty Dumpty and Sir Patrick Spens
remembered unmemorised
their music lost to youthful years when
70s glam rock glazed over
pop Sounds of the 60s
breaking form irreverently
riffing irregularly
improvising Weather Report’s
unconventional ground with Latin fusion
breaking bounds
living out sounds
questioning round the frame of form
releasing words to fly their own way to the page
permission granted
finally accepted
voice found

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Inspired by reading Amiri Barak’s “How You Sound??”

Saturday 14 October 2017

Hawwah by Sheila Ash

Scarfed in the red snake of temptation
the light maid of Sophia sits seductively
surveying The Garden for 
forbidden fruit. In sweet persuasion
her lantern beckons man destructively
with a profoundly disturbing allure

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Creative Writing Ink Prompt October 12th


Lipogram by Sheila Ash

A lipogram is a type of poem in which you restrict the use of certain letters. I just found this out. It is really difficult to do, at least for me. This was my first short attempt to try and write something only using ‘e’ or the soft ‘e’ sound as the only vowel.

The friend’s letter penned

her intent, sent ahead

meant her death better emended

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Football focus by Sheila Ash

He spends his Sunday mornings
rummaging car boot sales,
His Saturday nights
trawling ebay
to re-collect the programs
left in the attic of some long ago house move,
to recollect childhood Saturdays at the match
with his father.

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Monday 9 October 2017

Inheritance by Sheila Ash

For you -
I would wield the surgeon’s knife
to cut away society’s cancer at its root,
And banish the bankers
prohibit the priests
mangle the media
polish off the politicians
cast out the corporations
and leave you an eternal Earth.

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Sunday 8 October 2017

The hands of time by Sheila Ash

Clouds breeze across the fields
Corn ripens in the sun
wrinkles crease your tissued skin
your touch tells all our memories

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Playful Poetry

© Sheila Ash, 2017
4th October 2017
on the announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics ( )
This is I suppose a type of Calligram (>)

LIGO/VIRGO by Sheila Ash

Ripples in the fabric of space and time ripple in the fabric of space and time….
Where two black holes merge,
there, undulate and warp and curve violently play,
folding and bending the event horizon
until gravitational waves
burst forth.
In cruciform oscillation
they travel the universe unimpeded
at the speed of light.

Echoes of a violent past
they pass the Earth unseen, unfelt,
like laps upon a seashore on a calm day.
Our existence unaffected
until the winds rev them up to lash our shores,
erode our coastlines,
reshape our lands,
enforced restructuring of lives.

Einstein predicted
these faint echoes of past violence
now seen by interferometers
as wiggles in a laser beam,
their reverberations signalling
the seismic shift
in our understanding of the universe
that ripples through the fabric of space and time

© Sheila Ash, 2017

4th October 2017 on the announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics ( )

Monday 2 October 2017

Psychotic prism by Sheila Ash

Our writing exercise this morning consisted of using an object from a collection given to us to craft a character in a scene. My object was a small crystal paperweight, with multiple surfaces, giving a prismatic effect when viewed through, seeing multiple presentations of the  viewed object.

So many voices, indistinguishable at first rise
By breakfast, a choir, not quite in unison
Sings discordantly.
Its chorus coalesces to a chant,
cracks crescendo inside her skull,
Her breathing beats the rhythm of its rant.
Rolling, rocking,
Lashing, bashing,
Back and forth, until
exhausted she slumps,
cradled in her mother’s arms
and cries herself to peace.

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Sunday 27 August 2017

Sunday Morning Market Nightmare by Sheila Ash

Dogs to the left of you,
dogs to the right,
still more unseen in front of you,
hidden from sight.

Dogs at eye level
trying to lick your face,
more dogs still behind you
straining to give chase.

Dogs on long leases
of leather, rope and chain,
a thousand tripping hazards
to drive a man insane.

More arrive each minute,
still they’re crowding in.
the road’s too small and narrow
for all to fit within.

In the crush somebody stumbles
but luckily does not fall,
it’s worse than in the sales
at some big retail mall.

Impatience mounts to a crescendo
two men lock shoulders like two stags,
barging at each other
two old frustrated dads.

The crowd behind has halted
crumbles fill the air,
someone calls for them to stop,
someonelse is heard to swear.

The air is rife with tension
luckily soon dispersed,
no fisticuffs ensued
from this showy outburst.

But the dogs had got excited
they’re straining to break free,
there’s no policing presence
that anyone can see.

The summer Sunday morning
totters on undeterred
but below the surface simmers
annoyances unheard.

So if you come to fairs and markets
please come on your own
or with your wife or husband 
but please leave all dogs at home.

© Sheila Ash 27th August 2017

Tuesday 15 August 2017

For T by Sheila Ash

Red eyes of salt water memories
swim in the blue Caribbean Sea
over bottomless coastal shelves
a thousand fish stream by
like days long gone.

Did you remember to the end
the shouts of joyous jumping into cavernous cenotes
filled with the tears generations?
Or did fog again obscure the peaks
around the volcanic beaches of Ometepe
leaving only the eyes of languid cattle
to watch us without understanding?

Did you remember to the end
the resonance of the hillside church bells,
the mariachi street bands singing as we ate dinner
the whispers from sultry jungle nights ?
Or did the tangles muddle
the sounds of Star Wars in Spanish
our breathless running the gauntlet of raging mosquitos back to our tents?

Did you remember to the end
The magic of marketplaces, rhythmic swathes of kaleidoscopic colours
dancing like a salsa winding its way through the streets of Merida?.
Our merriment at Colunga’s surreal seats,
the laughter of Guatemalan washer women as we staged a photoshoot
Our childish games among the Mayan columns
the white hot sand of Caya Caulker grinding beneath our feet?

Did you remember to the end
or did the decay of neurons rob me from you?
Your arm around my shoulder once mended my shocked soul,
Mine unable to mend your mind in return.
Your smile once brightened my mornings
as every sun rose so now it sets
for I remember your joy, my friend,
and it will shine within me always.

© Sheila Ash 15th August 2017

Monday 17 July 2017

Love song by Sheila Ash

Running round the corner wind in your hair
You took my breath away. Would I dare?
Lost in the scene, flower power days remembered
Lost in a dream, my heart surrendered.

Summer days, you lit up my life
Summer nights resting in the arms of my wife.
Fresh and cool your summer dresses
Replaced now by winter caresses.

Golden hair, skin soft and tender
Those are the days I remember
Grey locks flow now
As we approach our November.

© Sheila Ash 17th July 2017

Monday 10 July 2017

Memories from a crochet hook

Memories from a crochet hook

Granny’s crochet shawls
spread across the settee back
gathering cat hairs,
budgie droppings
and age.

Ponchos draped over 1970s shoulders
above bell-bottom blue denims
widened with inserts
patched with Laura Ashley prints
pieces of faux fur
swaying to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
smelling of sheep in the rain.

Squares pointlessly joined together
by WRI ladies’ restless fingers
in dentist waiting rooms
for the children of Biafra.

Pairs of dainty bootees
always white
their pink or blue ribbon laces
discarded appropriately.

A red plastic case
housing a complete set of differently sized of hooks
sits forlorn
on the charity shop table.

© Sheila Ash 10th July 2017

Sunday 9 July 2017


Structured and freed
Blended with rhymes, seen and heard
dance across the page
are slammed round rooms
engraved on tombs
to be echoed by believers .

alliterative assonance
creative consonance
capture the rhythms of life
release the aromas of pain and passion
expounding the glories of love
shaping a sense of place.

as fleeting as the breeze
as lasting as the seven seas
encapsulate Life’s Memories
histories and identities
exclaiming ideological positions
complementing musicians
peddling freedom and dreams.

© Sheila Ash 9th July 2017

Monday 3 July 2017

Human chain (*)

The tap tap tap has passed.
Terrace doors are opened one by one
and one by one are shut
closing life behind them.

One by one the men light up
their first of the day,
their last before evenfall.

Down the street,
along the lane,
up the hill.

The derrick tower looms large ahead
above the grumbling heaps
amidst the grey clouds
silently hugging the warming ground.

In the cage
down, down
to the darkness.

Along tunnels,
ever narrowing,
ever shallowing,
to greet the face.

The air thickens
rank with sweat and dust.
Shirts removed their own toil
drips and streaks their chests.

The bird sings
to the clunk clink
of chisel and hammer
against the wall.

The rush of baskets
carrying away
the debris of destruction.

A man coughs and spits.
The birds continues to twitter.

© Sheila Ash 3rd July 2017

(*) The titles comes from the twelfth and final poetry collection and poem of the same title by Seamus Heaney – see

Sunday 2 July 2017


Many paths weave life’s tapestry

each easy to walk absently

guided by others design.

I thought I wanted conformity

until the enormity

of life’s banality

blasted upon me

like a giant neon sign.

The road less travelled was frosty

full of uncertainties

doubts about ability,

about emotional maturity

muddied my choice.

People often say “You’re brave”

so much so

it becomes a triviality

echoing superficiality

reflecting their mindless normality

showing only the limits of their totality

each day passing by

in the same atonal voice.

I thought my route not brave at all

a compromise

in my eyes


a failure to take chances

no daring strides or advances

oftimes stuck in circumstances

outside of my sway.

With Capricorn in the ascendant

I strode forth resplendent

developing independence

passed down from my descendants

in ancestral DNA.

I travelled far and wide

facing fire and tide

I never tried to hide

from experiencing hospitality,

embracing diversity

around the globe .

I travelled hopefully

Never letting objectivity

accept the immorality

of social marginality

of political impartiality

always continued to probe.

As I’m watching the finality

of other’s in their frailty

I realise with humility

the final steps are drawn

for everyone

not in summation

but in steady decline and negation

a total elimination

of the force which made us strong.

Hoping for a departure with dignity

without too much volatility

nor the needless litany

from an unwanted priest.

But a silent misty destiny

of willowy sleep and peace.

© Sheila Ash 2nd July 2017


I’ m often tearful telling stories
The ones which made me who I am
The ones which spun the threads that became my DNA
The ones which shaped the bones and muscles that became my body
The ones which stoked my heart’s chambers, fired up its pistons
and made the embers of my soul.
© Sheila Ash 2nd July 2017

Monday 5 June 2017


Fingers once strong and sturdy
now gnarled and twisted
by an age of manual labour.
His hand-made livelihood lies disabled

© Sheila Ash, 5th June 2017

Friday 2 June 2017

Trump’s up

Come on children learn Trump’s song
here’s the chorus you can sing along
it’s easy to learn, here’s how it goes
not a lot of thought but a lot of holes

step on out before we step back in
to a different tune
the one we want to sing
grab a balloon and burst the bubble
shout out loud, cause lots of trouble.

Against the world he stands so smug
undoing all that Obama done
jibing his finger at the air
America First
his mantra and prayer

The playground bullyboy’s at large
coded up for the final charge
was it a push, was it jostle
at G7 meeting in Brussels?
shoving Montenegro out of the way
positioning best for photo-op of the day.

alone he struts from plane to plane
pulled by an unseen Russian chain
He doesn’t see the melting caps
he doesn’t see the social gaps
all he sees are the dollar signs
party sponsors standing in line
All he sees is the contribution flood
not the fossil fuel lobby drench in blood
last ditch attempts to keep their kingdoms
black gold and working class opinions
dirty jobs over clean renewables
leading the way to the world’s funeral

He can’t converse with those around,
he’s pictured sulking as they drive around
the Gulf is widening day by day
twixt him and her the gossips say.

Now world leaders turn on him
for he’s committed a fateful sin
Nicaragua , Syria the only other two
not signed up for Planet Blue

Macron says it’s a big mistake
it’s not the world we want to make
to leave our children a world of hate
fuelled by migrations, wars and shortages
slipping and sliding into service outages,
continued austerity, political circuses.

Extending out the hand of Fraternité
climate changers ‘come to France’ to stay
work with those who won’t give up
help the world in the big cleanup.

© Sheila Ash 2nd June 2017

Two pieces about Home


These arms always strive to seek those faraway others
on this day like so many, they sway out of reach in the breeze
two singularities adrift in the cosmos
the unseen umbilical intact but stretched and stretching
the world continually conspiring to break the bond
these arms ache to keep

© Sheila Ash 2nd June 2017


Home, that incongruous, transitory state of fixedness within the chaos of continual movement
where the heart is
the point of all returns
that place of peace
where the body rests for a moment
before moving on
relentlessly searching
for what? home?

Its physical manifestation - paid for bricks and mortar
grants permission to feel grounded in a place
to be rooted.
A true north island in the ever changing sea of life
flinging you this way and that
bombarding you with no-choice choices
manoeuvring you as part of some grand strategy
orchestrated by unseen hands of unheard of Masters.
The economic pawn sacrificed at the altar of the High Knight rests unsatisfied.

I grew out of and away from childhood homes
the warm security of loving parental enclosures
yet restricting, limiting.
Nonetheless if asked to paint a picture of home
it may well be one of mum and dad around the fire
my comfortable, cosy bed, its thick feather quilt
holding back the night,
thwarting the cold and the ghosts of dreamland’s darkness.

But there’s a call, a song
heard under every star, every constellation
across foreign lands of settled scores
The magnetism that cannot be ignored
reaches my far-flung shore
enticing this émigré to cross oceans
dragging me across dodgy dominions
as irresistible as the allure of winged sirens
beckoning all homeward for the new day.

© Sheila Ash 2nd June 2017

Sunday 21 May 2017

The accident

I’d known something was wrong, even before opening the door
to see this upstanding pillar of the establishment
politely take his hat in hand.

The formality of his stance,
buttons glistening in the rain
whose drops shivered goosebumps on my skin.

The uniform told its story before his words.
As, in the chill, my heart lagged a beat
beneath the night’s shroud
the world beyond slept on unawares.

© Sheila Ash, 2017

Posted 21st May 2017

Wednesday 17 May 2017


Life without light.
The grumble of generators.
The eternal shadows of black nights creep on.
(C) Sheila Ash, 2017
posted 17May 2017


Wednesday 26 April 2017


Magical moments when
A flock of origami lanterns raise heavenward without a care
Cherry blossom scent blankets the air
Smothering fumes from industrial waste
Smiles appear on the world’s face
The harpist’s fingers pluck the first string
Two lovers hearts a duet sing
Our feet tread the rhythm that fills our veins
Pulsating the pleasure that long remains




Sakura – see

© Sheila Ash, posted 26th April 2017

Sunday 23 April 2017

A bridge to forever

Dedication: For Klair and Russell on their wedding day, 15th April 2017.

Build a bridge to forever, walk over it together,
there’s no better endeavour for you to undertake.
Stride out on this journey, just see where it goes.
Together you’ll tackle whatever life throws.

Understand that occasionally one will move slow.
Understand that always the other will know
whether to wait with arms open or to walk back and say
‘I’m with you, as always, each step of the way’.

No problem’s so great that it can’t be talked through,
Keep understanding each other the way you now do.
Remember the good times, remember each laugh,
Don’t make anger and sadness love’s epitaph.

Your route may detour, it may not always be straight,
But your love will guide you through as you navigate
the diversions, the obstacles that may rise in your way.
Your love will guide you each step of the way.

You’ll have fun days in the sun, snug days in the snows,
Special moments to treasure that no one else knows.
So rise every morning and greet love anew
Join hands and together see all your days through.

© Sheila Ash 2nd April 2017

Sunday 2 April 2017

Loneliness lies hidden

Lying in a crate of dusty odd ends
One Royal Wedding mug, four Poole plates, a Pyrex bowl, and me.
Newsprint of the masses - the Daily Mail - wraps them up,
Enclosed within my own space
Little has changed. My colours have not faded with the years;
I have not cracked in my splendid isolation;
No chips on my shoulder. Nonetheless
Exclusion and rejection are hard to bear.
Snubbed by those who did not understand my shape and strong colours.
Safe from careless children’s hands, closeted in my own box that Clarice designed for me.

Light never got a chance to diminish my no longer fashionable brightness. I’m pristine,
Only it’s not how it should have been. There should have been
Numerous years of service
Earning kudos for the great Cafés,
Living with numerous cups and saucers, plates decked with cakes,
Indulged by silverware, by cosies, hot water and first flush Darjeeling teas.
Not left, forgotten, unwanted, uncared for as the years passed by.
Empty, cold, unloved.
Sitting my days out in my box. Discarded, disregarded.
Stuck up in the attic, unrecognised, unnoticed.

Entering a charity shop? Do they think I’m fake?
Not even an auction house! How degrading,
Demeaning. But still the real thing I remain. Me .

© Sheila Ash 2nd April 2017

Monday 27 March 2017

Writer’s Block

He sits and stares
the world passes by.
Birds sing, outside
planes fly.

He lifts the pen
the page to replenish
a few words written
the sentence left unfinished.

He puts on the kettle
and drinks a cup of tea
wanders round the hallways
then has another three.

One hour later
again at the table
with fresh sheet of paper
is his pen more able

to complete the work to hand
or continue to struggle?
is he facing writer’s block
or is his mind just in a muddle?

© Sheila Ash 27th March 2017

Thursday 23 March 2017

Westminster Wake up Call

This time a loan assassin
drove madly at the crowd
his car upon the pavement
a bloody furrow ploughed.

With knife in hand he’s running
towards the guarding man
who bravely did his duty
no weapon but his hand.

The shots run out so quickly
catching everyone unawares
the stumbling and the panic
the closing of the stairs.

Westminster is in lock down
tourists trapped aboard the Eye
the scurrying for cover
no time to say goodbye.

A woman in the river
French students in the road
the suspect car abandoned
This terror episode

has London in all its glory
ground to a sudden halt
yellow jacket SWATs and paramedics
blood on the asphalt.

Apathy’s rude awakening
the writing’s on the wall
It doesn’t happen just in France
for us all a wakeup call.

Amidst the heightened heartbeats
a reassuring sound was heard
a teacher’s calm instructions
her young charges voices stirred.

That choir of children’s’ voices
in the corridors of power
proved no act of shameful terror
could our bright future sour.

Democracy’s been threatened
but continues to stand tall
The unarmed and disarming
defiant through it all.

© Sheila Ash 23 March 2017

Monday 20 March 2017

Dreams of Flying

Free climbing

Long chalky fingers hold me fast
Sweat drips with the rising sun
Legs flex and stretch out and up
I swing, the foothold found
as with my last grasp
I make the top.

High perched like an eagle
I scan the horizon
of the caldera stretching south
as peaceful breathing returns.
The pinnacle conquered,
climbed free, thirst quenched,
I stand, survey my world
then jump upon the thermals.

© Sheila Ash 20th March 2017


Sunday 19 March 2017

Who I am today

In my head, the sands of Tin Merzouga blend
their red with the purple heathers of Alba.
My heart has bled its contradictions,
its longing nostalgia.

I did not choose to live alone
but alone I chose to remain.
Far winds have blown me home
but I miss the open plain,
sun drenched bones,
the joys of monsoon rain.

Life’s experiences, good and bad,
made me who I am:
this peter pan,
this lover of life, this supporter of Oxfam.

Not one for looking in the mirror,
not through fear or dread,
I know what’s there, I tread
happy in my skin,
my soul within sings each day
to the beat of the distant tambour.


© Sheila Ash 19th March 2017

Monday 13 March 2017

Desert Larks


Two balls of dusky camouflage
lost to their playful scurry
I am in no hurry
to rise
to disturb these twin juvenile desert larks
rolling and cavorting in the dawn light
their trills crescendo into my wake up choir.

The frenzied fluster of flapping wings
tickles my nostril.
I am still,
except for watering eyes
from my smothered sneeze
stifled into my own down.

They dance and play
oblivious to my awakening.
Not threatening,
I lie
watching in wonder and awe
expecting the breeze to rustle them
off into the distant dunes.

Two balls of feathered ancestry
as ancient as pharaohs
as fluffy as the angora boleros
of my childhood
full of comfort and warmth.
the birds’ sand bath grains rise
like the sparks of last night’s fire.

© Sheila Ash, 13th March 2017

Note: I think these were Ammomanes deserti whitakeri, the South Algerian desert lark. One morning in the Sahara I woke up to a pair only six inches from my nose.

Tuesday 7 March 2017

The last word

We didn’t realise till too late. The rise in doctor’s visits was probably the first sign, more complaints of tiredness put down to rat-race stress. The rises in early onset dementia, in early menopause, noticed but unexplained. McPherson’s article on the epidemiology of progeroid syndromes was missed outside a small circle of academics. The tabloids only got the story when their own staff succumbed. World governments had already sequestered scientists to find cause and cure but they too succumbed before much headway was made. No time for panic to set in as the problem spiralled exponentially out of control. Children born on Monday were adult by Saturday and dead in the week. Reproduction all but ceased, the fabric of society as our grandfathers had known disintegrated in the increasingly frantic scramble to eat and procreate. My child will be born today. I won’t hear its cry, humanity’s final word.

150 words

Sunday 19 February 2017

Apollo 13

The cosmic curtain cloaked the 3 in silence
their fate hung in a delicate balance.
Downwards they fell, fast and furious,
to the world below, so still , so curious.
There, all daily life adjourned
to see if they would be returned.
Man stood full of fear and dread
3 minutes to know if all were dead.

They were the unexpected crew -
one trip before they had been due,
then changed again by German measles,
these 3 now faced the final evils.
Lovell, Swigert and Haise
had been in space a mere 3 days.

13, a number with a reputation,
announced its catastrophic devastation
with a bang. Power fluctuations,
Short loss of ship to shore communications.
Then, those now famous words,
cut through the air like deathly swords -
“Houston, we have had a problem”
Jack Swigert said, all calm and solemn.

The explosion put Odyssey past redemption
leaving Aquarius their only option.
Unable to scrub and clean their air
they faced death’s cold relentless stare.
Could they conjure up the part
to make Aquarius a safe life raft?
To take not 2, but bring home 3
required exceptional ingenuity.

Conserving power as pressure mounted.
Each step tested, each step accounted .
Until, with confidence, Control asserted
that square to round could be converted
by hypoxic brains and shivering hands
from things aboard. They had a plan.
In their hands a box of tricks
to make the great Heath Robinson fix.

Those minutes of re-entry violence,
Their mounting tension, mounting silence.
3 expected, been and gone;
4 came and went, far too long.
Blood pumped boldly through our veins,
ears strained like labour pains,
hands twitched with gross impatience,
tears waited in eyes across the nation,
Till o’er the air a faint crackle spluttered
gentle words were quietly heard to flutter.
Then hearts rejoiced in celebration
as 3 men walked out in strict procession.

Down in the history books it stands
a tribute to the endurance of Man.
A successful failure it’s been called
Apollo 13 who kept the world enthralled.

© Sheila Ash 19th February 2017


See and pg 167

(any factual errors are all my own!)

Monday 6 February 2017

The forge


In sepia’s golden glows
a bellow blows.
Molten liquid flows
viscous like sloe gin
warming within.

The hammer beats the metal.
A shape begins to settle,
transforming like Jekyll
to hide and shield
the hoof on road and field.

© Sheila Ash 6th February 2017


Monday 30 January 2017

B*gg*r off rap!

Monday morning grey and dreary
Got up late, feeling weary
Writing scripts that’s the theory
More like dialog hari-kiri.

Words in a mush I aim to order
Sentences slush like some speech disorder
Embarrassment rings in raging terrors
No song thrush sings o’e my virginal errors.

If you want Shakespeare, here’s a sonnet
Want some Bennett, pen it in the Senate
Fancy some Chekhov, just go bugger off
Want a word mash, read some of my hash
Doesn’t make any cash
but gives us a good laugh.

© Sheila Ash 30th January 2017

Friday 27 January 2017

Dressing up

“And would you like dessert this evening?” said the waiter.

Carole shook her head, smiling.

“No, not for me either. Time for the bill” said Tony direct to the waiter, who nodded and walked away.

“I’ll just….you know” Carole said pointing to her face, rising and walking to the Ladies.

“So predictable” thought Tony, “no dessert, no frills”. She’d go to the Ladies immediately he asked for the bill. Solid and steady - that’s what he liked about her, and of course that arse now swaying its way through between the tables! What you see was what you got, a round, warm, homely soul with a huge heart. And huge tits that he loved to suckle into. He was mad about this woman. He had been depending on that very predictability tonight. He turned and got the nod from the waiter. He reached inside his jacket pocket and waited.

Once inside the Ladies, Carole let out a sigh. She’d been sure Tony was going to propose that evening, all the signs had been there, but it hadn’t happened. She wasn’t at all sure whether the sigh was of disappointment or relief. She was sure she loved him, not like other men she’d known. He was kind, appreciative, reliable, so good looking, great in bed, a real catch. A rugby player by profession, fit in all senses of the word, old and new. She checked her hair, reapplied her lipstick, and straightened her necklace – that had been a birthday present the previous year from him. “Well”, she thought, “I have a bit more time at least to tell him”.

All sorted, she walked back into the restaurant. They’d been coming here regularly on the anniversary of their accidental meeting here four years ago. She couldn’t even remember who it was she was supposed to meet that night, because from the first moment she set eyes on him sitting in the bar, it had only ever been him. Now there he was, as always, standing up when she re-entered the room and moving to her chair for her to sit back down. She recognised this as his cue that the bill hadn’t arrived yet. He was such a gentleman, such old fashioned manners but they pleased her.

However, instead of adjusting her chair towards the table Carole found herself placed side on, as Tony dropped to his knees “Carole Deakins, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife” In his hands a black velvet box was opening, a beautiful blue sapphire was shining, music was playing, but Carole saw none of it. She said nothing, but closed her eyes, took his face in her hands and kissed him. Her face was flush, her heart racing as the restaurant erupted in applause. The waiter arrived with two glasses of champagne with which they toasted each other and the room. Sitting back down, Carole kept taking small sips slowly. Gradually, the room’s attentiveness returned to their own meals, their own dates, and the hubbub of conversation again filled the air.

“That was nice of them to bring champagne” she said.

Tony returned her smile. “Let’s go home”

“Have you paid then?”

“No, they said they’d wave it if you said yes” he beamed and then whispered “You have said yes, haven’t you?” he was looking straight into her eyes and gently clasping her left hand with its shiny new sapphire between his.

“I….I need to tell you something, Tony” His face fell. His hand trembled. She pulled hers away. She’d rehearsed this so often, now the words seemed to be all jumbled in her head. “I….I love you, you know that don’t you?” Oh this wasn’t how she’d planned it at all, that wasn’t what she’d meant to say, how she’d meant to say it. Now he’d think the worst. “But there’s something I need to tell you. I need to be totally honest with you. It’s, it’s just one thing” she tried to sound reassuring, but wasn’t convinced she was. “My name’s not Deakins. Well, that was my mother’s maiden name. My father’s was ….Mine’s….McCockin” She grimaced and waited for the inevitable reaction as the penny dropped into place.

“So what difference does a name make? I love you, Carole. You say you love me. We’re happy, aren’t we? I want to marry you and spend the rest of my life….” and then his faced creased in a barely suppressed smile. “McCockin? Carole McCockin?” Now he couldn’t stop giggling and he repeated it trying to mimic her Scottish accent, “Ca’roll ma’ cock in”

“Don’t, I’ve heard it all before. You can’t imagine what it was like at school!”

“I’m sorry, really I am” he managed to muffle through his laughter. “Come here” He was back at her side with his arms around her holding her tight. “All the more reason to become a boring Smith, then” brushing away a tear with his finger as he caressed her face.

“Yes” she murmured in relief now that was all out in the open at last “plain Carole Smith sounds very nice to me”.

“Good. So in this moment of total honesty, I need to say something as well” He straightened up and look direct into here eyes. “I’m not a Tony, not even an Anthony. Goodness knows why but my parents named by Evelyn, well actually, I do know why, it was after an uncle who died in the War”

“Evelyn?” Carole smiled “a bit like Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” then.. ’How do you do?’ I can imagine what the boys make of that down the club”

“Not a word, no one else knows.”

“Oh, our secret pasts! Who’d have known it?”

“So Carole, will you marry me now?”

“Of course I will…sis” she joked and kissed him again “But no dressing up in my old clothes for next year’s charity game, I’ll never keep a straight face at that again! Let’s get home”

They walked out of the restaurant arm in arm giggling like schoolkids.

1008 words

© Sheila Ash, 27th January 2017

Saturday 21 January 2017


For this week’s homework for my Creative Writing Group, we are asked to write an opening dialog for a radio play. Not my forte, dialog, and I’ve honestly not got much interest in writing plays, and as I have friends coming tomorrow I thought I’d get a head start so this is what I came up with. Not laid out as per a play script, but at least I’ve made an attempt on the dialog.


“We’ll wake up one day to find the tours of the White House being run by Trump Organisation and a blue neon sign crowning the dome. Why have they voted in someone without any previous experience? It’s like taking a road sweeper and asking him to teach A level students French!” “Mind you” thought Jamie, “nowadays a road sweeper is just as likely to be a fluent French speaking African migrant as a bloke from Bermondsey.”

“Eat your dinner, Jamie” said his mum gently but firmly as she touched his hand to get his attention.

For a few mouthfuls, Jamie’s attention is on his tuna paste bake. Then he stops chewing, swallows, and says “Did you know that Tuna is on the brink of extinction? 4 Million tonnes of tuna are consumed each year, 20% of it in the US, 9.2% in the UK”

“How much is 4 Million tonnes?” piped up his 5 year old little brother.

“More than you could ever eat. Now just finish that last bit for Mummy, there’s a good boy” said Carole.

“How do you know its 4 Billion tonnes?” snapped Josie, trying not to be left out of the proceedings.

“ 4 million, Josie, A billion is 109 or 1,000,000,000, a million is only 106. or 1,000,000.“ Retorted Jamie, waving his fork in the air.

“So how do you know it’s 4 MILLION tonnes, then?”

“The Greenpeace man said they’ve published a league table of brands scoring them on Traceability, Sustainability, Legality , Equity, Sourcing Policing, Customer Info and Driving Change. We talked about it when he came to tea. I hope this isn’t John West mum, they came out worse of all.”

Carole stopped eating. She looked across the table at Jon, who shook his head. Then at her son.

“Jamie, when did the Greenpeace man come to tea?

“4 o’clock last Tuesday. I made him a pot of tea and we ate Fruit and Nut Club biscuits”

“And does this Greenpeace man have a name?” put in Jon

“Robert Brown, he’s 38 and drives an old white Vauxhall Vivira van with new black leather seats. He likes retro rock music from the 1960s, like the music granddad plays. He’s always…”

“You’ve been in his van?” said Carole trying to control her emotions so it wouldn’t start to show in her voice.

© Sheila Ash, 21st January 2017

Monday 16 January 2017

Kiva Shiva

The picture stirs a memory
of place, of time -
the broken walls,
the market stall,
of saree colours bright and gay,

her smile of welcome every day.
Her words were new
I even learnt a few
to help me on my way.

Now the opportunity
presented most surprisingly on Kiva -
to assist in her prosperity
back her wish for diversity of stock to sell.

I click on send
and smile
in anonimity.

© Sheila Ash, 16th January 2017

Snowed in

As she approaches I smile and pick up two sliders, one to cut off my pint of milk from her upcoming load and the other to block it off from the huge mounds in front of me.

“Thanks you. It’s very busy this morning”

“Yeah” I reply politely, feeling anything but as my patience levels are strenuously tested in the face of this multitude.

“Everyone has come out at the same time”, she continues

“Just my luck” I say nodding to my solitary item still standing at the back of the bay.

“They must think they are going to get snowed in”

A dismissive “Hmmm” creeps out before I could stop it. “I don’t think so. Highly unlikely. Weather conditions aren’t right for that at all”

She says nothing.

I turn back to think of my waiting cup of tea, remembering being snowed in and what a snow sky looks like. Time passes.

© Sheila Ash 16th January 2017