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
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
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
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
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
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
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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_blossom
© Sheila Ash, posted 26th April 2017
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
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
He sits and stares
the world passes by.
Birds sing, outside
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
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
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
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
Two balls of dusky camouflage
lost to their playful scurry
I am in no hurry
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.
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.
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.
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
(any factual errors are all my own!)
In sepia’s golden glows
a bellow blows.
Molten liquid flows
viscous like sloe gin
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 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
“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.
© Sheila Ash, 27th 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
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
© Sheila Ash, 16th January 2017
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