Saturday 19 March 2016

Ballad of Pittencrieff Park

Will it still be as in my childhood memories?…..

Behind the wrought iron gates
lush lawns, open spaces, playful parks
of gala days
tartan rugs laid down
and sandwiches shared.

Peacocks strutting
spreading tails wide and high
their blue green feathers
banned from houses
for fear of bad luck and death.

Hidden nooks and crannies
amidst the granite stones
Queen Margaret’s Bower
dank, dark, dismal remembrances
of love and religion

Ruins laid bare
rebuilt like Lego
to create a vision of past Abbeys
in front of the new

Only later did I know the story
the activist’s son, Carnegie as in the Halls,
who made good on the backs of workers
bought it for his mother
and gifted it for all, for all time,
to the people free from the landowner’s ban.

© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

The Shape of Life’s Signatures

It was the letter A that caused the problem
Large or small case variant as a first letter?
Connecting, or not, my new surname to my old first?
It took me months to decide how to write it
now as familiar as the prior one
it flows naturally from my pen.
Years later, deciding not to make a further change,
I kept the name, the signature, and discarded the life
Comfortable in my choice of uppercase A.
Still haunted by another life,
prematurely discarded without consent
before I even had time to write its name
to shape its signature.
The final Y of that unused first name
would it have have the straight lines of neoplasticism
or curvaceously baroque curls?

© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

No touch

No hands to hold me
No arms to embrace me
my body alone like never before
waits and waits for touch.

No tickles to make me laugh
and squirm up into a ball of glorious childish giggles.
No feathers float in my bedroom
now pillows are only used as headrests.
No one to share dessert with
Only memories to share with myself

© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

Pleasingly affective

Encapsulated in pink and orange
the plastic dolly mixture
sits on my tongue
going nowhere fast.
The taste of toys, of rainmacs
fills my fungiform papillae
dry without saliva
awaiting helpful water.
I gulp and gulp again
to ease its passage
but sticking fast
it releases the gag reflex
like a blocked sink
another vacuum punches delivery down my throat
to settle in the quagmire of stomach acid.
Coatings collapse, digested, dissolved,
time controlled release
distributes its hidden particles
into my bloodstream
pleasingly affective over time.

© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

If I wasn’t awake I’d miss…..

Pencils scratching paper
ruffles of armed sleeves
softy shuffling sighs
Aires of composed concentration
broken by unseen beads of sweat dripping
as tense foreheads line up
Coffees interrupt.

Fumbling fingers
play with uncooperative pens
find mouths and jersey necks to suckle absentmindedly
hands supporting heads dropping
forearms guarding pages
onto which ink floods
in a blue black alphabet soup
jumbled like the fridge door magnets
slowly shaping into stanzas.

© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

A friend

I have lost more lovers than I care to remember

but only once did I find a friend.


© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

Loss of perspective

I lost my sense of perspective

- under the influence of too many martinis

- in a field of Henry Moore’s

- listening to Donald Trump


© Sheila Ash 19th March 2016

My mother’s hand

I lost my mother’s hand the day I was born
but another reached out for mine and held me dear.
I lost her hand in Woolworths
amongst the monstrous mahogany counters
of broken biscuits and loose buttons.
When I lost my footing on the garden wall
her lost hand warmed the bump I still have on the head.
I lost my mother’s hand as a teenager in spite….
In spite of which it was always there.
There until the final last loss with death
and its rediscovery in a box of old photographs.

© Sheila Ash 19 March 2016

Friday 18 March 2016

Jungle juju

Jack led the way, slashing furiously with his machete at the dense undergrowth. The others trailing one by one behind him. His shirt stuck to his body with the effort. The cut branches discarded by his other hand lay trampled underfoot by his weary followers, each of whom were now suffering varying degrees of exhaustion in the humid tropical heat. “We’ve got to stop and rest” cried Stephan. “No, not here, we have to reach higher ground to see exactly where we are” replied Jack. “Lost is what we are” mumbled Norman. All round monkeys screeched. Their screaming was endless. Their makeshift fly swats had been discarded, useless, consuming too much effort under the continual onslaught of biting flies.

After what seemed like hours, Jack shouted out to the others. “I think there’s a clearing ahead” With a few aching arches of his arm he thrashed through into it. As they all stumbled in, they fell to their knees, gasping for breath, mopping their brows. Only then did they notice Jack was still standing, his machete hanging limp in his right arm, staring in silence straight ahead. The clearing was undoubtedly man made, but instead of any hoped for native huts or view out the forest, in the dead centre of an almost perfectly circular clearing about 20ft in diameter, there stood what appeared to be a great wooden hand stretching out of the forest floor. Its cut off branches resembled stubbly fingers on which various artefacts rested – plumage presumably from some local bird, a piece of cotton material covered in writing or hieroglyphics, a set of large rusty old keys and 4 human skulls.

© Sheila Ash 21st February 2016

The Guardian

The visual trigger for our Creative Writing group a couple of weeks back was an old factory clocking in machine. We were asked to use it as a trigger for a short story.






The Guardian

In his left hand the man held a clipboard with the latest list. The walking stick, in his right hand, steadied him. His frame, slightly bent with age, walked along the corridor. His once grand robe, faded and greyed hung loose around him. Looking too large for its owner, it dragged along the corridor floor gathering dust. The old man was thinking about his need to find an apprentice. It was becoming urgent. The number of entries under his Guardianship was increasing. The lists were getting longer. It was definitely too much for him to do alone. Errors might begin slip in and that could not, would not, be tolerated. There would be no putting it off any longer. He’d have to find an apprentice and train him up. However, a job in the Bilbliotecus was not a job for everyone – It demanded a high level of responsibility, requiring total dedication to long hours of monotonous work necessitating total accuracy and attention to detail. He sighed, stopped and studied the list. It was another long one. As he scratched at his beard, his eyes settled on the first entry, James McNaughton, before making his way through the Catalogue Hall to the Stack for Ms.

Once there, his first task was to find the corresponding key card. He flicked through the catalogue, Mc, McN, McNa….McNaughton….McNaughton, James. He crossed checked the man’s date of birth to ensure he had the correct one. 28th November 1935. “Ah a long lifetime” he thought. He took James McNaughton’s key card and placed it on the large key ring he carried attached to his belt and ticked him off his list. Next on the list was Sue Petersen, Date of Birth 1st February 2014. The first of the children. These always made him sad. The long walk from M to P gave him time to ponder this. Too much time. Her key found, it was added to the ring and ticked off the list.

So his work progressed until one hundred keys were so acquired and each one ticked off his list in due order. His key ring was now full and quite heavy. He left the Stack and headed over to the Hall of the Great Timekeeper, the first of many such trips he would make during this work cycle. At the Hall’s doorway, he paused, put his walking stick over the arm holding the clipboard, placed his right hand against the gigantic door and waited. A moment later a slight tingle flooded through his right arm and not long after that the door swung open. The Hall’s lights activated automatically. Even now after all these years, this still shocked his eyes, used as they were to the dark Stacks. Allowing them to adjust before proceeding, he heard the Great Timekeeper welcomed him. “Guardian Cronus, welcome. Please approach”. He walked across the room, slowly, under the weight of the full ring and sat down in front of the great machine. Taking his key ring off his belt and laying it on the desktop, he began the next stage of his work.

The same sequence as used in their acquisition was followed for their processing. He removed James McNaughton’s key card from the ring and placed it into the main slot of the Great Timekeeper. The machine blue hue intensified, it muttered some mechanical clicks and motioned its workings into action. McNaughton’s key card disappeared from view to be returned a few moments later marked with a seal, dated and time stamped. Meanwhile, the old man had taken a second key ring from his belt and had laid it down on the opposite side of his work area. He transferred the sealed key card onto this second ring, taking great care not to break the seal. Sue Petersen’s key was next, and with what might have been thought to be water in his eyes, put her key in the slot. Not for a moment did he consider not doing it. Once, early on in his career in the Bilbliotecus, he’d done exactly that with terrible consequences, both for him, but more worryingly for the soul in question. He’d never done it again. The pain, the noise, the darkness. It had all been too much. He knew he never wanted to repeat that experience, never.

So he continued his work, till all 100 keys were processed and transferred into the second key ring. He loaded the two key rings back onto his belt, stiffly raised himself from his work console, and began to walk back the way he’d come towards the doorway. “Goodbye Guardian Cronus” said the Great Timekeeper softly as the old man saw the heavy doors open for him to leave. He crossed the corridor and entered a second great Catalogue Hall and systematically filed the sealed keys therein.

All his re-filing finished, he gathered up his two key rings, now empty and lighter, and attached them back to his belt. He signed off his list as complete, removed it from his clipboard and placed it in the Work Done tray.

As he turned and left the second great Catalogue Hall, he felt his burden of responsibility lightened for his return journey, enabling him to turn his thoughts back to his search for his apprentice. The door swung closed, once more sealing behind him the Book of the Dead as he set forth back along the corridors in the direction of the Catalogue of the Living to pick up his second list of his work cycle.

Words 923

© Sheila Ash 18th March 2016

Writer’s block

This week’s visual trigger for our Creative Writing Group was an old wooden writing case - a lockable box, key lost, meant to store paper, pens and ink, complete with blotter and hard writing surface It was scribbled all over in childish doodles, grown up jottings and maths calculations from many years of use. It had been found in a junk shop filled with small remnants of china, tops to ginger jars, handles to tiny caskets and pots, other brass locks etc

Mechanical movements
seized with age
forget to grind and groan.
No key to unlock fortune or fate
parts lie discarded
for generations to come
to quizzically ask
“who wrote these words?”
“what childish hand drew here
before the elder’s calculations?”
The blotter’s tales
kept encased
till we lift the lid
releasing musty airs
and histories fly forth
to pens anew

© Sheila Ash 14th March 2016

The Door

Our Writing Group challenge was to envisage a door, real or imaginary, and to describe what we see through it. I wrote of memories of my mother making jams in the kitchen.

The door ajar stands still yet strange
no name, no number, no sign remains.
The handle creeks, the hinges groan
the wind surrounds a soft sweet moan
the light escapes, the heat abounds
the clamour, clanking, busy sounds
the clinking glass, the dripping bag
the buzz of bees gone slightly mad
jell set stiff, sweet berry flavoured
Jam of heaven forever savoured

© Sheila Ash 29th February 2016