The Journey

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

Mary Oliver asks of us in her poem ‘The Summer Day’. In a little over a month I’ll be heading back to Embercombe to volunteer on their ‘Journey’ programme and this question will once again be forefront in my mind.

“One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began”, again Mary Oliver guides us in her poem ‘The Journey’

A new circle will be drawn and thirty or so inquisitive, nervous, bemused and perhaps bewildered individuals will begin their Journey into themselves, and as in the ancient story of Iron John, they will serve their time in the forest, the ashes and the kitchens before finally coming triumphantly home to their own truths.

“You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting”, Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese advises us. Of course, you can if you want to, we all seek redemption in our own ways but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The work has already started for me and for them, it started before I signed up, it continued as I made the space and time to participate in March and as I made the plans to leave my life here for a week, and it’s still happening now. A place and a time that had faded from my everyday thoughts was now back in them, the names, the places, the experiences. The breakdowns and breakthroughs I had taken part in, those I had witnessed and those that will take place in March.

The lake will be beckoning me, to sample its icy waters as it warms itself from its winter dreaming, the forest will call to me as it thrusts new green shoots into the coming spring, the stones will remember me, as they remember everybody. One day they may remember you as an old friend too.

And once again I will share a last goodbye before gathering up my experiences and memories of my week in the real world and taking them out there, out here, and finding my place in the world again.

“And when the sun rose

That, this morning

In your blue eyed sky

I knew my, our ending had come.

All that was left

Was to say goodbye.”






Aye, aye, aye


Bee, aye, aye

Sea, sea, bee, be

Dee, sea, sea

Dea, see, bee


Aye, bee, sea

Dee, E

Dee, E, eff

Eff, gee

Aitch, Haitch, aitch

Eye, Jay, Kay




Oh pea queue

Pea queue

Argh estuary

Double you

You you





I touched on an idea there for a moment
Of possession and repossession
Of dispossession and time
I reached out into the world
To lay the claim
And smooth my way through the pain
And yet still they lie
Coiled across the path
Taking away my life
And turning it into a tale
Of two halves.
Patience, my friend


That every leaf that falls carries a story

Collect the leaves

When autumn comes

Collect the leaves

When autumn comes

Let them fall from my hands like leaves falling from trees

Let them grow,

Piles of leaves.

Leaves of a book

The leaves that talk in the night,

In the forest,

In the woods.

These leaves have seen it all

These leaves can talk

What story do these leaves tell?

Tell me their story

Way up high

On top

The tree top

Reaching for the sun

I climb

I reach out for you

I watch you play

I watch you grow

Leaves, leaves, leaves

What colour are you?

Can I hold you?

Save you?

Reach out to you

Reaching out to me?

Leaves, leaves, leaves, leaves

What purpose a leaf?

I leaf through my leaves

Looking for the perfect example of oak or maple or ash


I’m still talking about the leaves

Not being the leaves.

I’ll just leave this here.

The Last Goodbye

I climb into the shower
And begin to wash her, you
From my hair.

It was
Just three short hours ago
When I, you held me tight
In our final Embrace.

A short, snatched time
Before your, my life continues
Outside, away
Here, not there
With you.

Hot water runs in rivers
Down my face, chest
Washing smoke and ash and earth
To my feet
And they still remember
Standing on your paths
Through the night
As the rain washed in rivers
Down your face, breast.

And when the sun rose
That, this morning
In your blue eyed sky
I knew my, our ending had come.
All that was left
Was to say goodbye.

And I waited, delayed.
Etching every detail into memory
From the way your hair, trees
Moved in the wind,
The line of your warm winter coat,
Desperate to be shed,
Crying out ‘Spring! Spring!’
Down to your feet
Planted so firmly
In that, our land.

I washed the last of her, you
From my hair
The smoke from your fires
Joining the salt from my tears
A torrent of grief that can never
Wash her, you from my memory.

20160313 - Embercombe

The Loneliness Project | Creative Projects | Theatre Cloud

The Loneliness Project is being run by Theatre Cloud in association with the touring stage production of John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’. In their own words:

Today, we still see many examples of people being isolated and discriminated against because of their circumstances and who they are. During the current financial crisis, we’ve seen attacks on the poorest in receipt of benefit allowance, as well as 744,000 people on zero-hour contracts. Meanwhile, in the current refugee crisis, people have been disparagingly described as cockroaches and swarms.

Society has changed in big ways since Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men. We now live in an information age, where many connections are made or continued digitally online through ‘social media’. We have hundreds, even thousands, of online friends or followers. We use dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr, scanning and swiping for someone or something. There isn’t even a need to speak to anybody when we buy our groeceries anymore (unless there’s an unexpected item in your bagging area, which of course, there isn’t!).

Take the opportunity to get involved by submitting a poem or duologue or just by heading over to the website and showing your support.

This Blue Journal

I stare silently at the pile of books beside me
Green Mindfulness, red pocket book, blue iPad,
Orange poems book
And this blue journal.

Sullenly I despise them all and what they represent.
Reading and writing.
The pressure to conform or to do.
The commitment to spend the required time reading and writing.

I breathe deeply and regularly
I observe everything about this room
The way the side curtain waves in the breeze
The two buttons on the back of my jacket
The kettle and empty crisp packet holding dead tea bags.

Outside, the grass and the sunlight
The sound of the wind through the trees
The two horses that died yesterday
Weigh heavy on my mind.

I begin to relax into this day
And I am pretending it is not happening
Little blue book knows nothing of the anguish and anger in my head
My thoughts, wondering how it can mean anything
And I know it doesn’t
Yet the shoulds and woulds and could have beens
Fill my head
And I guess I am being unreasonable
Or at least feeling unreasonable
Or ungrateful
For I am still here and have the power to still be

One more tea, then it’s time to go
One more tea.

– See more at:

Source: The Loneliness Project | Creative Projects | Theatre Cloud

Michael Simms: A Note from the Editor on the Vagaries of Publishing Poetry on the Internet

Once again, a poet has emailed me, peeved that a poem of hers that appeared in Vox Populi is not anything like the version she sent me. The line-endings and stanza-breaks are scrambled. Her careful crafting of white-space has disappeared. Her neologisms have been auto-corrected to gibberish. The indentations are…  Well, I’m embarrassed. She’s embarrassed. […]

Burns Windows Project 2016

‘Angels In My Orchard’ currently displayed in the window of the Rabbie Burns Museum in Dumfries as part of the Burns Windows Project 2016.

Just wow.


Angels In My Orchard Original.jpg

From the project organisers:

“In January 2012 we invited contemporary poets to send us a piece of verse to be exhibited in the windows of notable buildings in the town of Dumfries, South-West Scotland, in time for Robert Burns Night on 25th January. We only accepted poems which were the poet’s own work, written in their own handwriting and signed. We sent out the plastic sheets , a permanent pen and a stamped addressed envelope to over 250 poets as far afield as the USA, Sweden, and all over Europe, although the bulk were to Scottish poets.

Our inspiration came from Robert Burns himself. He lived in Dumfries from 1791 until his death in 1796. While here he frequented the ancient Globe Inn in the town’s High Street, where he inscribed verse in the windows of his room using a diamond ring or stylus.

We wished to channel the spirit of Robert Burns by inviting writers in the present day to emulate his example by speaking of their own time in a transparent way…

The poems that were returned were displayed and showed the vitality and variety of contemporary poetry, not to mention demonstrating the continuing relevancy of poetry as public utterance.

One poem was selected by a ballot of Globe Inn customers and has been engraved on a window pane in the Globe Inn. Kris Haddow’s wonderful ‘On Times Austere’, a poem in Scots and speaking of the times that it was written in, was a fitting poem to be installed in the bedroom where Burns himself lived for a time.

The Project was such a success, its curators – artist Hugh Byrden and literature lecturer David Borthwick – are doing it again in January/February of 2013.”


The project is taking place again now in January 2016