Lost and Found

These are not my words!

I found them as I walked

Along the rippled sand,

Where other tongues had dropped them.

I press them to my will.

But how they squirm and struggle,

Resisting all my efforts

To get them to lie still.

These are not my thoughts!

I found them as I woke,

Unknowing, from a dream.

I hadn’t called them down here.

They slipped in as I lay.

My mind wants to reject them.

They clamp their jaws upon me

And can’t be dragged away.

This is not my life!

I found this one abandoned.

The life that’s meant for me

Won’t let me track it down.

I know it was replaced;

I’ve no idea who did it.

I’ll use the one I found

So it won’t go to waste.


Let me invite you to play in my mind,

To peer through the books and the boxes you find.

But may I request that you leave them behind

And turn the lights off when you leave?


Let me invite you to play in my head,

To hear all the words that I’ve ever heard said.

But don’t throw my thoughts out and leave yours instead

And turn the lights off when you leave.


Let me invite you to play in my dreams,

To float through my consciousness, follow its streams.

But know that it’s not always quite how it seems

And turn the lights off when you leave.


Let me invite you to play in my fear,

To watch as the shades of my terror appear.

But don’t tell a soul of the things you might hear

And leave the lights on when you leave.

In the quiet of the house

I remember the first time it woke me; I didn’t know what had happened.  My head was aching and I was really thirsty, so I thought it was probably that that had woken me.  According to the clock, it was 3:18.  I lay for a minute, hoping for some miracle to take away the headache and the thirst without me having to get out of bed.  There was no miracle.  I slid my feet to the freezing floor and pushed myself from the bed with a wince as my arthritic knee squeaked in protest.  From the bedroom, to the kitchen.  Two painkillers, a bottle of water.  Better go to the toilet to save having to face the stairs again later.  Back up the stairs.  Bed!

But I just lay there with something poking at me.  Some little thought that danced in and out of focus.  Had there been a noise?  A last look at the clock.  4:22!  How could more than an hour have gone by?  I didn’t need to be up early, but I knew I would be, so I closed my eyes and listened to my own breathing until sleep came.

All day, as I went about my routine, I felt jumpy.  There was nothing I could put my finger on; no specific thing that I could identify as the cause of my nervousness.  But it wore me out.  By mid-afternoon, I was struggling to keep my eyes open and since I couldn’t think straight, I decided to take a nap.

I fell asleep almost as soon as I lay down, but my dreams were disturbing visions of everlasting staircases, chasms that opened up in the floor of my bedroom and doors slamming.  I opened my eyes.  Was that a dream or had a door just slammed?  I was soaked with sweat and there was a humming in my ears.  I swallowed and my mouth felt like sandpaper.  I sat up slowly, feeling sure I’d be dizzy, but I wasn’t; I just felt weak, washed out.  I opened my window and the autumn air dried the sweat on my face as I stood there.  I listened for sounds of movement, but hearing nothing apart from distant traffic and the scratch of leaves along the pavement, I went downstairs.

Everything seemed normal.  The doors were all open, so if the slam had been real, it had been outside, which was a relief.  I went to make myself some tea and was surprised to find I’d already laid out the tea things: my favourite cup, a present for Mother’s Day with ‘World’s Best Grandma’ in childish writing; the 2-person tea pot I use when I’m sure I’ll want seconds, and a tea spoon.  “I must have been more tired than I realised!”  My words bounced around the room, the only noise in a vast silence.  No, not the only noise.  There was a rapid clicking that I recognised with a sinking feeling.  It was the noise the kettle makes when it has recently boiled and switched off. Praying that I was wrong I tentatively laid a finger on the side of the kettle, but almost before it had reached the hot metal I was pulling it back to watch the red spot turn into a blister.  But I had been asleep for at least an hour and a half, maybe two hours, so who had boiled the kettle?

I didn’t feel safe.  My chest felt tight and I could feel the pounding of blood in my ears.  I walked into the living-room to find my keys.  They were nowhere to be seen, but if I left the house without them, I’d be locked out.  And then I remembered where they were; I had left them on the bedside table when I went to lie down.  I’ve always taken my keys upstairs with me when I went to bed and it had been an almost unconscious action when I’d gone up for a nap.

I didn’t think I could stand to go up those stairs right now.  The pounding in my ears was faster and I could hear my own breath, coming in short, wheezy puffs of panic; I had to do something!  Then I remembered something from years before.  When my children had been young and prone to messing about after bedtime, I would go into their room, see them unconvincingly pretending to be asleep and I would close their bedroom door as though I had left the room.  I would stand there not breathing and they would open their eyes to see me still watching them.  More often than not, they’d laugh. So it didn’t help them get to sleep, really; it just let them know they couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes.  I caught them out like that many times before they’d cottoned on to my trick.  Whoever was in my house right now, if there was anybody, didn’t know it, though.  I could at least be sure whether there was somebody there.  If I stood by the front door after I had closed it and somebody came out of hiding, at least I would be close to the door to get away and if nobody moved, I should probably consider the possibility that I’d sleep-walked or that I might finally be succumbing to the dementia that had stalked the women in my family for generations.

I made a lot of noise ‘leaving’ the house.  I banged into the living room door, swished my coat around as I put it on, said to myself, “I’d better get some bread while I’m out!” in a voice much louder than my usual voice.  It didn’t sound like me.  It sounded like somebody brave.  And then I opened the door and slammed it.  And waited.  I held my breath for half a minute …nothing!  I slowly and quietly let my breath leave through barely parted lips and then I heard the first noise … a creaking, perhaps …maybe a cupboard door.  It was upstairs.  And then a second noise, which I instantly recognised as the loose floorboard in the back bedroom.  As I took hold of the front door handle I heard another noise, and another and another.  And then all the noises happened at once, as, from top to bottom, the house came alive around me.

Ghost song

So, all the ghosts line up to sing the song

And I am swayed by their determined tune.

I know their thoughts are only shades of mine,

Undone too soon.

They step so lightly they might not be there

But for the cold that takes the place of breath.

Unseeing eyes have served no use at all

Since meeting death.

The soul can find what perfect sight cannot

But fails to hold it so it slips away.

Why ghosts demand a chance to hunt it down

I cannot say.

In life we dance between the broken lines

Of waking life and silent, dreaming pain.

To seek the hidden place where these two meet

Is less than sane.

But sanity is not a treasure dear

When holding it must block the chance of sight.

The ghosts regret the follies that they shunned

To keep the light.

So all the ghosts line up to sing the song

My voice rings out although my lips are still.

I hope this tune will be the last they chant.

I doubt it will.

My brood


My little boy no longer, but a man,

I wonder at his strength, of many kinds,

Such as the gift of writing that he can

Use subtly to capture people’s minds.

His songs, his tales, his poetry just soars

And frees me from the mundane and the dull,

He turns a laughing eye upon my flaws

And makes my glass perpetually full.


So many times I look at him and see

The tiny child that clung onto my hand

Who’s still inside the man in front of me,

To whom I tilt my head up as I stand.

I see his skills and know he will achieve

Those things that form the substance of his dreams,

And all who watch him work also believe

That he will be the master of life’s schemes.


She’s full of life and promise, on her way

To a future of her own unbound design.

She says things I would never think to say

I don’t know how I dare to call her mine.

She makes me laugh too often to recall

The words she twists and turns to make her own.

She leaps with style although she  fears the fall.

She’s not a sheep, It’s she who sets her tone.


My little one, the baby of my four,

Displays to all the world a certain grace.

A dancer who can halt the room before

Her as she sets a sweet and measured pace.

She’s finding where she fits as time goes by

By trying every chance that wanders in,

By asking what and when and where and why

And when it’s time she lets the song begin.

The voice in the dark

I thought I heard a call from far away.

But now I think the sound was in my head.

I never hear that voice when it is day,

I only hear it lying in my bed.

I can’t quite tell you what it tried to say.

I’ll tell you how it made me feel instead.

It made me feel I should unfreeze my mind,

And once again return to my own kind.


It came to bring a message long ago.

But only managed then to say my name.

It took with it some things I used to know

And left me just a copy of the same.

And now I lie and listen ‘til the glow

Of day comes round, the voice cannot be tame,

Or else I could just summon it with thought

And then its sullen lesson could be taught.


Where in the world have my dead wishes gone?

Did they slide down the drain

Like the rain

On wet Thursdays?

Did they dance through the night

Then dissolve

With the light?

Could they come back to haunt me?

Or crush me and taunt me?

Am I safe?

Are they gone?

Were they real?


What does it mean when the colours turn white?

Did they drip to the soil

With a sound

Like a heartbeat?

Is it just that your eye

Can’t believe,

Must deny?

If you faced what you’re seeing

Would the colours start being

Bright again?

Are they gone?

Were they real?