Poem: Beetle – Lockdown 30

Like yesterday’s poem, this next is an observation of an insect.  There are so many insects in the garden.  Most days, I see one I don’t recognise, and this beetle is one of those.  I did not have my camera to hand to take a photo, but I hope you can imagine it.


I really value the way writing these snatches of life in the garden has encouraged me to be on the look out for all the huge diversity of plants and creatures that I share my home with.
The frame through which we see anything is shaped and coloured by the thoughts we bring with us, of course. And this poem, like many of the others, carries something of that knowledge of the loss and sadness of our communities around its edges, and in its ending.

Perhaps these snatches of writing are an encouragement to acknowledge those feelings, gently and compassionately, accepting them as we are able, at that moment.


This pencil case was made an appearance in an earlier poem.


Beetle  Lockdown 30

Here, a long black beetle
rearranges its wings,

Black as funeral veils
that cannot be worn,
and closing its
hard shell.

So fragile, the wings –
impossibly so,
folded precisely
as it moves along the
edge of my blanket,
then, with the breeze,
it flies, is gone,
lost to the shadows.
Out of sight, not out of mind.

Poem: The consolation of watching a spider – Lockdown 29



This next Lockdown Poem is a return to recording the moment, and the deepening sense of connection, and of something like mutual care, I am feeling with my place.  This growing sense of awe, and respect, and interdependence, is one of the things I hope to take forward from this time.  It’s one of the themes that is emerging from the Lockdown Poems.

Being in this strange space – a mixture of inaction and anxiety, peace and distress – may in time lead to a surer sense of purpose, and direction.  Not yet, though.  For now, we are in this threshold space, living with the pain of so much upended, so much loss, so many of our culture’s injustices and troubles revealed. It is challenging work, this learning how to“dwell in possibility” as Emily Dickinson says.  What might be possible if we increasingly experienced a deeper connection to the places where we live, and the communities of people and others we share them with? Can we be humble enough to recognise how dependent we all are on each other?


The pictures show some of the parts of our lawn we have left grow, down amongst the stems.  While not doing the full “no mow May” we have, as we did last year, noticed where the wild flowers are coming through, and left patches.  These patches are full of life.  I wasn’t able to catch a photo of the tiny spider, but you can at least see a little of a small creature’s perspective from down here!







The consolation of watching a spider  Lockdown 29

Morning.  Some sun,
and white clouds
like eiderdowns
stitched with blue.
I move on my mat
under the tree,
my movement patterned,
sequenced, releasing.

For a while,
I let the sadness
seep into the ground,
my face close to the earth,
let it seep into the earth
which then upholds me,
supports me.

I feel the gentle patter of
sycamore flowers falling
on my back,
shaken by the breeze.
I breathe where I am,
smell earth, and grass,

I look, and there
before my eyes is a
tiny spider, yellow,
with a black point
curving the end
of its abdomen,
spinning a web
between these
blades of grass,
back and forth,
back and forth,

many limbed,
weaving and weaving
like Persephone,
light and dark,
yet tiny next to the ant
and the aphids.

And I think, there
will be smaller things,
too, smaller than I can
see, worlds of strangeness
and complexity in this soil.
All this life,
I rest on all this life,
here, with me.


I have written about spiders, and weaving, before.  You can read those poems by following the links below.

Poem- Spider

Poem: Weaving – Unweaving



Poem: Yellow Roses – Lockdown 28



This next in the Lockdown Poems series came a few days ago, when it was warmer than it is today.  It, like Change, touches on the mixed feelings, the unease, as the lockdown begins to unlock – in what feels at the moment like an angry and haphazard way.

Many of us are hoping that lockdown, this painful and difficult pause, will prove to be a strange form of Sabbath: a holy pause where things can be reset, where values can be reclaimed after the dissipating busyness of business as usual. Perhaps we can reclaim a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. I still hope for that, but see that business as usual is as powerful a force as ever.

I hope that we can find a way of making our money and political systems work in the service of all life, and human flourishing, for justice and mercy.  Otherwise, they seem to me to be idols to which life is sacrificed.  At the moment, much is being revealed of the injustice and cruelty of our current systems, whether that be racial and economic injustice, or the wider destruction of life on this Earth. While this is a difficult experience, it is necessary.  It’s hard to do better when you can’t see what’s wrong. It is a long haul, this, seeking a better way forward.

I hope we can retain some of the slowness, connectedness, the care that is being demonstrated in our communities, the richness of our appreciation of the natural world, and of the preciousness of human relationships, as we emerge.  I hope we have and take this opportunity to make something new, and more beautiful, for us all.

What might you hope for?






Yellow Roses   Lockdown 28

It is getting warm,
and the yellow roses
are out – bright,
and there is the cuckoo.

The birds are quieter midday now,
and the cars grow louder.
It unsettles me,
breaks into my green
sheltered glade
with hurry,
and that old linear
way of being I
have set aside.

Can I stay here,
watching the bee
visit the rose?
Watching the columbines
sway, gentle as doves,
and feel the breeze
delight my skin?

What is unlocked,
within me,
as the lockdown
rolls on?
What do I lose,
as this time loosens,
and what remains?

Poem: Gladioli – Lockdown 27

It’s raining today, and the gladioli and the rest of the garden are greening up, the flowers and the strawberries look plumper already.  It’s good to see.

Here is another Lockdown Poem, which is reminding me to go outside again later, rain or no rain, and breathe the damp earth smell, and take time to notice how the garden is responding.






Gladioli  Lockdown 27

This green flock
with long necks
and sharp beaks
turn, as one,
towards the sun,
alert for its return.

Sharp leaves
like flight feathers
about to take off,
although they
will not fly.

Just wait, thought,
a few more days,
and those beaks
will open such a
loud cry of cerise,
as any feather,
as any song,

Lifting the
deepening greens,
rejoicing in
the company
of bees.

Featured Image -- 6203

Poem: Change – Lockdown Poems 26


This next in the series of Lockdown Poems is another snatched moment in the garden, and reflects something of the uneasiness many of us are feeling as we begin to emerge in stages from our homes.  Those feelings of unease come from a variety of sources – and I am trying to come to terms with my disquiet at doing a little more, even when that little more is what I want to do.

I hope the discipline of noticing, of grounding, will continue to help, as we take a moment to be still, and look, and listen.


Change – Lockdown 26

Just quietness today.
Quarrelling crows,
I think more traffic.
A siren.
An uneasy wind.

Red admiral butterfly,
a flash of scarlet and black,
then quiet again,
as the trees hiss and
clouds come grey
from the north.
I am uneasy with
this change.

And yet, the buttercups
are opening,
and the apple tree,
against expectation,
is covered in late
white blossom.


This image was taken a few years ago, and first appeared on this blog with the poem Consider.


Poem: Leaves – Lockdown 25

The next two Lockdown Poems are short, and, like so many of the others, immediate.


So, however things are going for you today, I hope you can take a brief moment among the leaves.

Leaves   Lockdown 25

After yesterday’s wind,
the ground is
littered with soft new leaves,
curling in the bright sun,
their pale undersides
arching away from the grass.

I’ll gather them from
the lawn, place
them on the earth
under the tree.
Too soon
a homecoming.

Poem: Dark Iris – Lockdown 24

The next of these Lockdown Poems also contains an excursion, like the last.

This excursion is different, though, as it is one of memory.  Looking at the irises stirred up three memories.  Although one of the things I am seeking to do with these writings is to stay in the moment, to stay connected to what is before me, other thoughts will come, and this time I welcomed them.  Memory can prove rich when our daily experience is curtailed, and days can seem alike.

The third of these memories is of the beautiful Alde Valley Festival we went to last year, and in particular the huge iris paintings by Jelly Green, which I loved.

Memory can help, and can enrich our presence in the moment.  I am still exploring what those dark tongues of the iris may be saying to me.




Dark Iris  lockdown 24

I am looking out at the
dark irises,
newly unfolding,
stem swinging like
an inverted pendulum
above the singing yellow
of the euphorbia,
looking at their tongues
of darkness,
their deep hearts,
rimmed with purple.

I remember three things –
my last art project at school:
the careful, layered painting
of purple, the sadness
at laying my brush down….

The iris bed at college:
white hard ground,
clear hot sky,
the background
anxiety of summer,
looking into their secret hearts…

Last year, Alde Valley Festival:
when festivals could happen –
those huge canvasses,
the exuberant life of the paint,
the depth of purple,
shading to night at
their very centres.

I am drawn into these
dark hearts,
to listen to the whispering
of those tongues,
to see, from within,
what they are –
and they are
purple and dazzling,
in the high bright sun.


Retold: Mary visits Elizabeth

For those who have joined this blog following the Lockdown Poems, here’s a small taste of something else.  Another occasional series here is Sunday Retold, drawing on my retelling of the Bible.  This – although not on a Sunday – is part of that series.


Pascale Deloche

We often hear this story – of how, in the early part of her pregnancy, Mary visits her older, also unexpectedly pregnant relation – as part of the cycle of stories in the run up to Christmas. It is part of the preparation for the birth of Jesus.  But traditionally, now is the time it is remembered and celebrated, in keeping with the months.

It seems very appropriate that we should read of these two women supporting each other, and being moved by the power of the Spirit to speak, just at the time of Pentecost.  The Spirit is indeed being poured out on all, young and old, men and women.  These two are obscure, unimportant to those in power, on the edges of things, and we see, yet again, that is where God is at work.  Mary sees that too.  Her words are a real challenge, upending power, pride and privilege.  Regrettably, we need those words of challenge now just as much as we ever did.  Inequalities of race, gender and wealth are still a potent source of injustice.  Mary sees justice coming, though.  The Kingdom promised is one of justice, and hope.  We can work for that, as we pray for it in the Lord’s Prayer.

We pick up the story just as the angel Gabriel has told Mary what is to be, and how Elizabeth, from her own family, is with child despite her age….

Then Mary thought of Elizabeth. “The angel knew all about her – I must go to her.”  She got ready, and set off quickly for Elizabeth’s home in Judea to the south, near Jerusalem.

As soon as she arrived at the house, she hurried to Elizabeth and took her hands.  At the sound of Mary’s voice, the baby leaped inside Elizabeth, and the Holy Spirit filled her.  She understood at once what had happened to Mary.
“You are blessed among all women, and blessed is your unborn child!” she said.  “Why have I been so honoured? Why should the mother of my Lord God come to visit me?” Elizabeh laughed, and put Mary’s hand on her belly. “You see how my child leaps for joy at the sound of your voice?”

At last, Mary could say all that was on her heart.

“I’m so full of joy my spirit is dancing
before God, my Lord, my Saviour.
God did not turn away from me
becase I am poor, and now
I will be called blessed by
all the generations yet to come.
God, the great, the holy,
has done so much for me.
God brings down the powerful,
but lifts up the weak.
The well fed are empty,
and the table of the hungry
is piled high with good things.

“God looks at us with kindness,
giving hope to the hopeless,
caring for those who trust him,
remembering his promises to our people.”

From The Bible Retold

You can read the story in context in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel.

Mary’s song, the Magnificat, makes a powerful basis for prayer. Going through each part, holding it before God, allowing it to search you and being open to the possibility of being moved to change and to act, is a worthwhile and humbling way to pray.

It is widely said and sung in Christian worship.  There are many versions you can find online.  This one is Arvo Part’s setting.

As we think of those two women supporting each other, it’s good for us to think of ways we can continue to be present for one another, and listen and share lives, even when separated at this time. It’s good, too, to remember the slow growth of a child, how much patience is needed, as we wait and work and pray for the coming of the Kingdom.



Poem: Nightingale – Lockdown Poems 23

I wonder if this poem is more of an unLockdown Poem, written as it was after a short trip out to a small scrap of heath between wood and river so close to our house. I had been feeling too tired to walk for a few days, and this was the first short outing.  I am very glad I went.  Since I have understood and learned to hear the nightingales, I am aware that there are many near where we live – they appeared in the last poem, Night Music, and will again.

I have no photos of my own of nightingales, such illusive birds, who like to hide away, but here are a few things from the internet.  Perhaps, if you don’t already recognise the song, you’ll find you do hear them after listening.  If you haven’t had a chance to catch up with The Verb, from Radio 3, the episode on Birdsong begins with singing with nightingales, before my poem, The Blackbird. The tradition of poetry about nightingales is also touched on, and people’s responses to the sound over thousands of years.  It’s beautiful.


Photo from free sounds library


My local wood.



Nightingale  Lockdown Poems 23

It’s the quality of sound,
rather than any melody –
loud,  round embodied timbre,
rills and repeats
and variations, strange,
almost more than mechanical,
more than the ghost
in the machine,
the spirit and the flesh,

Stunning the air to silence.

There, in the thicket, in the
low grown oak,
overlooking the creek.
I stop, and let my heart
steady, and listen.

I have never been certain
of it before,
the nightingale’s song –
and I was expecting
more song,
more melody,
less strangeness,
less command of the evening
held by such a soft
brown and
hidden bird


Stunning me to silence.