2020 poem 9, prompt 9 – Write a poem containing at least five of the following ten words. If you want it can include all ten words. Firefly, Bottle, Mask, Porridge, Zoom, Lethargy, Treeline, Heat, Strange, Cottage

Hitting the wall of her first poetry marathon

Lethargy was setting in and her thoughts
darted around like a firefly trying to escape
from a bottle. She sensed a strange heat
at the back of her throat and believed
she saw the masked shadow of self-
doubt lace through the treeline.

2020, poem 8, straying away from the emoji prompt

The Butterfly Effect

Tomorrow, for the first time in four months, I am allowed to see
my parents inside, in their natural habitat of the care home.
They have been well cocooned, the doors firmly closed
to keep out the invisible threat at bay. I picture them swaddled
in sleeping bags suspended from the ceiling light,
human caterpillars become covid butterflies.

I have been told to wear a surgical mask and wash my hands in the porch
for the length of time it takes me to sing happy birthday. If I see them
together, I can stay for 20 minutes but if I visit them
in their separate rooms I can have 15 minutes with each.
Funny how the breeze of a bat’s wing can create a terrible tempest.

2020, poem 7, prompt 7 – season of the ____________

Season of a Susan

A special present for an 18th birthday,
a collared bow around a pedigree corgi’s neck,
the beginning of a royal relationship. Susan and Elizabeth
went everywhere together, even on honeymoon.

Her first mate was Lucky Strike, later she rolled over
for Rebellion. Notorious nasher, the Royal clockwinder
a victim – teeth clenched around his ankle
like a metal-tooth beartrap.

She was the foundation bitch, for a long line
and on death was commemorated
with a unique headstone, sketched
by the monarch herself.
My foundation mongrel has a simple holly tree.

2020, poem 6, prompt 6 – write your perfect day

A perfect day

Seeing a hare in a dew
jewelled field. The smell of scones,
gold dripping over their crispy edges
onto a gilt-edged saucer
and hot tea in a gilt-rimmed cup.
Contentment from filling a page
with sensory images. The silence
of the hovering hawk. A hot poker
sunset and a turf fire.

2020, poem 5, picture prompt

Sweet Spanish Chestnuts

He kept them
wrapped up in a handkerchief,
as prized as a pocket watch
against his breast.

Seas swelled and wind whipped the Armada
tossing it about until it became waterlogged, broken. Sunken
off the Irish coast, the sailor’s body was washed up
near Ballygalley, villagers swaddled him tight
as an Egyptian mummy and buried him with the locals.

Five Hundred years on
an enormous chestnut tree crouches over
the headstones, keeping watch on all the dead souls.

2020, poem 4, prompt 4 – write a letter

Dear Jean

The pheasant has not been seen since you left us
but the first time she returns to my garden
I will think of our last conversation,
how you had laughed at me joking about choking it.
How dizzy I felt encouraging you to take deep breathes
in through your nose and out 1,2,3,4,5, through your mouth.
If there’s one good thing to come from your passing
it’s the return of your granddaughter who has felt
the gulf of being overseas when there is a family crisis.

We are ticking our way, slowly, through the firsts.
First Easter,
first Mother’s Day,
your first born
has had his first birthday
without you
and his dad told him he would get his present in heaven.

2020, Poem 3, not a bop

A Pebble in His Pocket

The poet Dean Tweets a picture daily,
his pebble of the day,
some imprinted with fossils,
one is like a dragon’s egg,
the other the devil’s eye.
I wonder if he takes them home, in his pocket
or under his oxter and I remember
the otter rubbing his river sleek fur
with a rock in each paw, giving himself
an early morning massage. Later he floated
on his back and jungled his rocks for fun.
In Winter he will tuck them into his empty cheeks
to stave off hunger, he might keep
the same rock for all his life,
tucked away safely in a pocket of skin.

2020. Poem 2

Recipe for surviving motherhood

WARNING: this recipe is not full proof, it will require tweaking and the outcome has no guarantees. Leave your expectations at the door of the delivery room

You will begin by following the instructions meticulously, reading several books even before baking begins. You will be aiming for a Michelin Star worthy bake but will be happy if the outcome is healthy.

At the early stages you will be delirious. It’s important to accept that you can’t always be in control.

So fold in love and fun
(even when the recipe states discipline).
Add the bubbles and dragons
(even if the recipes asks for homework).
Add the clichés,
like dancing in the rain,
splashing in the puddles
and looking for the pot of gold
at the end of the rainbow.

Season liberally with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Moisturise your hands before shaping and moulding
(but remember this delicacy will find their own form
and the main method is to allow growth and freedom to explore).

Queen Ana Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba

Born with a cord around her neck

foreshadowing power and pride,

she was taught by Portuguese missionaries.


Her father, king, trained her for battle,

showered her with affection; the daughter

of his favourite concubine.


She wore traditional attire to a treaty meeting,

they expected her to sit on a mat

but underestimated her belief in equal status,

she had her servants bend over backwards to become her seat.


Held up as a goddess but with mortal complexity,

for thirty years she lead her army into battle

she fought against Portuguese invasion

she fought against slavery

she fought for peace and liberation

she had her lovers fight one another

for a night in her bed

then executed the winner the following day.


She died at 82, was laid out in leopard skins

with her bow across her shoulders

and arrows in her hands.