28 February 2021

#28 - Queen of Winter


(Russell J Turner)

The Cailleach is a Gaelic creator and weather deity. In modern Scottish folklore she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter

Her mountain tops are cast like stepping stones

across the fields and forests, down the glen

where deer run between her strides and then

the hammer falls. All silence. Owls are flown

into the night, beyond the tracks of bone

which spiral downwards. Downwards, once again,

it is the doom and destiny of men

to live, to strive, to die beneath her throne.

She strikes a summer bargain with her shade

a covenant not made with pen and ink

division of forever is the price

which both will pay. She gathers up her blade

to strip the logs and kindling, then she drinks

deep from the well before it turns to ice.


#27 – Aleph

What did you do at the weekend, Fay Roberts? Well, I did the world’s quickest study of the basics of cosmology and the hypothesised end of the universe, then turned it into 14 bouncy lines of poetry. You?

Depending on your thoughts upon the matter
(On which some of our finest minds have views)
We’ll either crunch or freeze or even shatter
(Although to harsher churches, that’s not news).

If space is closed, then gravity will crush us
But if it’s open, we’ll all rip apart
And entropy will see a mighty hush as
In any shape, the cold could kill our heart.

But here’s the thing: we need to weigh our ’verse
And find out if it’s more or less than one.
I simplify, of course, but please don’t curse
The dark that pulls at us has not yet won.

If omega is greater than the first
We might collapse, then bounce back in a burst!


A stylised depiction of a flat, square universe (black plane filled with coloured swirls, like galaxies) in a variety of sizes, though the galaxies stay the same size and the black around them alters in size, connected via a triangular shape as lines radiate from a cartoon blaze of light at the bottom to the top universe, which the largest
The “Big Crunch” Graphic from Wikipedia. The vertical axis either demonstrates expansion or contraction, so it’s difficult to tell whether we’re coming or going (I’ll be here all month, enjoy the salad!).

26 February 2021

#26 - Sorry Not Sorry


In one account of the Tungusic creation myth, Buga, their central deity, set fire to a vast primordial ocean. Following a long struggle, the flames consumed much of the water, exposing dry land. Then Buga created the light and separated it from darkness, and descended to the newly created land, where he confronted Buninka, the devil, and a dispute arose between them over who had created the world.

It's possible my mind was not entirely on this subject.

When Buga woke, the world was teeming ocean,
like some gazpacho soup of promise made.
Then Buga spoke: his plans were set in motion;
the fire burned – ingredients flambéed.
On land denuded, scorched, Buninka woke,
with eyes abused beneath a newborn sun.
In voice of earth and stone Buninka spoke:
“Behold this awesome world wot I just done!”
Beginning thus the sonnet yesterday,
I broke to check our progress in the cricket.
Well, in Ahmedabad, by close of play,
had tumbled seventeen sucessive wickets.
The shortest Test since Nineteen Thirty-Five?
O how’s a Yorkshire poet s’posed to thrive?


This deity appears confused.

25 February 2021

#25 - The Proper Paperwork

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a sci-fi novel by Douglas Adams. It follows Arthur Dent, the last surviving human man, and his adventures after the Earth is demolished by aliens (to make way for a hyperspace bypass). It’s one of the most bureaucratic, frustrating and unnecessary ways for the world to end, which is why I’m quite fond of it. 

The Proper Paperwork 

I understand why you’re a tad annoyed,
but there’s no need to whine and be a jerk.
I’m sorry that your planet’s been destroyed;
you should’ve filed the proper paperwork.

The bypass has to go through hyperspace.
Now, surely, we can all agree on that?
It looked like such a dreadful little place – 
your planet wasn’t even on the map! 

You’ll have to find another spot to live.
(It’s not like you can settle locally.) 
You’ll have to learn to hitchhike and forgive:
it’s not as bad as Vogon poetry. 

So, try to find the bright sky in your scowl.
Get on your way, and don’t forget your towel.


24 February 2021

#24 - ir/rational

(Russell J Turner) 

An irrational sonnet is an Oulipo form devised by Jacques Bens, with stanza lengths based on the digits of π. This one takes its cue from both mathematics and the non-creationism of Jainism

A circle curves back to infinity,

yet paradoxically constrained by three

point one four one five nine two six (or so)

The endless wheel rolls round, rolls on and on

For there are bounds to everything we know 

the limits of irrationality,

approximate perfectibility

uncertainty above, caprice below

The endless wheel rolls round, rolls on and on

We dance at dawn until the summer’s gone

We read the words and then we turn the page

We feed the fires and dream all winter long

We sing a path through this eternal song

We live, we die, we love, we cry, we age


#23 – A Raft of Hope

The Four Worlds legends of the Hopi people tell how the tribe progressed through barbarous, uncouth phases to the Fourth World, through the intervention of Spider Grandmother, who taught them civilisation. In reading around the legends and learning a little more about the Hopi people, I was treated to depictions of some of the deprivations visited on them by various waves of marauders, and couldn’t, in all conscience, ignore this.

No matter what he tells you, here’s the truth:
Kookyangwso’wuuti led you to this place.
You’ve been here since the earth still glowed with youth;
Her intervention summoned you to grace.

Whatever cataclysm shattered hope,
Your ancestors were saved by hollow reeds;
With charity and faith in constant scope,
You’ll go wherever loving kindness leads.

But kind does not mean cowardly or soft;
Pahána learned your spines are formed from stone,
As you were rooted deep in tongue and croft,
And wedded to your quiet spider-crone.

Your legends tell how new tribes rise from rifts;
Cut hair will grow, the earth renews your gifts.


Over a dark landscape, a textured orange globe hangs in the background, barely lighting a scene where most of the light comes from an enormous woman with light brown skin, high cheekbones, and long, dark eyes, who dwarfs the mountains and seas glimpsed in the background. She is gazes intently but impassively somewhere beyond the viewer and her straight black hair is being swept back in the wind, across the dark sky. She has a long, thick braid of it reaching down her near arm and it's impossible to tell her age - is the silver in her hair from time, the light from her cobwebbed cloak, or actual strands of cobweb? Between her outstretched hands half an enormous web glows in silver and a kind of greenish gold, with strange, blue accents. Down the side of the picture is an elaborate cartouche of stylised eyes, spirals, geometric shapes which echo the glimpses of the woman's clothing under her cloak, and a cartoon spider composed of golden lines in a web with a cross in a circle on its back. Under the spider is writing of the same golden colour saying Susan Seddon-Boulet 1986.
Spider Woman by Susan Seddon-Boulet. See more of her extraordinary ancient goddess art hosted here by Tutt'Art. Image description in alt-text.

22 February 2021

#22 - Curriculum Vitae

 Dreaming (also the Dreamingthe Dreamings and the Dreamtime) is a term devised by early anthropologists to refer to a religio-cultural worldview attributed to Australian Aboriginal beliefs… Creation is believed to be the work of culture heroes who travelled across a formless land, creating sacred sites and significant places of interest in their travels. In this way, "songlines" (or Yiri in the Warlpiri language) were established, some of which could travel right across Australia, through as many as six to ten different language groupings. The dreaming and travelling trails of these heroic spirit beings are the songlines.

For my daughters


With every step we make the world anew.
Each footprint paints an illustrated page
of comedy to mark our time onstage;
each pace a moment with the ones we knew.
We scatter pansies, rosemary, and rue –
desire lines of folly through the sage;
we sing a thousand songs as we engage
this narrow thread between the green and blue.
We’re all creator spirits in the end –
so shape each interaction as it finds you,
while tripping through them all with joyous tread.
Go, bearing crowns of daisies to your friends;
make beautiful the mazy path behind you,
and carve the way you wish to see ahead.