Day 12 — geology & non-standard measuring system

Trying to capture the claustrophobia of going underground.


i don’t know how far i’ve come
no idea how far to go
only know
the path seems to be thinner
the path narrower
the way darker
the stones heavier above me

try not to think
of the weight
of all that earth 
& rock
& mud & shale & clay
& gravel & scree & boulder & slate
& soil, sod, clod, loam, silt, dirt, turf & dust


Day 12 – TIL about pandas & dairy

buttergrams & buttermetres

A newborn giant panda 
is about the size 
of a stick of        butter.

Since when did butter
become a socially approved
measurement unit?

In which case (for context):

I weighed 31.23 sticks of butter
& was 10.23 buttersticks long
at my birth!

The Sky Dropped In

Seven hours after the Pulse

As stated in my introductory posts about the 2022 24 Hour Poetry Marathon June 25-26 I won’t be posting all of every poem on my website. I’ll post the best few lines or perhaps, 2 to 3 lines that make the most sense out of context. Consider them: pseudohaiku.


(Hour 01) 10.30-11.30pm. IMAGE PROMPT: spiky sculpture in snow

& we’re away. One down (though technically two). The Marathon now offers two official prompts every hour, one text-based & one visual. Being a sucker for punishment & it being early days, this hour (& perhaps this hour only) I’ve written one for each. The visual one was as the title of this post suggests. Here’s the snippet.


being close to a mystery : & not knowing is agony : even if that knowledge : has the express purpose : of obliterating : us


(Hour 02) 11.30-12.30am. VISUAL PROMPT, Man looking round white edge

Managed two again this hour. Again choosing the visual prompt largely because it’s from the other characters POV & I want to mix it up.

L-plate hitch-hiker

not sure what
Ryan thinks he’ll do
now he’s clinging —
to the edge of
one of those things —


(Hour 03) 12.30-01.30am. VISUAL PROMPT, red tree in pink field

The poems keep coming, but I’m already feeling tired. This is too early for this to be happening.

Agent Orange

all this red dust in the sky : gets in your eyes : doesn’t irritate or itch : but plays tricks : on what you know is there: but feels like it isn’t : or can’t be 


(Hour 04) 01.30-02.30am. BOTH PROMPTS combined: 100 years from now & old piano in the forest

A bit cheeky but I’ve combined both prompts in this one poem. I’m okay with it, cos it gives me a longer break & the two prompts do work together well. Having said that, I know I haven’t quite set the poem 100 years from now, only in Stella’s imagination, but the intention is there.

old pianos

i came across an old piano
in the forest flaking veneer 
like the shoulders of a sunburnt child


(Hour 05) 02.30-03.30am. TEXT PROMPT: write a poem using 5 of the 10 words

I’m glad my story has hallucinogenic drugs in it. Means I can whip off a quick poem, claim the character ingested Dust again & go rest. NB I used all 10 words


so i half-dream : of sunflowers : knitting cheddar : cheese satchels : for their favourite gardeners : to keep seeds in


(Hour 06) 03.30-04.30am. TEXT PROMPT, letter from someone no longer in your life

Bit uninspired by the photo, & I struggled to adapt the text prompt to the verse novel … but I kind of have by using personal stories & pretending they happened to Ryan (there’s always a letter poem in these kind of things NaPoWriMo & Marathon & I’m bit over them TBH).


spending endless hours trying to teach “I love you”
in Russian: Ya lyublyu tebya without success
if only I’d tried Yellow blue tibia I might’ve succeeded


(Hour 07) 04.30-05.30am. VISUAL PROMPT, old couple on bench in silhouette 

5am here and very tired. This needs a lot of post-marathon tweaking.


& for the first time — I realise — how quiet
No insects, very few almost hesitant birdcalls
(no song) & no sign of movement on any roads


(Hour 08) 05.30-06.30am. VISUAL PROMPT: Mancala game

wrote poem. needed nap. nap raged long


in tonight’s house : the boy finds : a Mancala set : the rules : are so simple : as I watch : the boy & girl : play : she is rapidly : collecting : all the stones 

i try not : to see : the symbolism


(Hour 09) 06.30-07.30am. TEXT PROMPT: kitchen cupboard memory

Take elements of truth. Tweak. Create new truth.

tinned soup

tonight straight from the tin
cold & without buttered toast

— i’m struggling to recall its appeal


(Hour 10) 07.30-08.30am. VISUAL PROMPT: looking up at a couple touching foreheads from below

After initially being singularly stonkered & utterly unimpressed by both prompts, this cute, perhaps clever, & definitely quirky tale presents another side to Ryan’s character … along with providing some much needed humour

chins +

so while we are : essentially : all looking skywards : anxious of AI pods : & drones : & god knows what : other death-dealing : monstrosities : he’s doing that too : plus with chins : & pimples : & boofheads : & meaningless arguments : about Disney : blocking much of the view 


(Hour 11) 08.30-09.30am. TEXT PROMPT: laughter poem without using laugh words

It’s “funny” how a prompt which initially made me groan, can produce a poem (& a part of the narrative) I would never have conceived of without the initial impetus. So pleased with how things are tracking.

not funny

all five of us
holding it in
as best we can

they’re so close
we hear their
near silent hum


(Hour 12) 09.30-10.30am. BOTH PROMPTS: a gathering + photo of several drums

This is a bit too long & a bit too narrativey, but given I didn’t quite know where it was going I’m glad it got where it did in the timeframe I had. As they say in the film biz: I’ll fix it in post hahaha.

drumming circle 

soon we had : a wild rhythm : going : including wild roars : hollers : screams : & yelps : as well as a canine chorus : from Milky : delighted he could join in : the chaos 


(Hour 13) 10.30-11.30am. TEXT PROMPT: something bad that went right

A short poem’s a good poem, I always say. Especially if it says all it needs to say & fulfils the prompt.


need to find a way to say
that even though it took
the world almost (& maybe still)


(Hour 14) 11.30am-12.30pm. 1.5 PROMPTS: photo of mushrooms by boots + kinda a folk tale with a twist

No setup in this poem (lack of time) but it might actually work depending on the poems around it.



time is more
than standing still
it’s lying on its back
staring at the stars


(Hour 15) 12.30pm-13.30pm. BOTH PROMPTS: lust + delicate leaves

Sometimes everything falls into place with such simplicity: the prompts both word & visual; the idea, the image, the moment in the narrative, the structure, the actual words themselves — that’s when writing truly is …


& i feel as see-through
& light

as the skeletal filaments
of a leaf left too long on the tree


(Hour 16) 12.30pm-13.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: last line question, title the answer

Two pretty uninspiring prompts this & photo of bland sunset mean I’ve taken the last hour easy to recharge for the final run home.

Nobody knows

How the bloody hell
did they just obliterate
7 billion people
& countless billion
animals, birds, insects
in a millisecond?


(Hour 17) 14.30pm-15.30pm. PROMPT: mythical monster & silhouetted image 3 figures against blue slit 

This one remains a WIP. Too much research too many unknowns, not enough about that section of narrative is locked in. Something to work on …

dam & blast

ahead : a narrow strait : dripping water : darkness : pale blue light : beyond : as if under neath : an endless ocean : forcing down : desiring only : to drown : anyone near : the wall whispers : of : all that water behind


(Hour 18) 15.30pm-16.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: moment of joy

A nice little poem about one character’s moment of joy, made more interesting as seen through another’s eyes.

glad day

still : watching Stella : arms to the sun : dancing : is a breath stopping : sight : that bubbles : laughter : in even my : grumpy breast


(Hour 19) 16.30pm-17.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: poem for a city, real or imagined

Sometimes prompts are just perfectly fitted for poems in your head. Yesterday while preparing & planning & re-reading current poems to find where there’s gaps that need filling, an arrival into the big smoke was one of those on the agenda. So tick.

just do it

most disturbing
are the piles of clothing
jeans & shirts & dresses
blown into doorways
handbags & backpacks
dumped on footpaths


(Hour 20) 17.30pm-18.30pm. VISUAL PROMPT: a mattress bed in a flower bed

I’ve said nothing which is enough said.

mattress bed in a flower bed

in my dream : i dream : of trying to sleep : lying on this : oddly placed : day lounge : but i can’t : knowing as i do : that 7 & 1/2 : earth minutes ago : the sun somehow : blinked entirely : out of existence : as if an enormous : intergalactic child : picked it up : like a marble : & popped it in : her pocket : before jumping on Einstein’s : beam of light : & riding away : stopping all the clocks : behind her


(Hour 21) 18.30pm-19.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: less than 50 words: must contain umbrella or almond

No more than 50 words. Perfect timing. (Though I did add a little game of my own into the mix)


no way
not for me
you don’t get it  
i don’t need an umbrella
want blessed rainfall on my skin
always keeping me clean, safe from harm
away from whatever’s in that alien Agent Orange
eviscerating everything good real & warm into soulless dust 


(Hour 22) 19.30pm-20.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: tenderness

Another synergy moment. I need this moment. Tenderness was the perfect framing moment.


I just do. Trust me. I know without knowing
How I gotta approach them like they’re
Skittish colts. Cos they really are.


(Hour 23) 20.30pm-21.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: title of a book(s)

This penultimate poem is not related to the verse novel. It was originally going to be, but I got carried away playing games. 🤣

42 Bookers 2015-21

it might only be
a little life
but it is my life
& i am unwilling
to exit west
to lose everything
under the overstory.
i am a satin island
in a sea of fishermen
born in the year
of the runaways
next to a spool
of blue thread.
sucked hot milk from
the autumn milkman
am all that man is.
am girl, woman, other.
do not say we have
nothing. for we are
his bloody project
a history of wolves.
and i would rather
spend 10 minutes
38 seconds in this
strange world
in this mournable body
in the new wilderness
of a real life
than be burnt sugar
for the shadow king
& that is the promise.
for no one is talking
about this bewilderment
and the fortune men
lose in the sellout
to a passage north
to the great circle
of ducks, newburyport.
the long take
of the testaments
reminds us 4321
of lincoln in the bardo
& a brief history
of seven killings:
eileen, elmet, shuggie bain,
washington black, quichotte
as well as an orchestra of
minorities in the mars room.


(Hour 24) 21.30pm-22.30pm. TEXT PROMPT: poem that starts & end with same word (5 options given or choose your own)  

Also not from the YA novel. Just want it all to stop hahahahahaha.

5 one-line pomes about: hope, stardust, cheese, sleep, & shoes

hope sleeps in cheese shoes

shoes hop over sleeping stardust

sleep cheesy hope in your stardust shoes

cheese stardust slopes hopewards

stardust chews sleep and shows hope

OMG Orange Dust overload

It is the season of dust

Okay since I posted this morning’s very early/late update (depending on your perspective), I have been quietly blown away. Get this.

It turns out I did the exact same task in 2020! And I had completely forgotten it. 24 poems all on the same theme. All part of the verse novel. All unread for the past two years. Granted, there were 1 or 2 other minor distractions going on during that mildly challenging year — BUT TO FORGET EVERY POEM. RIDICULOUS!!

*BTW I just read them all & am really really pleased with them. All are written in response to the official Marathon prompt given every hour. Which possibly makes them a little quirkier than the 40 odd poems written over the preceding half dozen years … but which I think all are richer for it. I’m actually pretty pleased by the whole affair … because it means 1) I already have 24 more poems in the sequence than I thought I did & 2) the process clearly works. Bring it on.

Day 12 – hares (& old stones)

12 hares in snow lino prints

Been playing round with some hare-inspired poems. This is my reconstruction of a West Country legend of a witch who takes the form of a white hare.


white hare

while hunting : in the afterbones : of night : her siren warning : sways over the valley : a white hare warms me : goldeneyes gleaming light : look away look away : must not stare : into her eyes : or my soul : she’ll steal : a swift shadow approaches : white haired woman : wooing me : face of ashen grey : begging me to stay : look away look away : white belly : dancing bare : on the heather : from dusk till dawn : hounds bray

look away look away



BONUS POEM: April 12, 2018

Part of the holiday experience is visiting places my ancestors left a century or more ago. This is one of them.  EDIT: formatted lines the way I wanted them to look last year, but couldn’t owing to facebook.


wandering round the churchyard at St Winnow

good Cornish stone sprouting
among green dandelions
                                        & wild cowslips
long ago some single
still yet-to-be great
  great    great     great    grandparents
left what they thought a harsh life
for one with more
in the far off dust
                              of Australia

a short prayer away the Fowey
flows south
                    like silver slate

I walk over lusciousness
wanting to make amends
for a hiccup of snow amongst
stones so weatherworn
 & lichenloved
                        they’re illegible
we vow we’ll remember
when a generation
or two is the most
                              most of us get

so though I might be
                                treading on
ancient ancestors
given the perfection
of their forgetting
I don’t believe
                         they’ll mind

12b St Winnow

Day 24 – poem about silence


A paean to solitude. It has its downsides, but man it has its ups as well.


sound is stress;
silence, simplicity
too many people
need noise
to feel alive
get home, turn
tv on, open
their phone,
fill their lives
with chatter;
never allowing
the gentlest
of zephyrs
to blow all
that mental dust
across the vast
desert cavern;
that dirtbowl
behind their eyes;
& if lucky,
out an ear
to freedom

Day 30 – The Last Thing Remaining on My List

Last night, dear friend & wonderful poet, Louise Nicholas, launched her first, very beautiful, full-length collection of poems, The List of Last Remaining through 5 Islands Press. It was a fabulous warm funny (mildly drunken) night.

Today, after dipping my way in & out of the collection, I have taken the last line of her poem, “How to scale a fish” & tweaked it to use as the title of today’s poem.

moonlight, unearthed

& so it’s come : to that time : of life : to once again : take out the tools of excavation : to dust off : my brooms & tiny brushes : sharpen my trowels : put pads on my ageing knees : & get down in the pit : in the dirt : dig down through the layers : the strata of my happiness : & my grief : to uncover the bones : & broken pottery : & terracotta floors : of true love : lost : of childhood : lost : of embryos : washed down drains : blood on thighs, over tiles, over everything : & to keep digging : until all that’s left to see : is an empty grave : a soul shaped hole : a silver wash : of moon : light : & salt

fish scales

Last line: “as if unearthed in moonlight”

Day 28 – Sand Trek

Today was about recuperation. I didn’t realise how stressed I’d become, so most of it was spent reading & catching up on some binge tv.

About 10 o’clock, the dawg & I went for a moonlit beach walk. Once we got home, this came out. & although it’s not strictly one of the Word Games (do I even have to use them now my Residency is finished?) weirdly, last week I read several chapters of Sand: A Journey through Science & the Imagination by Michael Welland, so there is a tentative link.


love  :  taking sand … into the house … on my soles … fugue of beach … summer counterpoint … on this cool … autumn moonlight  :  the thought … of this sandalful … of golden grain … an ankledust’s worth … of microscopic rocks … fleeing the sea … to shipwreck … on my carpet … makes me feel … more connected  :  to everything