A bell chimes,.
Midnight. The kids
long since wrapped
around their artifacts:
a hairless doll,
an orange bear,
a mushroom-coloured monkey

And now inside
their amniotic dreams,
they whir and mutter.
In the gunpowder dark,
a thin caul of years
hoods each head,
a fragile membrane.

My years orbit
like great birds
looking to roost.
I only sense their drift,
but I catch their wind.



when I remember

I’m sitting on a window ledge
looking out

I see the green gardens
in the next town

I keep one eye open
for the girl two doors down

crooking my neck
I catch the thump thump thump of the railway track

framed in a picture
bent like a question mark
I’m waiting for my dad to come home

I’m sitting on a window ledge


Poetry on the Brain

Thought you might be interested in this research into the impact of poetry.

Ríonach Aiken


Ever since I saw the fascinating BBC documentary a few years ago ‘Why Reading Matters’, I’ve been interested in the impact that reading has on the brain and on human evolution. Liverpool University, whose research was originally featured in that film, has now conducted further pioneering research showing that reading challenging literature ‘acts like a rocket-booster to the brain’ and serves to ‘shift mental pathways, create new thoughts, shapes and connections’.

I was delighted (though entirely unsurprised) to hear that reading poetry, in particular, triggers self-reflection by activating areas within the brain’s right hemisphere associated with autobiographical memory and emotion, ‘causing the reader to reflect and rethink their own experiences in light of what they read.’

“Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive,” said Professor Davis, who argues that…

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No Bells


A poem from our writing workshop last night. Thanks to John Gohorry and the group for coming up with the stimulus.

No Bells

Even though I know what ails me
I push on.
One foot,
then the other.
One short breath.
One more.

Fingers clench, gnawing at each other.
Even my toes curl and squirm.

Across the road, trees huddled
in their winter coats of ivy
fumble in their pockets
for the woodwind notes of pigeons,
a secret code to summon the lost.
Children’s laughter floats
and is swallowed by silence.

There are no bells anymore.
Everything real is melted down
to fuel the virtual.

It’s simple.
Just breathe.
One breath.
Then another.


Ríonach Aiken




We’re in a hospital lift going up
from ground floor to the seventh,
just the two of us, strangers and
I’m thinking (as you do) what if

the cable breaks and we drop like
a stone in a well? How would you
reckon the moment at which
to jump before the point of impact?

Then, with a jolt, the lift just stops.
We look at each other, look away.
Too soon yet for that dreadful intimacy
that prefigures panic. Now it’s grunts

and chuckles, pantomime impatience
and some random button punching. Then
comes language, blunt and businesslike.
“Right. Now what? Should be an alarm

somewhere or a ‘phone. Let’s see”. But
all from me. My partner in misfortune
hasn’t moved. Within the ticking silence,
he is motionless, head cocked like

someone listening for a distant birdcall
or for bells on a breeze. And even as I
watch for a flicker, both unfocussed
eyes tip back to white and, still without

a word, he drops straight down, within
the circle of his standing, like disembodied
clothes.  My first impulse is just to
leave him like some 3-D puddle that I

have to step around as I organise escape
or rescue. Two disasters in succession
out of a blameless morning seem unfair.
But then, as unexpected as the other,

both eyes open, wide and blue and his lips
kiss air like a baby blowing bubbles.
He’s going to die; we know it, both of us
in a simultaneous heartbeat. And I kneel,

like a bad actor genuflecting, and I lean,
fingers spread against the tin-can wall
and watch the urgent lips trying to mould
words out of the unaccommodating air.

I stoop to listen – more, maybe, to read
the fragile shapes in flight. “Touch me”,
he breathes. “Touch me”. But I hesitate:
unlinked, I’m free, like standing water;

once connected, there’s a current drawing
me towards another place. But then I cup
his cheek as I might a child’s and, on a long
unwinding breath, he speaks quite clearly –

“Mummy” – and he doesn’t breathe again.
Sometime later, with a jolt, the lift glides
upwards, graceful, silent, as if no time
had passed for anyone, as if I might step

through those doors, untouched, untouchable,
as if the light should shine as brightly evermore,
doors open, close again,  as if the axis of
the world still held as trustworthy and true.

Dick Jones

The Future

Tower after tower
in the damp morning.
Traffic thunders
to the accompaniment
of chattering drills.

The stark cranes
stand erect,
aimed at the heart
of heaven.

Here the Orchard
is a street
of snarling cars
and strolling couples
(nutmeg trees no more).

(a refuge for Indian traders)
decays flake by flake
among skyscrapers.

I look through the window
of a crowded bus:
red lanterns are swinging
over the streets
of the Lion City.

Is such the future
of our world,
towers of commerce
breathing steam
into the humid heat?

This poem derives from impressions of a recent trip to Singapore, which coincided with the Chinese New Year. It may well form the germ of a new sequence.