Meeting at Olympia

Today I’m very pleased to host a poem from fellow Holmfirth Writers’ Group member Peter Rudman.

MEETING AT OLYMPIA

Stone and dust, dust and stone 
A victor’s column, chiselled with honour,
Thrusts upward; there to tread, 
Among the remnants of temples raised
To the Gods, to the living, to the dead.

Black clouds convene above the Sanctuary
Of Olympia, the sun shimmers
As it takes its leave. Thunder warns us 
That we are trespassing, that we are 
Not alone; shadows kneel at the altar of Zeus.

We don’t imagine, we feel, preparations
For combat. Shades of the ancients flit by,
Time weaves around us, allows us to see
Into a past, which is also a present. We can sense
What was, and what will always be.

Someone has lost his glasses at the Temple of Hera, 
So we travel three millennia to look for them, 
Taking ghosts with us, a spindrift of dreams
That fades, time after time; the spectres withdraw  
And Olympia, again, is as it seems. 


pic:  Rabe! 2011. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Swan of Tuonela

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by fellow Holmfirth Writer Mary Lister, from her forthcoming collection, Trapezing in the Dark, published later this month. Mary’s piece is inspired by Finnish epic poem The Kalevala.

Swan of Tuonela

I longed to return to Suomi,
to the Finnish forests and lakes.
So I called aloud to the wild trees,
the Rowan, the Birch, and the Oak.
“Who will give me wood to make
a fine sledge, with a slicing edge, 
a sleigh to carry me on my way
that can double as flight, or float?
-A transport light as a swan’s feather
bound with elk and reindeer leather?”
The copper Rowan, whispered,
murmured in the wind, and sighed.
“Not I, not with my wood or copper berries,
I must watch over water and air.
The gold Oak shuddered its golden leaves,
“Nor I … I am too stern, too rooted firm,
with stout arms that reach the sky.”
But the silver Birch shivered, sighed and quivered,
“Take my wood, I’m one of many, many am I.
My roots are of Karelian chants, 
my rustling leaves Sibelian dance,
the Kantele my branches high.”
I made of her a fine long sleigh,
a flying sledge, light as a feather 
that soared like music in the wind.
And I was on my way
 to the lands of Sariola, of Pohjola, the Northern lands
where the sun can barely shine
one hour in every day.
I met with Vainamoinen then, inscrutable, a man of myth,
Spirit of Water, and frozen lakes,
with the Sampo in his hands.
“You only have a little time,
a moment here, a passing dream.
Your journey takes you on
to the darker lands of Tuonela,
the Shadowlands, the Isle of Death.
Your time is nearly done.”
Then Vainamoinen helped me search
for a snowshoe made of birch, a leather belt of reindeer hide,
the black feather of the sacred swan….

A perturbation on the lake,
a rippling shadow in blackness bleak.
The Swan of Tuonela flew down,
with a cello sound, a haunting horn,
and a swansong in its beak.
I clung around its downy neck,
cradled in its feathered wings.
We took flight among the scudding clouds,
billowing, torn as tattered shrouds.
Forests and frozen lakes below
seemed scattered as we flew.
We came at last to Tuonela,
Hel’s home, isle of bones,
of grey wraiths, and flitting ghosts
and jutting standing stones.
I have no Lemmenkainen tricks,
and no shape-shifting shaman power.
The light is taken from my eyes
approaching this, my final hour.
I write this tale, these thoughts, this note,
traced on snow, soon melted, gone.
-A message with no journey on -
with the black feather of that swan… The Swan of Tuonela.

A Christmas Conspiracy?

A very merry Christmas to all my readers, and best wishes for 2023.

As a bit of festive fun I thought I’d post this little bit of fun I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a while ago. Eight year-old Josh blows the whistle on an alarming deception …

Dear Santa,

                        I hope you are well and all ready for Christmas. I am sorry to bother you at a busy time, specially after I sent you my Christmas list last week, but I have information that you need to know.  

I better start by saying thank you for all the presents you brought me last year – I’m sorry this is so late. They were ace, especially the Junior Dictionary, which has been very useful this year. I couldn’t of wrote this letter without it. Mrs Shepherd at school says I have a remarkable vocabulary, but it’s really just me looking at that book under the desk. And double especially the Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit, which is my fave thing ever. I have used it every day and it is sort of the reason I’m writing to you now. It is a shame you couldn’t bring me the full size working tractor I asked for, but I spose there were problems fitting it in the sleigh.

Anyway, the main thing I’m writing to you about is that, with the help of my Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit, I have uncovered a criminal conspiracy what you need to know about.

It started a week last Wednesday, when my Mum took me to see you at the shopping centre. Least, it was sposed to be you, and I got all excited about it. But when I went into the grotto and sat down, and the man that was sposed to be you said, “Ho, ho, ho, little boy, what’s your name?” he sounded a lot like Mr Warburton from the Post Office – he made that same funny sound when he said the letter ‘s’. I thought “it can’t be”, but then when he said “so what would you like for Christmas” it sounded like Mr Warburton even more. The Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit tells you to look for evidence when you have a suspicion. So I whispered my answer and the man asked me to come closer. And when I did I could see his beard was attached to his ears with elastic. I didn’t want to say anything then, because sometimes Mr Warburton gives me a crème egg when I go into the Post Office, and he might stop doing that if he knew I’d exposed his crime, but when I got out I saw this woman who had a badge that said ‘Manager’ on it, so I went up to her and I said ‘Excuse me, Miss, I need to tell you that the man in your grotto is a impostor (that is a great word I got from the Junior Dictionary). He’s not Santa Claus, he’s Mr Warburton from the Post Office. I think you need to call the Police. 

Well, the woman laughed, and my Mum went all red in the face and dragged me away really fast and said “don’t you dare embarrass me like that again.” When we got home my Dad was there, and I said “Dad, Dad, there is a impostor pretending to be Santa Claus in the shopping centre. You need to call the Police.” And he said, “Oh dear, this sounds like a very serious matter, I see you’ve been making good use of your Sherlock Holmes Junior Detective Kit. I’m sure the Police will take action on it straight away.” And my Mum said “Oh, for God’s sake, Darren, don’t encourage him” and told me to go to my room.

Anyway, I started thinking, and I remembered what Sherlock Holmes said. “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. I have to face the fact that My Mum is probably involved in this conspiracy. I was going to go to the Police Station, but I thought they might not listen to me because I am only eight. But, I thought, they will believe it from Santa, and Santa needs to know anyway because he is the VICTIM of this conspiracy.

So that’s why I am writing to tell you that there is a man pretending to be you in the shopping centre. I am sorry to give bad news, but you need to tell the Police. They will take action straight away. My Dad says so, but I don’t think my Mum will let him ring them himself. I hope whoever takes over the Post Office when Mr Warburton is in prison will still give me crème eggs. The Junior Dictionary says there is a thing called Probation which means you get told off but don’t go to prison. I hope my Mum gets that. She is not as bad a criminal as Mr Warburton.

Merry Christmas, love from Josh

pic: vastateparkstaff. Licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

Footfall

Today I’m delighted to host a poem from fellow Holmfirth (and Meltham) writer Anne Steward.

Footfall


As beach walks go, it was a blast,
a leg-stinging, breath-taking hike.
Wind streamed from the sea so fast
it seemed to draw clouds in its wake,
painting them into estuary shallows,

My mind had no room to reflect on
anything more than my slowing pace,
as I turned back to rest eyes sore from
driven, salty, sandy grit in my face,
and saw in weathered stone, a hollow.

It’s shape was like so many there
but others, by water, soon reclaimed
from castles, moats and boats where
spades had dug and little feet waded…
that’s what I saw…as cast in tallow.

I knelt down to see more clearly,
run curious fingers in the shape.
Could I see what appears rarely
in our well-explored landscape?
I felt excitement bubble and grow.

Some little child had come this way
so many, many years ago, just here
and let fall a muddy trace in clay to stay
until the wind had blown me where
I found the past had cracked a window.


pic: Momotarou2012. Licensed under Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Hunter’s Revenge

Today I’m delighted to share an extract from the second edition of crime writer Val Penny’s novel, Hunter’s Revenge, published yesterday by Spellbound Books (and available via this link: geni.us/a13c)

Hunter’s Revenge Extract

Linda has found the body of the victim in his porch when she tried to deliver a book. DI Hunter Wilson and DC Tim Myerscough examine the scene and discover the corpse is the body of their friend George Reinbold.

DI Hunter Wilson and DC Tim Myerscough pulled up just behind the ambulance. Hunter liked spring: he could almost smell the world waking up. The freshness of the air encouraged crocuses and daffodils to decorate flower beds, and buds of leaves to appear on trees. Edinburgh had a beauty in every season, but he found his city especially lovely in springtime. However, today was not one of those fine, balmy spring days. It was bright enough, but sharp and cold. Hunter did not like chilly days like today as much as the warmer days he hoped April would bring.

He and Tim got out of the car. The detective constable dwarfed Hunter by an easy five inches, but as Hunter stood and took in the scene with a serious face and intelligent piercing blue eyes, it was clear that he was the man in charge. Hunter quickly identified the girl sitting on the wet grass as the source of a loud and blood-curdling racket that offended his ears. He looked from the girl to Tim and back again.

“You deal with her, young Myerscough. It’s far too early for me to be coping with weeping women. Try to get some sense out of her, and get her to be quiet, will you? I can’t think with that noise going on.”

“Yes, Sir.” Tim took two strides and crouched down beside the young woman. “Hello, I’m DC Tim Myerscough. What’s your name?”

“Linda.”

“Linda?”

“Linda Maguire.” She stopped crying but was still sobbing hard.

“So, Linda, it was you who found the body, was it?” Tim asked.

She looked at him as if she thought he was crazy. “Well, I don’t get this upset just because there’s nobody home. I don’t get paid enough for this. It’s awful. Have you seen it? Don’t look. The place is all blood and brains. The back of his head’s gone. I can’t un-see that, you know.” Linda started weeping again as Hunter shouted.

“Tim! Tim! DC Myerscough. Here. Now.” Hunter’s face was grey. “Tim, you won’t believe who the victim is. It’s George Reinbold, shot in the head.”

“What? Oh No! Not our George Reinbold? Head of the Crime Scene Investigations?”

“Not any more he’s not.”

“No, it can’t be. It must be a mistake, he’s just an old man. Who would want to kill him?”

“Don’t take my word for it. Feel free to look but hold on to your breakfast.” Hunter watched as Tim went over and stuck his head around the door and withdrew it quickly.

Linda was right, you can’t un-see that.

“Boss, that’s been close range. Tiny hole in the forehead, but they’ve blown the back of his skull right off.”

“Hmm. Bloody awful. It’s got to be a professional job. But the murderer would surely be hit by some spray from the blood.” Hunter grimaced.

“Definitely. This is surely a case of mistaken identity? Nobody would want to hurt George?” Tim’s questions asked for the reassurance that Hunter could not give.

“We’ll need to find out what he’s been working on recently. It could be a targeted attack. And I certainly don’t want our CSIs working on this; it would be too traumatic. I’ll call Glasgow and get them to send a team over. PC Angus McKenzie can stay at the door to restrict access while I get DS Jane Renwick to gather a team to organise door-to-door enquiries. One thing is for sure, somebody saw something or heard the gun.”

“Yes.” Tim paused “Will Doctor Sharma be able to do the post-mortem?”

“I doubt she would allow anybody else that honour, but it won’t be easy for her. She liked George and respected him greatly. You stay here and take the witness statement from that girl. When Meera Sharma and the CSIs are finished, I want you and me into that flat as soon as possible to find out everything we can about George and why he was murdered.”

Tim turned back to Linda and walked slowly across the grass. He saw the young delivery woman was now dry-heaving as hard as she was weeping. It must have been a terrible shock for her. He took out his notebook in a vain effort to try to divert her attention. He smiled at her as she lifted her head. His smile seemed to work as a better diversion.

He was aware of her looking up at him. He watched as she swept her hair behind her ear, glanced into his eyes and she allowed her glance to rove from his eyes to his hair, smile and shoulders. For some reason he became self-conscious about his broken nose. This was silly. He blushed and realised that she had stopped sobbing.

 Tim looked at her more closely. Under all the thick layer of make-up and dribbles of snot, she was pretty.

He took down her personal details and then they discussed how Linda’s morning had been going before her shocking discovery.

“What were you delivering to Mr Reinbold?” Tim asked.

“A book. The label just says a book.”

“But it also says it’s insured for £25,000. That’s some book,” Tim said, looking at Linda’s delivery list.

“I didn’t notice that. It’s an awful lot.”

Tim looked around for help and caught sight of DS Jane Renwick, who had joined Hunter talking to the paramedics. Tim wondered how Jane always looked so elegant, as though she had just walked off a magazine cover.

“Sarge? Sarge, can you help with this?” Tim called to Jane.

“What’s up, Tim?”

“Linda here has on her manifest that the parcel Mr Reinbold was expecting was a book, but I’ve noticed it’s insured for £25,000. That seems a great deal for a book.”

“It certainly does. Do we know where the parcel is?”

Linda pulled it out from underneath her. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to sit on the grass. It’s wet,” she said by way of explanation.

Jane looked at the girl and sighed. Then she held out her hand and, in the presence of Linda and Tim, opened the parcel.

“It is indeed a book. A signed first edition of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. My goodness. It’s amazing! Include this in the statement, Tim, and give Linda a note to say that we now hold the book. I’ll take it back to the station. We’ll need to get a proper valuation.”

“Wow! All that for a kiddies’ book.” Linda finished her statement and agreed to come down to the station to sign a typed copy whenever Tim phoned her to tell her it was ready. He caught her allowing herself one more gaze into his eyes before they stood up. Tim was over a foot taller than her diminutive five foot two inches.

“Thank you for all your help today, Linda,” Tim said.

“It’s all right, but I suppose I better get on with my deliveries. I’m ever so late. It would be me who found the bloody body.”

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson is a loyal friend and a fair leader. He is called to the scene of a murder in Edinburgh where the corpse has been fatally shot. He is dismayed to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Hunter must investigate Reinbold’s murky past in Germany to identify George’s killer.

At the same time, Hunter is tasked with looking into a previously undetected criminal gang supplying drugs from Peru. There seems to be no connection between the murder and the drug supply until Hunter unexpectedly secures help from inmates of the local jail.

Hunter’s investigations are hampered by distracted members of his team and unobservant witnesses.

Reinbold was not the quiet, old man Hunter believed him to be and his killer bore their grudge for a lifetime.

Val Penny has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer but has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.

Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and novels. Val is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and their cat.

Christmas Sale

As Christmas approaches, I’ve decided to do a special offer on my latest poetry collection, LifeTimes, which will be available for £5 (normal price £7) between now and the end of December. You can read a selection of poems from LifeTimes (and some more of my poems) here: https://www.tetaylor.co.uk/archive

My other collection, Sea Without a Shore, and my two novels, Zeus of Ithome and Revolution Day are all also available for £5 each. Or you can by any two for £9, any three for £13, or all four for £17 – plus £2.25 per book postage and packing, if you’d like to receive them by post. If you’d like any books, e-mail me on tim.e.taylor@talk21.com.

Review of LifeTimes by Chris Preddle:

“These are truthful, wise and moving poems about an ‘ordinary’ lifetime (as if any were such) made compelling by the poetry. Most poems are about childhood, early life, parenthood and family life, with some valedictory poems and elegies at the end. Tim’s approach is straightforward, without affectation or rhetoric, so that I feel with these feeling poems. Lines and phrases are felicitous and right, there are some strong and unusual metaphors, and Tim has a real gift for the last line of a poem. He has a good sense of form and often uses stanzas of free verse, with occasional traditional forms and rhyme. I liked especially ‘Candy Floss’, ‘To My Daughter’, ‘The Cowrie Shell’, ‘Still Waters?’ and ‘Christmas Card Friends’. And the opening and closing poems contain the whole beautifully, in a slim volume with a cover of nine photos of a continuing lifetime.”

Paperweight

Today I’m pleased to host a poem from Dennis Tomlinson’s latest collection, Ornaments:

Paperweight

A simple paperweight - blue and green
flowers refracted by the glass.

All that I have of my mother's sister,
her thatched cottage filled with such trinkets.

Musing, I see her face rise up,
smiling like Queen Elizabeth.

Ornaments contains a series of brief poems reflecting on household and garden ornaments and their deeper meaning. Dennis began it in the spring of 2020, when the national lockdown caused people to retreat into the domestic sphere.

You can buy it at the cover price of £12.50, either from the publisher’s website, www.paekakarikipress.com, or directly from the author at d.c.tomlinson@aol.co.uk.

DENNIS TOMLINSON lives in London. He worked for a while as a translator from the German and then as a postman but took early retirement in 2020. His poems and translations have appeared in many magazines, in anthologies and on websites. His first poetry pamphlet, Sleepless Nights (Maverick Mustang Manuscripts), came out in 2019 and his second collection, Over the Road (Dempsey & Windle) in 2021. 

The Gift

Since it’s the time of year when we remember the victims of war (and are reminded daily of its horrors in news from Ukraine), I thought I’d share one of my occasional war poems today. This is an old one, from my first collection, Sea Without a Shore.

The Gift

He gave his life, they said
as if it were some little thing
he thought might be more use to someone else.

And true, there was a time
when, drunk on martial sentiments and songs,
and for some noble end, he would have given.
But not for fifty yards of mud
long stripped of all that’s beautiful or green.
Not even worms would think it worth their while.

For this, his life was swindled from him,
so he thought, as in his hole
he felt it drain away:
but in the end, when twenty thousand lives like his
were not enough to pay the mortgage on that land,
not even swindled, merely stolen.  

Grandmother

I’m pleased to host a chilling Halloween tale today by fellow Holmfirth Writer Vincent Johnson.

Halloween

Banging shutters wake me, just as the hall clock is striking midnight, and the unresponsive light-switch tells me the electricity is off. Between fizzing strobe lightening, thunderclaps growl like gods tumbling down their stairs. I sense an intruder in the house. A violent gust bursts the lounge windows asunder, clattering shutters and snuffing both my candle and the memorial candle lit to remember my grandmother’s death, which normally burns on the mantelpiece throughout Halloween.

‘Always remember your dead kin and friends’ she had said to us all, a few days before she had died. ‘Forget us at your peril’….

Most of the older family have since passed on, and the younger ones moved away.  Now there’s just me, elderly and alone, shuffling around this old family home. Howling down the chimney, the brutal wind bellows the fire’s dying fumes and ash into the lounge. Then, another lightening flash ignites the billowing smoke, and for an instant,  I see an infernal hologram of Grandma’s stricken face caught in the flickering cloud, like some silent horror movie, her eyes brimming with knowing sorrow.

The house yaws like some great ship, its ivied walls, creaking floorboards and rafters, and rattling eaves and casements buffeted by the wailing sea wind that roars in the trees. Rats gnaw and scratch in the attic, Ash twigs claw the rooftiles, and I can hear slippered footsteps dragging across the upper floor….

Grandma’s very last words had been directed at me,  ‘I will come back for you my dear, I will come back when it’s time.’

Silvered in the next flash I see her, sitting in her rocking chair by the hearth, looking directly at me with that vacant and slightly menacing smile, her knobbled hands clasped on her lap. The smoky air is ice-cold, and the grandfather clock’s ponderous tock is getting louder and louder, along with the banging on the upstairs shutters.… and then, drenched in sweat I wake up in my bed to the sound of banging shutters. Midnight is chiming, and the electricity is off.

Come Back

Today I’m delighted to host a poem by fellow Holmfirth Writer Sally Brown, inspired by the landscape of Saddleworth Moor and the child victims buried there by the Moors Murderers. One of them, Keith Bennett, was the subject of a recent, sadly unsuccessful search. His family still leave flowers by the roadside even today.

Come Back
 
We meet for breakfast
cramped in the confines of the car.
Fried egg butty
and a flask of tea,
shared over a view of Wessenden
and the shrine to lost children
who lie deep in the peat
below.
 
The wind flaps at withered flowers
as we gaze out over the moor.
How easily this landscape
absorbs the years of tears and searching,
moulding itself to the bodies,
covering the tracks of those
who know its secret places,
revealing nothing.
 
Heading north along the Pennine Way,
the path, well-worn and lonely,
leads us down
past reservoir and clough,
followed only by the grouse’s harsh ‘go back’.
 
Or is it a child’s cry
that catches in the breeze?
“I am here
beneath your feet.
Don’t leave me,
come back, come back.”