from Peatland Poems from the Scottish Solway.


















Swan hunt 


Last night

hunters circled our cookfire

chanting through black and yellow masks

head-bobbing, arm-flapping

waddling, bums sticking out, toes in.

My firstborn trod on a cinder, cursed

hopped, toppled over, bairns

howled with laughter, dogs joined in.

Hard words were flung, like sling-shot stones.


This morning

Great Sky God sent us rain, muffling

the stalk through brittle reeds.

White tribe had flown, ignored

our plea for just one big fat meaty bird.

Soon, they soar sky-ward till leaf-fall.

Our men got two small paddlefeet

one daggerbill, all feathers and guts.

But me, I do not blame the laughing bairns.


Barbara Mearns






The Giving and Taking of the Deep


Deep green, green deep,

The song of the pebbles rolling beneath

Above smoothly gliding, barely rippling

Peering downward, engulfing, cradling

A gentle rocking, softly caressing

Her weightless body, at one with the sea

Deep green, green deep.


Deep calm, calm deep

Balmy wind breathing the breath of the sea

Ribbons of sunset, bright setting of fire,

Pavements of moonlight, extinguishing blaze.

Darkness descending, black rocks appearing

Onward swimming in a magical trance.

Deep calm, calm deep


Deep sleep, sleep deep

Slippery seaweed swaying and waving

Hair of a nereid flows with the tide

Swish of the murmuring wavelets onshore

Footprintless, emptiness, coolness of sand.

Life of an ending, the end of a life

Deep sleep, sleep deep.


Beverley Vaux




“I’m in my Element”


I’m a feet-on-the-ground sort of person. No flying or swimming for me, although I am partial to the odd bonfire. It’s the flickering of the flames, the pictures they reveal  … and the way they demolish my outdated private papers.


However, I am at my most relaxed dealing with soil. Earth is for my plants, in pots, in baskets, in borders. I don’t mind which, but I’m supremely happy taking cuttings, transplanting the growing plants, or just generally grubbing in the soil.


Autumn is particularly enjoyable. The generous shower of leaves from next door’s birch tree, added to the copious amount from my own plants, yields a huge bonus in the form of next year’s leaf mould. When I run out of suitable containers I simply add the rest to the compost heap for the thousands of brandling worms to enjoy, along with the slaters, slugs and snails. There’s no killing in my garden, unless the cat manages to trap an unwary bird or mouse.


Although my efforts are not particularly successful – reality often fails to live up to the imagined glory – it’s the trying which counts and which calms my restless agitated mind. So much more therapeutic than hoovering!


Linda Powell




Found Stag's Skull.


He remembered running fast

Over high cold hills

Now a slow tide

Rolled him over sand.


He felt crabs nibble

Remembered sweet cool water,

Grass in summer plenty,

Herd grazing, sun's warmth.


He knew uncertainty,

Slow dissolve of self

Bone colliding with rock

Remembers sea's rough tumble.


He came back, found land,

High tideline, water's fringe.

Empty sockets stare, witless

He remembers nothing now.


Anne Micklethwaite




Stringer : Leonie Ewing


All day long he had stood in the maize field making the most of the late summer sun, green arms stretched out like branches, long hair drifting in the breeze, (green hair thanks to symbiotic algae once derived from the hair of the Two-toed Sloth). The sun was dropping below the horizon and now he would sleep folded up upon his knees, long limbs pressed together and all covered by the cloak of his hair to retain the sun’s heat. Tomorrow was an important day, the day of the Gathering.


The maize in the field was ripening fast, its leaves turning yellow, no longer providing protection for him and his people. They would be visible to the Vores.  Tomorrow he would meet up with fellow Tarians and the annual migration North would begin. He hoped to be reunited with his wife and see his child for the first time, if they had survived. After the Mating Game they would move off in small groups travelling at dawn and dusk, collecting berries and fruit on the way, enough, along with the products of photosynthesis to keep them going until they reached the Winter Grounds.


Even as he slept Stringer’s biochemistry was changing. The genes for haemoglobin had been switched on, his blood corpuscle levels were rising and would soon reach a maximum enabling his muscles to work efficiently for the duration of the Long March. On the journey North, with light levels falling, the chloroplasts circulating in the vessels of his skin would be reabsorbed, a pink glow would return to his cheeks.  Already precursors of ethylene glycol were accumulating in his blood. By the time winter set in it would have the properties of antifreeze. All the Tarians would spend the sub-Arctic winter in a state of suspended animation thanks to the engineered genes of Tardigrades long ago incorporated in their DNA.


At dawn Stringer woke, his heart beating fast with excitement. He rose from his sleeping place in the lee of a grassy bank and looked across the maize field. There was movement in the plants. A quiver, a ripple passed along the rows. He sniffed the air and smiled. They had arrived.


Leonie Ewing




From a recent workshop on haiku and tanka run by Jane Richardson




Birch sprigs write stories

on a low-rise harvest moon

reflecting nonsense.


Leonie Ewing






And from the incomparable Bashō in the collection Lips Too Chilled


a chance to dodge







O void hope

P  ert, upright

T  hreaded through the wood

I   ridescent

M  yriad

I   cy frost no peril

S  nowdrop

M  utating into  spring



Jane Richardson






Where frost snaps stars to whiteness

Fox’s bark, clear, cold voiced,

Running on a stream of white breath

Green eyed under a waning moon.


Hunts wary, ear-flick, rabbits

May sniff where chickens roost

Not bold enough to brave farm dogs,

Or run before death's leaden charge.


Woods hold hidden morsels

Bramble’s sweet fruit relieves thirst,

Under hill’s shadow paws scrabble

To escape rival’s sharp jaws.


A last drink at stream trickle,

Watch as owls float on first light

Yawn,  shake dew away from red fur

Descend into dark earth’s comfort.


Anne Micklethwaite.





            One Entity

            A pool, backlit
              with amber cloud.

              Porwigle slide
              over his mere,
              hold sway to form
              sun tinted leaf,
              ochre and peat,
              dusk drops on teal.

              Rhythmic pull of
              painter’s purview


           Christine Ashworth                                                                 




 Spring Fling Project 2015 :: response to a painting by Jeremy Carlisle 





Round of Marigolds

Buttery-coloured marigolds,
delicate petals unfolding,
seem moulded
by sun and breeze. Golden,
bronze and orange, growing bolder,
stretching, reaching, swaying
in the ripening afternoon.

As day progresses, slowing down,
dark escapes, sliding in
from the east, guided
by a moon riding
the coat-tails of night
till daylight sends fading
stars to sleep, revealing
buttery-coloured marigolds.


Kriss Nichol



 Ryan was a 30 year old drug addict.  He visited his mother on her birthday.  Two days later she found him dead in a flat.  (I was asked to read this at his funeral.)


The Final Gift


“Happy Birthday Mum,” said Ryan, passing her the box.

A bright pink box, smothered in glorious glitter.

It shone even more brightly than his smiling face!

Seeing, feeling his excitement, gave Helma pleasure.

“Love you Mum.”


As she gently raised the lid, “There’s more to come,” he said

As if, somehow, these thoughtful gifts of love were not enough.

Turned into jewels now … given by her lovely boy.

“I treasure all you give me Ryan; but it’s you I miss.”

“Love you Mum.”


Piece of pure white silk, dividing box in two…  Split…  Halved.

Fifteen years’ potential, laughter, health and happiness.

Fifteen years of darkness, fear, hell’s horror … final death.

You dealers… you pushers… you cold blooded sharks… Guilty.

“Love you Mum.  Have you got a fiver?”


Red velvet heart, Dutch china clogs and Robbie Williams’ CD

Gifts beyond price or value now … Treasure in that bright pink box.

‘Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

“Heaven’s great Mum!  It’s real!  Peace for eternity! …AND I’ve seen Dad!”

 “Love you Mum.”

“I love you Son.”


Sarah Samuels


Published Spirituality Magazine April 2012

Published in Barnwell Parish Magazine 2011



Cardoness Beach in Summer


Teeming rain, flat calm

Crystal droplets bouncing high

Mist encircled, green.


Sunset reflections

Islands floating in the sky

Light fades, dusky dew.


Shimmering heat haze

Wide beach expanse, distant sea

Long walk to get cool.


Beverley Vaux






Finding the Past in the Present


It was muggy and sultry


I’d things to do,


But needed a quiet wander,


A route I usually drove on,


Became a stroll down yonder.



I was in barbecue mode and had to decide on some suitable morsels to take along to a friend’s party that evening; anyway there was no hurry. In the still, oppressive heat I found myself lazily walking in a relaxed mood.

En route, the roads were busy with Saturday morning traffic heading for town. On the narrow pavement coming towards me, I spotted a young woman pushing a heavy baby buggy , with a young child shuffling along at her side. As she strained and puffed with the effort, I thought back to the time when I’d been in the same position. I sensed her cluttered thoughts and felt her pain: I’d been there. I stepped aside to let her pass and we smiled in understanding of the situation.

I’d seldom walked this way, but had driven past regularly. However, the next sight took me totally by surprise. On two old sandstone pillars, which looked like the entrance to an ancient ruin, I could just make out a faded inscription. One pillar was etched with ‘ Dumfries and Maxwelltown’ and the other read ‘ commissioned 1910 fever hospital ‘. My eyes travelled through the opening to what looked like no man’s land. I was drawn to explore, but felt I should make my purchases for the barbecue and put the notion aside.

Inside the shop, people talked excitedly about the World Cup, which had just kicked off in Brazil. Others made jokes about the coming Referendum and the usual remarks ‘Wha’s Like us’.

However, on my way home, I stopped once more at the pillars of sandstone; something was drawing me to investigate. I decided to follow the roughly tarred uphill pathway. Reaching the top, there was no indication that a hospital or any building had ever existed. Instead there was a plateau of roughly tarred and carelessly set down tarmac, surrounded by overgrown grass and weeds, intertwined with wild flowers. By now the humidity was quite intense and I felt a heavy presence around me. There were no paths in any direction through the long grass; only a vast area of unkempt land .

What stood here has been erased


Nothing has taken it’s place,


The earth lies bare and soulless,


Everything gone without a trace.





I stood for a while, mystified by the wall of nothingness in this forgotten piece of land.


Scarlet fever, Diphtheria and Typhoid


Were the fevers which blighted their lives,


They came in hope to be cured


Husbands, children and wives,


Some were lucky and saw the light,


Others died in vain,


A few survived to tell the tale,


But never forgot their pain.



I retraced my steps down and out through the pillars. Almost at my home, a heard a soft, tuneful voice. It was a child quietly singing to herself, unaware of me passing by. She was collecting buttercups and daisies with a dreamy look on her face, lost in her own little world. My mind drifted back to the hospital site. Had some of the patients who survived their fever been allowed out on the grounds on a sunny warm day? Maybe they too had gently gathered wild flowers as they hummed happily with the pleasure of life restored. We shall never really know, but I’d like to think that the feeling of real happiness has never changed, no matter how the world changes around us.


Wild flowers reign supreme


Their vibrant colours


Excite and delight,


Neither planted or tended,


They flourish freely


In nature’s garden.


Eleanor Chesters







The path up to the foot of the hill had proved that bit more difficult to get to the end of than it had been even one year before. But the old man – as he was now – had pressed on with the discipline and determination, still there in some measure to be called on when he needed it, that had seen him, alone, through three years of war. There were other forces pulling him here, forces still as strong as they had been in 1919, on the first occasion he’d lain the wreath he now laid again at the foot of the hill: the unbreakable bonds of loyalty, friendship, the desire to do honour and justice to the memory of people he still loved.

They were not there, and had not been there since 1911. If there was any real reason why, it was the moving of the unpredictable, capricious, senseless hand of fate. He would never attribute it to anything as trivial as luck. Not when it had spared him to live a full life, and denied everything to the others who, if human merit had any hand in what happened, would be standing there with him. But they never had been, and never would be.

They were the other five members of his gang, the boys who ‘d innocently run around on the very slopes his eyes were moving over. They were following his memories of how those boys had played there: what they’d done, what they’d said, how they’d felt. All so precious now. Some things, those he’d kept fondly in his memory for nearly eighty years, he could recall exactly. He remembered how on the last day of one summer holiday, just as they’d finished playing soldiers, Graham, the gang’s leader, had thrown the piece of wood he used as a toy gun disgustedly onto the ground and exclaimed, “Ach, boys! Schuil the morn,” in the language the school would have beaten him for speaking there. If only school had been the worst of what lay ahead of him. His people’s masters hadn’t minded him speaking his unacceptable language behind an English gun. He’d been carrying it across No Man’s Land when a burst of German machine-gun fire had separated his head from his shoulders.

On another day they’d separated into two sides and hunted each other through the trees and bushes with little bows and arrows they’d cut from the surrounding branches. He and Kenny, who’d been on the other side that day, had suddenly confronted each other at a few yards’ distance, fired at each other at the same time, and hit each other, on the body as pre-arranged, at the same instant as well. They’d both collapsed laughing. The old man’s memory moved from there to another day, another place, another time. German shells were making the earth erupt all around. Kenny had been there, running up and down the trench screaming for his mother, just before a shell had blown him quite literally to pieces. He was sixteen, and he hadn’t yet fired a shot.

What a world away from the happiness of those unsuspecting, innocuous games of war. Was it that happiness that had sent them off so willingly, smiling and excited, to the satanic carnage of the front? Was it because of that very happiness that, of those six boys, five hadn’t come back?

The bodies of Graham and Kenny, along with those of tall, strong Rab, tousle-haired John, and Davie, the unmatchable footballer, were in France. Yet, in a way that seemed realer, this was where they were. Their spirits were still here, ranging over that gentle slope in joyous play. And he still belonged here, with them.

The pattern made by the patches of open space, solitary trees and dense bushes, and the paths still being made through them by children’s feet, was not quite the same as he remembered it, but its essence was exactly the same. He even fancied, as the bushes moved suddenly in a slight breeze, that he could see human figures running among them. Then the mix of light and shade seemed to resolve into human faces, faces he’d known. Then he saw their bodies, and the fact that they were beckoning, almost audibly calling to him to join them, just as they’d done all those evergreen summers ago. He spoke softly back to them, as he would have then.

“Don’t worry, boys. It won’t be long.”

The vow renewed, he turned and headed back. The journey home, being downhill, was a little easier and quicker, but that could not keep the thought, planted there by his body, from growing in his mind that this might be the last year he’d be able to reach the hill, their hill, unaided. Caught between the present moment’s suspicions and the commitment that always tried to recruit the future, he hoped that that would be the worst of it.

He hadn’t been gone for long when the low mid-November sun started to dip behind the crest of the hill, and the shadows began to follow him.


Ian McQueen





By The Ingle Nook


Afore gan tae scuil mither maked the porritch whilk she steered wae ae spirtal an aften she wid gae us ae wee trait, a jeelie piece.  Ae speeshal yin wis on the Sawbath when the hams war tain frae the hooks on the rafters,an skelps war pit in the girdle wae duik and chookie eggs ,an forby ye mony forget the soda scones  . A still fare hanker aifter the flavour, it seems tae aw tae hae gan awa   It’s aw wersh noo. Aifter caming hame frae scuil I  wid tak my wee stool an luggie an muilk  ae wheen kye.  The milk wid froth an foam an poussie wid siddle alang my shanks wintin ae dribble a mulk.  Mither wid tak the mulk tae the milkhoose whuar  she wid skim the cream aff and mak butter.   Sometimes I wid rin doon the burn whuar I wid guddle fur troot.  I wid rin hame wae a wheen stuffed in pokes.  Mither wid roll tham in oatmeal an they wur gusty, thar wis naethin wersh aboot thaim troot!


Cathie Forbes



Linda Chase Broder 1941 to 2011


“Remembering will just go on

as it has always done”*

from Not in the sky  by Linda Chase


Feasting at Laurieston


We arrive in ones and twos and camper vans

up the pitted drive hauling backpacks

and scrap book recipes,

and butterfly souls pressed carefully.


The sun is always shining here

and always overhead the red kites float,

and the cold black smell of water

seeps into our dreams.


Summoned by your alchemy our bodies sing.

A chuckle trapped in the crinkle of your eye

floats free,

a sentence finishes in another room.



Carolyn Yates May 2012




After Æsop : The Oyster Catcher and The Lark



There was once an oyster catcher who spent all his days hiding his stash of sea food under the mud of the estuary where he lived. He was afraid that other birds would find his treasure and steal it so he cried a warning ‘Pik! Pik!’ all day as he worked. One day as he probed the mud laid bare by the falling tide he saw that the sea had fallen away from the top of a bank, leaving it like an island across the water. He straight away began to dig up his oysters and carry them to the island where the wading birds

did not go. Soon he had a deep hole full of food. He was so proud of his wealth he strode up and down the bank preening himself, showing off his orange beak and legs

to the world.

Just then he heard a lark in the sky, ascending towards the sun singing.

‘Why do you waste your time in singing, Lark,’ he asked ‘Are you not hungry?’

The lark flew a littler lower so that the oyster catcher could hear him.

‘I sing in praise of the sun in its golden glory which hatches the bugs I eat – do you not sing to the sea who brings you food?’

The oyster catcher laughed.

‘It was not the sea that fed me. I laboured through the morning to catch my food so I sing for myself.’

And he began to stride up and down the mud again, ignoring the lark, singing only for himself.

The oyster catcher did not notice the tide turning and begin to steal back around his island. Soon it was lapping at his feet and he saw to his horror that his precious hoard was going, going, gone beneath the water.


Moral : Better to trust your treasures in gold than off-shore banks.


Vivien Jones







Beyond the rickety wooden fence

grow green fields of curly kale.

A mottled carpet unfurled

to where the land meets the sand

and rocks are strewn before the sea.


Over the sound stately mountains rise silently

stencilled on the rough muslin sky,

Their rounded peaks ribboned

with floating wisps of silk.


Playing in between the hazy mountains

and the green mottled carpet,

is a scene showing for one moment only.

In the background the silver sea

advances imperceptibly.


The sinking sun is like a spotlight,

on the wet sand a dog barks.

Beyond the rocks a family run with their pet,

Lowryesque - like matchstick figures

black against the autumn sky.


Christine Cameron




Levity, Gravity


This is not bombing.

Bombing, like petting, running and fucking

is what you’re not allowed to do at the baths.

This, friend, is tombstoning. It is way more.

He does it because he is big and brave,

I do it because I love him.

I love him.

It is not pure fear making

my heart too fast on the lip,

it is knowing his eyes are upon me

unto death. I love him.

This, also, is not allowed.

So I laugh and jump feet first

into so cold sea and my heat is killed with me,

breath I hold becomes his name

cried to water; I love him.

When I surface alive

his name and my still living

make my heart pump joy of life and him,

who looks down and laughs,

so I must jump again, feet first

and jump again, feet first

unto death or until that day

I become hard man just like him.


JoAnne McKay






by Mike Smith


He’s got that bloody poem stripped down again

The kitchen floor’s knee deep

In rough edged images

Discarded adjectives

A metaphor to fit

That won’t improve on it one little bit


He says it isn’t scanning sweet

And listens for a missing beat


It’s not as if he ever takes it out

But rides it in his dreams

Where he might leap the gulf

Between him and the world


He’s got that bloody poem stripped down again

And if he ever gets it running right, what then?


Kowalski’s OGM

(from That's What Ya Get! Kowalski's Story, and his other assertions, by Brindley Hallam Dennis)


Kowalski ain’t home. Mildred, that’s his old lady, she ain’t home either. Ya see, that’s

what ya get! That’s what ya get fer callin’ such a dumb-ass hour. That means you Hank! Ya wanna leave a message, talk to the machine when it beeps. We’ll get back to ya. Ya don’t wanna a leave a message, that suit us fine too. Will that do Mildred? How d’ya turn this thing off? Oh, yeah!





Work produced in response to writing workshops 



The Peace Offering by Barbara Mearns

The brooch twinkled at him from its soft velvet nest in the shop window. He fingered the heavy gold chain at the neck of his black shirt as he re-read the price tag. This piece was seriously more expensive than his other gifts to his wife: the diamanté butterfly after his night of passion at the Ethical Pension Funds conference; the golden chameleon after the affair with his Spanish secretary; the ruby-eyed snake after one never-to-be-forgotten afternoon with Randy Mandy – he still found his mind wandering sometimes when he sat at his desk, remembering her performance on top of it...
There was something irresistible about the white platinum brooch, he almost imagined some sort of affinity with it. At first glance it resembled a bunch of grapes – from a twisting stem, little side branches curled away, each bearing clusters of exquisite pearls, some tinged with a flush of pink, others the softest blue or a gleaming, steely gray. As he entered the shop, he was approached by a grey-haired assistant. ‘I want the pearl brooch in the window and you can gift-wrap it for me’. He punched in his pin number and pocketed the peace-offering. ‘By the way,’ he asked, as he turned to leave, ‘what is it?’
‘It’s from our avant-garde range of single-celled animals, designed by Amanta Dunn. This one is a species of slime mould.’

Written at Leonie’s June workshop

Patterns of Life

Change and growth.
The patterns of life
The patterns of stone
Hard agate fixed.
Soft smelly mould,
Growing; changing,
Yet always following a pattern.
Spirals flowing.
Such are the things we are made of,
Trees and the world.
Galaxies are formed so.

When humans first built,
Their huts were circular.
Explore the streets of old Stirling
As they circle round the castle.
Little is straight,
Built for defence.

Logic is straight
Intuition circles in spirals.
As the world does,
As the universe does.
As we do.

Isobel Mary Gibson

Written during the workshop
on Self-organising Systems