Tag Archives: Life

Up the Volcano

Chickens roam the aisle, having burst
from their basket, but it’s only a problem when
we stop to let more people on.
The driver pulls us rounds tight curves
blasts his horn at slower traffic
squeezes between them
and a sheer drop onto smoking fields.

It’s 1983 and we are climbing Etna the hard way
in a local bus. Someone is praying in a low voice and
there’s nothing to hold onto except each other
and perhaps God. Certainly not the chickens
who squawk at every bump and swerve.
Three villages later we get to the hotel.
It is empty, embraced by a tall curve of still glowing lava.
Hailing a battered Landrover, we pay its owner to take us further
see the bus turn to descend to Catania once more.

Up once more, at a steadier pace, until the driver stops.
We walk over hot ground, to a raised snake of rock
which we climb, until I realise it is a lava tunnel and dangerous.
As we climb down you pause to take a photo
and the mouth of the volcano explodes.
Our terrified driver flings his vehicle around
we chase after him, get in, race down
past the deserted hotel
down further to find the bus in a village.

We sigh with relief at the safety of the bus,
Enter, find seats together. A chicken pops onto my lap
You stroke her gently and
a goat puts her head in yours.

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Memories of a long ago trip up an erupting Mount Etna in Sicily.

Cold cold morning

November, and you stand in your mobcap
that hated worn black gown
look up at the big house, lit and warm
your tear-stained face pale as the mist
a mist cold as the employer that has told you to leave
leave the one job that feeds your family
family bereft of a father or sons to work
servant work you despised, literate girl that you are
work you so needed

Beggars can’t be choosers

But once the son of the house chose to court you
and you rebuffed him
your days there were numbered
have been sent home without a reference
on a chill winter morning
so you stand in your mobcap, your servant uniform
look up at the big house, lit and warm
weep for the hungry mouths at home
those so small sisters

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This poem has been written in response to a prompt at Dverse, where we are asked to respond to one of four paintings. I chose John Atkinson Grimshaws painting entitled A November Morning (1883). I looked at the painting (see below), saw the servant girl looking up and her story just came to me.

John Atkinson Grimshaw – Shipley Art Gallery. Title: November Morning, Knostrop Hall, Leeds. Date: 1883. Materials: oil on canvas. Dimensions: 61 x 86.4 cm. Source: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/november-morning-knostrop-hall-leeds-35520. I have changed the light and contrast of the original photo.

The other nations of this Earth

The other nations of this Earth live along side us
Misunderstood, undervalued, used and abused
So many of us not longer see them
We fortunate few may wilfully misunderstand
But many see the truth, see the power and strength
Even in a hen, blackbird or crow
Animals are the other nations of this Earth
Caught in the net of time
Travellers with us on this one green globe

Copyright © 2017  Kim Whysall-Hammond

“….the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
~ Henry Beston

In Rough Waters

Dogger, Fisher, German Bight
on the North Sea in the night
Force Nine gale, rain in sight
praying for the morning light

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

The poetry of the BBC Shipping forecast, broadcast late each night, has filled my adult life from my university days using telescopes, via night feeding babies to now, when I often can’t sleep until well past midnight.

A typical forecast for several sea areas might be;

“Dogger, Fisher, German Bight. Southeast veering southwest 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Thundery showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.”

What this is telling us is that the sea areas Dogger, Fisher and German Bight are forecast to experience a SW wind direction blowing Force 4 or 5, sometimes F6 later. ‘Later’ is specifically at at time over 12 hours from the time the forecast was issued.

For those of you wondering what the first line of this poem refers to, here is a map of the sea areas covered by the forecast……

Sharing this poem in the Open link Night over at Dverse!

West London, 1970s

Every morning the Tube
trains sparked their way across points and
through grubby fields
off to plunge deep into London

Every morning, a deafening of birds
massive dawn chorus
rambunctious, full, above all loud
louder that the traffic on an infant A40

Every morning, the sound of garage doors opening
bicycles and mopeds eased quietly out
Fathers heading off to shifts
in the factories two miles south

then back to sleep, to dream
teenage longings
waiting for the alarm
and the rush to school

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Friday Poem: The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

By Rupert Brooke

For Remenbrance Day

Pico

Dawn breaks the sky
raw light floods island & ocean
All birdsong ceases for just the moment
when day is painted over night
colour returns to us
a breeze slowly lifts
the sun soars, reaching for this speck of land
in ocean immensity
 
Pico, veiled in high cloud
crenulated by sister cones
looms soft purple & charcoal across the strait
diva of the skies, demanding attention
holding the gaze
stately hot tempered grand dame
always beautiful, subtly threatening

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Another poem about the Azores, I must return soon……

A soup of memories

Heinz Cream of Tomato, served piping hot with grated Cheddar cheese on top and dry toast to tear up and float in it. My Grampee would not eat it any other way, and neither would I. The delightful bright green soup we were served in a hotel in Germany’s Black Forest, which my broccoli hating young sons scoffed up quickly. Yes, it was Broccoli, we had bribed the waiter not to tell them. My homemade chicken soup, made to a recipe originally from Malta (Grampee’s homeland). One of our now adult sons, realising he was not recovering well from a bad bout of Covid drove for 2 hours to get home and have some. Apparently it’s a magical cure for all ills. On a cold day I love Miso Soup with seaweed – so warming! A find in recent years has been Jamaican Chickpea and Squash soup which is very tasty and filling. Soup is not a huge part of our family diet, but it is important to us and to me .

steaming hot bowl
spoon slides in
magic happens

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This Haibun was written in response to the Prompt over at Dverse tonight. Come and join in!