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Paul Hansford Aug 2016
Found in the churchyard of St Botolph's, Aldgate,
one distant lunchtime sixty years ago,
and saved perhaps from second burial
less ceremonial than its first had been,
would Hamlet have mused on this? A finger-bone,
less striking than a skull but just as dead.

I keep it now and wonder  
what skill he had possessed, the one who owned it.
Was he a tailor or a silversmith?
a carpenter? a weaver? or (none of those)
a lowly labourer, or a sly pickpocket?
Was it a woman's finger, a high-born lady?
or housewife (working her fingers to the bone)?

Did that hand long ago once guide a pen,
inscribe long lines of figures in heavy ledgers,
telling the tale of profit or of loss?
Did it write sonnets? messages of love?
or thoughts to pass on to an unknown future?
I cannot know, but still this humble bone,
the nameless relic of a city's past,
may have some little life, if only for me.
Saint Botolph, patron saint of travellers, had churches dedicated to him at four of the ancient gates of the City of London.  Daniel Defoe tells of two pits being dug in the churchyard of St Botolph's, Aldgate, that were filled with the bodies of 5,136 victims of the plague of 1665.  An ancient mystery?
Paul Hansford Jan 2016
just as when looking into the sun
i am dazzled by pure light
which is invisible
and i only see what is lit
by the paler reflections of its rays

or when my mind refusing to hear a perfect silence
creates its own thundering echo
of that silence
so that i may more nearly understand
the incomprehensible

your absence also is absolute
and leaves a void in me
i cannot come to terms with
until it is filled
by a memory
Paul Hansford Dec 2016
(The ******)
My lord,
you trouble me
with your weighty message.
I am but a humble ******.
Why me?

(The Angel)
Mother of God,
I do as I am told,
prostrated before you.
Why me?

(The Son)
who knowest all,
I am your only son.
Am I to bear all the world's sins?
Why me?
Paul Hansford May 2016
This is my husband, my mother said
to the nurse with pride,
only she meant me.
Everyone in the day-room knew
who it was she had been expecting all day,
waiting like a birthday child.
We all laughed and put her right,
and she laughed and continued
... and this is her husband
(only she should have said, This is his wife) .
So we all laughed again,
and my mother laughed as much as anybody.

Later, walking round the garden, she showed us the flowers
– roses, geraniums, poppies –
only she called them all lilies.
You can go home, the doctor had told her,
when you remember your name.
Who are you?
– Lily, she said, Lily.
Lilies out there – pointing at the roses.
Well, at least she knows lilies are flowers.

It isn't as if her mind has gone,
I keep telling myself,
it's only that the words won't come.
A week ago she knew her way
through the dictionary blindfold,
amazing at anagrams
scholarly at Scrabble,
and quicker than anyone she knew
to finish the daily crossword.
But now the thoughts that chase round
and round her puzzled brain
find no expression.
How can you say it's 'only' the words?

Having survived the first critical week
she is in no immediate danger.
She might last any time;
she might go any time.
All this, somehow, she realises,
and hasn't even the words to tell us
she knows and is not afraid.
Then after awkward silences
and awkwardly cheerful conversations
it's time to leave.
Will you help me on to the bus? she says
– meaning the bed –
and she laughs again.
After all, it's better than crying.
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
I could say
   “Ni hao”
for “Good morning,”
and it was only polite to say
    “Xie xie”
for “Thank you.”

That was my limit
until, in a babble of unfamiliar sounds,
I heard the word, “**-murr,”
and then again, “**-murr.”
**-murr? I thought.
Do they have The Simpsons in China?
But it was only “back door.”

Later, struggling to board a bus by the middle door,
I heard the conductor say,
– and I could even hear the exclamation mark –
I knew this time he wasn’t talking about The Simpsons,
and I had a pretty good idea
he wasn’t a fan of classical Greek poetry either.

But I didn’t want to be left on the pavement
when he closed all the doors and drove off.
So I just squeezed in by the middle door,
as if it was all Chinese to me.
I just re-discovered this on a memory stick I had completely forgotten.  It dates from a trip we made to China several years ago - no, make that "many years ago."  Unfortunately, My computer doesn't recognise the Chinese characters, so I have to rely on the phonetic version.
Paul Hansford Apr 2018
All round my hat I wear a lot of badges,
all round my hat, for many and many a day.

A disc of abalone shell from New Zealand;
a jester’s mask decorated with four glittering glass jewels (Venice,
though we weren’t there for the carnival) :
the Stars and Stripes, given to me in New York
in the weeks after 9/11, when you could hardly move
for huge examples of the national flag;
three lions, for England;
a bull, for Spain, even though I hate bull-fighting;
a liner (Alaska Cruise,2000, but we've done other cruises) :
and a gold-coloured jet plane, for all the journeys we have made;
a small badge of a very large statue, Christ the Redeemer (Rio) :
the seashell of St James, with his special cross on it
(Santiago de Compostela, though we didn’t walk the Camino) :
a very tiny badge of the ****** of Guadalupe in Mexico;
and a shiny gold-coloured outline of a dove
(Carcassonne cathedral) representing the Holy Spirit;
King Kong, my biggest badge, appropriately:
a smaller-scale hero, Winnie-the-Pooh, a gift from my daughter:
a koala decorated in crushed opal (Australia) :
a stripy cat on a tartan ribbon (Edinburgh) :
a dolphin from the Azores, though we didn’t see any there,
(but we have seen dolphins, so it counts twice) :
a miniature cookie-cutter in the shape of a moose (Canadian rockies)  
– but it would make impossibly small cookies;
a toucan (Costa Rica) and a puffin (Iceland)
admiring each other’s beaks;
heroes of the Revolution: Chairman Mao, bought in Beijing:
the Hồ Chí Minh League of Youth badge (Vietnam) :
the star representing Yugoslavia,
though even when I bought it
Yugoslavia was no longer a country;
the face of Che Guevara, looking handsome and intense (Cuba) :
and not forgetting the daddy of them all,
Lenin, on a red and flaming star;
the Hand of Fatima (Tunisia) for luck;
and the Eye of Horus (Egypt) ,
because you can’t have too much luck.

And if anybody asks me the reason why I wear them,
they remind me of places – and people – that are far, far away.
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
By any normally accepted standard
three words are scarcely sufficient
to be considered a poem.
The Japanese, who have a gift for conciseness,
might be sympathetic.
(Haiku, after all,
    at seventeen syllables,
       are pretty compact.)
But three words! It's not so much concise as,
to put it bluntly, short.
If I say that, when I try to write a poem for you,
"I love you" is all I can think of,
that is no excuse.
And the fact that my meaning is new and unique
(for me and for you)
makes no difference either.
If only there were some way out of my difficulty.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
There, that's nine words.
Will that do?
Written in 1984 and only just re-discovered in the booklet of the competition it was written for.
Paul Hansford Apr 2018
Newly arrived at the edge
of the rainforest,
I explore the camp,
our temporary home.
Under a shelter there is movement.
I go to investigate
and there you are.
You turn to me
and our eyes meet.
Impulsive, I reach out
to stroke your long, pale blonde hair,
and you, equally impulsive,
encircle me with your arms,
your soft hair brushing my cheek.
I am filled with a strange,
yet familiar feeling,
in love at first sight
with a woolly monkey.
True story from a trip a few years ago.
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
He saw one evening a young woman in a red dress, and he remembered being in Luxor, sitting on a hotel balcony, looking out over the Nile, watching all day as the shadows shifted on the cliffs above the opposite bank, as the colours changed from ochre to gold, from pink to violet, and how he had felt so completely at peace. And seeing the girl in her red dress, with her hair up showing the curve of her neck and throat, with her easy, natural smile and her confident air of self-possession, he knew the same feeling; he could have sat and looked at her for hours and asked for nothing more to make the evening perfect.
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
Two curly brackets
with an apostrophe each
for eyes
like two faces
looking at each other
with noses
– or lips –
almost touching
and between the faces
a small letter x
(you guessed it)
a small kiss.

The faces are so anonymous
they could be anyone
but one is me
and the other
can represent any one
of my lady poet friends
or should that be
"my poet lady-friends"?

So if any of my poet friends
who are ladies
think they might like a small friendly gesture
of affection
from me
please take it as that.

We are after all
so far away
that it could never come to more
but like a small birthday present
it's the thought that counts.

Isn't it?
Paul Hansford May 2016
These two poems came from an exercise we were given in my Poetry Workshop group.  We were given five words (I don't remember how they were selected) and had to work all five into each of two stanzas.  The words were plain / shadow / mountain / light / glass.

The lengthening shadow of the mountain
stretches across the plain.
The last sunlight reflects on the lake like glass.

I drain my glass.
The shadow of death looms over me like a mountain.
My future is plain. I move towards the light.

Peering through my magic glass,
lights and shadows play again,
tuppence coloured, penny plain.
Explorers cross the mountain pass.

Over valley, over mountain,
sunlight now breaks out again.
What was shadowed now is plain,
like drops of glass the tinkling fountain.
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
Sometimes in summer
when roots find no water
leaves wither, fade, and fall,
but with the rain
new buds, new leaves appear.

Sometimes after a forest fire
fresh green will push out of charred wood,
the ash of the old leaves
fertilising the new.

Sometimes in the thick of winter,
sudden mildness may stir the sap.
Precocious leaves may not resist frost's return,
but another spring will come.

Sometimes there is no hope
until spring comes.
Sometimes there is hope
despite everything.
Sometimes spring comes
more than once.
Paul Hansford Dec 2016
Perhaps in another world
another sun comes
lighting a different
and now,
where another I
could meet a second you.
Would she smile to know him there?
Would he look into her grey eyes and see
what I have seen, know
what I have known?
Perhaps in another world,
but here
spring always ends, petals
fall, and rivers
This was originally written as an exercise using (a) my name as an acrostic - you can still see the way the first six lines, and the last five fit the form - and (b) my telephone number at the time to give the number of syllables in the lines - it’s been edited so much since then that only a few lines now fit the requirement.
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
Stand there, he told me.
Look up, try not to move.
So I stood there
while he painted me in half-profile.
I looked at the sky
tried not to move
and thought of nothing,
but (you know how it is)
the thoughts come into your head.
So I looked at the sky and remembered.
Tears in my eyes?
No, it was just that the sky
was very bright that day, I remember.
I remember a lot of things.
Some of them I’d prefer not to.
Paul Hansford May 2016
I've fallen in love a thousand times,
I have to admit it's true.
but there's no need for you to worry, dear,
because every time it's you.
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
1 - Limerick

If you wanted to go to the moon
you wouldn’t go in a balloon.
    The hot air inside
    gives a nice quiet ride,
but you'd come back to earth much too soon.

2 - Senryu

With all that puffing
    his cheeks, so round, so scarlet
         – just like the balloon.

3 - Diamond poem

           puff hard.
        That’s better,
      getting  bigger,
balloon’s fat and round.
     No more blowing,
       that’s enough.
          Look out.
Any offers for another? Anyone?
Paul Hansford Dec 2016
I wish I could be a super-hero.
I wish I could be your super-hero.
But most of all I would want to be your Bee-Man.

Flying over continents and oceans,
over forests and gardens,
until I found you,
my Rose Queen,
my super-powers would detect
your pink petals
from far off.
Down I would fly,
drawn by the fragrance of you
to the exquisite beauty
of your blushing petals
silkily emerging from the heart of you,
unfolding for me,
welcoming me to your secret treasure.

Gently but firmly
my long, loving tongue would press
between those dew-moistened folds,
unable to resist the perfume
overcoming me.
Tugged in
by your intoxicating scent,
your nectar I would sup
until I could drink no more.

Then transforming
the sweet nectar
you had so willingly granted me,
I would create my rich, creamy honey,
especially for you,
so willingly penetrate
between your soft petals,
find your hidden depths,
and to repay you for the delight
your fragrant nectar had given me,
magically inject my honey,
into the essential heart of you,
until my store was empty,
and we could both feel
the most exquisite joy of all.

I hope that you dream of it as I do,
that you wish it also,
and that some day our dreams can come together.
And if you and I could come
in ecstasy,
it would be the most perfect fulfilment possible
of my desire.
Paul Hansford Aug 2018
There are journeys from which (for all practical purposes)
it is not possible to arrive anywhere,
except perhaps, after considerable stress,
the place that you started from.
Come with me. It is only
the setting out that is difficult.
Put your hand in mine and we will begin
our journey together. It may be long,
it may be hazardous, but the value of the journey
is not related to its length,
nor to the hazards overcome,
nor to the places we may visit, though they be many.
It lies rather in the fact of having set out
in the hopeless hope of discovering
something at the end of it all.
At least we can try - the value is in the trying.
Put your hand in mine. It is only
the setting out that is difficult.
Paul Hansford Sep 2018
Many people write a "bucket list" of things they want to do before they die.  Now in my 80th year, I don't have the time or the energy to do things that others might aim for, but I have during my life visited many places, seen many things, and enjoyed many experiences that I would have been sorry to miss. There have also been some events that I would have preferred not to experience, but which have enriched my life in different ways, and which I remember with a kind of sad affection.  
Some of these are very personal to me, and would not be interesting to most people, but read the note if you wonder why I chose them.

Here then is what I might call  
                                                My Reverse Bucket List

Towns and cities – architecture & atmosphere
   Barcelona, Spain
   Venice, Italy
   Oxford, England
   Jerusalem, Israel
   Luxor, Egypt
   Varanasi, India
   Hiroshima, Japan
   Pompeii, Italy

Other locations
   Galápagos islands, Ecuador
   Great Barrier Reef, Australia
   North Woolwich, London

   St Paul's Cathedral, London
   Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
   Coventry Cathedral
   Córdoba Cathedral, Spain
   Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Other structures
   Taj Mahal, Agra
   Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland
   Royal Festival Hall, London
   London underground system (because it was the first, and I rode it for a long time).  Also the more splendid underground railways of Mexico City and Moscow.
   Avebury Ring, Wiltshire, England (the largest prehistoric stone circle in the world, and much more primitive than Stonehenge)
   Bayeux Tapestry 
   "Angel of the North" statue, Gateshead, England
   "Christ the Redeemer" statue, Rio, Brazil

   Messiah at Royal Festival Hall, Feb 1959, with the girl later to be my wife
   St John's night, Spain, early 1990s (?)
   Death and funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, Aug 1997
   Oberammergau passion play, 2010
   Destruction of World Trade Centre, Sept 2001
I haven't added explanatory notes, but a lot of them are easy enough to look up, and if you message me about any mysterious items, I'll answer as best I can. There are poems in my stream connected with some things on the list, though not all are obvious.
Paul Hansford May 2016
This small green bear,
your name embroidered on its chest,
was never yours. It would have been
our Christmas gift to you,
had you lived a month longer.
The ones you would give
you had already bought,
wrapped, labelled -
thoughtful, organised
to the end,
to the bitter end.
We unwrapped them on the day,
smiled at your kindness,
wept at our loss.

Early Christmas gifts
that you had not organised,
that nobody could have anticipated,
went to strangers: your pancreas,
a life free from daily injections;
your kidneys, two lives free from dialysis;
your liver, divided, to a young girl
and an older lady, who would
quite simply have a life
they had almost given up hoping for.
Your heart, damaged by extended life-support,
not suitable for transplantation,
yielded its valves
to repair the damaged hearts of others.
Even bone and skin were harvested
for people you never knew.
That Christmas you gave hope
to so many people,
and to us the consolation
that they live on because of you,
and that you live on in them.
Paul Hansford Sep 2017
What can I do to comfort you?
Would talking help at all?
A gentle, friendly touch?
(Or would that be too much?)

I don't know what might do any good,
but I know you'd tell me if you could.
Perhaps you just need to be aware
that I am here, and that I care.
Written as a response to challenge in a poetry workshop I belong to in real life, to write a short poem based on a word chosen at random from a book. The word was "comfort".
To be truthful, the original idea was to use no more than forty words, and rhyming was not mentioned, but a couple of revisions later, this is what I produced.
Paul Hansford Dec 2015
I wake to bright sunshine
streaming in at the windows,
and look out, it seems, on a vast snowfield,
a white plain with rounded hillocks
reflecting the brilliance of the light,
extending to the furthest horizon.

A few minutes,
and the snowfield is invisible.
Everything outside is invisible
but the dampness on the windows,
and an all-pervading fog,
shutting me, claustrophobic, inside.

Soon the fog too is gone,
and now a steady drizzle
beats on the glass.
I have to leave the warmth inside,
descend the steps
to the grey gloom
of an English morning.

But looking up, I know
that the clouds that cover the sky,
darken the earth,
are mere vapour,
and above them the sun still shines.
Paul Hansford Apr 2018
I look forward
against all my instincts
with a kind of sad pleasure
to the moment
when we shall say goodbye,
even though I know
I shall never see you again.
And without a photograph of you,
which can never be mine,
I must inevitably lose the detail
of your lovely face,
your gentle smile.
But the real you,
open, welcoming,
tolerant, friendly,
– the nervousness
when I feel I am about to see you,
the pleasure
that lights up in me when you are there,
the disappointment
when you are not there –
you will remain in my heart,
a dear memory.
You will be in my mind forever,
I am certain.
That is the least you deserve,
and I must be satisfied
as far as possible.
Paul Hansford Feb 2019
We named you Daisy
for your white fur, because
we liked to name our cats after flowers.
But you were not only a white cat;
you were "odd-eyed white",
one orange and one blue.
Everyone loved your beautiful quirkiness.

You lived as our other cats did,
tame house-cat in the day,
but free to come and go;
half-wild at night,
following your instincts,
even if they were dangerous at times.

Then, one sunny morning,
I saw you from the bedroom window,
running back home, across the road,
and that time it really was dangerous,
as a car came past, exceeding the speed limit,
because in a race between speeding car
and running cat,
in the event of a tie,
the cat loses.

I ran downstairs and found you
by the gate,
warm, unmarked,
but unmoving, unbreathing

Carrying you gently to the back garden,
I laid you on the ground,
preparing to dig your grave,
as Marmaduke, our tomcat, came by.
Not the father of any kittens,
but surrogate to all our females.
After a birth
he knew what to do.
He would visit briefly,
sniff the mother, sniff the kittens,
walk off, apparently unconcerned,
and a day or two later
return with a mouse for mother.
That’s what father cats do,
even surrogates.

Only that day there was no birth,
no kittens,
and this time
he sniffed at you,
sniffed at the hole I had started digging,
and walked off
in complete puzzlement.
This time he did not know what to do.
If you're interested, you could try another, rather similar, one of mine -
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
My poems are my children, more or less.
I care about them, want them to go far,
would like the world to love them as they are.
Or would it help if I could maybe dress
them in fancy words, improve their accent? Yes,
though a judicious measure of sobriety
might give my work commendable variety.
Alas, they're disadvantaged from the start,
these single-parent children of my art,
and I can't blame their failings on Society.
The décima is a Spanish form of ten lines (hence the name).  See my Youth and Age for more details.
Paul Hansford May 2016
These were written by 8-year-old kids in a class I used to teach. They are simply syllable-counted  - 1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1 - and don't have the extra requirements of so-called "diamante" poems.  You will notice that the line breaks are all in natural places, and don't split phrases.

- - THE RACE - -
        we are
      on the line
    ready to run.
Starter lifts his gun
    high in the air -
    On your marks…
        Get set…

        the plug
      in the hole;
    turn on the tap.
Cold water in first,
   hot water next.
      It's ready.
     Now jump
Paul Hansford Apr 2016
But did you mean it?
did you? like that, I mean,
did you really mean it?
What you said was nothing,
really nothing at all,
unless you meant it.
It's just that ever since then
there is a hollow inside me.
You can fill it so easily.
Tell me you didn't mean to hurt,
but only if you mean it.
Paul Hansford Jun 2016
we may be neighbours
or separated by continents and oceans
close in age
or generations apart
brought up each in our own culture
speaking our own language
we have had different experiences
different lives
we are all individuals
each of us unique

but we are all human
we all breathe the same recycled oxygen
passing from one to another
across the face of the earth
we have known love and joy
loss and loneliness
hope and despair
turmoil and peace

we do not have different hearts
Paul Hansford Feb 2016
"Try not to think about it, then it will go away."
It's the only thing they can tell me - they've nothing else to say.
But how can I control my thoughts? I can't just stop myself thinking.
My mind's eyes forever fixed on it, never even blinking.
I wish I could forget it, I wish I didn't care,
But however hard I try to forget, the memory's always there.
He'd say, "I know you like it, it's only a bit of fun,"
As he did the frightful things to me that no-one should have done.
He treated me like his property, as if I was just a toy,
But I was only a weak young girl, and he was a big strong boy.
I never ever wanted it, and I couldn't stop the pain,
But was it my fault it happened? Could it ever happen again?
And now he never goes away, he's always in my head,
Invading my body again and again, until I wish I were dead.
I can't bear the thought of holding hands, and I'm terrified of a kiss.
I want to live a normal life. Will it always be like this?

But I do want to think about it, and talk it over with you,
And if I could tell you everything, I know what you would do.
You'd take my hand so softly, and tell me, "Don't be afraid,"
And you'd say I wasn't responsible for any mistakes I'd made.
Then I'd look into your eyes and see the affection that they hold,
For I know that you believe in me with a love as pure as gold.
The first section of this poem is adapted from the words of a number of girls subjected to ****** abuse by boys/men who  have been convinced by online ******* that they can do what they want to girls.  The second section is what I think such a girl might say to one who wants to save her from this.
Paul Hansford Nov 2016
(a brief love story)

The morning sun warmed the dew
from the opening rosebud;
a bee visited the fragrant heart of the rose;
the breeze tumbled a petal to the water,
drifted the pale petal across the surface of the water.
You surprised me gently.

I thought - hoped - the emotional baggage
was safely in the locker,
just for once,
just overnight,
but like a Houdini homing pigeon
it escaped,
it came back.
Like a smart missile locked in on thought patterns
it found the target,
penetrated the armour,
and suddenly
just after midnight
I knew how Cinderella felt,
her new world ****** back
through the vortex,
as the life we call real returned.
Suggested (not exactly inspired) by a visit to Cuba, where the local currency is the peso and the language is Spanish.  When I assocaiated "dos pesos" (two pesos) with "dos besos" (two kisses) the germ of the poem was set.
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
[I have written a few pieces  in French, or partly in French, but this is the only one to be based on a play on French words. Translation and explanation follows the poem.]

Je ne voudrais jamais
mais ...
si le verbe avait deux lettres de moins,
je ne pourrais en toute vérité
jurer le même.
Et puisque le second de ces cas
impliquerait fatalement le premier,
je me trouve dans une position
Autre exemple des ambitions,
qu'il vaut mieux
ne pas exprimer.


I would never want
to embarrass you,
but ....
if the verb (in French) lost a couple of letters (^)
I could not in all honesty
swear to the same.
And since the second of these cases
would unfailingly lead to the first, (^^)
I am placed in
an impossible position.
Another example of the ambitions,
dreams ...
that it is preferable
to leave unexpressed.


(^) i.e., if "embarrasser" (to embarrass) became "embrasser" (to kiss).
(^^) i.e.,  kissing would lead to embarrassment.

Embrasser,  curiously enough, doesn't mean "to embrace". And whilst "a kiss" is "un baiser", the verb "baiser" means somewhat more than "to kiss"!  Still, we all know that words are curious things.
Paul Hansford May 2016
Called out of a staff meeting, I was  told
my mother was on the point of death.
Searching in the regulations,
the secretary told me
how many days I was allowed
for the death, and
(separately) for the funeral,
each allowance dependent
on the degree of relationship – mothers
are in the first category.

Arriving home, without realising
how I had driven there,
feeling the need to be clean for her,
I showered, dressed appropriately,
and drove on.

A hundred and fifty miles of motorway,
somewhere a stop for tea.
Why did I look in the service station bookshop?
There was a life of Eliot.
I should read it one day.

She died before I arrived.
It was not unexpected.  She had lived a year
after the stroke, longer
than we, or she, had thought possible.
How cold her cheek was.
Death was not new to me –
I had known pets in plenty go
from age, accident, or lethal injection,
been with some as they died – but mothers
are in a different category.
Paul Hansford Jan 2017
You came too soon, the four of you,
into this world.  Your mother,
recognising the feeling,
did what she had to do
to give birth to you,
cleaned you,
disposed of the afterbirth
in nature's economical way.
But you had no experience,
no knowledge of how to be kittens.
Almost still foetuses,
furless, unmoving, cold,
you did not stimulate
her maternal instinct.
She did not recognise you
as her babies. Lying against her belly,
you did not know how to suckle,
and she, not ready to feed you,
walked off.
You had no future.

A bucket of water, I thought, would speed
your departure from the life
you had barely started.
But you, recognising the element
you had so lately left,
were at home in it,
swam untroubled under the surface
like tiny, pink sea creatures.

Unwilling to watch longer,
I gave you a quicker end.
Your mother, unlike me,
resumed her life
as if nothing had changed.
Paul Hansford May 2016
I set myself a challenge to base a poem on eight letters taken at random  - D-S-B-P-L-W-D-G.  My original idea was to use the letters as the initials of eight words that would form the start of a poem, to continue in any way at all.  I would be pleased if anyone would like to try my original idea, by writing the first eight words of a poem with those initials, and continue it in any way they please.

What I ended up doing was to write five sentences that I thought could each make a possible first line of a poem, but, having got that far, I realised that those five sentences could form a poem of their own.

If anyone feels like using those letters in their own way, I'd love to hear from them, either as a comment here or by private message.

*"Down some black places, look what dimly glows.
Diamonds sparkle bright, produce light where darkness grew.
Don't stop believing. Perhaps love will do good.
Day shall break peacefully, light will disperse gently.
Dreams spread beauty, perfect love when darkness goes."
Paul Hansford Oct 2018
Born on Boxing Day
she lived a hundred and one years
- all through the Great War
that failed to end all wars,
the social revolution of the twenties,
and the great depression,
before marrying at the age of twenty-five.
And even then she had to declare
her father’s occupation
on the marriage certificate
as if "father : ostler" defined her.
The marriage took place on Christmas Day
to save the expense of another family gathering.
She never went out to work after that,
no longer just her father’s daughter
but proud to be a wife and mother,
first in rented rooms with a shared outside privy,
then to a modern house “like a palace”
with a refrigerator
and a washing machine
and a garden
where her husband could grow things.
She always loved babies and children
and even at the last,
after years of advancing dementia,
with eyesight, hearing, mobility, and memory failing,
she would always come to life
in their company,
everything forgotten except how much she loved them.
We finally said goodbye, knowing
that although she had little to give
except love,
she gave it to the end.
My lovely mother-in-law.
Boxing Day is December 26, named for tradespeople who received a gift, usually cash, as a Christmas Box.
Paul Hansford Oct 2018
I’ve done it,
A new kind of verse,
All by counting syllables.
The lines all have odd numbers of them.
One, three, five, seven and nine,
Then back down to one.
Just like this,

Paul Verlaine,
Famous French poet,
Claimed there was more music in
Lines with odd numbers of syllables.
I can’t say if he was right.
Is there music in
This simple

Number three
In my collection
Of syllable-counted verse.
They are not really too difficult.
So now what shall I call them?
That is the question,
As Hamlet

Make it a Greek word.
Now what’s Greek for forty-one?
E n a k a i s a r a n d a s y l l a b i c s.
That is what I can call them.
Such an easy name,
Don’t you think?

I’ll tell you.
Why don’t you try it?
Not so easy now, is it?
Can’t you think of anything at all?
Are you ready to give up?
Can’t say I blame you.
That’s all now.
As far as I know, I really invented this form, and anyone who wants to try it is welcome to have a go. I'd be pleased if you'd comment here to tell me, or message me.
Btw, enakaisaranda is Greek for forty-one, and with it having six syllables just by itself, how could I resist it?
Paul Hansford Sep 2016
I have been aware of your presence close by me in a crowd
I have seen your smile
I have felt the soft touch of your hair on my cheek
        I have known what it is to be enchanted

I have felt the pressure of your hand replying to mine
I have felt your body melt when I surrounded you with my arms
I have felt your lips brush against mine like leaves in the wind
        I have known wishes come true

I have heard your voice tell what your words could not say
I have tasted the longing in your heart
I have seen the tears behind your eyes
        I have known tenderness I have not had to earn.
Paul Hansford Apr 2018
Once we were friendly.
Then we were more than friends.
Now there is nothing.
Must this be how it ends?
Paul Hansford Nov 2017
(a minute poem)

October turned the leaves to gold
but now the cold
November wind
rustles their thinned
and tattered remnants on the trees.
No kindly breeze,
this bitter blast
will tear the last
few faded leaves from oak tree's crown
and cast them down
onto the earth
for spring's rebirth.
Not a minute (very small) poem, it has sixty syllables, like the seconds in a minute, arranged 8-4-4-4-8-4-4-4-8-4-4-4, in rhyming couplets.
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
I gave you violets;
you gave me your smile.

I gave you elderflower wine;
you gave me wild strawberries.

I gave you a small brown bird
that hid in the white shadows;
you gave me the nightingale
singing to the summer midnight.

you gave me almost-tears
and rainbows;
I gave you my poems.
Paul Hansford Oct 2020
There are journeys from which for all practical purposes
it is not possible to arrive anywhere
except perhaps, after considerable stress,
the place where you started from.
The value of such journeys is not related
to their length, nor even to their difficulty,
though they can be very long and extraordinarily difficult.
It lies rather in the fact of having set out
in the hopeless hope of discovering
but most of all in what we find on the way,
even if it is on the way to nowhere.
Paul Hansford May 2016
The love of a mother for her child
is not the same as the child's love for his mother.
The love of a man for a woman changes
after they are married
from what it was before,
and her love does not correspond in all points with his.
Love between man and woman
is different from the love of boy and girl.

Love can be permanent as the tides, regular, unquestioned,
with no end and no recognisable beginning.
It can come suddenly,
as a thunderstorm in summer breaks
upon the thirsty earth,
except in the memory.

But under any one of these emotions
what is there for us to say?
Only, I love you.

Thoughts can be subdivided, classified, clothed with words.
Words fit feelings only approximately,
and our deepest feelings must often go unclothed.
So when I say I love you
I cannot analyse what I mean.
I only know that I do love you
and hope you understand.
Paul Hansford Jan 2016
there is a distance
between us
more than distance


not a wall
not impenetrable
a fence

a security fence
easy enough for our words
our thoughts
to pass through  
easy enough to breach
from time to time  
to allow access
to our innermost feelings

but so easy
to reinforce

too easy
when things get tough
when doubts arise

when protection
seems more important
than communication
Paul Hansford Feb 2018
according to the theory,
is not something that just happens,
it's an active process.

Well, that's the theory,
but we all know, we don't always mean to forget.
Sometimes there are more important things,
or more interesting,
for us to remember.
And sometimes our brain does the forgetting for us,
without our wishing it.

The old lady wondered
why the car we were in was so big.
"It's a hearse.
We're going
to the funeral,
do you remember?"
"Whose funeral is it?"
"We're going to bury Dad,
your husband."
"My husband?
I was married?
Was he a good man?"

She had not chosen to forget
the life they had spent together.
Her brain had simply switched off those years
as if they had never happened.

Lucky in a way.
What would her life have been
if she had remembered
those seventy-three years
and had nothing to replace them?
Worse still, if she had had to start remembering
all over again?
Thanks to commenters who have seen the point of this one. We had always thought she would be desolated if he went first, and even though she had forgotten who we were, at least she recognised us as friends.
Paul Hansford Sep 2016
Green glass
but it's French
which makes it
verre vert.
The French should like that.
They appreciate
their jeux de mots.

Not a statue
of a man
but it could be.
Not a piece of art at all
I have made it so
by saying it is one.

Its qualities
are visual
and tactile at once
the material heavy
(over a kilo)
not so much transparent
as translucent
the colour
from under the sea
the surface curved
the shape functional
admirably suited for its purpose
its name
embossed on the back
(or the front?)
giving a clue.

redundant insulator
from an overhead power cable
found object
(objet trouvé)
from the garden
of friends
in the Alpes-Maritimes.

This souvenir
potential paperweight
is more than all of these.

Souvenir after all
is French for memory.
This doesn't give the full impression without a photograph.  Luckily, that is available at < >
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                              But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
                        Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
The Four Quartets are long poems that were written separately and only made into a collection later.  This is the beginning of the first one.  It was written after a visit to an old house not so far from where I live, and it conjures up for me a lasting image of the place.  It was used for a school, and Eliot imagines the children in the swimming pool in the garden.
Paul Hansford Feb 2018
Into a dull day
you came all unexpected.
My afternoon shone.

Look into my eyes,
see my whole world reflected,
you at the centre.

In your eyes are tears
but your smile overcomes them.
Where is the rainbow?

There was so much more
that we could have said and done,
but we said goodbye.
Some will read these as authentic haiku, because of the 5/7/5 syllable count. Others will have noticed, since they are not related to nature or seasons, that they are not really haiku at all, but senryu.
Paul Hansford Jul 2016
I saw you
all the time
and I wasn't even looking for you.
It was a good day.

I was looking for you
all the time
but I didn't see you,
not even once.
Life can be so cruel.


je te voyais
tout le temps
sans même t'avoir cherchée.
C'était un beau jour.

je t'ai cherchée
tout le temps
mais je ne t'ai pas vue
une seule fois.
La vie peut être si cruelle.
Paul Hansford Apr 2016
Shall these trees stand forever?
And the fields,
brown, green, gold, according to the season,
shall they remain?

But the hills,
the hills, they shall be there.
No, not even those.

What then shall be left of them?
Only the fact of their having been.
And when you are gone
and I am no longer here,
we too shall have been,
and nothing can be quite the same again.
The title is not intended to imply that times to come will be particularly good; it's just the tense in the penultimate line. I later saw that "we too" could be read as "we two", though such was not my intention - at least, not consciously.
Paul Hansford Oct 2020
Shall these trees stand forever?
and the fields,
brown, green, gold, according to the season,
shall they remain?

But the hills,
the hills,
they shall be there.
No not even those.
What then shall stay?
Their having been is what shall be left.

And when you are gone,
and I am no longer here,
we too shall have been,
and nothing can be quite the same again.
The title does not mean that the future will be perfect - it's about a future where what we know now will not exist.  It was a long time before I realised "we too shall have been" could sound like "we two shall have been," but that was not what I intended, and it would suggest a different story.
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