Posted on 29th October, 2016




Arctic Tern - Tom Langlands



A Swallow Tale


I touched the heart of a swallow once

And it came back to touch my heart too.


One summer’s morning, windows open wide, early sunrise

Sleeping past dawn into brilliant day

Chattering swallows on the window ledge

Greeting the dawn, the warmth touching their shining beauty.


My consciousness, slow, heavy, but awakening, said

“That’s not coming from the window ledge”

“It’s in the room” all senses instantly alert

Not a muscle moved to scare them.


Gradually the chattering focussed in my awakened brain

“Its at my feet, not on my feet, but near”

“On the old blanket chest maybe” 

Infinitesimally slowly I lifted my head.


One eye now seeing past my shoulder

Three heads, red brown throats rippling with chatter

Beaks nodding knowingly

“This is a great place to build a nest”

“And the locals are friendly.”


In that sacred moment of beautiful awareness

I knew the privilege of their blessing

My heart swelled and warmed and welcomed them in silent wonder.

Then Diana awoke, threw back the bedclothes

“What’s this damned racket, its 5am for God’s sake”


Panicked, shocked, wings beating the air, they dived for the open window

But the top was closed, they’d forgotten the way in

Beaks, claws, and wings beating the glass in frantic fear

Quickly I rose and moved gently towards them

A hand of peace outstretched, heart open.


One dropped to the sill, and found the open window

The second followed, but the third was stuck in its corner in terror

Gently I slipped a finger under its feet, until it clasped me

Then so slowly I lifted it clear of its trap.


Dropping my arm millimetres at a time, scarce believing, 

But it stayed there, holding my finger, trusting, fear subsiding

I reached out to the window ledge and put it there

It looked at me, with a “thank you” I could feel spoken to every cell of my being

Then it turned and glided gracefully away.



In those days swallows came back each year for my birthday

The next year, coming home from work

There on the roof’s edge above that upper bedroom window were swallows, chattering

They saw me, two flew off, but one launched itself straight at me

Coasting on open wings, in a long slow glide, 


I greeting its welcome return, my heart wide, my eyes in wonder

As it literally brushed my head with the softness of its chest

A caress, across the boundaries of the species, bird to human

“I see you” it said, pleased to be back

And we both knew the other, and my heart sang.


Edmund Wigram




The Battle


A hush fell over the land as the two warriors came face to face. Would it end with one of them sacrificing his life? Only time would tell.

Around them, the onlookers watched. They had seen it all before, and knew that they would be bound by the winner. They had no say in their future.

In the silence of the gloaming, the dissonance as two sets of weapons collided echoed across the valley. The two were well matched in weight and age, and the reward was too great for either of them to want to surrender.

Again, the weapons clashed, this time one managing to hit flesh, and blood spurted from a shoulder wound. The injured one roared loudly, before locking weapons and pushing forcefully, gaining precious inches.

They stood apart briefly, gulping in deep lungsful of air. There was no signal, yet the two moved forward simultaneously. This time, the injured one gained the advantage, pushing his opponent backwards inch by painful inch. Then, with a deft movement, thrust his weapon and scored a deep gash just above the eye.

Blood dripped from both combatants, yet till they fought. The only sounds came from the two that battled. It was as if nothing else existed at all, so focussed were the two, so intent on wiping out each other.

Finally, one was able to make one piercing lunge, his weapon stabbing the other so deep that the other had to admit defeat. Without a backward look, he limped off into the darkness, bawling in pain and humiliation.

The victor roared in triumph, roared loudly and the onlookers meekly followed.

The red stag was king of the valley once more.


Angela Haigh





Rain over the Lowther Hills - Hazel Lowther



Rain Over the Lowther Hills 


This is not the gentle facial of an Irish mist.

This is hard-core exfoliation.

Horizontal ice-clad, high-speed projectiles

needling cheeks, trickling into the smallest crevice.


Ebbing warmth, chilled to the marrow,

pushing our way aslant against the onslaught

to pass the cloud-shrouded, hill-top graveyard

of the district’s excommunicated suicides.


Crossing ancient turf-built boundaries

where miners, soaked to the skin in their skins,

had scrabbled and burrowed for gold

for a remote Crown of Scotland. 


Today these hills are walked for pleasure,

not for us the night’s bitter hillside.

Our day ends bedded down in down bags,

lulled by lullabies of a gentler rain falling on canvas.



Hazel Lowther



Key prompt


Locked in. 


'The only good thing about marriage is becoming a widow,' she said. 'I’ve seen it happen, women who become themselves once they're alone'. I thought she was talking to herself, her eyes were closed. 

I put her beaker of juice within reach, was about to remove the untasted bowl of soup from supper time when she caught at my hand; bony fingers, still strong enough to hurt, scratched at the indentation on my ring finger. 'Hidden it away so it don't pain you to see it?' I froze, felt the throb of blood in my jugular, my stomach lurched. I kept still as she let go. She sucked air, seemed to shrink from the effort. Her skin, waxy grey, clung about her cheekbones and jaw. Ugly with bitterness, I thought as I watched the shallow rise and fall of her chest. 

'You got a new man yet nurse, ?' 

I started . 'No,' I said; I plumped her pillows and straightened the sheet across her chest. 'No! No, I can't do that! It’s too soon, I’m not ready.'

Her eyelids peeled back; harebell iris, watery, bloodshot but lizard sharp, pierced mine. 'You say it like a spell, like a prayer, like a mantra, like a trap.' Her eyelids closed, she sighed, her breath fluttered. 'You trapped in resentment?' she asked, 'downtrodden by fear still?' It sounded more a statement than a question and I felt a surge of anger, as much at myself for opening up to her as at her astute accusation. 

'You're tired. Time you settled. Press the buzzer if you need anything.' I was at the door when she spoke. 'Look where bitterness got me – locked in, wasted life, wasted body, lonely. You turn the key, girl.'


Steph Newham.





Bee - Hazel Lowther



Rezzzurection / Bee Lines / Bee-CPR 


Frantic, high-pitched buzzing and the familiar pop, pop, pop against glass, had me rushing to the rescue, kitchen paper and plastic cup in hand, but too late. He lay on the windowsill, sad and lifeless, soft, yellow stripes glistening in the sun, shiny-veined wings neatly folded.


This was, according to my book, Bombus Hortorum, the Garden Bumble Bee, one of 27 native species. About to dispose of the poor creature before the dog did, suddenly, there it was - the tiniest flicker of antennae. 


It was alive, but only just!


I rummaged feverishly through a cupboard for some honey and dissolved a little in the same quantity of water on a teaspoon. Placing it carefully beside the ailing bee, I held my breath and watched anxiously. Very slowly a long, hairy tongue found the puddle of sweet liquid and he began to drink for what seemed like ages. 


Eventually, after crawling dozily in circles, the furry little body was airborne, lurching clumsily up and away to buzz another day.


Information taken from "A Sting in the Tale" by Dave Goulson


NB: Buzzing is caused, not by the wings, which beat 200 times per second, but by the vibration of powerful chest muscles which twang like a plucked rubber band


NB: Plants like tomatoes need to be "buzz pollinated "



Leslie McCulloch




Wood Anemone - Leonie Ewing






Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (0)