Poetry on Sky & Solstice

Our theme for submissions in June relates to the heavens — the sky we can see every day, and solstices which are turning points on how long we see a bright sky, and how long we see a dark one.

Click here for details of how to submit, free of charge, to this feature.

Thank you to all who have submitted, whether published or not. Further submissions will be accepted until 11.59 pm on June 30.

Poems published in this feature are by:  Christine Griffin, Helen Openshaw, Laurence Morris, Ted Gooda, Wendy Webb.

Wendy Webb wrote her first poem, aged 11. A prolific poet, she’s learnt many rules of traditional forms, free verse. She’s devised her own forms, including the Davidian and Magi. Recently in: Littoral Magazine, Meek Colin, Lothlorien, Crystal, Quantum Leap and Reach Poetry.

Solstice like yesterday

I remember that day so well, like it was yesterday,
the day forever after when the Beatles’ song moved me
to nostalgic tears; unsuitable at my age.
Sky so dark; the night I laboured into the shortest day.
Night felt like the longest, to deliver a firstborn.
Proud mum. Blue-eyed, blond-haired boy.

Mystique deep-breathes the blood-shot moon
in – you know – THAT month. I could make this happy,
but you wouldn’t believe me. How could you, unless…

Simply, I will say, he was beautiful.
Self: beaming for England, husband drove home
that day. The summer solstice, the longest day
Except, for me, the longest night and the shortest day.
Learning to change first nappy, breastfeed successfully;
sleep eventually; full of hope, the future.

I could say there were 19 happy years that followed;
we traversed Stonehenge regularly (or the M5/M4).
Would you believe me? How could you, Except, if you…
They were happy years. Hellish as life itself.
We learnt – everything.
 (Oh, there are special mums out there; they say, no way…).
For us, he was our whole world.

Each sunrise/sunset, like the Mona Lisa:
perfect, impossible to explain, argue over
and yet; beautified on moonshine,
starbright, sunless days. Contemplate your own.
They were enough.

No ‘Tyger, Tyger’ was as wild: diagnosed autistic, aged 4 ¾.
Icarus-bright with symmetry and fall (aged 19).
Lying by sea sand. Beneath poppies. Beyond hotels (like houses).

Yes, it was the shortest day; the longest night. No sky.
Like, Yesterday.

Laurence Morris works in academic libraries and is a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Geographical Society. His poems consider shifting relations between people and place, and have been published in Confluence, Snakeskin, Shot Glass Journal, Spelt, and elsewhere.
Twitter: @ld_morris

A picture of winter

If winter is any particular place and time
it is a North Sea salt-marsh in the gloaming
as pines starken against the horizon
and detail recedes from foreground clay,
day reduced to a dilution of the night.

Movement is for form not purpose now
a windmill’s creak through a pewter sky
the sea oozing for grounded skiffs
where snow dissolves on salted timber.
Yet infusions of life remain in the water
as crumbling dykes and virgin tidal runs
sketch the latest pool and mudflat leylines
and shifting reeds exhale suggestions
of the safest passage through the mire
should some lost soul wish to persevere.

There is no space spare for colour here
not in the sky, the sea or a love run through
not when all is drenched in solstice monochrome
and the sense that nothing matters anyway
although, as a redshank cry breaks loose
the seascape moves like a delta channel
and rhyme and reason reshape again
vital music sounding out along the shoreline
with the promise of a second chance.


(after Kathleen Jamie)

There will be a night train
away from sullen fields,
again to mountain snow.

Granite will rise in shadow
from the burn to the skyline
where a mad hare chases

and icicles fall like stalactites
from petrified bog-wood
as I thread a path in heather

until safe within the pines
whose memory sheltered
even the longest winter.

Only then will I turn back
to consider the horizon
and all which lies beyond.

Parting the veil

The hills are a camera obscura,
parting Schopenhauer’s veil
to reveal life as a rippling horizon
with a whisper of communion,
no such thing as time and space,
just here and now, you and me
and all else in true connection.

I used to look for understanding
in history not mountains,
but of history and mountains
it is the lonely details which remain,
and while I do not know
each pathway through the vale,
the time might come to dream them.

* Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) suggested, among other things, that the world is comprised of illusions.

Ted Gooda’s poetry has most recently been published by Sentinel Quarterly, Infinity Books UK and Writers Bureau. Sussex-based, she is the ghost-writer of a series of memoirs about foster carer Louise Allen (Trinity Mirror/ Welbeck Publishing). Eden’s Story reached the Sunday Times Top Ten bestsellers in February 2021.

Long sky
               the gauze    thinned                    
so briefly between two worlds 
and we felt liminal:                      caught out
in the spinning tilt  of the globe     that winter
when                       planets                        aligned
for the great conjunction   at an unequal equinox
but found no universal fix for the longest darkest
epoch we have known          still summer brings
cataplasm of possibility in its solstice poultice
  of           long sky             spread    taut
over      the        smarting           skin 
of  swollen    earth

Send in the clouds

I want blue sky,
unending blue,
cloudless air blue,
midsummer blue,
lush green canopy of oaktree blue,
dazzling blue of yellow sunflowers,
sweet, smooth blue of vanilla ice cream,
red-chequered picnic-cloth blue,
golden blue of beer-garden pint,
graceful, swooping kite-tail blue,
rich sand-between-the-toes blue.
But I know
I need the clouds
to pearl the summer,
ripen the green,
true the blue.

The daisy and the bellbind

The grass could do with mowing.
Daisies cluster with their sisters.
White bellbind trumpets triumph
in twining blasts along the wall.

Purple florets unfurl white
soonest in sunny hours,
easing each new day’s eye. Bolder
rhythms embroider fresh chains of time.

And daisies smile of old time:
smooth faces tilted skywards
lying in fields, making loose
chains; mouthing multi-futures.

Do new fortunes still exist
when, mid-June, time slips its shackles?
I leave the grass. Instead, to curb
those trumpet bells heralding

days’ ends, I cut their clockwise
strangling bindweed stems.

Christine Griffin loves all forms of writing, particularly poetry and short stories. She is widely published both locally and nationally. She has performed her work at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Odin Speaks

We heard rumours of course –
talk of a baby, angels,
signs in the heavens.
Why should a baby from a desert land
come here to save all men?
Babies perish in this kingdom of ice and fire.

Rumours only – no threat to us.

Their chroniclers would do well to fear my fighters
on our wild hunt through dark northern skies.
Bred for war, we have no time for sentiment.
For have my warriors not dragged fear
through the winter heavens,
as the sun cowered, waiting for our call?

They say their skies were filled
with singing spirits at this baby’s birth,
chanting of peace.
What use have I for peace?
Only the strong will survive through time,
not a baby, some farm animals,
a couple down on their luck.

Yet some among us whisper of new ways —
love not war, peace to all men.
They say this baby is the son of man,
a Saviour.

Well let me tell you this.
There is only one sun rising.
I and my night- warriors call it into birth
in deep midwinter.
None other has that power.

As I say, no threat to us.

In Norse mythology, the God Odin is associated with war, death and victory.

Helen Openshaw is a Drama and English teacher, from Cumbria. She enjoys writing poetry and plays and inspiring her students to write. Her work is in Words in Green Ink Poetry magazine, Words and Whispers magazine, The Madrigal, Fragmented Voices, Forge Zine, Roi Faineant Press and The Dirigible Balloon magazine.

Standing in twilight

I question the moon,
a discarded Cupid’s bow,
whilst twilight sings,
playing out the pulled pieces of the day.
The sky,
a stoked red fire,
drifting woodsmoke,
a signature of your grief.


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