Walls: A Nursery Rhyme




They built a wall to fortify

The Roman from the Scot.

Its crumbled ruins signify

That times have changed a lot.


In China they once built a wall

To keep the nomads back:

Now tourists from around the world

Can saunter down that track.


The state of Israel built a gate

That many have decried,

To keep another people’s fate

Across a false divide.


We build walls out of fear and dread,

To block things out, and hide,

And in so doing wall ourselves

From all the sun outside.


Build walls to keep out criminals,

Build walls to oust the poor.

Place cameras in the living room,

Barbed wire across your floor:


Enjoy this box, its cozy view

Of wall, and wall, and wall,

For one day soon, they’ll bury you

In the safest box of all.




Verbal Hieroglyphs





Those ancient wide-eyed, sideways-walking men

Who talked in rows and columns – set their glyphs,

Placed whichever way best pleased the Eye –

Learning of their frescoed history,

We children wondered at their dusty ways.

Their childish pictograms appealed to us.

But is it so very pagan, or savage?

That people who sang in birds and feathers,

Who argued with jackals and knives, and

Codified a law in ankhs and balances:

If not their actions, perhaps at least

Their pictures speak to us louder than words,

From those sideways-seeming, image-spoken Gods.

Three Further Colours: Pale


Further poems after Three Colours: Synaesthesia, for which check out this link: https://jrhgreenwood.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/three-colours-synaesthesia/ 


iv. Lilac




Like a barely-opened bud, so tight

It almost fades from life, you wear

Around your eyes the last trace of him



v.  White




What’s black and white, and red all over?

A joke about walking into a pub, and leaving

With half a rotten, broken tooth in your palm



vi. Porcelain




Even when still, water echoes off tiles:

Clean and cool, all smooth, her ripples gone.

Your sunken child, as cold as porcelain.





A Taste of Honey




A scent whose summer tastes like honey

Drifts from subtle, passing shade.

Where works of leaves and blooms are done:

He lifts me, in their chance cascade


To where the branches bend and follow,

Bowing to the solemn air

In which the blossoms dance and fall:

Allow me, to return to there.

“Empowerment” – Lincoln 2017



A photograph of my own amateurish hand. It’s the reflection in this little picture, more than anything else, which catches the eye. 


Our distance breaks no hold

Between us, dear one.


Like shadows sifting down

Under the alder,


Yours reaches mine. Each hand

Is deathless, darling:


Reflections reaching out

Over the water.





The second photograph is in the public domain, and with good reason, for it is much clearer.

Stephen Broadbent’s sculpture, Empowerment, stretches incompletely over the River Witham in my home city, Lincoln. I pass it every day on my way to work, as the sun rises on us all. Each morning, I leave my husband at home and travel in. And each morning I see the sculpture, and am reminded of a small, retiring city where I found so much: my first real job; wonderful friends, artists, musicians, poets, people who have changed my life; and my own soulmate, my husband; all reaching out for me. 




Three Colours: Synaesthesia


i. Green

cut grass.jpg


Grass-cropped, cut for the air,

Clean and stained like rough trouser knees,

Green as bottles. A cut summer smell.




ii. Grey


pipe smoke.jpg


One pinch of salt for the pipe, a curl

At once gone: but the lingering fingerprint

Of granddad’s pipe, one grainy whorl of ash.




iii. Purple


purple roses.jpg


The sheets smelt of us: crushed roses.

You held me, dappled, long morning sun:

A pattern for warm sheets, now unvisited.



Wordless Gods


petra sacrificial altar.jpg

Sacrificial altar in Petra, Jordan. Although used for animal sacrifices, there is some evidence of human sacrifice at that site as well. 



For a man with neither Hell nor God,

You fear them, so.


I imagine, in the midst of all this,

Hauling the carcass to a battered stone:

The first sacrifice to a God, unnamed

And therefore beyond invocation.

Pleading for direction – whether right or wrong –

Seeking the word, to call it, choke it out

As barren and naked then as any man,

As barren as the sands. And I feel,

I know, that all our Sunday prayers

Are the same indictment of the self, the same

Confession, in any word or tongue,

To an unnamed sun in that lost wasteland.


So you stand in the sands, dagger in hand

Desperate for blood to bring rains:

You have no name, for the merciless sun.


And you, a man with neither Hell nor God

To name, still fear them, so.



I know many atheists or agnostics who have a tremendous fear inside them when confronted with eternity. It’s unsurprising, given the enormity and complexity of the universe, and the absolute uncertainty of its destination. You need no God to be awed by this. They very eloquently explain their fascination with the mysteries of a purely material existence. Even so, we don’t truly have words to describe it. 

But it does make me wonder, whether in pre-historic cultures – or even before “culture” itself – there was ever a God to be invoked. Was there ever a Name, or a Word; to whom did they first call for salvation; who told them, there was a God?