Wednesday 14 December 2016

Empire of the Sun

Crawling out from beneath the covers of a sick bed I reached for a book. Any book.
Someone had discarded a copy of Empire of the Sun,J G Ballard's winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize 1984.

A serious undertaking but I didn't have the  energy to go rummaging for anything else.

According to the author the book draws on his experiences in Shanghai, China during the Second World War, and in the Lunghua C,A,C, (Civilian Assembly centre) where he was interned from 1942-1945

This is no light read but I did try to skim read the early chapters, ignoring detail, until somewhere along the skim..... I fell into the text.

As well as his passion for aircraft, the main protagonist Jamie Graham is curious about just about everything.  And placed in an extreme situation, where the safe, structured world he known is falling apart, survival depends upon exactly that- attention to detail.

The fear and emotion in such a crisis would cripple most people, certainly it would floor me, but Jamie manages to transcend his fear and focus on the minutiae of his new existence. Restless, eccentric, considered unhinged by both fellow prisoners and guards, the boy's vigilance, resilience and adaptability are inspirational.

My recent discomforts were certainly booted down to the end of the misery-chain by this big read.

A challenging read
An informative read
And a reminder of the importance of curiosity.

Wednesday 7 December 2016


Attended launch of Baubles-short story collection in Camden. Hearing the stories read aloud was great. You can follow the Bridgehouse blog at and sample the stories from now to Christmas.

It had been over 40 years since I was in London. Visited the Globe on arrival, a lively tour delivered by entertaining actors. Walked along the Embankment and saw London Bridge in the distance, the Shard and London Eye.
A quick visit to the National Gallery, and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Walked through Harrod's accessory department... depressingly expensive!
Oxford Street lit up for Christmas, windows animated with puppets and seasonal characters.
221b Baker Street- a Must -See for me.Adore Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock! Was hoping for a sighting of the great detective.Bought a deerstalker hat of course.
The Wallace Collection tucked away behind Oxford St and a great location for tasty lunch served in a beautiful court yard.
Stayed at Leonard's Hotel close to Marble arch, secluded and peaceful haven.
My partner dipped his hand in the lake water at the Lido and, though a seasoned Forty Foot all- year- round swimmer, he marvelled at the cold water of the Serpentine lake at Hyde Park.
Imbibed English cider at The Duck and The dog.
No evening shows for us.....but very sore feet.
Missed loads of tourist attractions.
Too much to see in the Great Metropolis.
Need to re-visit and maybe catch sighting of that elusive deerstalker ......

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Letting Go

The older I get
the more I know
what I don't know

And when I've said
that doesn't help

And done
I can do

And finally

of saying
or doing

Then I know
I'm getting

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Thursday 24 November 2016

The Best Medicine

The Best Medicine by Christine Hamill is a courageous book that addresses the difficult subject of the effects of a mother’s illness on her teenage boy.

Hard to imagine, but the tone of this romp is hilarious

Philip Wright’s school escapades, his infatuation with school mate, the Goddess Lucy, his confrontations with school bully, the Yeti, his broken specs and hapless adventures will endear him to you.

You will be strongly rooting for him and his Mum as they engage with the Big C.

Proverbial as the saying goes…….It will make you laugh and it will make you cry.

The writer is also the author of B is for Breast Cancer … and she has drawn on her own personal life story to create these memorable characters.

A powerful read and an empowering one- for adults and teens.

Monday 21 November 2016

Ask a Florist

Ask a Florist
about true love

All the red roses returned
every Valentine's

All the Aislings

All the posies binned
or the single stems pinned

On lapels
'til they wither

Ask a florist
about the unsteadiness of the human heart

Its blossom as fickle
as a freshly cut bouquet

How ardour
gift wrapped

So quickly becomes
an order cancelled

Ask a florist
about true love

Friday 18 November 2016


Have had the good fortune to have a short story published in an anthology entitled Baubles.

Book launch will take place in London on December 3rd.
Baubles was the theme given to writers and the 24 selected stories all reflect that theme, but in a very diverse way.
The book is published by Bridge House Publishing- see links.Keep your eye on this site for further publications and competitions.
Have had a sneak preview of the other stories and there's something for everyone.
Available in paperback - A nice Christmas collection.
Kindle version also available.

Thursday 17 November 2016


Letting Go

Without ceremony I binned your letters
Shredded and tossed in an Ikea office bin
Transferred to a Panda Grey
Not to be recycled
Never to be re-read
I watched them dragged and hoisted onto a conveyor belt
Pierced by gigantic Panda teeth
Imagined them flung in a land fill or incinerated
Leaving behind the smell of a Sweet Afton
The taste of a Blue Nun
And memories as seemingly random

as the toss of a dice.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Curtains -The Ginger Tom Cat

Extract from my cat story. Adventures of a Ginger. Will keep you posted on this development.
Meanwhile a friend's website to browse for doggy treats


As Curtains Doyle rounded the corner of the sitting room on route to his favourite sunspot he encountered an unusual obstacle. His ginger snout came nose to nose with something white, soft and furry with pixie ears and blue eyes and a face not unlike his own, but much smaller.
   The ginger cat drew back in distaste. A kitten! What was this white kitten, with a splash of black and brown streaks and patches on its face and tail, doing in his hallway? 

Behind it, on all fours, was his owner Eimear, cooing and sighing into the kitten’s ears. Curtains made a dash at the ball of white fluff and emitted a cry that sent the kitten catapulting through the air. Then the triumphant Ginger retreated into the kitchen to consider this latest addition to the Doyle household.
   According to Eimear, Curtains emitted a series of sharp hisses before he leapt onto the kitchen stool and positioned himself in such a way that he had a bird’s eye view of all comings and goings into the kitchen.
   After a few minutes Eimear minus kitty appeared around the door frame. She approached the Ginger tomcat cautiously but was stopped in her tracks by an unmistakable hiss, bared teeth and a show of sharp claws. Undaunted by this display of discontent the nine year old crept nearer.
“Curtains. It’s you I love!” 

This flattery, however, made no impression on the outraged Ginger Tom. He repeated his earlier performance and Eimear was forced to withdraw. So was her brother Eoin but, in his case, the antics of his regular play mate reduced him to tears.
“I’m afraid of Curtains!” he bawled. “He doesn’t like me anymore. It’s that kitten’s fault. Why did we have to get a kitten anyway?”
   “Mum’s idea of company for Curtains. That kitten will have to go!” declared his big sister.
  “Give him time. He might come around to the idea,” said Mum after listening to their account of the meeting between the two cats.

  Meanwhile Curtains was giving out his usual recognisable signals that he wanted out, scratching at the window, meowing loudly.
  “Why doesn’t that cat use the cat –flap? He just loves to have us all running after him,” said Mum. 
Curtains flicked his tail high, ignored these outrageous allegations and refused to descend from his perch on the windowsill. When Mum finally opened the window the Ginger Tom leapt with relief onto the driveway and headed for the road.
“What if he doesn’t come back?” wailed Eoin, watching the cat walk purposefully towards the open gate.
   “It’s chicken in a puddle for dinner,” shouted Eimear after the disappearing tomcat. “He’ll be back! You know how he loves chicken.”
   Curtains already knew what was for dinner. He’d been sniffing the delicious aroma of chicken soaked in garlic and cream for hours now. This timely reminder took the strut out of his swagger and caused him to waiver in his determination to take a long stroll that might hopefully be interpreted as a sulk. He sat stock still in the driveway to reconsider his position.
Perhaps the kitten hadn’t come to stay. Perhaps it was gone already. He looked wistfully towards the dining room where Eimear was setting the table for dinner. He wouldn’t leave home just yet. Not until after dinner anyway.

   Curtains was so intent on his thoughts that he didn’t see Togs Toner, the neighbour’s King Charles spaniel, sneaking up on him. Togs was about to pounce on the unsuspecting Ginger when the dog found himself mounted by a fully clawed white ball of rage; the kitten scratching furiously at his back and biting into his neck. Before Togs could dislodge his attacker from behind he felt himself confronted by a huge ginger paw which gave him a clout in the face. The spaniel let out a high pitched wail and scampered quickly under the fence and back to his kennel followed by a flash of ginger.

   “Good work, Junior!” declared Curtains on returning to his side of the fence. But the white ball of fluff lay inert on the driveway. Curtains nudged the kitten with his snout.
   “This won’t do, Junior. No pretending now!”

   But the kitten wasn’t pretending. He was lying face down in the gravel path. Curtains sank his teeth carefully into the loose flesh around the kitten’s neck and lifted it gently. Then he headed straight for the cat flap which Junior had so recently discovered and that he himself only used in emergencies.

   “Curtains has killed the kitten!” wailed Eoin on seeing the cats emerge through the flap. “Bad cat! I hate Curtains!”
    “How did that kitten get outside?” demanded Mum who was staring down at the lifeless creature that Curtains dropped at her feet, just as he would do with a dead bird or mouse.
   “He ran away!” shouted Eimear from the hallway. “I saw the whole thing from the window. The kitten saved Curtains from Togs Toner, but it got injured in the fight. Curtains didn’t touch it.”
   “The kitten saved Curtains?” Eoin was wide eyed as he considered this revelation.
   “Look! The kitten’s beginning to move! It’s not dead,” said Mum.

   And sure enough the small creature was beginning to stir. A few moments later, when kitty opened its eyes it saw itself enveloped in a warm ginger furry paw. A rough tongue was licking its head and ears. It made a shaky attempt to stand up, and when the kitten collapsed a ginger snout gently raised it up again.

   “I think Curtains has got used to the new kitten already, “declared Eimear.
   “Can we keep it now?” asked Eoin.
   “What will we call him?”
   “Ronaldinho?” suggested Eoin.
   “That’s not fair! No footballers’ names!” wailed his sister.
    “What about Junior?” said Mum.
    Both cats perked up their ears when they heard this suggestion.
   “I think the kitten likes that name,” said Eoin.
   “I think they both do,” said Eimear.
   “And with a name like that our Curtains can’t complain, now can he?” said Mum.

  Certainly not, thought the Ginger Tom, wallowing in his new position as Topcat.  

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016 

Tuesday 8 November 2016

To a Winter Sun

Read an article by Conor Pope about extinct and near extinct technologies and realise that I still use a few of them..but then he did include cameras, books, CDs,video tapes, cassette tapes...

I still like my camera and here's a winter poem about just that ...sort of and Sunrise

To the Winter Sun

Rising at dawn to catch a glimpse
I swivel lens and mince words, meaningless,
to myself. And when the reel is done
you come, catching me speechless.

Sunblaze across a winter scape
reaching me dazed in a doorstep
Come, lover, come.
Though the reel is done

Meet me and melt me
as the frozen earth is spun
Over and over to meet the sun.
Come, lover, come

Friday 4 November 2016

A Whole Life

I am not much into translations.
And books that excel in long descriptive passages don’t do it for me either.
 A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler is a translation from German, the author’s fifth novel and full of evocative prose….

So what kept me turning the pages??

A friend says, “It’s a wise book…”

I’d say he could be right.

There is something about it that brings you to a deeper place within yourself than the daily grind allows. It’s contemplative, meditative in tone and feeling: it calms you down.

 From the word go  Andreas Egger has the odds stacked apparently against him. An orphan, beaten at the age of 8 by his adoptive father, Andreas ends up with a permanent limp. He has no great notions about himself and no great aspirations.

Born in 1902 he witnesses the arrival of electrification, cables cars, modernity, war followed by depression and then the new industry of tourism: the evolution of a way of life in the Austrian Alps from traditional to modern.

Moments of joy alternate with longer periods of grief and he spends years in sorrow, though not self indulgence, following the death of his wife and unborn child until one day he raises his eyes and notices again the beauty of the mountain: "He saw the mountains grow out of the night with the first rays of the sun,and although it was a spectacle he had watched a thousand times before, this time he found himself strangely moved by it"

His intimate love for, and knowledge of, his place, and his strong work ethic save him from a deep melancholy that might have enveloped him.

This novel’s protagonist will touch your heart and move you to re-evaluate your own existence.

Pure therapy

And if you can read German I envy you…

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Lentil Soup

Winter Warming Soup

Chop a couple of celery stalks
2 or 3 carrots peeled and chopped
1 onion chopped
A handful of red lentils
Throw ingredients into a pot on the stove
Add a stock cube
Bring to boil and then simmer until vegetables are cooked
Liquidize  to a smooth consistency or leave as chunky veg soup
This takes minutes to prepare and is a great lunch or filler any time of the day

Add some split peas and/or pot barley for variation but simmer for longer

Top with parsley and cream( if desired) and serve with crusty loaf bread

Bon Apetit

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Falling Leaves Time

I definitely hibernate in winter so if I post more recipes, book reviews and knitting patterns than poems it is because I am not out and about much...

Falling Leaves Time

Disillusionment is a thickness
in the air
and in the throat
a closing up like a clam shell
a hedgehog turning in for winter
a self reflective bubble
feet touching mouth in a perfect O

All myths and legends have their Tartarus
their underworld journey
through darkness to rebirth
and regeneration;
Native American Indians call it
Falling Leaves Time.

In Newgrange we squatted in darkness
and waited for a shaft of light
that would herald the promise
of a new dawn.
So for now  I will hold my feet
in my mouth and wait
for the coming of Solstice

Thursday 27 October 2016

Morality Play

If I could take only one book with me to a desert know the question?
People usually take the Bible or Shakespeare's Complete Works or Middlemarch, War and Peace...Harry Potter...the complete get the drift.
They are anticipating a long stay.

Foolish or not, I would opt for Barry Unsworth's novella Morality Play. 
Set in the late fourteenth century it tells the tale of a wandering group of players. Actors these days are a different species; they earn the biggest bucks, are highly esteemed  and enjoy global celebrity status. We perhaps too often live our lives vicariously through them...I speak for myself...
Their medieval predecessors were social pariahs, itinerant minstrels who trailed their few possessions from village to village, performed in makeshift sets and were often chased out of town. Biblical sketches, ie scenes from the bible and pageants, made up their staple repertoire.

In Morality Play a poor young scholar, a man in Holy Orders, and "well favoured though short of stature ...with nothing but Latin to recommend" him stumbles across such a motley crew. He is in a dire situation... having been caught in flagrante delicto by a husband's ill timed return.... He escapes through the cow shed leaving his good cloak behind him.

Luckily his Latin verses buy him a loaf of bread, a pigskin and a place in the company and he thereby escapes the wrath of a cuckolded husband.

Dwindling audiences and borderline penury prompt the players to introduce and improvise contemporary topics within their theatrical performances, and, happening upon a village where a young woman is accused of the murder of a boy... the players decide to enact the murder. Reconstruction of the murder scene, I think it's called these days.

But something snags, facts don't add up and the reenactment throws up reasonable doubts. Sherlock could learn a thing or too from this crew. Their theatrics point to a different suspect, to other possible victims and to a web of heinous abuse perpetrated by a man high authority.

This is nail biting stuff.

A  must read, must keep , must reread.

Monday 24 October 2016

Penguin Lessons

Am reading The Penguin Lessons. by Tom Michell - a lovely read  for these darkening days.
It transports the reader to Argentina where the author, a school teacher, purportedly and literally picks up a penguin.
The creature is washed up, expiring on a beach after a dumping exercise by an oil tanker in the nearby ocean.
Set in 1976 it depicts a country in crisis....political mayhem, high inflation and social/economic instability... while engaging you in the perambulations of the narrator and his rescued penguin, Juan Salvadora.
The penguin is integrated into a boys' boarding school environment, unlikely as that may seem.
You learn a lot about penguins; their feeding habits , their preening and grooming habits, their physical feats and attributes, their personality.
A charmingly told tale
A distinctive and engaging author's voice
A sense of humour
Highly recommended to pick up this penguin at a bookshop/library near you.


Friday 21 October 2016

Skellig Michael

Knitting rather than writing these days. But here's a lovely picture taken in Kerry from Lamb's Head
Peninsula where I go every year for at least a week..
Skellig Michael in the distance.
Caherdaniel as a holiday destination- magical...

Friday 7 October 2016

Are we nearly there?

The Rear View Mirror

Your eyes would meet in the rear view mirror.
He, strapped in his child seat,
Wearing his teenage mutant hero turtle costume
Leonardo or Donatello or Michelangelo
You can't remember which.
And he'd ask, "How far is it?"
And you'd pretend to know;
"Just around the bend or nearly there."

And years later, still back-seated
But wearing that teenage boy long lost look
Staring out the window at his dreams
Whizzing by and no longer asking,
Knowing your bends were hairpin,
And treble at that.

Now empty grey upholstered seats
And no queries about destination
Or time or speed or direction;
Just him up the road ahead of you
Waiting for you to catch up.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Thursday 6 October 2016


I 'm beginning to forget things.

I look at the tiles, hoof-marked
and dog-haired, and say to myself:
"I did hoover that floor today?
 Didn't I?"

I did!

Then she made a dash
for the back hedge
beyond which lay
neighbour's garden shed-
door half-open
Pet rabbit's bob-tail
in the mix.

She came back
tail swinging
hips swaying
feet stamping imprints
on vacuumed tiles.

Or did she?

Or was that yesterday?
Or the day before?
Or last week?
I'm beginning to forget things...

Wednesday 5 October 2016


Orange is a colour that attracts me though I never can wear it!
Between the base chakra and the solar plexis, between red and yellow, survival issues and will. Centred on the reproductive organs it connotes creativity.
I once bought a house simply because it was terra cotta in colour.


It falls between
Sunrise and the beginning

It is transition at the heart
Of all matters changing

It is the letting come
And the letting go

The woman builds a house to contain it
But finds she cannot hold it

It is bliss and aspiration
Some call it flowing

It is that which draws us onwards
If we can let go to it

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The Art of Raising Yeast

I read a beautiful poem in the Irish Times Supplement- The Art of Making Macarons  by Deirdre Daly and it triggered the following poem for me.

The Art of Raising Yeast

Crumble fresh yeast
between thumb and forefinger
Add blood warm water
and a sprinkle of sugar
Cover with bone dry cloth
And wait

Go feed the chickens
Or plant bulbs for spring
Or take the dog for a walk
And watch the tree-top fringed sky
Suffused in its waking blush
That lightens to pink and then coral
Then gathers itself into a tight ball
Intense as a fire-coal, transfiguring
Chimney pots into Disney turrets
Lighting up a sun-bricked path
Through woods where you crunch
Fallen husks underfoot
Cup and stroke cool hard chestnuts
Surprise a squabbling crow
Beneath the Scots Pine
Then emerge from the woods
And scatter grazing gulls
That let fall white feathers as they rise
Brush these across your palm
And feel their oiled nylon tickle

By now the yeast should
Have fermented
And spread like foam
Thrown up by a Spring tide
It may look like freshly whipped cream

Resist - the urge to sample 

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 3 October 2016

Belated Greetings

Birthdays have begun to straddle days rather than hours. 
This year I received a rendering of Happy Birthday the day before the actual event. 
And another one the day after. 
Cards have been delivered at various intervals.
The only well wisher certain to be punctual with their greeting is probably the phone company..... 
to which I take great personal affront!!
But...... Isn't it grand to allow the festive mood to peak earlier and linger longer


I had folded away my birthday
Face down in a small pile
When the rush
of black- tailed dog
eschewing hall carpet
howling at retreating footsteps
snouting parcel packaging
Declared –Post.
Addressed to me
My maiden name (in parenthesis)
Postmarked UK.

It was a copy of Jane Austen’s
Complete and unabridged
Ribbon- book- marked
Pages -gilt-edged 
Edition- illustrated
Straight from her cottage
parsonage in Chowton.

And inside it
Gold stars
from a wedding you gate-
crashed in Helsinki
and a promise
To email

Friday 30 September 2016

Aura Soma

Continuing my colour phase... here are a couple of poems on red.
 It is associated with the base chakra and issues around survival, love and energy.


And so from the womb of lush green
Brazen -blood stirring
Foot-firm stomping
Kali weaves to the sway
of serpent ascending
spirals,pivots, displays
of " I am " sounding.

It is life in the raw
Ram raging
Life affirming.


Draws attention to itself
It shouts, "I am here!!"
Pigeon house, Light house
Red swings its hips and sways
To the sound of rumba

Thursday 29 September 2016

Colour Healing

Today I am wearing the Get up and Go bottle
Red over Blue
Bottle 29 in the Aura Soma range.
Not literally of course-- but these are the colours I chose to don, red top over navy blue trousers, and
Reading about the Aura Soma system it appears that I am "opening up to inner peace" today.
In my case this is very pertinent.

I did a course in Aura Soma a few years ago and, at the time, wrote a few poems while meditating on the colours and chakras... so here is one of them.
For further info on the system follow links.

You can do a mini free aura soma reading for yourself here

Royal Blue

Blind seeing
through third eye
Shamen's vision
like the stretched skin
of his drum
our remembering

Kundalini rising
like the serpent
through crown

It is here
that you become

Open the eye and see
beyond the stars
and into the night sky.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Cinder's sister

I don't know about you.
But I never got to play the Cinderellas or fairy princesses when it came to school pantos.
So here is the view from the much maligned side- the view from one of the ugly sisters.


   Frankly I think me and the sister get a raw deal.
 I mean to say, if it had been me, I wouldn’t have made such a skivvy out of myself.

   She could have left home anyway. The Fairy Godmother would have bailed her out anytime. All she ever had to do was whip up a storm and the Good Fairy would have arrived pronto. 

But no. She had to string it out. Snivel and moan and lick the ashes. Get the crowd real sorry for her. Ready to lambaste us to any pole.

    Did you ever wonder where you’d be without us to act out the shadow side? And all before Jung even got a whiff of it. I mean to say, if she’s not going to act downright mean, then she’s going to attract it to her. Right?

   But there she is on her knees in the scullery owning all her goodness.
 Instead of learning fast, she acts stupid, eats as much ash as she can stomach, wallows in the stuff. 

Me and the sister had a terrible time getting her to the point of spiritual crisis. The girl’s capacity for insult and injury was awesome. Another day of it and I’d have wept with her in the ashes myself. But, thank God, she turned to a little creative visualisation and manifested herself a Godmother.

   I was quite enjoying that ball until she turned up doe-eyed, dimple flashing, lid-lowering and whipped PC out from under my nose.
   And then the dramatic exit!
   As if the universe isn’t bountiful!

   I mean do you really believe the fairy would have put a time limit on it? 
No, I reckon she got one of her self doubt bouts. Lost confidence, lost face and don’t forget the shoe! Very convenient that.

   As for that slipper fitting scene!

   Do you really think I wanted to squeeze my G size into that skimpy little excuse for a shoe that had done the rounds of the kingdom. And risk verruca, corns and God knows what?

    And then to watch her creep out of the cinders and slip her pygmy footsie into the golden slipper. And then, jack rabbit, out with the other one from beneath her pinnie!!! 

It’s all gush and pink flush forever and ever now. As if!

   She’ll make a doormat out of herself no matter what. There’ll be a few more shadows to play out. A few more spiritual crises to be had. She hasn’t learnt the lesson yet.

 But as for me, I’ve done with them. Make me the fairest of them all next time and let herself do a little shadow acting.

Saturday 24 September 2016

The Butcher's Hook

This novel is not for the faint- hearted.

I thought it was another account of another powerless, young woman living within the confines of a patriarchal society, in love with her social inferior and forced to betroth an elderly rich man
And it is
Up to a point
But more concerned with…. beyond that point
Jealousy, revenge, obsessive love….
Think Jacobean Tragedies or Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, who pales in comparison to our 19 year old anti heroine.

When I discovered that Anne Jaccob kept dead mice, dead spiders and finger nails… “a morbid tableau,” I should have known.

But in this first person narrative you are inside her head, making allowances, constantly adjusting, caught in a struggle with your own conscience.
She has you, the reader, caught on that butcher’s hook.

Some of her characters are caricatures like Titus Levener, the master butcher, “Great slabs of flesh swell beneath his shoulders…his neck circles hugely around to his back and balloons in front where it joins his many chins..”
And, with names like Fub and Onions, they belong in the pages of a Dicken’s novel.
But this novel is set a century earlier, Georgian London, the summer of 1763.

I have already given enough spoilers … 
suffice to say 
you won’t put it down till you finish it…
you may well skip to the last page to see if she gets a way with it…
you will rush back to the library with it, just to get rid of it…
but it will haunt you.

A very skilful, edgy, sophisticated piece of work.

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis, published by Two Roads 2016

Friday 23 September 2016

Things to do when trying not to listen to a phone conversation

The poem: Things to do around a Look-Out by Gary Snyder was suggested to me as a good read.
I haven't managed to access it yet but I was inspired by his title to write

Things to do when trying not to listen to a phone conversation

Keep doing what you're supposed
To be doing.

Even if the inflections of her voice
Change from chirp to flat.

Don't hold your breath
At her pause.

Keep breathing, even though
The pause stretches beyond hopeful.

Don't look at the clock;
Time may mean nothing

And you will have to wait

To hear her news
Good, bad or ambivalent.

And keep praying
Or finger crossing

Or bead counting.
For that is probably

The only thing
You can do.

Monday 19 September 2016


With your oiled petals
still seductive
and your season's hues
still bold

I am reluctant
to lay you flat
or roll you up
or fold you away

And place you
in a dark closet
paper lined 
and cedar scented.

But darker skies
and cooler days
make urgent
the imperative

To let you go.

Friday 16 September 2016

This is just to say

 William Carlos Williams, This is just to say, (see link)  which reads like a note found on the kitchen table, triggered a couple of pieces for me.

This is just to say

I have eaten
the raspberries
that you had
so carefully
the iceberg
They were
and berry,berry


This is just to say

I have entered
your facebook
that you had
so carelessly
and have posted

Thursday 15 September 2016

Mrs Engels

That feeling of dread as you near the end of your library book…because you just want it to go on and on………
Enter Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea published by Scribe 2015

Now I have zilch interest in Marx and Engels, though some of my dwindling brain cells urge me to recant that statement.

But when I read the opening line of Mrs Engels I was jolted.
“No one understands men better than the women they don’t marry.”

The narrator is Lizzie Burns, of Irish descent and a textile factory worker in Manchester who becomes Engel’s lover.

And when she declares that “love is a bygone idea; centuries worn.”
I know she’s about to debunk all the romantic ideology that has been my daily fodder…
And, frankly, I just can’t wait to read it.

I am not disappointed.

If you asked me, "What is this novel is about???
I’m not sure I could tell you.
Not a lot happens. 
But I got a factionalised insight into the characters of Frederick Engels and Karl Marx that will lodge with me…dwindling brain cells or no.

Set in 1870, political and social changes rumble throughout Europe in the back-story,
But to the fore
And larger than the international canvas
Is the riveting character of Lizzie Burns.

She has been compared with Molly Bloom in Ulysses… (I can’t confess to having read past the first page of Joyce's masterpiece, put off as I am by a book’s bulk.)

But Lizzie is a maelstrom, swirling through Georgian London, leaving disarray and confusion in her wake.

Her advice to a woman in search of a partner might well be that of the famous Mrs Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, but put with a bit more verve.

“Odds are the handsome fellow you go spooney on will turn out to be a bad bargain”

And she warns against “fine wits, lookers, rare minds and fancy poets…..”

What matters to Lizzie is “A man with means, a man who knows the value of brass and is easy with it.”

Enter Frederick Engels.

After returning my library book I went out and bought a copy of it.

A must-keep!!

Tuesday 13 September 2016


An exercise in my on-line poetry course is to write a poem based on a picture.
The pic features an old trick- conjurer's assistant suspended, apparently, in mid air.
Fine, invisible rope? Not so- hence the presence of a hoop.
The decor was mock-Eygptian so
I did a bit of research on this type of visual trickery.
I won't be trying it out any time soon.
See links below.


Meanwhile here is the poem.

The Egyptian Hall

They loved to watch women
Sawn in half.
Or suspended perilously
On a conjurer’s breath.

You cannot see the metal bar
Behind his legs.
Or the control buttons
At his feet.
Just a moustached man
Tail-coated and Bow-tied

Holding a clipped-
Winged woman
On a metal hoop;
Her breasts hieroglyph-
Bound, her hips
Silk –Tied.

The ideal woman
At his behest.
Silent, rigid.
Out of her coffin
In mummified

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 9 September 2016


At the time I gave in to that very special offer, 3 for the price of 2! We’ve all done it…
 3 copies of  Eat, Pray, Love. by Elizabeth Gilbert
 It was a BEST SELLER after all.
And I could think of a few recipient friends who might be rushing out to buy it….
Not all of them divorcees.
I couldn’t get through it myself.
Bad timing? Wrong book?

So when I saw a DVD version of it recently in my local library I thought - maybe the pop up version would do the trick- enlightenment??
Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem.
Could it go wrong?

Well yes, and no.

Apart from the irritating interruptions from my partner, “Is that not over yet?”
And it did go on….
Something about it didn’t quite stick with me.
 Julia running from one doomed relationship to another (been there -done that)
 Julia eating tons of spaghetti and not putting on weight- (haven’t been there)
 Julia trying unsuccessfully to meditate in an ashram  in India at 4.30 am.
(Tried that unsuccessfully on a kitchen chair, a bit later in the day, many times)
 Julia smiling from her liver! (Well how do you do that anyway?)
 Javier cast as struggling divorcee—gorgeous/gorgeous man - But...
 Hit Man in a Coen Brothers' movie sits better on him.

All in all- a bit of a flop??

But next day I am up and thinking
about meditating again!
And savouring
boiled eggs and toast
and wondering
how I might make my liver smile?
Less red wine?????

 So I guess Eat , Pray Love  just might have enlightened me …

a bit.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Paternal Gran

As part of my online course I am revisiting memories. I tried in an earlier poem to capture this memory but here it is again. The idea is to contain the memory in a central image- the spider.


She was sat on a stool and remembers
clipped wings and stalemate

Outside in coop-sized yard siblings
Squeal Tig-Tag-I’m out, you’re in

Inside spider in widow weeds
And off-white pinny spinning

Throbbing web, invisible thread

And Noose descent, shadow 
Spread, and waiting.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Winding the Skein

My mother bought wool by the skein
great looped coils of it, too loose
to be worked with needles.
My outstretched hands, a skein looped
distance between them, anchored the hank
while she pulled, first from one hand
and then the other, ladling the wool
into balls, unravelling my yarn dressed hands
that tilted up and down, swaying to and fro,
forwards and backwards to her rhythm.
Firm but not taut
Loose but not free
If I missed a step
the skein would tangle
and I would have to let go.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Feminine Curiosity

Legend is littered with stories of  women punished harshly  for their feminine curiosity; Lot's wife, Pandora, Psyche, Eve. Here is the story of one who got away with it the skin of her neck

The Youngest Daughter

She fell in love with his fine houses,
a deal of silver and gold plate, and over-
-looked his blue-tinged beard and his appetite
for beautiful women.

And when he left she followed
the little back stair-case to the forbidden 
closet where she stood
in clotted blood.

The fallen key she could not clean
with any amount of soap or sand.
The silver sabre dangled
over her head

bowed in prayer. And it took a long
while for the cloud of dust
to spit out arms
to the rescue.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Tuesday 23 August 2016

No ideas but in things...

"No ideas but in Things." William Carlos Williams
Part of my course is to write a  So Much Depends Upon Poem after the style of Williams!!
Here goes from an earlier short story of mine.

So Much depends Upon A Real Umbrella

So much depends

An umbrella
with a pointed

A long
shaft and twelve

A real
An older

to know.

The bird
From my cupped

Its beak
No longer frozen
in fright

Must have felt it
and took flight

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Saturday 20 August 2016


Am studying the art of the Cinquain.-a variation of the Haiku.
It has 5 lines of 22 syllables:2,4,6,8,2.

I rejigged this piece already written as Haiku into the cinquain form.
Look at the drawing which inspired it by using the link above
and hopefully the poem will make sense!

Boxman 2

on splayed hands, his
stripped bone-white foetal-curve
earth bound, heaven bent, knot of bone
and prayer


On a  more familiar theme.

The sound 
of wings hitting
Velux attic window
panes turns out to be the mundane-
the rain.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 19 August 2016

First Love

It's fun to think of those TV series you used to watch decades ago- the intensity of the feelings!!!
 I was in love with several  of the Old-Time cowboys and wrote a letter to Maverick!!
So the recent sighting of a bow-legged man brought some of it back to me....
Deeply indebted to the Theme Song.

First Love

The swaggering sight of a bow- legged man,
his knees shouldering nonchalance,
embodies for me more loss than gain.

1960 and Bronco Layne tearin’  across
the Texas Plain. Hollywood studio sunset 
behind him, his bowed legs arching the earth.

And for one charged moment I become the gal
who kissed him once, then kissed him twice.
Then spent her days dreamin’ of shoes and rice.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

School Lessons

There is always some sadness in learning.
When we were nine we embarked on a tour
of the Thirty –Two Counties, Sister Joseph's tipped cane
pointing the way. At Belfast Shipyard inauspicious
clouds gathered over the half-built Titanic:
A cross-channel steamer at a high rate of speed
ranging her on her moorings, parting her long fore and aft
springs, causing the wire hawser to fall suddenly on one
of the scows on which several men were working. If only
they’d heeded CP from Harland and Woolf Ltd- they’d have known
she was jinxed. She was ship 401, and by the time the cane had drilled-
home the fate of all of her predecessors our ship was running
out of steam. We took a north-westerly route, navigating
the coastline as far as the Giant’s Causeway, but it was there
that our engine failed. No crank of cylinder across the Border

and into the Free State. We had to settle for the Six Counties.

Monday 15 August 2016

Makeover Poems

Am following a course in poetry online with and this is one of the exercises. 
Apart from the "how to" aspect...  the challenge is to rejig a poem you have already written 
so you may have read an earlier incarnation of this one in a previous post.

How to gut a fish or edit a poem

First you have to lay the subject flat
and cut off head and tail.
No mercy for extraneous indigestible
matter. Make puncture wound at anus, cutting

through paired pelvic fins, slicing
the thin abdominal wall, incising
the ventral surface along the horizontal
until you reach jaw.

Let spill the guts and blood and slime -
A delicate flick of knife at dorsal fin
turn the spine of your knife against
the grain of the scales, and flay

until you shed silver.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Saturday 13 August 2016


Can You Get There without a Smart Phone?

Yes, if you measure distance in roods and furlongs anyway
and don’t need to know where you are going
exactly or how many milliseconds it will take you
to get there, and if you are content to sojourn up
and down boreens and by- roads and have to double
back again, discovering vistas not tagged or flagged
on your Memo, if you can allow yourself
to get lost from time to time, if you have
all the time in the world.

It helps if you are stoical.
It helps if you are patient.
It helps if you have a Samsung SGH T199
and no Sat Nav

and no other choice.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Tuesday 9 August 2016

How To Crack a Crab or Edit a Poem

How to Crack a Crab or Edit a Poem

Immerse in hot water.
Boil, steam or braise until pink.
Remove unwanted parts by snap-

ping. Pry open apron and lose
it. Twist off the shell and extract
the core, the heart, the body meat.

Avoid the mallet and discard
the shell, the tendons, the juices
the extraneous bits. And there

you have it, finger-picked clean,
a cracked-crab or poem
on the very same theme.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 8 August 2016

The Followers

We spread like a stain,
following a rumour, compelled
by a wound of our own making
and yours. Your forefathers,
like us, crested the waves,
following the Northern Star
in quest of a new beginning.

You met them with the same
curses and barbed wire fences,
bureaucracy and necromancy.
But they persisted, their stain
seeping into you, making you
who you are. Like them,
our course is set, our maps charted.

Whatever the weather,
we are making for the High Seas.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Sunday 7 August 2016


My friend measures her steps-
Units per Minute-Speed per Kilometre
Her morning amble punctuated
by App-Speak-Ratings. Oblivious
to all but Rate-Ratio.

Another one rambles, declines
inclines, prefers snail-speed
and lumber. Ear cocked
to the wind, extending his wing
-span to embrace virtual flight.

I follow my dog, sniffing
at every tree trunk, meandering
through meadow-sweet, rolling
in suspect matter from time to time.
Tail up, snout down, lolling it.

Which type of walker are you?

Saturday 6 August 2016

The Cleaners

We do not send promotional literature
usually. Usually we turn up at any kerb
unsolicited. We have no licence
to operate in your area.
Unpermitted we rummage, haul away all
that is salvageable. You do not
always see us. You do not always
want to. When we are done rearranging
your excess you are secretly
pleased. Sometimes you see us and pretend
not to. We thrive on dung hills and skip piles
ignore EU regulations and local County Council bye-
laws. You could be deemed complicit
in our offence, your offence
too. Unprosecuted, uncontrolled, untraceable
we will return at any time to any kerb

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 5 August 2016

Virtual virus

Have witnessed the development of an alarming phenomenon since my last post. 
Am sure you have experienced it too....
Perhaps you are even one of..... them!!

Virtual Crusaders

Geotagged, the park has become
a portal. It has morphed over-
night into jousting arena
replete with mobile-device- mounted
knights and virtual monsters.

Public space, private space, any space
co-opted, besieged, overlaid,
laid claim to by free gaming app crusaders.
Could myspace or urs be the next

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 1 July 2016


For Marie-Helene

Sun-driven they come
Line upon broken line they roar
Plunge,lift and soar
Throw themselves spent
Upon the shore.

And for Stephen

I might
Step into you
If you let me...

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Thursday 30 June 2016

Raidho-The Journey is the Destination

A favourite rune of mine....

Raidho- Ready

The place is here
And you're already in it.
Thorax split and heart open.
You're ready to fly.
Then Fly.
Simply spread your wings and do it
For there's nothing stopping you.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Making choices

On Parting

"Protect the garden," you say,
"from the wild that might err there."
You hold yourself tight in parting
I give you Brigid's Cross
to help you find your way.

And you show me this painting
Given you once in lovemaking -
A Medieval Maiden on a white horse
its nose close to the canvas, shirking-
The future blank, you say.

You will have to choose
between a Crone's prayer.
and Maiden's aspiration.
You may have to let in the wild, lover.
You may have to let in the wild.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Monday 27 June 2016



I think about your long back and low hips
Your sleek-snake walk.
The slight curve of your shoulders
As you stoop to kiss
Me, dressed in pink rose petals.

Earth's heartbeat pulls you down to core
That blazes up in you and sets me alight.
Petal by petal you swallow
Flames of your own making
Until I am whole again

Inside your belly.
Where I am a circle
And I am healing you
And you are a circle
And you are healing me.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

Friday 24 June 2016

Lus Mor -Foxgloves

They grow wild along the highways and byways of Ireland this month- so if you can't get out and about - why not buy one in a garden centre.
Digitalis Purpurea. Heart healer medicine. Biennial. 75 blooms on one stem.
They multiply every year...there's a name for that..
But they are deadly if you eat them.
So children beware.


I picked several once from a stony path.
Fledglings. Some thrived. Most died.
They prefer the wild. But a glimpse of
a cottage garden lush with them, I tried again-
Half reared ones this time.
Lus Mor - big plant, Foxglove, Fairy Thimble.
Your tall spikes rising, your parted lips opening
to a dark spotted throat mouthing
your mute warning to the passer-by

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016