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the silences moving the air: a man or horse

carved into grass, the last-rung bell of a church


gone under the sea. On quiet-hot days

with a feeling for tides, this was an island


that quivered  with maps as we wandered ...


                 from All The Invisibles by Mandy Pannett








The two of us

Titania’s Wood

Strange Things, Maker

A Feeling for Self

The Hammer Stone


You say you don’t do smiles

Ptolemy’s Stars

All the Invisibles




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Mandy Pannett


Mandy Pannett is the author of a novella and five poetry collections. She works freelance as a creative writing tutor and has led residential and day workshops across the country and at festivals. Currently she is poetry editor for Sentinel Literary Quarterly and editor of the anthology Poems for a Liminal Age (SPM Publications). She has won prizes and been placed in several national competitions as well as acting as an adjudicator for others.









Woman, you were incredible:

wise, stupendous, lavish in gold with ivory flesh –

Athena, once your statue was here

but breath in this space is cold.


What shade were your eyes?

Which rock is a shrine, which stone

your puissant heart?


The owl, your familiar, stares from a tree,

shrewd, single-minded, master

of the strategic pause and calculated drop.


Lady, you would appreciate

our dispassionate control. We need

no birds to track the sky

for death may be dealt

bloodless, from a screen.


Goddess, you have gifted us

the olive tree. Mine in the garden

bears no fruit, too young and small

and far from sun.

This morning its leaves are silver with rain.

Somewhere, beyond my fence, men weep.





The two of us



The moping owl, who favours his own concerns, flutters off



and away. Between the rise and fall of his wings, he will see (if he notices more

than frightened things in the grass) the solitude



of nettles in your churchyard, smoke from crematoria,

less light, less stars.



I could write clichés on change: how volume has power to muffle

the beetle’s droning flight and how the rugged elm,

diseased, will topple



or soon be felled.

And I could tell how melancholy, which your youth

claims as its own, is not a bower for indolence, drowsy with blue

forget-me-nots –  I could twist and deepen, scrape



and screw its verbs into pain:

leave you lying with John Doe

in the river mud.



But Thomas, now the two of us must ruffle up the owl.

There is some light and it is constant, still.




Titania’s Wood


Her snakes are enamel in moonlight, hot

and heavy as chains. They stir uneasily; hiss.

In her rosebud bower she twines love-knots

with ribbons as gifts for the child. Unnoticed

her husband paces the forest, plots how best

he can hurt his wife, take over and gain

control of the boy. They are both obsessed.

This is a poisonous wood – wolfsbane,

hemlock, a  low-hanging moon in a pool

of frogs, pale-green and belly-up; dead.

The child sleeps on:  as yet no unscrupulous

moonbeams disorder the curls on his head.

In sweet-briar dreams his world is kind –

later he’ll learn not only worms are blind.




Strange Things, Maker


Twists inside your soul

are well concealed.


You perfect an outward

show, that of a rude


mechanical, an extraordinary maker

of strange things –fantastic


to men of Rhodes  who watch, amazed,

as statues yawn, step


off platforms, flexing necks,

sluggards too long in their sloth


or elderly couch-potatoes,

stiff from over-slump.


Daedalus, it is recorded

that one word from you and these statues


turned into robots in Grecian cloth

with eyeballs that altered from marble


to jelly, from blank

to the blue of the sea.


And these your creations, Daedalus,

then breathed in gulps of waterside air and sang


in rusty, clockwork tones

at the rise and set of the sun.


Are you proud of them

your autonoma


or is it all too easy for you,

transitory and insignificant?



A Feeling for Self


Camouflage, camuffare is a muffled sound

soft as fleece though false and un-gentle in a film

where cellophane is crackling fire, sticks will

woosh in air as arrows, frozen lettuce in a fist

crunches up to replicate a hideous

mush of bone. Recordings of a nightingale

overdub a motor bike that zooms past Camelot

in joyous throttle. In Nature, death awaits the hare

camouflaged for winter snow, whose white fur

in a warmer season turns him conspicuous ...


It’s the razzle-dazzle of the warship

that I love. Patterns, stripes, disrupted

zig-zags, screaming colours that punch

the eye, whip the senses into confusion

interrupt an aim and target line.

The artist filled his days with tiny painted

wooden frigates, dreams were rich

with zebras and giraffes. Picasso, spotting

a violet piebald canon in Paris, credited

Cubism with the thought, the begetting of it.


Sunlight plunges on oceans, sinks down

through shallows to depths. I like the mimicry

in underwaters, distractions to hoodwink,

protect, outwit and survive – gimmicks

such as eyespots on damsel or butterfly fish,

the flounder’s rapid switches of colour, tricks

of luminescence to create a pebble-dash

effect, the subtle use of shade. Gelatinous

and semi-clear the jellyfish tries to conceal

its shape, translucence belying the sting.


The hanging fly discovered in resin, once

assumed by researchers to be a five-lobed leaf,

must have lived somewhere arid, moody

with pools and dark thick trees, the fiefdom

of conifers, horsetails, ferns and ginkgos –

the last of which with outstretched wings

it mimicked. I can picture it splayed on bark,

thin-legged like grass, in ambush or hiding,

a fierce and precarious clinging to life

an instinctive feeling for self.



The Hammer Stone


Bury you deep my un-lived child

bone of my bone. Bind you in ligaments

lock you in stone, no lynx or hyena

with claws like pain shall defile or dare

dig you up again. Be safe in the dark


as you were in me.  Shuttered and small

as the shrew or vole whose footsteps patter

like acorns falling on leaves.  


I will lay you for comfort and warmth

on the wing of a swan.

Lay you down in the earth under the curve

of antler and horn.  You will not know


the thrusting spear, the blood of killer and boar.

You will not know the kiss of a woman

heating a man like fire.

You will not even know


me, my little lost son,

or my heart like a hammer stone

heavy by you.





Let’s say

it’s morning with a chance of sun

and I’m waking up to myself and all the stuff

outside my window – birdsong, traffic, footsteps

on a gravel path.


Voices that were calling to me in the dark

are now switched off.


Let’s say

the fabric of life for some

is too thin for repair.

Who darns a sock these days, turns a collar,

weaves a sackcloth shift?


Let’s say

it happens offstage

as in a Greek tragedy where a messenger tells

that children have died in the wings


but the impact is less

if I don’t see bodies

or sense the no-breath in a van.


So let’s say

it’s easy to airbrush, photoshop and sink 

an image, blur a face, a hand

or turn the volume down low,

so low


that a feather-shelter may disperse

and I won’t even know.



You say you don’t do smiles


don’t like drawing them, never learnt the technique.


You’re lying. 


If it was that simple you would paint

only angels, colourless as moons and dripping with lilies

like couriers for flowers online.


If it was that simple

you’d give me a low-lipped, dour expression

and let me turn around.


Instead you paint

my back, always my back

so that the moody outline of me

mingles with the umbrage of an artificial beach

or an apartment block where even verandas

are in profile, but I am not.


Will you buy me a drink tonight

share some supper for once?

I’ll get us the table nearest the door

you know I will.


Better still, paint me a towel.

Lay it down on that balcony, third from the left.

I’ll strip my clothes off, find a bikini, be a small

red dot to focus the eye, a reference point for scale ...


Not your style?


You say you like your canvases

minimalist and bleak –


in a bloody, anguished world.


So if love in the sand dunes isn’t for us

then I may as well be faceless

sparse as spinifex grass


and since there’s  nothing

to be happy about

I’m glad you never do smiles.



Ptolemy’s Stars


Tonight, in this countryside

the sky is a bright citadel

shining on dark water.


Ptolemy might still recognise

the ‘serried multitude of stars’

whose fiery circling caused his heart


to leap and soar with joy.

How easy it is to imagine the creamy

Milky Way, heavy and thick


with luminous souls, the iridescent

dead of the day, who pause for an aeon

of feasting, before swimming on to a moon.


And easy to imagine that sad tale

of Adam and Eve whose first skin

shone like a halo in gold leaf


before their flesh

dried up with loss and dulled

to a mortal grey.


A departure of shine

for them and for us as we

stagger and doze, are wounded


in sleep, unaware

that as dreamers

we are becoming extinct.

Tonight there are many stars

in this firmament.

A salmon, essence of silver


glitters in its own dark sea.

How luminescent it is

and vulnerable.



All the Invisibles


Let’s make a detour you’d say, find us

a ley-line or two. I was used to this: a sudden 


appearance of all the invisibles, something

slanting or something blue, a lattice


of light through a leaded window as you,

my directional compass-rose, would sense


the silences moving the air: a man or horse

carved into grass, the last-rung bell of a church


gone under the sea. On quiet-hot days

with a feeling for tides, this was an island


that quivered  with maps as we wandered

the way of the shell. Even droppings


of gulls on the shore or pebbles mottled

and bleached by salt were seen as offerings 


meant as a token: private, intimate

gifts. So when did the music


of those silences turn to a canticle

scribed with a thorn? While I was looking


at runes in a feather, you fell in love

with the whiteness of chalk, the long, slow


curves of a pale-green land, a languorous

stretching of hills. And I am left


on a shingle beach with nothing but empty

spaces around me and nothing is moving the air.



THE TWO OF US - Highly Commended in the Thomas Gray Anniversary competition. Published on the Thomas Gray web site.

TITANIA’S WOOD – All the Invisibles (SPM Publications)

A FEELING FOR SELF – Tears in the Fence ed. David Caddy

THE HAMMER STONE – Published in Bee Purple (Oversteps Books)

FEATHER-SHELTER - Writers for Calais Refugees

YOU SAY YOU DON’T DO SMILES – Runner-up in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition 2014. Published in Jongleur in the Courtyard (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

PTOLEMY’S STARS – 1st prize in the Barnet Poetry Competition 2013. Published in Jongleur in the Courtyard (Indigo Dreams Publishing)

ALL THE INVISIBLES – published in All the Invisibles (SPM Publications)


4 - Afterword

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