At the beginning of the year, Kirsty Higginson (@) set up #ALineADayPoem on Twitter. ‘That sounds fun,’ thought, and so I joined her, posting a line for each day of the year, creating an odd first draft, 365 lines long. What I’ve created is probably going to stay a first draft; I don’t think I have any desire to mould this clumsy giant into anything more than what it is. But what it has been is a fascinating journey experimenting with what happens when you tack lines onto each other without any concept of what they’re building towards. There are lines in this that I’m proud of, and lines that I hate. The poem doesn’t really have anything particular to say and I had no plan when I started out. I quickly settled into rhythms and patterns to make the job easier, but they don’t really mean anything. It is what it is, and that, I like. Thank you, Kirsty for an interesting project. You’ve inspired me to start my own…
So for 2016, should you be interested in joining an experimental daily writing project, I’m going to start #ALineADayStory. I’m going to see if a year’s worth of daily tweets can create a story worth editing by this time next year… feel free to join me!
Over on Facebook, which I keep private, 2015 has seen me posting a daily photo of a ‘Tiny Treasure’, a nugget of gold from my everyday life. My photo project this year is going to be ‘A Sense of… 2016’: photos capturing a sense of something from each day. They won’t be great photos, just like my lines probably won’t be great lines, but Tiny Treasures proved so popular on Facebook that I thought it might be interesting to share 2016’s project on Twitter and Instagram too.
And should you be at all interested in seeing my attempt at #ALineADayPoem in all its glory, here it is:
The silhouettes of branches claw at a grey sky: desperate fingers
reaching out from a ground frozen solid with memory.
The boots of many men fell here, repeating sequences
of left-right-don’t-think, left-right-don’t-think.
They left no footprints, the dead men:
the soil swallowed up every trace of them, every echo,
and licked its lips to taste the passing years.
The footprints of their souls tread now, awoken by this din.
It's cold out here, and dark, but over in the city
a new war rages, its heartbeat thudding across the world.
The ghosts of fallen feet are stirring:
The silhouettes of branches scrape a sunset:
eyelashes of the earth fluttering gently before dark falls.
The hearts of lovers beat on tree trunks:
Their breaths whisper through fallen leaves,
tracing the shadows of each other’s bodies under silver light.
Their feet dance to the rhythms of their passion,
rising out of memory, out of fantasy; rising into now.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from the earth
a pulse flickers; warm light strobes beneath the trees.
The ghosts of broken hearts are stirring:
The silhouettes of branches fall beneath angry winds,
snaggle-toothed figures escaped from nightmares.
A rising gale whistles through their bones:
They rip through the sky like shrivelled witches,
cackling fear fuelled by fairy-tales, cracking their whips.
Memories of dread rumble beneath the earth,
climbing from history and thrashing between branches.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from memory,
the horrors rise, stretching their tired limbs.
Every old fear is waking:
The silhouettes of branches sweep the lake,
shadows of conversation lost to the trees.
Confessions and declarations have grown here, echoing calls of
They comb through the water with the bones of words,
whispering the secrets lost to the wind.
The skeletons of voices are baubles on the trees,
their ribcages rattling in the day’s new breeze.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in the air,
old voices knit together to sing new songs.
The fairy tales are rising new:
The silhouettes of branches haunt the fields,
tracing the shape of the old forest before the farms.
There was another world here once, voiceless whispers of
Wheat grows now where berries used to thrive,
waving from the straitjackets of ploughed lines,
and mocking the birds who hide on the ground.
The old forest stirs now, its heart dragged out of sleep.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from the farms
roots are rising, crawling up from the sediment of years.
The ghosts of trees are waking, murmuring their message:
The silhouettes of branches bounce on stars,
skimming light across the lake; rolling leaves into the night.
All the youth of history somersaults from the Earth:
Spring leaves whirl in an imaginary breeze,
dancing and playing and chasing and falling.
They play the games of the unafraid, rising now
as they sing the songs of the Earth.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from forgotten shells,
the seeds are waking, sprouting shoots into the world.
They laugh until their insides ache, spluttering giggles of
The silhouettes of branches haunt our dreams,
setting the scene for the stories that displace us.
They paint pictures with fear we don’t understand:
They spin the yarns of fairy-tale,
weaving our lives together with their narratives,
whispering metaphor into our sleep.
These are the tales that displace us.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from the shadows,
villains are rising, dancing with the heroes,
cackling horrors into dreams:
The silhouettes of branches chase our children,
crafting fears out of myths and whispers.
They make their games out of frightened pulses:
They play kiss-chase across the sky,
calling taunts and pushing buttons;
they’ll build the memories we’ll never escape.
These are the stories that make us.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in our minds
a storm is rising, dredging up adrenalin
from the playground, the fight-or-flight of
The silhouettes of branches wipe our tears,
mimicking the handkerchiefs of our mothers,
the soft susurrus of their whispers:
The worn bark of their fingers tell their stories,
gentle lullabies to send us into sleep.
The memories of leaves are ghosts on their fingertips;
our skin smoothed beneath tales of their past.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in our blood
their voices warm us, calling us home to where we started,
bathing wounds and soothing scars:
The silhouettes of branches shelter birds,
their strong arms cradling nests
while heads tuck beneath wings against the night:
Generation after generation slept up here,
feathers raining down with spring blossom
while warmed eggs hatched and
fledglings learned to fly.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from the nests,
the birdsong chatters, singing solidarity
back into the trees:
The silhouettes of branches taunt the clouds,
scraping twigs across the greyness and daring rain to fall.
They jeer and point towards the heavens:
Coaxing tears from puffs of grey,
they bruise the skyline’s fragile blue.
Beneath their boughs, umbrellas open;
hedgerows glisten with sorrows from above.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and from the clouds
a sadness pours, provoked by the torment
of branches sneering calls of
The silhouettes of branches twine with more,
lacing their fingers together as the people
move in their shadows, silently willing them to
The sound of chainsaws haunts their dreams,
blended with fears of firewood and paper and carpentry.
Teenagers with penknives and spray-paint
are harmless enemies in the light of the fires.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and from the ashes
ancestors step, warning them of their fate,
urging them to repel the humans:
The silhouettes of branches long for leaves,
the sadness of their naked limbs
skimming shadows across the skyline:
Promises of spring warm the soil,
telling stories of a future when it will rise up,
singing to the trees; decorating branches with
bright green and the impossible colours of blossom.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and from the future
new life beckons, reaching out fingers of colour
to branches lost in shadows, singing their song of
The silhouettes of branches stack up tall,
the broken bones of trees piled up for fires
as we approach with frozen fingers, longing for warmth:
We remember the fruit we picked here once,
the swings and treehouses of our childhoods.
But we’re cold and that was long ago.
These trees have other uses now.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and in the woods
our fingers tremble, shivering with the frost
and fumbling with icy matches:
The silhouettes of branches catch the ink
leaked from the pens of the clouds,
all the words never written dripping on the forest:
The clouds are poets bursting with words –
all they see from up there stirs storms in their bellies,
thunder rumbling through their hearts as
they shower reflections back to Earth.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and on the ground,
the trees absorb them, sucking similes
through their roots, thirsty for more:
The silhouettes of branches envy pines,
naked limbs longing for protection from
the heavy boots of winter, whispering mantras of
Frost sugars bark and snaps at twigs
as trees square themselves against the cold
and bare their souls to the sky, trying to ignore
the conifers, smug beneath their winter coats.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and from the canopy
a bitterness swells, immune to the positive energy,
the philosophical murmurings of
The silhouettes of branches had no choice:
they hold the noose that hangs him,
mud-flecked feet swinging lifelessly:
When he’s found, there are sirens, then tape,
and flowers placed against the trunks.
But the branches don’t need flowers to remember:
his weight still strains in their arms.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and from the darkness
the ghosts collect him, their noiseless voices
whispering comfort to the trees:
The silhouettes of branches know the night,
long arms gesticulating to the stars,
leaves deep in conversation with the moon:
The nocturnals are out hunting
while the rest of the world sleeps.
The trees are left to whisper to the darkness, secrets
drifting to the stars on the boats of a breeze.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and from the moon
a comfort falls: she too has seen it all.
Between the trees and the night, a pact is made:
The silhouettes of branches dance like waves,
splashing in a sunset sky, paddling in the breeze.
The trunks tether them wearily:
The wisdom of the trees is old
but from the smallest twigs
a youthful joy spreads:
their secret to collecting years.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but from new shoots
a warmth flows, fresh wood channelling
the waltz of the sunrise:
The silhouettes of branches take our lanterns,
quiet and uncomplaining as we weigh them down
and hold parties under candlelight:
They’ve seen this countless times before:
the joy, the laughter, the drinking,
the slow wash of the morning’s tide
lapping uneasiness across our toes.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in the light
old friendships burn, memories of the hours
before the mornings, the lifting beats of
The silhouettes of branches cast lonely shadows,
forgotten as the cities weave webs around them,
traffic looping in endless taunts of
They watch in silence, longing for company,
for heartbeats, for movement, for friendship,
while headlights flicker across their trunks,
drivers oblivious to their quiet longing.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but beneath the bark,
a yearning grows, decades of frustration burning
in bodies resigned to a future of
The silhouettes of branches drink the lakes,
their thirst growing as the years spin the landscape
into unfamiliar maps and alien patterns.
They suck reflections of water up through moonlight,
desperation disguised by solid trunks while
a fear for their future creeps through the shadows
and settles deep into their roots.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in the shadows,
thirsts are quenched, sorrows drowned
in the low thrum of the mantra:
The silhouettes of branches knit with clouds,
needles of twigs click-clack-clicking
as they build blankets from white thread:
Through the sky, a patchwork grows,
drifting puffs of white quilting through the blue
as twigs knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one,
soothing the trees to a comforted sleep.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in the sky,
a blanket grows: soft white warmth
to muffle the coldness of a clear night:
The silhouettes of branches watch the dogs:
bundles of bounding excitement
who steal their sticks and mark their trunks:
In their limbs, a longing grows:
a thumping desire to race with puppies and
chase tails and sticks and balls and children,
running in endless circles of delight.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but inside sap,
a hunger forms, a powerful magic
longing to be free and join the dogs in
The silhouettes of branches envy birds,
dreaming of lives filled with movement,
the smooth energy carried in their wings:
In their leaves, hope flickers like flames,
the beginnings of a flutter as a breeze
tickles their bellies and stokes their wishes
just enough for them to taste the freedom.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in their leaves,
that hope ignites, driving their dreams
of wings and feathers:
The silhouettes of branches believe in dragons.
They’ve lived long enough to hear the tales,
to see the scars of flames across the land:
In their roots, they hear the whispers,
rumours of the dragons’ return to Earth,
beating wings and roaring flames:
finally a beast more powerful than human.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in their roots,
a warmth blossoms, a longing for fire and claw,
for the legends to soar to life:
The silhouettes of branches wonder why.
While cars and people swarm beneath them,
they rest, serene and still, thankful for their role:
Headlights climb their trunks like spiders:
constant streams of traffic funnel past,
barely stopping, never looking, growling
exhaust fumes into the stillness of the night.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in their vigil,
the trees stay calm, the movement of their fantasies
worlds away from the roads.
The silhouettes of branches count their leaves,
each one dropped, a tiny death,
morsels of themselves rotting into mulch:
Rain falls and shoes tread
and all the trees can do is watch,
feeling life pump through their trunks as
they remind themselves there’s work still to do.
It’s cold out here, and dark, but in their sap,
the trees feel life, remind themselves of
inner strength and hope:
The silhouettes of branches long for baubles.
They’ve seen the firs adorned with glamour,
Their smugness under glitz and sparkle:
As the evergreens are taken home for winter,
bare branches shiver and cast lonely shadows
over barren fields, longing for someone
to love them enough to share their tinsel.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and in their dreams
the branches glitter, dressed up in bells and lights,
singing proudly to the tune of
The silhouettes of branches shovel soil,
silently digging graves for everything they watch die
in their shadows, whispering a mantra of
They’ve learned not to get attached to
the squirrels that steal their nuts or
to the birds that call them home.
They watch with static detachment.
It’s cold out here, and dark, and in their silence
creatures rest, comforted by their quietness,
unaware of the pain behind the policy of
The silhouettes of branches are not here.
They’re distant memories of all the worlds
this world has been, lost now in the memory
of an Earth scorched and plundered.