Circle of Stones


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Circle of stones


Circle of stones, reaching so high,

were you built by the Druids to worship the sky?

Or were people buried in your soft ground?

The theories like you, go round and round.


Circle of stones, standing so tall,

a healing centre for one and all?

Perhaps you marked an alien landing site.

I wonder if we’ll ever get the theory right.


Circle of stones, such magic you weave,

especially at sunrise on midsummer’s eve.


Copyright Shirley Cook 2018









For Father’s Day – a poem



Miss you, dad.





I dreamed of Dad last night

and when I woke I looked for him,

so real was my dream

it seemed he must be here.

Several minutes passed

before I knew that dreaming

was all it was.


I dreamed of Dad last night,

dressed in the red cardigan I loved,

reeking of his favourite soap.

I’m sure I could smell him here.

Several minutes passed

before I knew that dreaming

was all it was.


I dreamed of Dad last night.

He kissed me in his wet-lipped way

and when I woke it felt as though

his kiss was on me still.

Several minutes passed

before I knew that dreaming

was all it was.


I hope to dream of Dad tonight

that he may speak my name

or laugh in his deep rumbling way.

And I will ask him why he cannot stay,

and if dreaming is all there is.










I walk up the hill

I think of you

I walk across the road

I think of you

I walk to the shops

I think of you

I go into the shops

I think of you

I come out of the shops

I think of you

I go back across the road

I think of you

I walk back down the hill

I think of you








Copyright Shirley Anne Cook 2018






















My Tickner family in Holmwood Surrey.


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Holmwood and the Suffragettes.


My Tickner ancestors lived in the village of Holmwood in Surrey ( 1830-1950)

Holmwood played an important part in the women’s suffrage movement.

One of the most influential women in the fight for votes was Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. She lived with her husband Frederick in Mascot house (now the Dutch house) in South Holmwood.

This house became the unofficial headquarters of the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union). The WSPU was formed in 1903 by Emily Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel and from 1903 to 1917 it was the leading militant organization campaigning for women’s suffrage in Great Britain. They employed tactics such as smashing windows, arson and hunger strikes

Every weekend, between 1906 and 1912, the leaders of the suffragette movement came down by train to Holmwood and held meetings in Mascot House. Emmeline also invited suffragettes, who had been imprisoned, to recuperate there. Her husband Frederick, also a supporter of the movement, helped pay suffragette’s court costs.

At one time Emmeline and Frederick were imprisoned themselves and forcibly fed.

Despite being taken to court and being declared bankrupt Emmeline and Frederick continued to fight for women’s rights and the welfare of children.

Frederick became a member of Parliament and later a Baron. From 1945 to 1947 he was Secretary of State for India and Burma and was a friend of Ghandi.

Emmeline died in 1954 and Frederick married Helen Craggs.

I don’t know what my Tickner ancestors thought of the suffragette movement.  My mother, and her sister my aunt Ena Parsons, talked about Holmwood a lot, as they used to stay with their aunts in the holidays, but they never mentioned its connection to the suffragette movement.

My great aunts would no doubt have been aware of what was going on as it was only a small village. Indeed, they may well have met Frederick and Emmeline and the Pankhursts, or seen them in passing at the station. And who knows, some of the suffragettes and their followers might even have stopped off for tea at Brook House in South Holmwood where my ancestors lived!


My gran Grace Parsons ( nee Tickner) and her sister Lizzie outside Brook House.











I am sitting at my dressing table.

The sun streams through the window

and sets my silver jewellery box alight.

An explosion of rainbow colour

dances on the wall in front of me.

I remember physics lessons,

drawing diagrams of prisms,

trying to figure out the direction

the light rays travelled,

discussion about refraction,

dispersion, deviation,

atoms, neutrons and photons.

The spectral colours glow.

Their warmth seeps through

the bones of my feet and rises up and up,

until my whole body pulsates with rainbow

and light leaks from the top of my head.

At this moment nothing else matters,

but that I am here watching the sun

unveil its fingerprints.

 Copyright Shirley Anne Cook June 2018

Lost image


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Lost image



I’m brushing my mother’s hair

in front of the dressing table mirror.

Today I’m the woman who perms

her hair every other Thursday.

Today I’m no one’s daughter.


I bend down and tenderly kiss her head.

Her hair clings to her pink scalp

like sheep’s wool caught on a fence.

It smells of the liver casserole

they gave her for lunch.


Do you remember when your hair

was like a sheaf of golden wheat

glistening in the autumn sun?

Do you remember when it smelt

of seaside holidays and freshly baked cakes?

Do you remember how it tickled

my face with bed time stories and girded

me in loving embraces?


Now my mother’s reflection

contorts in confusion.

Her eyes are those of a child haunted

by shadows in the dark

and she’s drowning in the glass.

I take her frail hand and try to pull

her back from the abyss

but she slips from my grip.


I gaze at my own reflection

and wonder if one day

I too will look in a mirror

and not know who I am.



Lost in the fog






Lost in the fog


It started as a mist:

a forgotten name,

birthday cards written-

not sent,

the telling of a recent event,

again and again.

Like a fungus it grew-

became a suffocating fog.

Now she doesn’t know my face

and I can’t reach her anymore,

she’s lost

in some other place.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook 2018

Care homes for poets




Care homes for poets


They are opening care homes just for poets.

Mornings will be spent reading

and analysing favourite poems.

Life stories will be told in ballad form

and newly penned poems critiqued.

Chair exercises will be conducted

in time with rhyme, and poetry recitals

given to family and friends.


In the afternoons the poets

will be taken into the garden

to study beads of rain on leaves,

or a hackneyed shard of sunlight

filtering through the trees.


In the evening the poets will doze

and suck on lost-lipped mouths,

although the occasional

epitaph may be composed.


At precisely 8pm the poets

will be lowered into half-baths.

Then they will be dried

and shrouded in their sheets.

Struggling to sleep they will

think of a hundred ways

to write about their dying.


Shirley Anne Cook June 2018




Untying the apron strings




Untying the apron strings


You never had time for games,

there was always something to be done:

Dad’s shirts to starch, more dust to find.

Each morning you slipped your bibbed apron

over your head, tied it around your waist.

‘Lots to do must get on,’ you said.

Even on Christmas Day you didn’t stop to play,

but disappeared into the kitchen.

That room was your castle, your apron

a flowery-frilled shield to rebuff all fun.


I remember once dancing to a record

in the lounge, you came in to light the fire.

I tugged at your apron. ‘Dance with me, Mum.’

‘I’ve no time for nonsense,’ you said

and brushed me away like something

that needed tidying.


Yesterday, clearing your house

I found your apron in a drawer,

neatly pressed and folded,

the flower-sprigged pattern now faded

and stained with years of chores.

Holding an apron string in each hand

I began to dance round and round

to a song in my head,

while your ‘no nonsense’ words,

now glittering dust, played games with the wind.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook 2018