Love in a Foreign Country


, , ,


Love in a foreign country


The Nile sparks with the souls of the pharaohs.

You are my ‘ka’ and ‘ba.’

The dead sleep

sand-mouthed beneath us.

You are my eternity.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook 2018





If dreaming is all there is


, ,

My dad died 19 years ago on this day. I wrote this a few months after his death.

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.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook 2018





Poem. Ancient Gardeners


, , , , ,


Ancient gardeners


Sirius glitters in the night sky

and heralds Akhet,

the season of the Nile flood.

Soon the banks will overflow

with rich black silt – Egypt’s life blood.

When the waters recede

farmers will plough the ground,

while women and children

scatter seed around.

This season of sowing they call Peret.


Shemu, harvest time, comes next.

Bronze backs will glisten

and sickles flash in sun god Ra’s harsh rays.

When the granaries are full

everyone will sing Amun’s praise.


On the tomb walls of Set Maat

artists record this seasonal story.

The ancient gardener’s world,

there for eternity.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook May 2018


From my book


Poem. ‘Eight’







I tell myself it doesn’t matter:

that slammed door,

your hasty footsteps on the path,

the missing wave and smile

when I, aged eight,

pressed nose on glass,

hopeful of your return.


I tell myself it doesn’t matter

how I waited there until late,

ignoring Father’s demands to go

to bed, where each night

I cried myself to sleep.


I tell myself it doesn’t matter

that you never sent a letter

or remembered special days.

And it doesn’t matter that

I never saw you again.

I’ve been just fine without you.

So you see, it doesn’t matter.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook May 2018




Poem. ‘Ship of Dreams.’



They called the Titanic the ship of dreams…



The Ship of dreams



I’m drifting around down here,

here in these dark sea-weeded depths.

I’m a quivering wreck and yes,

I’ve become adept at reeling

off the odd sea joke.

The fish always give me gulped mouth ovations.

I’m their white-boned castle.


It’s not easy making friends.

I only have one.

Day and night he skulks around

the bladder-wrack bed

waving his violin bow saying,

‘I never stopped playing

while the ship went down.’

He bores me stiff with his white-pegged,

clackety-clack monotone.


I spend my days dreaming back,

back to when I had flesh on my bones,

a soft shimmering skin

and long silken black hair.

I reeked of perfume, not fish,

and dazzling diamonds danced

around my neck.

It’s not their sparkle I miss,

but that of the stars.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook May 2018























Poem. Alphabets.


, , , ,




His voice on the phone,

the cadence of ‘alifs, baas, taas,’

and I am taken back to

date-palmed paths beside the Nile.

A first felucca trip –

him haggling with the boatman,

fricative ‘kh’, pharyngeal ‘ayn’.


On board we eat a picnic

of flat bread, cheese and fruit.

I have my first Arabic lesson.

‘Apple’ –  ‘tif-a-har, tiffa-hah, too-fah-hah’.

He and the boatman

laughing at my English accent.


Later that day we sit beneath

temple pylons, shrouded

in their ancient shadows.

‘Can you hear the voices of the pharaohs?’

His tongue a golden cartouche

sparked with hieroglyphic charm.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook


Poem. Raleigh’s Wife.



It’s said that when Sir Walter Raleigh ( 1552-1618)  died his wife, Elizabeth, was so heartbroken she kept his embalmed head and carried it around in a bag.  So I wrote this poem.



Raleigh’s wife



My love, you are with me always.

This leather bag is like a second womb

and bulges with your head.

It weighs the same as our son at birth,

but you are stillborn.


There are black-cowled whispers.

‘Widow Raleigh is insane,’ they say.

‘Why not a lock of his hair?’

I am undeterred, your embalmed head

will accompany me everywhere.


I like to slip my fingers inside

your crackled cocoon and explore

the geographies of your exquisite face.

My finger tips linger on the curve of rictus lips.

It’s as though your laugh has just left.


At night I take you out and bathe

you in sweet-scented herbs,

wreathe you in your finest ruff,

each laced purl pressed to perfection.

Then when it’s time to sleep

your head rests on the pillow next to mine.


Your torso may reek of rottenness

but worms will not steal our goodnight kiss.

Copyright Shirley Anne Cook May 2018













Poem. 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












A magic Carpet Ride


, ,


A magic carpet ride


So, we parked our magic carpet,

and found a café in the shade.

We drank sweet tea thick as mud

and watched lizards laze

in clinging vine tendrils.

Around us ancient arched stones echoed

with muezzins’ calls to prayer.


You read my fortune in the cup,

said I’d marry a girl with sparkling blue eyes

and lips as red as the flags strewn above.

We laughed, and our faces touched.


Your eyes have now lost their sparkle.

The flags were taken down

long ago, and the magic carpet

is in the attic gathering dust.


Copyright Shirley Anne Cook May 2018



A poem. ‘Turning the Map Over’


, ,



Sometimes we get so caught up in the mad dash of this life that we forget to stop and smell the bluebells!  I wrote this poem when I was commuting to London for work.

I am thankful I don’t have to make that journey now.

Yesterday I went to Abinger bluebell woods. It was a glorious day and the scent of the bluebells and the sun of my face lifted my spirits.

We should all try to turn the map over when we can, even if just for a few minutes.



Turning the map over


So I take the Piccadilly line through

dew-laden fields,

everywhere early morning

bird call, no garbled guard call.

A solitary rabbit sits on the platform,

rumbles a warning then scurries

down the subway.


Following a buttercup path I head

to the next stop, the woodland copse.

I breathe in bluebell and wet earth smells-

no nine to five body smells.

Bracken brushes my legs,

a bramble wants to walk with me.

I wander aimlessly. I’ve no sense

of direction and I’m lost

in all my senses.


I come to the lake.

No-one is breathing

down my neck,

treading on my feet.

I take a seat.

A king-fisher hovers over the water,

a drake says good morning (that’s a first)

A swan unfolds its newspaper,

but there’s not a trace of print in sight.


The sun is climbing through the trees,

it drenches me in light.

I’m glad I caught

this morning’s kingdom

and not the eight thirty to Earl’s Court.

I walk to the end of the line,

and thank God I turned the map over.