Short the days are.
And years pass like the leaves –
copper, amber, cherry-tipped,
soft kisses of goodbye.
Nightfall brings out pleiades
and trees left bare
boughs open to the stars,
shimmer in the music
to a symphony of wild geese.
The fighting is over now
and in the silence the deer
nuzzle along the ground
seeped with winter’s frost
as if the answers lay
beneath its icy heart.



Copyright @2013 Louise Hastings

The Watchers


As darkness falls
the sky is shot with red
and here is where the wood
thins out, opens into a field of souls,
and all that’s good and gentle
bleeds off through the night.

There is no hope in this
and they come to burn the dead
hidden by a sweep of cloud
and a fading moon. We watch
to witness whatever truth there is,
and wait for morning to weep
across the trees, raw as ripped out roots.



©2013 Louise Hastings

The Shape of a Soul

On the night of her death
you looked down and watched
as she left like a wisp of smoke
by the hole in her head,
floating up through her half
of the purple nocturne sky.

And as she lies fragile like a bird
soft light filters through her paper skin;
the moon turns red,
a scarlet surge spilling a waterfall.

And what is the shape of a soul?
Is a woman’s the same as a man’s?
All she wanted
was what we all want –
a chance to live, to learn, to love.

But I hear no response, no reply,
just your mocking laughter
as she lies bleeding there in the dark.



©2013 Louise Hastings

Dying Star

Mountain lake

When the sun descends beneath winter clouds
the jackals circle in a deep wood
out where the frozen grass lays under frost light.

They pant hotly on the soil, pressed close
as we pass – saliva drips, a gash for a mouth –
seeking earth’s exposed nerve, riches, death.

These are the hours, all that might be lost,
hopes dissolving with the melting snow,
loss lingering in the dark like the hill fog.

They are laughing now; hear the callous disregard
while earth’s watchers, bathed in moonlight
remain the keepers of this dying star.



Copyright @Louise Hastings 2013

Rest in Peace

It is a voilet-tinted world they go to sleep in, lying side by side in separate beds. Janie thumbs through the pages of her book while Richard fixes his eyes on the shadows, thinking about his childhood and idly wondering why the two of them never touch anymore. The night has washed them away from the passions of their marriage bed it seems, like flotsam swept away on seawater, but although they lie strangely apart, they are close still, contented and cloaked in domestic love.

“He would have been twenty today,” she blurts out.

He glances at her with concern, his thoughts interrupted. “I know, darling. We’ll go and see him, visit his grave tomorrow.”

Janie remains silent after that, picturing little feet and soft blond curls, blue eyes peeking out from under the duvet. To her he would always remain a little boy, cheeky and cherubic.

Sensing her silence, Richard returns to his thoughts, making a mental note to ring for a taxi in the morning, their car being a write off after the accident. There are moments in life, he thinks, that can be recalled forever; it’s been stamped into the neurons that fire the brain, suddenly and irrevocably; his son’s death was one such moment, the other the smell of the mixture that makes up brake fluid & oil and rain and smoke. He grimaced remembering the terrible pains in his chest after the collision, the stinging in his streaming eyes from the black cloud of poisonous smoke, the sense of terror that gripped him as he scrabbled for the door handle. He couldn’t remember much else after that, he must have passed out, swallowed by the enveloping relief of unconsciousness.

He shuddered, grateful for the morning saving him from the nightmares and waking him up to sunlight and the trees casting their shadows over the lawn. He tried to breathe in the sweet scent of the roses that grew wild with neglect by the hedge. They loved it here in the country, being so quiet. It was a perfect place for them to retire to.

As they approached the cemetery later, they encountered a wonderful sense of peace and tranquility, but Richard couldn’t get past his anger at the injustice of it all. Jack had suffered a violent death; blown up in Afghanistan on a mission against insurgents. Five soldiers lost their lives on that dreadful day. Richard presses his lips together, inwardly cursing the futility of war.

Noticing the absence of flowers by his grave, Janie felt a burning sense of shame in her cheeks. She swallowed hard, staring down in silence at the headstone that read:

 Here lies our beloved son

Jack Manford

1992 – 2011

May he rest in peace

Jack was already there however, standing to the side regarding them quietly. It had been a while since he’d last seen his parents.

“You look just as solid and real as you did when you were alive,” he thought, glancing over at their fresh, marble headstones. “Was it possible they didn’t realise?”

“Death must make people less perceptive,” he thought, stepping forward to greet them.



© 2012 Louise Hastings