Poems and short stories
A selection of poems and short stories inspired by the Write About Time workshop, written by people of all ages. (Click on the titles to expand the text). The workshop activities included sharing time capsule objects, imagining a conversation with someone from a past or future generation, and looking at ways that other writers have explored time in their work.
- 'Time' by Ros Arksey
Explain it to me,
put your finger on it
and hold it for a minute.
Here in a moment
and then it retreats.
So much is underneath,
layers of memories,
language and what is yet
unsaid. Stretching out,
it rolls in waves,
you sense it...looking close
it never appears the same,
it exists beyond you
- 'To the Present Occupier, 2070' by Ros Arksey
I wanted to write and wish you
many years of happiness here.
I felt in love with this house
at first sight - with my offer
accepted on Valentine’s Day.
Some places just have that feeling
don’t they… these walls welcomed me,
it was like we chose each other.
This was my chance for a new beginning,
to embrace living and move on from a place
where our time had stuttered and ran out...
17 August 2015, I moved in, still with boxes
to unpack, I knew I’d found my home,
I hope you have too.
I don’t know what you will like best…
For me it’s the view,
stretching from here to the horizon,
the rolling hills are grounding,
there’s space to breathe, dramatic sunsets
and the glittering beauty of the city
when the night falls.
- 'Memories for the Future' by K.L. Bennett
Behind my defense
I capture your moment,
Manipulate a perfection
Reality never saw.
I build your memories,
I tell your story
From a truth that’s wholly mine.
- 'The Lightning Tree' by K.L. Bennett
This blackened monument to childhood,
Charred and broken, but still impressive;
Deader than the graveyard,
As vital as the fire that made it legend,
Lies eloquently where it fell.
- 'What's Past' by Jim Caruth
The past is a room in a house
where a small red lamp burns
before the Sacred Heart.
a coal fire waiting for a match.
A hallway lined with faces pale as shells.
A woman who sits all day by a window
watching the seasons, remembers at last
the names of her two children
and a man who claims he has the ear of God,
says he knows how the story ends.
By a doorway a young girl buries her face
in her mother’s skirt, twists a silver bracelet
from her wrist and holds it to her eye,
it fills with sky, with absence.
The day I left, I saw a hare as I passed
on the back-road out of the village.
Ever since, I’ve looked for it again
in fields and hedgerows.
Why is it I am not satisfied
with the moment.
In the time it has taken me
to write this down, the past
has returned but changed;
grey ashes gathered in the grate,
fewer faces on the wall.
- 'The Caretaker' by Fiona Chislett
The first time I went to the theatre I was twelve or thirteen. It wasn’t really the theatre and Mr Wilson from The George and Dragon stayed as Mr Wilson all night, despite the strange words he was saying and the faces he was making. My step-mother would have called the look ‘constipated’, but luckily I’d gone on my own.
I didn’t know the other men on stage. They were talking forwards and backwards and round in circles too.
This was the mid 70’s in North Devon. Farmhouses weren’t selling for over a million pounds then, and it would be another fifteen years before the North Devon link road was built and people could commute from London. People knew the price of a lamb, the fluctuating economics of bales of hay, the ins and outs of fly strike, and how to read the sky. But Mr Wilson, who was ‘from off’ (somewhere north of Bristol, rumour had it), obviously had ideas above his station.
Something about the poster must have caught my eye. Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker, Talk of the West End. Two men with long shadows were turning away from each other and a tramp was watching them closely.
Maybe it was the reference to London. Anyhow, here I was with Miss Kingsham, the town librarian who’d kept me supplied in Enid Blighton books for most of my childhood, an audience of two in the dusty upstairs room of the Town Hall which was famous for its weekly Young Farmers Discos.
We stared at spots just above Mr Wilson and his friends’ heads. Mr Wilson could move his eyebrows in all sorts of directions, and independently of each other. I could tell that Miss Kingsham, who still wore her hair in a towering beehive, wasn’t following the plot either because her eyes kept sliding up the wall at the back of the stage to the alarming swag of cobwebs fluttering in the heat which drifted up from the stage lights. Mr Wilson had roped in George Maddox, the electrician, to do the lighting, and he’d gone overboard.
The Town Hall was an old building and like the rest of the town had once been grand. The upstairs room had high ornate ceilings with holes and empty chains where chandeliers had hung; huge glitter balls now spun from two of these for the discos. The wall behind the stage, which was painted pale blue, was flaking badly.
- 'Memories and Seeds' by Deborah Cobbett
Late summer, collecting seeds to dry and plant next spring,
Tiny dots containing hopes of fabulous plants,
Set me thinking of memories, seeds of the future in the past.
People say the young look forward and the old look back -
Look both ways to understand hopes and choices we had and have.
My mother’s memories were of the war, survival stories about air raids or strafing in the streets,
But sometimes too about pre-war times: her Jewish neighbours, toasting ‘next year in Jerusalem’,
The depression, unemployment on the Clyde, selling Peace News - ‘til she used it to biff a heckler.
These stories helped me understand that present, her present back then,
How she valued peace, the Welfare State - even the State of Israel.
Now my own life is part of history too, born in the NHS to orange juice and cod-liver oil,
All that Spirit of ’45 stuff – the Trinity of Health, Housing and Education.
Father designing council houses by day and qualifying at night school;
Me off to grammar school and university, the hippy sixties, Paris 68, Vietnam protests…
Becoming a teacher, free from the terror of testing, instead kindling curiosity and love of learning.
We marched for a better world, without empires and inequalities.
We wanted peace and justice, but got a world full of wars and waste, stuff and strife.
Are people more connected now or always online and elsewhere?
Concerned for sharing what we have or chasing individual aspirations and building walls?
Trashing the planet through extreme consumption or seeking a better world again?
We all played our part in getting to this throwaway, just a click away world,
Buy one and get one free – free from sweatshops, extinctions, pollution and climate change?
Does more stuff make us happy and is greed really good? I think enough is enough.
Looking forward together, can we make better choices?
Others battled on in hope and so can we. Let’s plant some seeds.
- 'Presently' by Urussa Malik
I can’t believe
it’s not yesterday.
That day, I
went to my first day of school,
fell in love exponentially,
got a job far away,
broke my heart briefly,
had a child alone,
in one day.
Oh yesterday: you’re a
lovely metaphor, the past.
But I prefer tomorrow
because that’s where the
electrics are – yesterday’s glow is powered by candles.
I wonder, though, when I will
begin to prefer
yesterday to tomorrow.
- 'You Want to Know About Your Grandma' by Sarah Saatzer
How can I tell you about me, all about me, in this space of time we have.
In the universal language we need for you to understand and me to express.
A poem would be good…
Transformation. Sacred space in time.
Be in the moment deeply with a person.
Any person who asks. Listening. Understanding.
She challenged who I am your mum,
And I she.
At this dot in time I don't know where it will lead…
The moment she was born I knew she was a Pearl not a Ruby;
Plutonian your great grandmother calls it, what your mum is, does.
I hope you will know her, your great grandmother.
Trying now to be in, to inhabit this moment... in compassion,
So I can relax, open my heart, be happy, satisfied.
Feeling so freed in this space today.
Good to give you space in my heart,
thoughts, attention. Love.
Be here with me now dear child, enveloped in all I am in this moment,
The wisdom of years and experience. So good that there are grandmas. Grandma. Grandad.
Your mum's grandma is here today writing in this room too,
Your great grandma. I wonder if she thinks about you just like I'm doing now,
And I forgot she would hear this when I read it out loud.
- 'MeDad' by Tricia Sweeney
MeDad was a great dancer.
I remember dancing with him at my sister's wedding.
He was a quiet man.
I don't remember us talking much,
But he could sing
And he could play the piano.
When he played I would shyly go and stand beside him
And I would sing the words from the music sheet;
It was a special time.
When I was older I would try and get him to speak...
about the war, anything....
But it was hard work.
One day, after I started my College Course, He asked me;
“What are you doing?”
So I told him, “O.T” and then had to explain what it was.
I think he was proud of me at my graduation.
I was the first one in my family to get a degree.
When I was 15 I met him, going up the stairs.
He told me MeGran, his Mum, had died.
I said, “No she's not”. I didn't believe it
And he was silent, but I think he was sad.
When he was older we got more affectionate.
When he was dying I held his hand.
But then a Volunteer came in
To arrange the flowers in his hospital room.
So he let go.
University of Sheffield,
Sheffield S1 1DP
England, United Kingdom
+44 114 222 7900