For Vincent Van Gogh, 29th July, 1890


Image by Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

Sometimes it happens that moved by some trifle
the flood-gates of the heart will seize fast.
Then tears that seemed foolish become a great flood,
a passion that defies all explanation.

In the very young you may see it sometimes
when they throw back their heads and howl,
their plump cheeks red, their eyes screwed tight,
their small fists like windmills through the air.

Do not think it naughtiness. It is no show of mere petulance
but the human condition that has touched them.
They cry their frustration with a world so cruel
that it will not let them have and be.

And the elderly too who have least time left for tears
will weep at the slightest provocation.
This may be what love is: to be touched,
to be pierced by this well-spring that has no end.

Yesterday I watched as three baby rabbits
frolicked after sunbeams in my garden.
Such a tenderness engulfed me.
Later, this morning, I counted only two.

Now, this same evening, a summer storm rages.
It tears at the beauty of my poppies.
My heart bleeds to see them crushed.
As you say, my friend, this sadness never ends.


© Abigail Elizabeth Ottley

Of Spiders and Threads


Image by David Rowland
By narrow light
of thin, hooked moon
a busy spider spins
to turn to grace
her public face by fair
and private means.
A silver spool, a pool
of pearls, and rubies,
deep as hearts are dark.
Such are the jewels
a spider keeps to bless
her precious work.
Then inch by inch
comes creeping dawn
when spider’s midnight
toils must cease.
The fruits of all her
labour this bright
opal’s fiery face.
© Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Smith



The Rain It Raineth Every Day: The Weather and the Objective Correlative…

As I sit here on the verge of committing to the web a post which is now many weeks overdue I am aware of two things: firstly, that the house is growing chilly, a fact which prompts me to consider whether I should switch on my very comfortable but also very expensive central heating; and, secondly, that it raining again at the close of a grey and dismal day. How perfectly, I am thinking, how very exactly these two circumstances fall in with my mood. ‘Autumnal’ hardly covers it: I am dancing with the shades.

Why am I so melancholy?  I am not sure. I think there may be several reasons.  Undoubtedly, some of them, are rooted in a kind of social and political malaise.  As much I try to maintain some optimism, I must confess that it depresses me unspeakably if I allow myself to dwell for very long on ‘the way things are going’, which, even on a good day, seems to me to be covered by the single word ‘backwards’.

We have  a government which, despite its bumbling. hoo-ha-Henry incompetence, is more right-wing and even more ruthless than soon-to-be canonized Lady Margaret Thatcher’s. It seems to me, in fact, that.not content with undoing the progress towards social justice and equality that was made in the aftermath of the 1939 – 1945 war, the Con-Dem pact is also hell-bent on transporting the working classes back to the poverty and impotence of the early nineteenth century.

No, honestly, I’m not exaggerating.  Surely, you must have noticed. Daily, I expect to switch on my iPad to find there’s been a new Poor Law Amendment Act or that. overnight, some bloke called Sidmouth has taken over the leadership. That nice David Cameron has done his work, you see; first he lulled the masses into a false sense of security, then he filled us all full of fear and set us up to blame each other.  It’s our fault, of course it is: we’re greedy, shiftless and work-shy; we want something for nothing; we don’t know we’re born.  No, hang on a minute: it’s not us exactly; its them low-down, lying benefit cheats, and those idle, the-whole-word-owes-us-a-living cancer and heart patient, not to mention the mentally ill. Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s just a bloody scam. Depression, well, it’s not real, is it? And neither is schizophrenia; and, as for alcoholism, well, it’s just beyond the pale. Some people, you see, show no respect for society; at bottom, they just lack integrity.  It’s a good job. isn’t it, that we’ve got men like Andrew Mitchell to show us the way things should be done.

‘Is that it?’ you may be asking.  Well. actually, no it isn’t.  There are other things, things closer to home that I could get off my chest if I chose.  My glamorous Auntie Audrey, aka Jackie Joy, who used to sing and dance at the Windmill Theatre and, in the war years, worked alongside Bruce Forsyth, Tommie Trinder and Mike and Bernie Winters, is currently in hospital and is very poorly indeed,   If she does not rally, and we have been warned that she might not, it will be another in a long line of bereavements.  I have lost so many of the people I love.  I am dancing with death.

What else is upsetting me?  Well, earlier today, walking in Fore Street in Camborne, I faced a young woman who was coming the other way.  Not a girl, you understand, not even a teenager, but a woman in, perhaps, her early thirties: the pavement was busy with shoppers; there wasn’t a great deal of room.  As I drew close to this woman, however, we did that thing the people do sometimes when they try to avoid each other but both go in the same direction. I looked at her, a little embarrassed, as one is; I gave her an awkward little smile. She, for her part, curled her lip in a snarl and pushed past me some considerable force.

‘I’m not walking in the fucking road,’ she said.

It feels like I am dancing with death.