Toby Wren

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(In memory of Mike Bush)

The eucalyptus cuttings we were given still survive –
though little more than sticks with leaves
and, hopefully, alive.
A chilly breeze blows where they now grow planted in a row
and having, so it seems,
survived the drifts of winter snow.

Three fragile sticks that bend like wire to every wayward gust;
three doubtful hopes that represent our tenancy of trust.
Yet of their slender nature
stirs the thought of what may be,
that from this tender gift there will be one
grows to a tree.

The winter-tide has come and gone –
and come and gone our friend
who spoke of spring and daffodils, and days that we might spend
together in the sunshine...yes,
when he would come to see
the view where later there would grow a eucalyptus tree.

He did not know how cancer then had rooted at his core –
how he might count the winter days
and know of nothing more.
The visit I had idle conversation shared
that spoke of more than what was said
with quiet smiles prepared.

There is a corner of our field where thin sticks slowly grow –
a place we visit now and then,
with thoughts that come and go
of someone we remember and of how things come to be:
that one day we may stand beneath
a eucalyptus tree.

The above was Winner of Horsham Writers Circle's recent annual poetry competition, held in memory of Ernest Sheppard.


The snow had fallen – soft and deep,
and hidden by this frozen tide
the fields lay lost in silent sleep
held by a stillness, far and wide.

And white on white the land and sky
had blurred as one, whilst all around
came crystal flakes, soft drifting by
and floating gently to the ground.

And few were they who ventured out
across this eiderdown of snow –
except the cats, with cautious doubt,
and tracks that saw them come and go.

The farmer too, reluctant though.
His daily journey up the lane
to feed the cows in fields of snow –
up the lane and back again.

Back to his fireside, warm and bright –
and us to ours, except that I
must feed the chickens, huddled tight
inside the henhouse and close by.

And snow on snow came more that day –
my footprints of the morning lost
beneath the drifting deep that lay
as evening brought a sparkling frost.

Then came soft moonlight, rising slow
with beauty there, where all lay bright
across the fields of frozen snow
and of a silence...white on white.


It happens so, that men grow old
and of a time in slow decline,
with lesser deeds than those once bold –
and lesser dreams, somehow, less fine.

It matters not, unless it be
they are then seen in this dim light
of twilight years – a parody
of who they were when once so bright.

It happens so that men grow old
and live again the days they knew –
the present lost in tales retold,
which shine for them forever true.

This farewell then, that they depart
yet leave a faint glow in the heart.


Risen slowly from a former death
and buried deep beneath the heavy earth.
Risen: they who breathe yet have no breath
and speak of beauty from a silent birth.

A sky of winter’s grey with clouds that bring
the gleam of rain in sunlight...faint, yet bright.
Pale harbingers with slow awakening
and distant rainbow arc of spectrum light.

This day...this fair good morning come our way
whilst risen slowly from their rest below
a gathered host, like ghosts, to greet the day
dressed in their cloaks as white as winter’s snow.

This resurrection, blessed by morning rain,
of snowdrops with the dream of spring again.


I am drawn to the sea – it has always been so:
to wander the cliffs where the sea-breezes blow
and the waves rolling in with the spray flying free
over fathoms of misty-green water below.

I am drawn to the sea – to the sound of the sea:
to the whine of the wind and a wild majesty
in the thunder of waves at the cliff’s wetted face,
and the cry of the gulls with their shrill harmony.

I am drawn to the sea – to the slow, rhythmic pace
in the ebb and the flow of continual grace,
while a gathering mist on a grey winter’s day
brings the solitude found in this desolate place.

I am drawn to the sea with the tang of the spray
that lifts from the splintering waves and away...
and away then my thoughts, in the pull and the tow
of swift hidden currents this grave, sombre day.

I am drawn to the sea, where the tides surge and flow
over dark, jagged rocks that gleam brightly below.
Here to wander a while, and to gaze and to know
I am drawn to the sea – it has always been so.


Beyond the barricaded door
locked and abandoned long ago
where none have come for many years.
Left and forgotten…none to know,
where all remains as was before
the frail and former owner died -
and every dim-lit room appears
a silent place, where secrets hide.

Where paper peeling from the walls
has let the damp of years show through,
and fading paintwork everywhere
tells of neglect, and much to do.
This place where no-one ever calls,
and dust has settled, soft and deep
upon the floors and winding stair,
where only creeping ghosts now sleep.

Where boarded windows now allow
thin shafts of soft and filtered light
in through the grimy window panes
on faded furniture once bright.
And locked away from time, somehow,
the hours pass unheeded by
a silent clock, and all remains
lost in a place where old dreams die.

Yet outside, in the busy street,
a noisy world goes past each day –
the house un-noticed, having been
allowed to crumble and decay.
Beyond the sound of passing feet,
where rooms are hushed and lost to fate
with settled dust, and none are seen
except the ghosts that quietly wait.


Beneath the tall and gently swaying nettles,
where terra cotta pots lie lost and broken
and tangled brambles run and root and shoot and ramble on.
Where musty dampness creeps and slowly settles
on fading sacking, mouldering and soaken –
and left to rot, forgotten…of some purpose lost and gone.

In hidden mottled shadows slowly drifting
with hazy sunlight filtered soft and mellow,
where caterpillars curl beneath soft leaves that disappear.
And long, entwining weeds, their thick stems lifting
to flowers, small and bright in shades of yellow –
or thin and jagged petals turned to puffs of seeded spheres.

A realm of secret, long-abandoned hiding –
a wooden cartwheel blanched by sun and showers
with splintered spokes held fixed within a rusted iron ring.
And snails in slow procession gently gliding
on gleaming trails of slime, whilst passing hours
drift undisturbed, but for a breeze with gentle whispering.

This farmyard corner left for things not needed
and of no value, though they still survive,
and gathered as a history of labour from the past.
A chronicle of yesterdays unheeded,
with worthless relics telling of the lives
of those who come and go…remembered by such things that last.


It came and went and was not seen.
Between the twilight shades of dusk
and pallid light of early dawn,
when creatures stir as may have been
asleep by day, roused by the musk
of evening and by shadows drawn.

And softly then abroad at night,
with hidden movement but a stir
of leafy undergrowth, or sway
of tall grass whitened in the light
of moon through hazy gossamer
of passing cloud in ghostly grey.

Beyond the farmhouse, hushed and still,
and sleeping guard-dog unaware:
beyond the hedge along the lane
hung with the dew of winter’s chill:
beyond the field and tractor there,
unseen it went and back again.

And long before the dawning day –
before the stir of birds was heard,
it sought once more a cleft between
deep roots and rock…to hide away
in silence, as the morning stirred.
To come and go and be not seen.


The day begins quite well and there is plenty to be done –
the flower tubs need water from a tangled hose…such fun!
But then I see my dusty car in need of a shampoo –
so best I go to find the keys and get the car washed too.

Beneath the hook where keys are hung there’s mail from yesterday
which needs to be examined –
I should do it right away.
So with car keys on the table I start sorting through the bills,
and throw away the junk mail in a bin, which quickly fills.

Before the bin gets emptied I put bills safe in a rack –
to pay them later when I go out with the rubbish sack.
But first I need to find my cheques – just one left in the book.
There should be more in my desk drawer,
so go to take a look.

It’s there I find a can of drink I left, but not too old,
and so decide to put it in the fridge to keep it cold.
A vase of flowers in the kitchen have begun to wilt –
to water them, I put the can down where it won’t get spilt.

I then discover there my reading glasses I mislaid,
which should be put back on my desk for when the bills get paid.
But first the need to water flowers seems to fill my mind,
so I put my glasses on the fridge –
where then I chance to find
the pen I had been looking for – I wondered where it went.

I put it on the kitchen table, being still intent
on watering the flowers, although as I start to pour
some water seems to suddenly spill out across the floor.
So I go to fetch a cloth, which isn’t where it ought to be –
and pausing for a moment look around at what I see…

The flower tubs aren’t watered – next to them a tangled hose.
The dusty car still waiting to be washed, I must suppose.
The bills aren’t paid and now they’re lost…
the cheque-book’s missing too.
There’s now a bag of rubbish on my desk –
quite strange, but true.

A warming can of drink sits on the kitchen window-sill,
next to a vase of dropping blooms in need of water still.
I cannot find my glasses or my pen…
I could go on
and talk about the car keys, which mysteriously have gone!

But worst of all…and this is sad and never meant in fun,
I’ve been so busy,
though it seems there’s not a darn thing done!


I remember your smile…
I remember it well
from a photograph found in a drawer.
And I pause for a while
where such memories dwell
of a time that I knew once before.

I remember your hair –
how it shone in the sun,
but the memory that I like best
is of being aware
of your white blouse undone,
and the soft, gentle curve of your breast.

I remember your eyes
and your delicate chin –
I recall very clearly your face.
I remember your thighs
and the touch of your skin,
from the warmth of a tender embrace.

I remember you well –
though not often, it’s true,
for the days bring new thoughts as they will.
Yet I cannot dispel
these few thoughts now of you,
and so I remember you still.

I remember the days…
I remember the nights.
I remember how love was a game
that we played, and the ways
of a thousand delights –
but I cannot remember your name.


He sensed a movement… turned to look
where shifting shadows dimly lay
beyond the flickering lantern light.
Then carefully he made his way
out to the barn, so grey and dark
despite the pale, reflected glow
of drifting, opalescent clouds
and pallid moon that shone as bright.

And stood there, with the creaking shift
of wooden rafters overhead,
he knew then of some hidden thing
that brought a faint, uncertain dread.
He paused and felt a chill of air
that softly came and went once more –
a passing errant draft, he thought,
though he remained not wholly sure.

And so he listened, though there came
no other sound upon the air –
from far and wide, a stillness found
where all lay hushed around him there.
He paused and nothing saw or heard
as might have watched him come and go,
yet sensed it there… some hidden thing
of which he would not ever know.


Mostly, it seems, we leave little behind us
for others to find, or at times to remind us
of where we have been, or of what we have done –
the sum of achievements from what we have won.

Many the things to which others lay claim
as purchased and owned…or the family name,
but little of artistic merit or skill
to become something special, that speaks of us still.

Mostly, it seems, it is given to few
to fabricate something unique…something new
of canvas and paint, or of metal, or wood –
or ink upon paper, such thoughts understood.

Yet the greatest of gifts left for others to find,
is of shared love and memories we leave behind.


I will write about the seasons and the coming of the rain:
the uniqueness of each day
that we will seek to find again.

I will write of frosty mornings and a time of pure delight,
when we may wander out to view the stars
so clear and bright…

and a changing in the weather
when the north wind starts to blow,
and brings a sudden stillness lost beneath a shroud of snow.

I will write about the coming of the early morning light,
and snowdrops by the sheltered hedge
so delicate and white…

and the thrust of green blades showing
with their promise soon of gold,
and a slow deliberation as the days of spring unfold.

I will write of summer sunshine and the singing of the birds –
and of a thousand new delights
that I will put in words…

and the russet charm of autumn
with the harvest this will yield,
from days we spend together and the happiness we build.

I will write of all these things that simple words may yet explain,
with the changing of the seasons
and the coming of the rain.


noun (botanical) : kinds of pungent-tasting cruciferous plants:
(improp) trailing garden plant with bright yellow or red flowers (L)

A sunny week has barely passed since scattered seeds were sown
along the garden wall – there, in the dark-brown, fertile ground.
And yet, already risen, small amoeba leaves have grown,
with promise soon of coloured trumpet flowers all around.

And comes a thought of childhood and nasturtiums I once grew -
and schooldays then recalled with many tutors, long ago.
And Mr Beckensale – he, one of many, who I knew
that taught us English grammar… which he said we ought to know.

And of his love of poetry…though alien then to me:
his dreary lessons passing with each long, slow, weary hour.
The scattered seeds on stony ground, that he might never see
some small, green leaf or, given time, that first bright, fragile flower.

And might have read this poem, quite amazed…and softly smiled
to find himself remembered by so difficult a child.



Hi Toby,

In my book, any i.m. poem must reflect the genuine loss felt by the one left behind, and your truly excellent poem fits this description admirably. My commendations to you.

I shall long remember the line:
''three doubtful hopes that represent our tenancy of trust''



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