Heidi Stephenson & Derek Finch

14-21 March 2015

Poems by Heidi Stephenson


A Print of Wings

My heart thunders in my chest.

Palms beaded with cold sweat.

My lungs forget to breathe.

I’m frozen, like a hare in the face of the gunman.


Derek sleeps. I can’t disturb him.

He’s been so starved of rest,

Across these endless weeks.

Holding it all together; holding me.


It is the dead of night.

Even the street lights have gone out.

Our cats are gallivanting.

This isolation is palpable.


And then I smell him.

My nostrils filled

With the thick, familiar smoke

Of my grandfather.


A print of wings against the wall;

Against this charcoal light.

He’s here. Everything’s going to be OK.

One way, or the other.


The Derision of Empathy

“Old English sōfte; yielding, gentle, mild, agreeable.

Related to Old Saxon sāfti, Old High German semfti; cognate with German sanft.


I have a soft spot for animals;

I am soft on my nonhuman kin.

As soft as a baby’s bottom.

A typical example of the softer sex:

Accused of being “oversoft;”

Soft-boiled; soft-hearted;

A soft job, soft target –

For a sob story.

“Sentimental,” “weak” and “foolish”…

A “big girl’s blouse;”

With a lack of “grip” on “reality.”


I am deficient in hardness;

My upper lip’s not that stiff.

I don’t have a “stomach” for violence.

I am considered by many to be “soft in the head;”

Someone who gives soft answers –

When tough is the standard, the norm.

When the buck is supposed to stop with Bambi;

When the Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle Duck ‘phase,’

Is meant to end abruptly,

With a rabbit stew;

A Pepper Pig pot-roast.

With old friends drowning –

In gravy and plum sauce:

The stuff of bedtime nightmares.


But there’s no soft-soaping me.

There’s no soft-pedalling;

To persuade me to turn a blind eye;

To deaden my ears to the screaming.

I can’t be soft on oppression, on cruelty.

I can’t be soft on suffering, neglect.

I am not projecting, imagining;

I am not “anthropomorphizing.”

I can see with my own, un-blinkered eyes.

I recognize pain when I hear it.

I smell the fear in excrement and blood.


And I don’t want a “taste” of your “real world”.

I have seen behind closed doors;

Where a Blue Beard horror plays out daily.

And I am not “over the top,”

Because I lack testosterone,

Or a killer’s ‘instinct’ –

Because I view silence as complicity.

And Aristotle’s ‘Great’ Chain,

As a self-serving fantasy;

Preaching man’s ‘superiority,’

Without conscience or impunity:

Making a virtue of enslavement.


“No pain, no gain,” you say;

But I won’t numb out on your ‘necessity’ myths.

There is a common beingness,

That modern time forgot,

But sorely needs to remember.

The Golden rule of a bygone Age:

To “Do – as you would be done by.”

To live and let live,

To harm none.

There’s an idea in that idealism,

That’s not “infantile” at all:

And it’s not one I want to “grow out of.”


Away with your exploitative, soft money!

If there’s to be a future,

Violence won’t be a soft option.



The Lover

 You thief! You thief!

Did I let you in?

Did I grant you permission?

Did I invite?


And would you prize open?

And would you plunder?

And would you steal?


What was locked.

What was fortified against all feeling.

What was adamant.


You burglar in the night;

Sailing in on your raft of promises.

Singing the deadly song of the siren.


Intoxicating with your scent,

Of frangipani, of orange blossom.

Echoing the ancients with your silvery words.


And having won, would you abandon?

And having broken, would you flee?


While There’s Still Time

 While there’s still time…

I will remember to laugh!

I will heal the rift with my father;

I will make sour grapes, sweet.

I will express my gratitude.


While there’s still time…

I will shout from the roof-tops,

About the things that matter;

About kindness to all beings,

About treading lightly.


While there’s still time…

I will celebrate the busy bee.

I will praise the humble earthworm.

I will revel in the patience of the snail.

I will feed the famished fox.


While there’s still time…

I will make my foot-print delicate;

Walk barefoot among the daisies.

I will open my heart to the rosy dawn;

And drown in the beauty of birdsong.


While there’s still time…

I will gather my friends,

Like a nest of precious fledglings,

And pay tribute to their gifts of love.

I will wipe their eyes – and open them.


While there’s still time…

I will savour the privilege of the dying,

The ecstasy and intensity – of Now.

I won’t waste one drop of this vital moment.

And finally stop rehearsing Life’s short play.


And when the time comes…

I will sink into a glorious surrender.

Embrace the gentle arms of Death, white-flagged.

I will cut the cord, and free all those around me;

Slip away graciously from this merry dance.


Paintings by Derek Finch

DSC01297              SONY DSC
DSC01379        SONY DSC