Jessica Madlala



I never had cause to doubt her

Her smile could open gates

Dress crabs, light fires and keep me warm at night

She smelled of sandalwood it seemed to me

Certainly some natural spice, warm and tasty

It was her natural way that was charming

While innocent, she knew the ways of the world


Never at a loss for humour, she giggled like a drain

Her smile could lift the darkest mountains

and throw them wholesale into the sea

She could paddle a dugout and spear a big-eyed Tuna

Gatch a Spotted Grunter and bake its delicious white flesh

On the briefest, cutest  barbecue you ever did see

That she built of twigs and dried leaves so carefully


She would listen to me for hours and hours patiently

Her smile melted frozen rivers that never reach the sea

and she was always more than a woman to me

But when the Bulls Eye Squall came that day

or any other, not like any other, my handsome brother

Jessica herself took off and was gone

and she took the plaited shawl I gave her




What do you think?


Frozen Rivers by After The Fire – 1982


Moving headlights shining through the rain
Neon diamonds light the streets again
Songs of Freedom written on the wall
Words of Heroes spoken as they fall

You’re telling me the same old story
On and on and on
You’re never going to learn to stand up on your own

I gave you everything you said you wanted more
Love lies broken, I’ve heard it all before
Good intentions are all the same to me
Frozen rivers never reach the sea

You’re telling me the same old story
On and on and on
You’re never going to learn to stand up on your own

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Lavinia Ann

( Jean Shrimpton or any other such name)


jean shrimpton 1964 1964


There was a kind of honest place

where honour sat to watch her face

fingers outlined that hollow space

a holy form only a mind might trace


Conventions craw had yielded more

than whatever nature’s mother saw

as patterns, rough-hewn, torn and raw

drew hopes then trampled on the floor


Light of fire, mirrored deepest, dark desire

flickered all too briefly, a tattered funeral pyre

blood & gold brought together, always will conspire 

against a Prussian night whose love may never tire



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The Little Blue Donkey

a blue donkey

I am the little blue donkey you have seen me on the road

The little blue donkey, I wander where I am told

I light fires to keep warm until the moonlight disperses

Remember the code, both chapter and verses

In my way I am bold, I can carry a heavy load

I can listen to a sorry tale & my love it will never fail

Because I am the little blue donkey, miserable and cold





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its a bailey

when I was six years old    in nineteen fifty-seven     on a sunday morning  with  2 way  family favourites playing on the radio     I came down late for breakfast      which was a weetabix       and I observed the actions of the family  like joe browns song     what a crazy world were living in   ⚫️   dad was working in his shed    mum was working in the kitchen    brother was reading on the sofa    ⚫️  i felt neglected  abandoned  alone   ⚫️   properly alone probably for the first time in my life   ⚫️   no one seems to notice me   isnt it a sin   what a crazy world were living in   ⚫️  then it came to me   i would have to leave home   i was six years old   ⚫️   i planned my exit and i  was very apprehensive  ⚫️   i had the coolest toy gun you have ever seen and i mean ever    ⚫️   it was a retro luger pistol  ⚫️   i had the coolest leather casket type bag with a shoulder strap too   ⚫️   i would need to defend myself if i were attacked out there in the world   so i put the cool pistol in the cool bag   put the strap around my shoulder and headed off   i made sure not to bang the side gate while leaving  ⚫️   i felt bad for leaving home   it had been a good life and i really loved my family but this rejection i felt threw  serious doubts about their love for me   ⚫️  i went out our front gate and turned right  walking past the front of our house and turned right again into fieldsend road    behind the tall hedge and i was gone   ⚫️   i journeyed up the hill past fromondes road and turned left into tilehurst avenue and down the sharp incline to st dunstans bypass    it was always a busy dual carriageway   ⚫️   i looked both ways carefully and nervously and crossed two lanes to the small bollard island in the middle of the road opposite the wide swing gate to spillers field where there was a hawk that flew high in the twilight   ⚫️   i was six years old   ⚫️   i waited for the traffic to pass and crossed the remaining two lanes   turning right and onto the pavement and past the few cottages set back on the far side   ⚫️   two hundred yards and i could climb the few steps down into sears park and away from the noise of the traffic   ⚫️   i was wearing a tee with  denim jeans and black and white bumper shoes   ⚫️   i always wore black and white bumper shoes with white laces   ⚫️   sears park was one of many great parks in our area of around    say   six or seven acres   ⚫️   i crossed the park diagonally  passing the open pavilion where older boys and girls met and talked in groups   ⚫️   i did not enter the pavilion because i did not like to see some of the words scrawled in marker on the walls   although most messages were simple  naive   love talk   or  kilroy  style drawings   ⚫️   tom loves maddi   cas fancies jimmy   susie shagged richard   that kind of thing   ⚫️   i continued walking the remainder of the park which ran down the hill and past a wide bed of tree sheltered rose bushes and then i exited into the wooded path that ran for three hundred yards through to west sutton and the gander green lane shops   ⚫️    on entering the path i was probably three quarters of a mile from home   ⚫️   it was warm in the sun but coolish in the shade   ⚫️    this path was known as   boney hole   ⚫️   it was called that   as it goes  because allegedly while digging down the lane  workmen unearthed human remains   namely a skeleton   ⚫️   the legend was that someone had been murdered and buried down boney hole  just next to the grammar school playing fields   ⚫️   the story gripped my imagination and i wondered where the bones had been found as i walked down the cold  enclosed path alone   ⚫️   i was six years old   ⚫️   at the far end was a barbed wire fence and an overgrown area which spread itself onto the path   ⚫️   i exited the path into the warm sunshine to walk past a run of four or five shops i was most unfamiliar with   ⚫️   i did not know why but the sight of these shops scared me   even more than the boney hole had   ⚫️   i thought i knew the way from here though   through the back streets to sutton  which was three miles maybe from where we lived   ⚫️   i saw the red phone box and knew i should ring home   ⚫️   i was still six years old and a long way from home   ⚫️   i still had the luger pistol in my leather bag around my shoulder   it made it difficult to enter the phone box as the door was on a firm spring   ⚫️   i knew our phone number as well    people recited their number when answering the phone in those days   ⚫️    i had been told to lift the receiver and say clearly   fairlands 4205   ⚫️   the phone box smelled musty and i had no money but i lifted the receiver and dialled the number and listened to the bleep  bleep  bleep   ⚫️    my family must really be missing me and worried too   ⚫️  i exited the phone box and retraced my steps   ⚫️   past the shops   down boney hole   across sears park   down to the falcon field   over the carriageway   up the hill to fieldsend road and then on   down down down   round the corner   past the tall hedge and in through the front gate and the noisy side gate  quietly in fear and trepidation   ⚫️  dad was working in his garden   mum was working in her kitchen   brother lying on the sofa   ⚫️  what a crazy world we are living in   ⚫️   nothing was ever said   no questions were ever asked   even about the anonymous phone call   because no one had even noticed that i had left home   ⚫️   all this on the day i decided to leave home   ⚫️


its a bailey … using no traditional punctuation


  ⚫️    ⚫️


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.. ..


.. ..

The Glass of Pain

.. ..

The clear glass pane all muddied with her tears

at one time she nearly crossed the line of right 

and wrong, the grey lovebirds’ song, but failed

.. ..

Beguiled and rebuffed she worried she would not

amount to much until she felt his touch and softened,

the gatekeeper’s daughter who loved what he brought her

.. ..

Anything seemed better than this, even the scent of bliss

which wrapped itself around his hand, the dream of another

land with summer air and no burden, no work, no care

.. ..

She combed her long brown hair and wondered what it might

be like to dare and be different, to be the person you were

and not the desire of someone else’s purpose and imagination

.. ..


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birds and bees

§  §  §

It was a thunderclap that woke them

woven as they were golden

They had slept that way for hours

carried home honey from the bees


They first met in ’54 when what they did

was way below the law

Marian always the clever one

& Maud who wore the shawl


They both drank bourbon from

a tall tin cup; an amphora

A crystal chalice or a beaker

but when they held hands it was cleaner


Not many people had said

they were made for each other

then Marianne bought pansies

Maud wept & then became her lover


Souls twine like rope, useful and strong

The head of a horse stands up

as proud as the day is long

these two wore vivid silk sarongs


And hiding in the fisher hut

her Polish father’s sweet garret

they spoke for hours of love and pain

till Maud guessed the amber stain


Their ’78 became a by-word flame

the cultured opulence of their modern day

glitter gave way to the raw colours of earth

so they made a kind of docu-fillum’


This day, today – people stop & listen

when their love was its strongest

opinion divided by hatreds engine driven

love’s purple flower was too well hidden


People’s views change, glow & glisten

In the dockyard, schoolyard or the mission

Mauds temper finally broke the bowl & strew

diamonds, soft lilies & golden fishes


So lovely, the hands of Marian

Who could’ve sat in forest wolds, in felt hat

Strumming words, loving birds, telling Maud

No other matter matters, but Love.


a ballad written over many months byedenbraycompleted24.09.2017



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.  .  .

When you first see Venice shimmering

in the sun, it is a city walking on water.

Your first inclination demands you weep 

and if heaven is a more endless sight

then only those with broken hearts may enter.

.. .

 The complexion of angels,

rose-strewn and blood-dried, the walls.

Arched bridges wanton, drape themselves

like artists models over the water streets

and as sirens, they draw your worn soul

.. .

I have waited on your tempered, wet streets

searched your bazaars cold, shaded grey.

I have climbed your steep, paved bridges

stood repentant in study of saintly churches.

Absolved, atoned, purged – in love’s blush.


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just words

Today is yet another of those days in life when any words are empty, banal, unimportant but somehow today seem equally necessary. Since I have not yet suffered first hand the atrocity of war or seen a loved one ripped from my side by violence or lost a child to either accident or illness I am probably one of many millions least qualified to comment and yet by nature of shared humanity, imagination, overwhelming compassion and sadness I found myself silent again this morning on hearing of another terrible end to innocent human life.

I could not speak!

A silence akin to so many I can recall on hearing bad news from that time at 12 years old I heard of JFK’s assassination to 9/11 and on to now when withdrawal into one’s self has always seemed to me the only proper response out of single, sincere respect for those whose loss is an unbearable torture that can surely never be healed.

Today’s savage news filters through, that a group of families, young persons and children at a pop concert have been targeted by a nameless assassin with delusional pretensions who left messages to pretend that this act of selfish suicide and murder was a final act of religious worth and worship.

I protest at a society so seemingly unprepared, dysfunctional and uncaring that has allowed this ultimately sick individual to escape detection and apprehension to receive either care or incarceration. A society so self-absorbed it has stood impassively by while he has apparently learned the skills from some dubious source or other of how to build a crude and shockingly cruel explosive device. A ‘civilised’ society that has ultimately watched as this cruel, misguided horror of a person has wandered undetected into the foyer of a major entertainment centre in one of our largest cities and wrought a hellish conclusion to so many young lives and brought unimaginable pain and suffering to their parents, families, friends, a whole nation and all caring people.

I protest because that is all I can think to do – for today I cannot stay silent !!!

.. .

On this day at this time I cannot stay silent while today I vow never to speak the name of that supposed Islamist group  ‘_ _ _ _’  with which a growing band of sad, evil-minded, loner, social misfits and outcasts wish to align themselves.

Today I cannot stay silent except of them and out of respect for those who have died, been maimed or suffered loss, I will endeavour to never even think of their evil name again.

If you wish to join me in this ‘silence’ vow please indicate below. Nothing more is required.

.. .

Sincerest wishes and prayers go out to all the injured and bereaved and to the great City of Manchester! Please believe we stand with you at this time!

.. .

edenbray – Tuesday 23rd May 2017 .. .

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The Willow Awl

the willow awl

To take this moment and spread a shawl

Around and over our many hedged thoughts

Of where and when we ever set a compass

Or drew lines to our reasoned, grey target


The object of every night’s star or dream

It is in this fondness for the subject

that fits so smoothly in the palm of your hand

A useful, treasured friend, a kind of hand to hold




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