I read your poetry and the magazine article about your small Winchcombe group hastily when they arrived.  I said to myself these need more love and care than I am giving them.  So when all the hubbub was over I sat down the other night to give them the attention they deserved.  Helena, they are marvelous.  You are able to work in so many different modes; your poems are complex without being obscure as, for example, so many of The New Yorker poems are.  And it is very clear that they are all from the heart.  Is  writing poetry a kind of therapy for you?  If that is true it does not in any way diminish the emotional response that the reader has, the identification with what you are saying..  That you deal not only with Jonathan’s condition but with your children is beautiful.  Also, because you’ve been sharing things about your life, I was particularly drawn to those poems that reflect your relationship with your family.  The poem, “Just a Minute, Son” is one that I am sure every mother who reads it can relate to because it is something we have all done and regretted and must learn to overcome.  “Dancing to a Different Tune” has the same power. of taking the mundane and giving it real purpose and depth.   The subject of birth, questioning of children, marital love, even  daydreaming at the kitchen sink have the wonderful  cohesion of the ordinary and the profound.  I  love the way you so often incorporate musical terms into your work, and, of course, “The Wishing Well Dream”  is so moving and poignant.  That you also can write so well about mountains and horses, and the color blue is astounding.  In short, I love these poems, their simplicity, clarity and complexity. What do I want from a poem?  Images, emotion, making me think in a different way about something.  You do it all so beautifully.  Thank you so much for sending them,  and I will look forward to the next lot.  Know this: you really are a poet. and a fine one at that. Brava.

- Helen Manfull, American Actress

The last time my Father-in-Law, A.G. Cavan (of  The Cavan Bakery ) came to Gloucestershire, November 2012

The last time my Father-in-Law, A.G. Cavan (of The Cavan Bakery) came to Gloucestershire, November 2012

elegy for ag cavan,

january 2013

middle-of-the-night bread tins hit baking tables, fortississimo

heavy doors slammed six days per week, fortissimo

orders to staff, hands on mower, forte

spade in the churchyard, deadheaded roses, mezzoforte

mezzopiano, faded glories land in the plastic bucket

piano, the fountain pen flowed

no longer will your handwriting
grace my post box,
your breath, pianissimo

pianississimo to decrescendo niente
I delete your contact from my phone.

© Helena Cavan, 2013


Shadows of Hope

These are the shadows of hope
In early March, when daffodil days lengthen
And warming Sun’s promises will not be broken
Any more than garden robin will be mute.

Charcoal shadows on the hill opposite Farmcote
Lift up shimmering moguls of green covered quarries -
Wombs of infamous dry stone birthing Cotswold enclosures, 
Channelling still waters for man and sheep to find refuge.

Along the narrow valley, shadows of hedge trees and bushes
Lengthen with rising bluebells in the woods.
In mid-summer when the blue carpets have melted, 
There will be Giacometti bronzes
Proudly displayed on meadow plinths, 
Long shadows inviting us to join hands with supernatural charismas.

Far from idyllic Cotswolds, hopeless shadows gathered at noon
Also before Spring Equinox,
An early dusk to which birds would sing no praises
Breaking Sun’s promise with Pharisaic darkness.

Thick silence hung for three hours, 
Cloaking the nakedness of three men on long crosses
Laughter rising from hell driving everybody into shelter but the committed,
Terrifying silence amplifying The Virgin Mother’s pounding heart.

In her womb, 33 years were like yesterday, all ridicule forgotten
The distorted light rising early, casting Ombra della Sera at 3pm. 
Now, His blood collecting as a field of dark poppies under bound, nailed limbs
Sons dying before Fathers so unnatural
Calling out to Abba, Forsaken, 
On battlefields of Eternity where Victory determines dominion.

Three days later, there was no shadow accompanying “The Gardener”.
And when He spoke, weeping Mary remembered,
“I am the Light of the World.”
And when the commissioned messenger turned, she saw her shadow in His light,
Long and narrow, as if the Sun itself was shining directly upon her,
Infrared hope warming her back.

© Helena Cavan, 6 March 2016


Fragile and Strong

“Whom holds the egg in hand, holds power.”

How can an egg
Be strong enough
To endure the pressure
Of its laying

How can a heart
Be strong enough
To endure the pressure
Of its filling

Why doesn’t the egg
Break - when pressure is applied
To both the bottom and the top
At once

Why doesn’t the heart
Break - when love is applied
To both the bottom and the top
At once

What substance is the eggshell
So porous yet hard
That it passes oxygen and carbons
To grow a life

What substance is the heart
So sinuous yet soft
That it passes joys and sorrows
To grow a life

When is the egg broken
By a beak so tiny
It crumbles egg-cathedral arches

When is the heart broken
By a compassion so silent
It crumbles an empire of noise

Where is the heat
That transforms yoke into chick
So nurturing hen’s devotedness

Where is the heat
That transforms darkness into light
So nurturing God’s dedication

If an egg is so fragile
How can it be so strong

If a heart is so enduring
How can it be so fragile

Can the heart be interrogated?

© Helena Cavan, 4 May 2018  


Where Earth Meets Sky


Nibbled down Cotswold turf
As green in winter, as a watered summer lawn
When the sky is blue-fleeced-with-white
And fertile land waves gladsome greetings.

Complex palette of moody greys
Hanging low this day, close enough to feel
Not Pacific sea and sky horizon
Merging, blending, becoming one -

But two faces meeting:
Granite-muted-silver and pastoral stubble green,
Touching horizontally
Lying separately, not as one.

Collections of atoms designed to connect -
As stormy seas with stormy skies,
As golden fields kiss golden dawns -
We find ourselves standing, punctuating this point.

We are the perpendiculars
Where earth meets sky
Resonating in shared wonder
In peak amplitude on this entrancing plane.

As exclamation marks,
We ascend with astonishment, 
Like lambs pronking to discover power, 
Rise, delight and drink fullest joy. 

© Helena Cavan, March 2017


The Screaming Years

When I was fourteen
I remember
The bedroom door
Between us.

You were sitting
On the top step
And I on the floor
In front of the door

My anger bucket
So brimming full
It had tipped into

Tears stinging
Corroding my heart
Which felt like it was

Now that I am 44
With a fourteen year old
And a bedroom door
Between us.

On the receiving end
Of teenage judgements
Female censure
and blame.

I wonder what you felt
Sitting on the step
At the top of the stairs
Listening to my abuse.

Thanks for staying there, Dad.
For listening, murmuring
And not pounding down the door
Screaming back.

I’m sorry for those
Screaming years
The emptied buckets are now full
Brimming with love and compassion.

I miss you, Dad
And love to hold you
In arms inside the door
To my healed heart.

© Helena Cavan, 13 July 2017


Wind Haiku

Mean wind

You bite me

When I want kisses.

© Helena Cavan, 29 April 2018

Made by light
following, encroaching.
Illuminating position,

Made for darkness
leading, enveloping.
Illuminating position,

Edges of light
hover in front.
Rothko figure,
arms extended.
In the centre
darkness scats.