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Finding Sanctuary

Finding Sanctuary


Published by Judith Lesley Marshall at Shakespir

Copyright 2017 Judith Lesley Marshall



Shakespir Edition, License Notes



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In 1809 Charles Darwin dropped anchor off the coast of New Zealand and declared it: ‘a chaos of delight.’ More than two centuries later I fulfilled a lifelong dream and embarked on a motor home tour of ‘Godzona.’

Poems inspired by that journey are woven into this collection which originally evolved from exploring the theme of ‘sanctuary.’ They can be read either as a series of steps or as a single story that can be enjoyed in one sitting.

They are dedicated to dreamers, travellers and explorers everywhere. I hope that you find something to surprise, amuse and delight you within their lines.






No Entry



Carrion Call

No Exit

In Godzona


Festival Season

Night Walker


Alien Rock


Rainbow Serpent

Fly Away Home

Address Unknown

Into the Pit


In the Stillness

Finding Sanctuary

Porte Disparu



No Entry

Sliding home the bolt

I turn to find
a flight of stone steps

descending into darkness,


fumble for the switch,
which flickers with a click

flooding the cellar

with violet light,

inhale the dank dust,

tiptoe to the bottom,

peep around the corner
of the white-washed walls.


I did not intend to trespass

on your private world

but the door was unlocked

and I needed a place to hide.




It was not murder

when you banished me

to my room,
nor manslaughter

when you grounded me

for a month,


Just a slow suicide
until I dissolved

into the shadow

of a spectral self,

which mirrored me

like a twin.

Nails bitten to the quick

I scratched nadia

into the frost

frozen on the inside

of the leaded glass –

aidan appeared in the pane.





You were the first
to see me for what I was,

a canary in a cage.


You would take me out,

but a bird with broken wings

cannot learn to fly,

Even in the arms of a lover
with enough free spirit for two.

You were my light,

my air, my insight

to the world outside.


The day you ceased to call

I fretted, lost my singing voice.

(First published in Masquerade: 2013)




[Carrion Call
**]It all changed when the raptors moved in.

Not that I could see them,

but I could smell their stench,

could feel their blood red eyes
itching for the chance
to strip flesh from bone.


Pegged out by breed

and country of birth,
their eldritch screech lased

my mind, rattled my teeth,

shredded my walk

through the pine tree trail.


There was no more peace

in the old walled garden,
by the lily pad lake

or waterfall steps,

saturated by their carrion call.


It all changed when the raptors moved in.




No Exit

An echo of footsteps

betrays each tread

as dust motes spiral

like a cloud of midges
in the musty air.

From the top stair

torchlight reveals

a tumble of boxes

matted with cobwebs

and mouse droppings.

Floorboards bend and bow

as I press a path
through the spill;

clothes, shoes, records,

bags and books.


Strips of wallpaper

peel from the wall

like the bark of a birch,

fail to conceal
a forgotten door.


I fit the last key
into the lock,

turn the knob,

knock ‘rat a tat tat’…




In Godzona

seasons cycle in reverse,

sun sets in the East,

moons rise in the West,


a labyrinth of lakes reflect

stands of beech, poplar, pine;

ladies alighting in a line,*

men in red feather cloaks

swing from ropes in giant trees,

feast on roots, shoots, leaves,


birds burrow on the ground,

lay eggs with a hairy husk,

chorus into song at dusk,

Time turns inside out,
days darker than night

reveal a chaos of delight.


(* refers to the painting Ladies of the Lake by Rob Gonsalves)

















Festival Season
The two-toned bird offered

to share her hole
in the old volcano cone.


When the rest arrived

I thought I’d wandered

into paradise.

Flight feathers strewn
like rainbow confetti,

littered the blue lagoon.


Six weeks of bliss,

then a shrill call, COO!
she erupted with the flock.




Night Walker

At first I revelled

in the extra space,

rejigged the pattern

of night and day,

watched stars track

across the skies,


took long dust baths

and afternoon naps,


fished for hours

by the land-locked lake,


caught my reflection

in the Hunter moon,


wished I could call you back,





**]Water gushes from all sides,

thunders through gorges
and gulleys,

transforms rivers
into torrents of teal,
turquoise and lime,


crashes ashore

in a swirl of wood,
stone and bone.




Alien Rock

A lime fossil from the seabed,
A pineapple crossed with a grapefruit,

A lava bomb stitched like a medicine ball,


A turtle shell studded with barnacles,

A Jurassic Jerusalem artichoke,

A fallen star stranded on shore,

A rolled up skin scored by time,

A petrified basked washed from a wreck,

A stone heart ripped from a giant’s chest,

A Faberge egg encrusted with kelp.




**]Startled by a crack
I stood transfixed

as sulphur hissed

and ochre oozed
through a thousand splits

in your mottled shell,


swallowed the truth

as you emerged

in the scaly coat

of a harlequin.




Rainbow Serpent

Iris the name I chose,

goddess of joy and light,


brought you fruit and nuts

until you took to fish,


watched you twist and turn
through the briny pools,


realised the risk

of fluttering around,


could not bear to part -
then you sloughed a skin,

sprouted bat like wings,

coughed up sparks of flame.


I knew the hour had come
for me to move away.




[Fly Away Home
**]I was building a new hide

when you plucked me from behind

spiralled up into the starlit sky,


veered by the dark of the moon,
picked up the smell of burning coal,

zigzagged with the plume.

As day dawned I recognised
the rise and fall of old slag heaps,

white-washed cottages, patchwork fields,

was stunned when you dropped me
in the place I once called home,
left to find family of your own.




Address Unknown

I should have been alerted

when the doorbell played

a different tune.

The stranger said you moved,

some time ago,
left no forwarding address,

I reeled into freefall,
stuttered cucucu,

coocoocoo, cucucu.




[Into the Pit
**]My legs cramped,

guts churned,

ribs ached,

heart burned,

teeth clenched,

eyes blurred,
ears buzzed,
head pulsed,

soul drained
into the pit.





My life has shrunk

into the confines

of an ensuite room.


Locked into celibacy
and silence, I withdraw

into watercolour,


blank out the sound

of voices raised
in this cuckoo’s nest,


express myself
in a gallery of insects,
trees and wildflowers,


wait for a rook,
raven or crow
to call me home.




In the Stillness

Held in suspense,
like a river between tides,
I scry the depths,

reflect a familiar face,

turned back to front
and upside down,

absorb the image,
before it fades
with the new flow.




[Finding Sanctuary
**]The Watchers may have gone

but there is still one

who looks through the sockets
of the dragon’s death mask,

tarnished by the elements
and the passage of time.

I cross the threshold
into a twilight world
where muted voices echo

off sandstone pillars;

babels of fears,

hopes and dreams.

Senses amplified by the toll

of the sanctuary bell,
I wander vaulted corridors~
frequented by souls
as unburnished
as the brass door knocker.


Alone in the cloisters,
laid out on the site

of the old white church

I find peace and respite.




[Porte Disparu
**]No relic, no heirloom,
no record of birth,
no urn, no grave,
or memorial,

one red feather,
the single trace
of a life long-lived,

lost in the Silence.



About the Author


Judith Lesley Marshall is a published poet/writer from Richmond, North Yorkshire. Sanctuary is one of three fantasy poetry fusions available through Shakespir. You can find out more about her work and follow her blog at http://www.judithlesleymarshall.wordpress.com


Finding Sanctuary

  • ISBN: 9781370787777
  • Author: Judith Lesley Marshall
  • Published: 2017-04-18 18:20:09
  • Words: 1339
Finding Sanctuary Finding Sanctuary