Fast Food

fast food raven (4)


I see you, waiting on the corner of everywhere
For opportunity to jump into your pocket
Or come to your call like a servant
To the raising of your hand.
It doesn’t work that way.

Life is not pre-fabricated,
Lukewarm and waiting
To become fast food
To satisfy your hunger.

It is a fruit,
That grows from the fragile centre
Of a flower.

Drinking the sun
That sets a fire at its core;
Cloaked in dawn,
And veiled in eternity.
Bathed in the tears of heaven
It awaits the harvest
And holds the seeds of Eden
That must grow in the heart.


The dispossessed



Where do they go, the faces of youth?
The smiles and laughter,
The sparkling eyes
And witty conversation?
They are lost in the silence
Of forgotten solitude;
Of endless days
And sleepless nights
When the mouth never opens
Except for tea
And pills that keep alive
The empty shell.

Where have they gone,
The minds that wander?
Back to the pastures of childhood
Or a first nervous kiss?
To the babe in arms
And its laughter,
Eye to eye in delight?
Or the last touch of lips
On eyes that have closed
And will not open;
Eyes that shared secrets
Of love and pain.

Where have they gone,
The blushing brides
And tall young men?
Are they forgotten
In the scent of lilies
And stale cigarettes,
Their faces, too weary
To hold their shape,
Reaching already for the grave
For want of a smile?
The sparkle lost
To desuetude.

Voices crack from disuse
No-one listens
And nobody comes
To hear them speak.
They murmur prayers
Softly to the night…
To fill the silence…
Companionship of shadows
And the ticking clock,
As their hands stroke the pet
That died long ago
And left them;


Nightmare in Beziers

In dream I woke and stood bewitched in

Before a door of oak and cedar

To hear a voice that played upon

A song of keys, part lost, part won

And tugged and pulled my heart to be there

With haunting glimpse of lifetime fixed

As though my past had been remixed

Who knocks? – In truth, I had not yet

A saving grace of dream’s regret

For shame, I turned and stole away

Returning to the light of day

By darkened alleys’ coffee cake

In little houses where they bake

The whitened streets of darker Bézier

And if I’d stayed to read the keys

Of life deployed in sated needs

Would piercing eyes unseen but known

Which through the cedar mocked my guile

Then chase through ever darkening streets

With courage ‘lost’ and weakening knees

This fragile soul so far from home…

Come breakfast Cognac, help dispel this dream

And let me know not what it means

Content to walk this ancient place

Where death once stalked with foulest face

Albigenses, Cathars, hear my prayer

And lift my spirit’s deep despair

And with this light of morning give me grace.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Photo of Bézier door-knocker by the author.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Rivers of the Sun

And did we dare, upon these rugged Yorkshire hills.

To dream we could, then frame in would, then do…

Life mirrored in the human word, embracing those who spoke it

With commitment and with love

That, flowing into what was seen up high, in heather heaven

Became, like sparkling stream in winter, a promise.


Then, eight circles later of the Sun, you left us

Three into two does go, though not in maths

But in the chambers of the heart and soul

Shared streams still flow from heather’s heights

Forever new, forever home, forever in our thoughts

Yesterday, I heard your voice, homed upon the Ilkley wind

And smiled…


©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

In my Kitchen

It’s looking quite forlorn now

The larder shelves are bare

There’s a rocket in my kitchen

And my kitchen isn’t there


He doesn’t want the kitchen

That father carved in wood

He only wants its ruin

And the land on which it stood


My children went outside to play

And found his cluster bombs

All brightly decked with spirals

To reckon all our wrongs


He speaks another language

Not Russian – that we share

But one that more than has enough

Yet steals my very air


I was a pin upon his map

A million of us were

But now the dust above the ground

Is all the wind can bear


There’s a rocket in my kitchen

And my kitchen isn’t there

Nor my children nor my father

There’s just remembering air


So breathe me and absorb these words

Remember what we were

And hold our home and family

Within a heart not scared to care.


©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and


Heavy metal, thinly sailed, is cast

Like toy, and dropped onto the stone.

Hedges bend, bow and form

New writhing shapes – grotesques –

Their twisted tongues malforming names

Of foolish men who thought to tame

The wild and winds of Cumbria…


And yet, from this we do emerge

In harsh, unruly tufts of grass

And mud that drains off torrents passed.

Bleached and battered, humbled, mute

To greet like rite the coming Spring

With eyes washed clean of Winter.


©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

Are we ‘book-fat’?

I’m not sure there’s ever been a rigorous definition of gluttony, but a series of incidents have made me wonder if we are suffering from its effects, in the form of book-fat.

I can hear wincing noises in the seats at the back, there… I certainly winced when I thought about it. I winced a lot more as I tipped boxes full of old books into a skip, devoid of anywhere locally to re-home them, despite great efforts.

“Nobody wants books, anymore, mate!”

Manager of a charity shop in Kendal.

We’ve had a great big tidy up, recently, Mrs Tanham and I. She’s as much a book lover as I am, perhaps, more so. A childhood in which her father died when she was six years old, and in which she and her elder sister became the main support structure for a mother who struggled to cope with the emotional impact of widowhood, let alone borderline financial stability, set her on the road for books for life. Books were friends: an escape and a source of knowledge; knowledge that could pass cold hours wrapped in a coat in a house without enough coal…and could, later, get you to university with a real love of history – consumed from books with a deep love of the subject matter.

She loves books…

In my own case, books were correct knowledge; a knowledge beyond the possible truth of what my parents – in good faith – gave me as their helpful opinions. It’s a growing thing, and a rite of passage, to know that, if you know how to look, there’s a book out there that can expand your knowledge and widen your horizon.

It was a library book that first alerted me to an emerging field called ‘computing’, and changed my choice of college and course… and the rest of my life.

As in everything it touches, the internet is at once a blessing to, and a killer of, books. Good, because you can now search with previously unheard-of accuracy, for that rare source of specialised knowledge for which you’ve been hunting all year to finish your project/novel/research paper etc…

But the internet has also seen the triumph of what Herman Hesse called the ‘Feuilleton’ in his brilliant final novel: The Glass Bead Game‘, published as the Nazis came to power in Germany.

The Feuilleton was the opposite of the deep knowledge pursued by the Magister Ludi and his followers; knowledge in which that depth threw up deep and potentially spiritual connections between ideas, connections that were previously unthought of – and wise.

The Feuilleton is the necessary result of too much information and too little contemplation of its meaning… resulting in the exaltation of the mindless and twisted ‘truth’ seen in today’s gutter press; an instrument that deprives many of understanding by wrapping it in glitz, glamour and sex. The Feuilleton makes us fat, because it deprives us of real nourishment, whilst increasing our hunger for more…

We’ve all seen the price of empowered ignorance. On both sides of the Atlantic, our newly fractured societies are its children…

Pure scholarship may not be the answer, either. Would any of us turn back the clock and not have the internet? Pandora’s box was well and truly opened when the humble ‘browser’ came along and masked all that technical spaghetti in relative simplicity. The rest is history…and is here.

And then the book, itself, changed. Probably entering our lives when we flew on holiday – with a limited weight allowance on the plane, and took that new-fangled Kindle with us – “It’s just for holiday, it won’t replace my lovely bookshelf…”

Has it? it’s a good question. In my case, I still have a room full of books, but equally, I’ve had to get rid of another room full that I finally realised were never going to be read. Now, my Kindle is mirroring that second room of books. Am I ever really going to read all the books on my TBR (To Be Read) list… to be honest, do I even really have a TBR, aside from the Kindle, itself…

Wince, indeed!

I love books…I love their feel. I love the physical craftsmanship that goes into their making. I love the feel of quality paper turning in my fingers, even their smell. Virtual paper may change – to be honest it has to, because the Tech leaders are waking up to the fact that our favourite looks shabby in its virtual book device.

I predict we will each have a ‘meta book’ of our favourite size and, binding, in which there is what appears to be blank paper. The paper will feel like the most exquisite paper we’ve ever held, but ‘washable’. When we select a book from the meta-library in its spine, linked to the all-books depository on the web, the download, in glorious full colour, will feel and look like we’ve just been granted a visit to our national archives. I will turn my pages, hearing a delicious sound and feel. When I get to page (say) ten, the last, it will refer me back to page one, and so onwards through the book. AI will tune my searches so that I can ask: Can we go back to the page where the idea of parliament first appeared?

There are many ways to treat this topic, and dark humour has to be one of them.

Diana Wallace Peach of the excellent Myths of the Mirror website had a new writing challenge for the new year called ‘The teetering TBR pile’. The link is below.

I hadn’t written any poetry for a while and decided to have a go at a little black humour on this subject. If you’ve read enough, already, leave it there. If not, then here it is… and thank you!

Five Spines of Doom:

Five spines of doom, the living pile declares

To struggling mind awakening in the gloom

Of winter morning in the dreaming room

Who shouts? He whispers to the wall

Five spines of doom, where will has failed

To clear the conscience of the might

of these five books which through the night

Have taunted sleep of he who put them there!

Beside the bed, next to his head…

That, given this priority

They would at last be read and free

And not in their minority


Like struggling morning’s light

He grasps, past January’s tea gone cold

The truth his doubting mind foretold

‘Five spines of doom’ … it rings, a nightmare’s fright

Five spines – now books – declare his guilt

Short days, he blames…or longer nights

The five lie mute, abed.. And sadder, yet, unread.

His rising knees make wall from quilt.

Around the Kindle fingers fumble

Seeking to suppress the mumble

Of words in millions’ silent plea

A digital majority.


©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and