Author Archives: benhenleysmith

Lights of the Parisian night

Lights of the Parisian night 
Draw shapes on the ceiling 
Dancing fairies 
Who only after dark 
Play in the rooms of sleepy travellers 

And us the sun rises from the east 
The playful pixies 
Slip away to sleep 
Only to pause 
For the visitors of tomorrow 


How do I know this intuition 
Of equal and opposite direction 
The push and pull of mind and heart 
Won’t be the undoing of me

This self 
I am learning to hear 
And evaluate objectively 
Stands like a criminal on trial 

How to lead with heart
And mind 
And clarity  
I question  

Still, the battering winds swirl ahead 
They make their signal 
A decision only I can make 
With no good outcome

Now the procedure is complete 
The advice is taken  
It is only me 
Yes or no 

The River Bank | Pt 2

Rachel’s house was small. It was the last house at the end of the street. A typical square building with a triangle on top. When Rachel’s dad died years ago, Jilly used the money she got from the insurance company to pay for the house in full. It was just the two of them now, but at least they didn’t need to worry about money anymore.

Jack had come over after school like he usually did. Their friendship was understated. They didn’t play together like the other kids, but it didn’t matter. Reading, watching old tv and slowly talking in the garden was enough. 

‘Funny how Miss Prichard looks at you’, Rachel said. ‘I think it is to see if she’s saying the right things to the rest of us. She knows that if you don’t get it then we won’t’. 

Jack learnt things quickly. He’d always liked school because it came naturally. The school part anyway. ‘I’m not sure, it’s like she watches everyone’ Jack muttered, trying to brush off the backhanded complements. 

‘It’s time to go’ shouted Neil, who was in the other room with Jilly. Neil had been at Jillys house before Jack arrived after school. Jilly and Neil had become friends since Rachel’s dad died.

The door slammed behind them as they left. Rachel watched them both leave from the upstairs window. But as she turned around she spotted the work Miss Prichard had left Jack for tomorrow. Without thinking, Rachel stuffed Jacks work in a bag and raced out to catch up. 

When she got to Jack’s house, the back door was slightly ajar. She used the back door to get in most of the time – but it was usually locked. She knocked, but no one answered so Rachel strode in and up the stairs to Jacks room at the top of the house. 

It took Rachel a moment to understand what was going on when she got to the top. A muffled voice that sounded like Jacks was moaning into a pillow as a hard hollow sound repeatedly cracked down on what sounded like skin. Rachel froze but not on purpose. She’d never heard a sound like that before – her gut told her what it might be. 

‘Jack?’, Rachel called his name from the landing – setting herself to rush in. But the sound stopped and then the door slowly opened and Jack came out. ‘Ah I left it, damn, sorry’ said Jack. Despite his bloodshot eyes, jacks voice was settled. ‘Are you ok’? Said Rachel ‘I thought I heard …’ every thing is fine thank you and thanks for bringing this over’. ‘Ok’ said Rachel. 

On the way back Rachel struggled to understand it all. But about half way home, she decided she needed to go back to Jacks house to find out. She also decided she needed to go when Jack wasn’t home. Something wasn’t right and if Jack wouldn’t tell her – she’d have to find out herself. 

A summer past

Summer haze came and went 
Too fast 
Only with time can flowers of youth 
Bloom the colours of age 
Only now can I know 
What was lost 

Simple rise and fall 
Gave cadence to days 
In the endless sun
That rolled into weeks 
Faster than we
Could care to notice 

The landscape 
Bore ponds of fish 
Fields of tall horses 
And nestled in woods 
A hut   
Our summer home 

This place
Revealed my colours 
Good and bad  
Self-discovery of another kind 
Far from home 
No shade to hide   

The contradiction   
That my inexperienced hands of time 
Could not grip events passed 
Tortures todays waking hours 
What cruelty 
To suffer  

How might I use this experience 
In my future 
Other than to note 
That cannot be taught 
But must be learnt


Behind the doctors house I used to play 
In woodland empty of adult thoughts 
A space for this curiosity 
To uncover secrets of the forest 

I’d follow tracks of hidden creatures 
Left for me to follow until
The scent ran out 
And the game was up 

Our travels were silent back then
We came here long ago
Searching village to village 
For place

Until the swap
Caravan for bits of brick 
To settle was to 

Now I follow 
The trail of creatures 
Who roam this place
As I once did

Dur Jardin

These gardens tell stories of times past
When nothing but trowel and hand 
Laid the spine of petals 
In the hardening earth 

Our arrival by car is abrupt in this peace 
Out of place amongst the shoes and legs 
That has transported families of neighbouring towns 
To lie amongst these colours 

Pale pinks laid across the Entrer 
Balance a sea of green hill that rolls down to the dark river 
An uninviting strip of wet habitat
Left to rats of the water patrolling up and down 

Broken benches and old ornaments litter the river bank 
And contrast the sweeping paths tying the gardens hard work
To its veins   

These are fields at work 
Raw edges and biting temperature 
Cut potential from this jardin 
Of perpetual thirst 

We settle in the shade of two great trees 
Baring the brunt of this sun so we may rest 
But not for long 
We disappear across the uneven path 

Cut out through an open gate 
And return to our boiling car
Under the church spire
Watching our every move 

The River Bank | Pt 1

Jack found these days hard. Hot days by the river where he might have to take his clothes off in front of his family and Rachel. It didn’t make it any easier that Rachel knew something was wrong. 

‘What’s wrong jack?’ Asked Rachel. ‘Nothing’ said jack. But there was something. Not eating had been his safety. Within his control. When everything else felt like it was changing, only jack could say what he could eat. Being 14 wasn’t easy at the best of times. The small town where jack lived had one big school and that big school didn’t work well for boys like jack. Now ‘Sticky Jacky’ or ‘Skin Thin Jacklin’ might be seen without his trademark dirty black T-shirt.

‘Come in it’s not deep’, said Rachel. ‘I can swim you know’, said Jack. But jack stayed on the ground next to the tree that the 4 of them had settled near. 

Rachel lived next door to Jack in their small town near Doncaster. Her mum, Jilly, was the kindest lady he’d met. She was always wearing a dress and always smiling. Rachel had never met her dad before, but it didn’t matter because Jacks Dad offered to spend lots of time with Rachel and Jilly. 

‘Is something wrong jack?’ Rachel was in the water now and looking for someone to be with. ‘I’ll race you to this tree if you are quick enough!’. Jack wasn’t concentrating on Rachel. He wasn’t even looking at the river. In fact, for such a young boy, the only direction jack seemed to look was inward. But despite whatever was going on in Jacks mind, he took his shirt off slowly and walked towards the waters edge. 

The spot they’d picked was away from the others people who had parked their cars. They’d walked further along the track to a green square in between trees that created shade on the nearest side of the river. On the other side, yellow and green fields spread themselves into the distance. The shallow water of the river shone light blue. You could see stones through it. It was a like a postcard. Like a place Rachel and Jack might go someday.

Jacks feet touched the water edge and the chill made its way up Jacks body. His arms were crossed far enough that he cradled both elbows with his hands. The structure of his body served its purpose – a sort of crumpled protection. And as the sun shone down through the sprinkled leaves overhead, jacks pale white skin seared in the red heat. 

Rachel, always thinking of others, made an effort to keep talking to jack as normal – without looking at him or his body. Rachel always did this type of thing. She knew how to do the small things that could make people feel better without them knowing. But as jack got further into the water and began to uncross his arms, Rachel couldn’t help but notice the streaks of red across his stomach. They looked like lashings, bruising too. If jacks frame had been any larger – there is no way his arms would have covered up the damage.

The day would pass slowly. Jack crouched over the trunks of trees and Rachel chatting and exploring nearby. All the while, Jilly and Jacks dad Neil spent time on their own too. They seemed to enjoy letting Jack and Rachel do their own thing. It wasn’t the first time the 4 of them had come here, and it wouldn’t be the last. But it would be the only time Jack remembered this piece of grass and river with happiness. The coming months would reveal what he had been most afraid of and what he hoped Rachel would never see. 


The tarmac road carving up this landscape 
Spits up dust and dirt on our travels 
A fiery beast of the road 
Ignited by rolling rubber travelling through
Yellow stain soaks this earth 
Baked by the pounding orange sun 
Brown fields splice into wilting triangles 
Deadened crops deserted by all living things 

The greying trees in the far distance  
Itch beneath their bark in the heat
Nothing can flourish here 
But the soul that will stay its course 
For as Autumn arrives 
These deadened lands will perish on their own accord 
And will shed their skin 
With dignity and purpose 

What makes these late august days trying 
Is the inevitability of a great power 
Sheering its mite from above 
Upon an unwilling recipient 
A landscape raped 
Bereft of it’s place
Now learns to survive
These punishing summer days 

Our spirit

Light bounces between us 
As we swim around 
This square of river 
In circles together 
Just us 
And the waters chill 
To throw back the years 
And play 

I am happy 
Just being here 
With you 
No more  
The sound of water falling on rocks beneath 
Won’t distract from this heart 
Beating to a rhythm
I know

Our spirit
Wisps down the streams 
Up the hills and tracks 
Across the sweltering fields 
Inside sunflower heads
Bursting its yellow 
From its bud 

It’s no wonder I make peace in gardens now 
Sparking shoots 
And the blooming petals 
And bring me back to us 
To this place 
We left 
Long ago
Hetty & Felix


Submerged beneath the surface 
My bubbling mind dunks down  
Under this water  
I find it’s gift  

This French sun cooks the waters lips 
A wine region in need of rain
Now too hot for grapes 
Suffers from the august heat

To escape 
In the rivers that share their waters 
Creatures of the land visit
For a cool sanctuary 

I have travelled far to this place 
From the city smoke
Now underwater 
I arrive 

Deliberately now
Pressures from above 
The waters crust 
Can’t reach

So I drink this peace
Down here 
My source of refreshment