Somewhere Else Writers (SEW), October 2019-Frank McMahon

Frank McMahon

A fable by Frank McMahon inspired by a bank of wind turbines in the Channel is featured this month.

When a grandson asked Frank McMahon to explain how spinning blades generated electricity and light, he struggled to illuminate the physics in way he would understand – and so shifted to a more magical explanation.

The result, ‘Sowing Light’ has been chosen to appear in the online literary journal ‘Three Drops From a Cauldron,’ and there are plans for a radio dramatization later this year.

Frank, who chairs Cirencester-based Somewhere Else Writers, has had numerous poems published, both on-line (Riggwelter, I am not a silent poet, The Poet by Day, Fly on the Wall, morphrog); and in print, (The Curlew, Cannon’s Mouth, Brittlestar, Persona Non Grata).

The group gets together every Wednesday afternoon in the Somewhere Else Deli Bar in Castle Street to share work and offer constructive criticism in a friendly and positive way. Sadly, for practical reasons, we have to keep group numbers small, but we operate a waiting list.

Click this link to see more work by Somewhere Else Writers. https://somewhere-else-writers.org



“Enough!” she cried out loud, “I’ve had enough

of treading clods, breaking ploughs on flint

and chalk. And growing nothing more than docks

or charlock. Look at my fingers, knuckle and bone,

frayed by frost and wind. And I’ve done with fishing!

 Arms scabbed by salt, worn thin from battling tides;

 my back bent by the rain’s constant hammer,

casting nets for fish who slip away!

“No more!” She slammed the door,

fell upon her bed and slept. Three days

and nights. Neighbours tapped the windows,

rattled the latch and muttered,

is she ill? Or dead?

                               Strange dreams

and visions came and went and came again,

smoothed her weathered brow, softened the rigid

jaw-line, danced behind her eyes. She burst awake.

“To work, yes, to work, but eat first, eat.”


She filled a leather bag, crept from her house

as the sun was dipping low, strode towards the sea,

unmoored the boat and set its little sail,

slid away on the falling tide, unseen,

or so she thought. “Stop, stop!” they cried, “you’ll drown!

Come back and wait for dawn!” Stern-faced she plied

the oars, broached the waters’ fret and dash,

out and out, steering by the fickle stars,

 peering for the white-tipped curls across

the shallow ground. She shipped the oars and drifted,

held between dark and dark; felt for the leather bag

 and teased it open. She stood, swaying with the sea’s

chop and pluck, grasped handfuls,

 broadcast, once, again, again until

the bag was empty, hearing the softest plash

as the sea received. The stars fell dark, the current

turned, bringing her and dawn-light home.

Men were about already busy, knotting and splicing nets.

“What did you catch last night?” “Chilled bones.”

“You took no nets or lobster pots? Why not?”

“I sowed some seeds upon the sea.”

“Of course you did, it’s spring.”

They scratched their heads and sighed,

“The fish have took her mind.”


Small work filled her days; and climbing up the hill

to scan where she had sown. Patience paid

though others went to search.“There’s nothing

 there but waves and fish,” “Look harder then!”

she chided, “for I can see them plain from here.”

They turned away, “Best let her be.”

                                          First night of autumn,

a glimmer out at sea, candle flicker,

 growing on the wind, a ball of gathered pollen,

two, then more, twenty, found her on the hill,

nestled in her apron, lit her homeward steps.

She placed them in the corner of each room

around the hearth, filling her home

with gentlest balm of harvest-yellow-gold.


A child came by, stopped, gawked with widening eyes,

shouted, “Look, quick, come and look, she’s stolen

all our moon!” Shouts, retorts, “get back to bed,

you witless child!” She shouted back, “No, not until

you come and see!”Protests, murmurs, a rope

 of chatter hissing through the streets, enticing

the bored, the nosey and the gossip gang

to open creaking doors, follow sceptic neighbours

and throng before the house, tongue-tied

by the threads of the floating gleam.

“That witless girl was right! It can’t be lamps

of oil or candle light to give out such a glow!

She must have gone to sea, cast her nets and caught the moon!.”

“How could she?” “Just look up and tell me you see moon.

And where.” Skywards they searched, craning their necks round

 all the compass points, stopped and pleaded: “Give us

back our moon to light our streets and keep the running

of the tides!”

                        But no response,

her door stayed closed. Jostling, mutter, a finger

pointed. “You saw it first, you must go and knock

And wake her up. You ,yes, you!”


She pushed the door, advanced, tugged

on the sleeper’s sleeve.“Wake up, old lady, wake.”

Folds of clothes stirred, a hand uncovered twitched,

opened an eye.“What? Who? Yes? Yes? Speak!”

“They want their moon returned.”

“Then let them ask who has it.” “I. Am.Asking. You

Who.Has it.” “Me!?” “Who else?”

She stood and took the young girl’s hand

and led her to the door. “Look up yonder, look!”

“We did, it is not there, now give it back!”

“It will return, in two nights time, or three.”

“How? You fished it from the sky and took it home!

We want it there tomorrow!” “Wait, wait,

 I’ll take the girl back in and I’ll explain

to her and her alone. And then I’ll see her home.”

Her eyes flashed fierce. No one moved.

“Well, if you won’t I’ll take my broom and sweep

you all away!” They turned and homeward trudged,

wondering, afraid.


“This way, child, over by the hearth. Do sit

 and look about before I tell you more.

This spring I scattered seeds across the sea, seeds

which now have grown, invisible to all but not to me.

They’re taller now, higher than the steeple of the church,

thick with tangled branches, like hawthorn is,

or briar, heavy with creamy bloom.

They’ve trapped the light and spun it with the wind,

over and over, globe on globe then dusted them with pollen.

Take hold of one and feel how light.

Yet strong. The wind has cords, tougher than any rope

or  hawser; these will never yield to the edge

of the sharpest blade. They grow like apples

and then, like birds, they lift and fly, searching

 for darkness, for darkness is their home.”

The young girl worked the little globe, her

fingers teasing it for knots or threads.“Will it

 glow forever?” “As long as there is wind and sun.

Here, I’ll take you home and this will light

our way. And two more things to tell them, so

you take careful note. Meet me on the hill at dusk

 tomorrow. And tell them I have harvested the sun.” 

Next day, as the sea swallowed the sun,

they gathered on the hill.

And gathered.    

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