richard pierce

richard pierce

19 February 2018


The blackbird belly-breathes in the hedge,
Thicket awash with the rain and broken branches
The storm left behind
Of its clouds and whitewash.

It watches the plume of its breath escape,
Claws at it with its half-frozen beak
And its disarranged feathers,
Wings oddly folded across its crooked back.

Its deafness has silenced its song now, in age,
Alone in the cave that was a nest when,
Hearing, it called to the stilling morning.
Its eyes, too, have withered with the years,

Their colour dissipated with the final winter,
And talons blunted by fruitless hunting,
The ground too sodden to rest on.
She shakes herself and waits for her next breath,

And waits ...


21 November 2017


You ask me to send you money for shoes.
I send you a pair you’ve left here.

As I’m looking for a box to put them in –
You know how bad I am at wrapping –
I come across a bag of sweets,
Those tangy chewable ones you’ve always loved,
That I left in a drawer in the kitchen table and forgot about,
So I stuff the bag into one of the shoes,
Scribble a quick letter,
And seal the box with the tape I find
Under the table,
After searching the whole house.

And I sigh the sigh that presages lost tears
And wonder what your thoughts will be.

Those sweets grow a memory
On my walk to the post office;
That little boy with the strange tooth,
With the fevered smile I thought was death approaching
Until the cold went away;
The little pedant with the high-pitched voice
Conducting his own birthday parties;
The growing guardian angel
Always there when his sister needed him.
The boy who ran away.

And now you’ve lived a quarter of a century,
I wonder what time has done to us all.

I often think you mistake my concerns for you
For an absence of love.

It’s the opposite,
And unconditional.

R, 14/11/2017
For O, a late birthday poem

12 November 2017

This Mountain of Life

Dear, dear Ren,

When you wrote to me in June, I did actually start writing back. I have the scribbled draft in one of my notebooks (behind me in a messenger bag, not yet fully unpacked from the writing workshop I taught yesterday).

I can't believe it was February (was it February? I should keep a journal) when we met for dinner. I felt so full of energy after that, and so buoyed that the two of us should still be in touch after such a long time. And then, somehow, I lost the trail through my life. I think it had something to do with working twelve-hour days for my day job, trying to write, juggling the needs and demands that come to me as a to all intents and purposes house-husband. In fact, the first line of my draft response to you said that I felt much diminished since we'd met. And, to an extent, that's still true. Self-esteem has never been one of my strengths, and when I'm being reactive rather than proactive my view of myself is not very kind.

The thing is, I do need the quiet, and with that I don't mean silence, but that state when the world stops whirling around me, when I'm not constantly trying to meet deadlines, when my phone isn't going every five minutes with either messages or calls. Unfortunately, I don't very often have the option of switching phone and email off, only when I'm on holiday, and that doesn't happen as frequently as I'd like.

The positives, though:

A wonderful 1-week holiday with M in Corfu in mid-July (just laziness and calm and lots of food and booze, and an amazing heat that made all the pains in my joints and back fade into nothingness). She sunbathed for 10 hours a day while I sat in the warm shade, emerging only at 17:30 every day to go for a swim in the pool. I even said to her I was happy, which is something I say very rarely. I read 6 books in 7 days, and managed to jot down some ideas for the ending of Ice Child (which was a bit against my own rules of trying not to do anything at all whatsoever, including creative stuff).

We'll go back for 2 weeks next year if we can afford it.

I finally finished Ice Child in the middle of October, 18 months after I'd started it, which for me is a very very long time to take over a novel. I really like it, but my agent has decided not to take it on because Dead Men sold so badly, according to him and the publisher of it. Well, there's only so much marketing a busy man can do. So I now need to decide what to do with it, whether to try to hawk it to other publishers, or whether to self-publish it. I'll probably go the latter route, once I'm organised (ha!), and that will include a proper launch event with prosecco.

I'm so happy that you finished your play, and hope that it will be in the public eye before too long. Your words are too precious to be hidden.

The fear-driven momentum you refer to in your last letter (it's only taken me five months to answer it) is unfortunately real. I find more and more, as I age, that I'm afraid of an increasing number of things (which encompasses just about everything in the world), and I think it's that fear that makes me ill, that made me have those headaches at the start of the year, that paralyses me just when I really do need to be taking action, that makes me see all the outstanding decisions I need to make as an insuperable mountain of decisions that I have no idea of how to start dealing with. That's probably also why this letter is so late.

I had set myself the goal, after getting that knock-back from my agent, of taking part in nanowrimo this month, and to write a psychological thriller (plot already formed in my mind), but I'm so busy with other things I've only written 638 words (yes, I can be that precise). It will have to wait now because there's no way I can catch up, not with everything else that's going on.

I could write more, and tell you things I don't want in the public eye, so I won't. Let me just say that it often grieves me that people look at my life from the outside and marvel at how easy and cool my existence is. Nothing could be further from the truth (and I know you know the truth). Every day is a battle, and every day I feel like just throwing in the towel, and relegating my writing and my emotions to the least important things in my life. But then I get a fresh breath, then I have a moment of clarity and know that it would be a betrayal of huge proportions to give up. So I don't, and try to crawl again from the foot of the mountain to the top of it.

Much love to you and E.


23 October 2017


It’s a myth
That you come of age at 21,
That you know then what you want to be,
That you know then who you are,
That life from there is painless.

It was our elders’ structural incompetence
To have thought numbers define us.

It’s a myth
That old age brings wisdom,
That grown children make parents’ lives easier,
That a certain age makes us free,
That a certain age makes them free,
That years separate us from responsibility.

They made the legends to split generations.

It’s a myth
That we mature like wine or fine furniture,
That the patina of time gives us a veneer of sure knowledge,
That knowledge is power over the future,
That we wake on a certain day fully formed.

They made up words to drive us back to the cradle.

It’s a myth
That we can’t change the world
As children or adults,
A myth that we can’t be different
If we want success,
That rules must be obeyed
And circles squared.

They wanted us to be the same as them.

It’s a myth
That we have to be.

For Charlotte on her 21st birthday.


10 July 2017

Our Neighbourhood

I have spent the last few weeks wondering why the hell there is so much traffic on Church Street, but, preoccupied with other even more useless and mindless things, the thoughts have slipped into the back of my mind, along with a multitude of other things (which are actually more important - like old age and the hope that it's just an illusion; and the pain of other families at the loss of loved ones).

And then, watching the thousandth (or so it seemed) car pass me by when I was trying to cross the road to safety and pavement, I was struck by what for me was an irrational thought - what if planning was better than chaos?

So, as an ex-Parish councillor, I started to dig into what was happening with the Neighbourhood Plan. Because I realised, very late, apparently, that a decent Neighbourhood Plan is actually the best way to stop the government steamrollering villages into accepting unrealistic development without parallel infrastructure development, that it's a way of stopping developers from taking advantage of villages for profit alone, that it's the only way of ensuring villages grow organically by forcing developers and landowners of actually paying their statutory dues when they want to build houses on their land.

You may remember my very vocal opposition to the Grove Farm development, the one that some young parish councillors supported because it had a significant proportion of affordable housing on it. The affordable housing's all gone (which is not a surprise to me, as you know), because developers changed their minds after approval was given. Very frustrating, and, unfortunately, very predictable.

So I came across the agenda for the Parish Council meeting of 10th July, and all its associated papers. It turns out that the Neighbourhood Planning Committee (which was supposedly a sub-committee of the Parish Council) had no terms of reference at all, and was, effectively, being run as a renegade committee, something I was never made aware of in my brief six months as a parish councillor (enough time to get sufficient material for a long novel). I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the non-disclosure nor by the lack of terms of reference. Feudal barons (or those aspiring to that status) have a way of hiding things from plebs like me (they probably vote Brexit, too, and curse my European flag every time they pass my house).

The thing is, some decent terms of reference have now been drawn up by the council (which seems, at last, to be free of dead and corrupt wood), terms of reference due to be voted on this evening (10th July 2017). Instinct tells me that there may be some bullies appearing from the woodwork to try to intimidate sitting parish councillors to vote against these terms of reference, that the feudal barons and their tenants may make an attempt to stop the modernisation of this parish. Try to be there and to silence this over-powerful minority which has been trying to make this parish their fiefdom for many years, using Masonry (not the brick type) and illegal intimidation. I will try to be there myself, although my writer's vanity (and ignorance) means that I'm on the radio tomorrow, promoting my latest song and novel.

It has become apparent to me, whilst watching the traffic pass my front door and trying to escape death from speeding locals (and non-locals) that the only way to ensure viable development of this village (and thanks to my very good friend Alan for opening my eyes to this) is to have a Neighbourhood Plan which forces developers and government to fund the infrastructure needed to cope with any further development.

We can't get any bigger without corresponding roads and schools and doctors' surgeries (paying fair rents - but that's another story) and water run-offs, and land-owners (direct or family-related) paying their dues.

See you later.