Some Ant – a poem

In the 1952 award winning children’s story “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White Charlotte, the spider, writes “SOME PIG” in her web to save her friend Wilbur from the slaughterhouse. This poem imagines the activities of one of Charlotte’s great to the nth power grand-daughters. It uses urban metaphors of man-made objects to describe natural elements

Charlotte’s nth great grand-daughter,
Descends on skyscraper-steel strong thread,
To survey her dew-diamond billboard.
It reads “SOME ANT”.
She elevates back up to her house and waits.
Below, an escalator of ants swarm,
Up and down the knurled bark of her tree.
Flowers open their shuttered-stores of nectar.
A butterfly, dolled-up in seductive garb,
Stops to sample their Starbuck’s choice.
Close behind, a multitude of bees,
Each with briefcase sac to fill.
Charlotte turns to hear the helicopter-
Whir of wings as a blue-bottle flies
Straight into her waiting banner.
She smiles as she sits before her door,
And watches her dinner struggle.
Below, the ant garbage-cleaners of the forest
Busy in and out of secret brown earth,
Wait for her rejected morsels.

© October 2014, Jane Stansfeld


Mount Bonnell is located in Covert Park in Austin Texas. It is a spectacular place with steep cliffs overlooking Lake Austin and commands great views of the city. History has it that several early Texans committed suicide here to avoid their enemies. It has been a popular tourist spot since the 1850s and is a well-used proposal venue. Recently a visitor accidentally fell off the rim to his death.

Third time to visit Covert Park.
Ring pocketed, hands held, they race,
Climbing Mount Bonnell, clean, stark,
Scented trees, stone steps, a lover’s place.

This, where Antoinette did leap,
Her beloved dead by Indian bands.
Here, Golden Nell and Beau eternal sleep
Jumped off, evading torturing hands.

To west, Austin’s winking downtown,
To east, setting sun behind wild hills.
Both wave to this place of renown,
This park of discordant joys and ills.

Below, lake and lawns, manicured,
An arc of silver water laps in love,
Houses rich and well secured,
Inviting those, gazing, from above.

Children scamper, tempting the rim,
Lovers loiter, enjoying the way,
Old folks amble, eyes dim,
All savor the magic of the day.

Anxious, he drops to bended knee
And asks “Will you marry me?” 

© October, 2014, Jane Stansfeld

Gin and It. – a poem

Doctor Jim’s ritual for harmonious life.
One dose a day, taken, punctual at six.
Medication served with tinkling ice
in shot glasses on a silver tray.
All must participate and,
sip slowly, savor every drop.
No substitutions or generics,
the best, essential for this love offering.

To start his prescription formula
two drops of Angustora bitters,
their aromatic flavor coaxes contrasts
brings spice to each life.
His Gin, one ounce Beefeater,
perfect, pure unmarred,
doused into the glass,
a pep, a pick me up.

His “It”, Martini-Rossi Italian Vermouth,
two ounces, one sweet, one dry
life experiences in harmony
He curls in a fresh twist,
of lemon peel, no pith,
it’s acidity sharpens senses.
Finally ice to fight the heat of ardor,
the whole, not shaken, stirred with love.

His served elixir, a recipe
for success of lives in his care.
His love seal to blend together,
family and all in his home,
his oblation of pleasure,
delivered to each as father, doctor,
selflessly served with equal reliability
and dedication given to all.

© copyright, July 2014, Jane Stansfeld

The Song of the Maori Kupe

Everywhere you go in New Zealand you see unique land forms and find that each has an associated Maori legend explaining its origin. Some of the most intriguing traditions relate to the Maori fisherman leader-cum-adventurer Kupe. He is credited by the Maori to have discovered New Zealand.

The Maori enjoy song and this put Longfellow’s epic poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ in mind. I present this poem as a tribute to the Maori Kupe and with apologies to both the Maori and Longfellow for the many foibles which my work inevitably contains.

Maori words are hard for us to pronounce but know that ‘wh’ is spoken as ‘f’. This sets the octopus’s phonetic name as close as we can get as ‘Te-feke’. Since many of the Maori words and names which I use for their poetic ring, are unique I also give an explanatory list at the end of this piece.

I  Introduction

Should you ask me, whence this song,
Whence this legend, and mythology,
Of islands cradled in saline foam?
I should answer, I should tell you,
“From the lands of Aotearoa,
From the islands of long white cloud,”
Should you ask where Aotearoa,
Found this story and tradition?
I should tell you,
“In the minds of the Maori,
In the golden sanded beaches,
In the languid coves and inlets,
In the rocks rent by seas,
In the thermal inland mud pits,
In the eely mountain lakes,
In the precipitous fjords,
In the songs of the land.”
If further, you should ask me,
I should answer, I should tell you,
“Ascend the Nelson city mount
Take in mysterious beech forest air,
Breathe the milky morning mist,
Climb to the ‘Center of New Zealand’,
Read the Maori legend inscription,
Disregard the cited Kupe story,
Myth of kidnapping and murder,
Myth of fleeing and revenge.
Instead, listen carefully to my verse
This truly quoted epic of Kupe’s band
Dream of the birthing of a land.”

II The Maori Kupe and Muturangi

In the vast blue Pacific Ocean,
In the fish-filled Bay of Plenty,
On the island of Hawaiki,
Lived the noble Maori, Kupe.
Strong in limb, keen of eye.
Skilled rangatira fisherman.
Moon and tide pull together,
Put out to sea on cradling waves,
Returned, fish laden waka,
Gifts from Tangaroa and Hinemoana.
Seagulls swooping, squawking,
Fed waiting people on sandy shore,
Wondrous plenty to share and more.
Then, one day, there were no fish
All luring bait nibbled clean
Day after day the whanau hungered.
Called a hui around evening fire
“Did our rangatira anger Tangaroa?
That fishless, we must starve?”
Kupe spoke of respect for the seas,
Spoke of unfailing love for Tangaroa.
Stood resolute, handsome, tall,
Black hair wind –blown,
Skin, golden in setting sun
“I pledge to unravel this mystery
Untangle the starving secret of the sea.”
Long days did Kupe search the waters,
‘Til a giant feasting octopus
Left telltale slime upon his bait,
Then wise, Kupe knew not to wait.
Speedy, he traveled across Hawaiki,
Traveled to the home of evil Muturangi,
“Is your pet octopus Te-Wheke,
Making his own delectable dish
Eating the people’s bait and fish?”
Murangi scowled and scorned Kupe.
“Te-Wheke eats without heeding
I shall not curtail voracious feeding.”
Kupe rose and stood before Muturangi
Eyes flashing in anger, hands clenched.
“I came in peace, help you not a bit
Then I, Kupe, shall kill your pet.”
Muturangi smirked and smiled,
Satisfied, he nodded and scowled
Muttered into the whistling winds,
“If he does not kill you for your sins!”

III Kupe hunts Te-Wheke

Matahorua, ocean going waka,
Did our Maori Kupe build.
Waka stocked with supplies,
Set out upon the wild waves,
Laden with family and braves.
Te-Wheke, irate, rose from the waters
His long arm lashed at the waka
The waka shuddered and swayed.
Kupe stood brave, mere in hand
He struck and hacked the writhing tentacle
Te-Wheke quivered and shook
Wounded, unable to hide in the deeps,
He writhed and wriggled over the waves.
The great chase began,
South fled Te-Wheke, ever south,
Southward followed the waka
Chased Te-Wheke across the ocean.
Always following, always alert
Dolphins playing, danced alongside
Where are you going noble Kupe?
“I follow Te-Wheke-o-Muturangi,
Chase him southward in his flight
Chase him to the death fight.”
Then rose above the ocean a cloud
Long, white over waves, a shroud,
To a new land of mountains and trees
Beaching they paused for water, food,
Spoke Kupe’s wife, Hine-te-Aparangi,
“I name this the land of Aotearoa
The land of the long white cloud.”
Still Te-Wheke thrashed in the sea
Kupe answered and alone went to face
His enemy, this feeding disgrace.
The battle ranged down the coast
Past bays and inlets
Past coves and beaches
Past islets and caves
Past seals on rocks
Te-Wheke paused between islands
Will not currents between two seas
And winds between two lands
Give him a fight advantage?
Fearless Kupe faced the monster
There in rushing waves
There in windy seas
Raged a great battle
Floundering flustering foam
Seas lashing against risen rocks
Kupe upon the octopus’ slimy head
Hacked hard and fast with his mere
So did Kupe slay Te-Wheke

IV Kupe travels Aotearoa

But Aotearoa, enchanted land
Captured Maori Kupe and his band
Lured him to explore its shores
To morph into its customs and mores.
The habitat of bat and birds,
Of Godwits and flightless Kiwi and Kea;
Of Fantails and giant land-bound Moa;
Of white heron, royal albatross, Bell-tails;
Of friendly bush robins, and Fantails.
The land of mysterious plants;
Of Kowhai tree, with flowers of gold,
Of coiling crowned tanga ferns of old
Of silver and back beeches, upland mosses
Home of insects and water beasties
Of aged black long-finned eels,
Of Sand flies and bumble bees
Of Monarch butterflies and scale insects
Place of geological wonders
Of the roaring Huka Falls
Of the split apple rock
Of glaciers and volcanos
Of boiling mud and shooting steam.
Many years did Kupe stay
‘Til destiny called and he did obey
Returned across the Pacific waters
Back to the island of Hawaiki
There to tell of Aotearoa
There to bid his own farewell
There to leave for his Hereafter
All the whanau begged him to stay
But only ‘farewell’, could noble Kupe say.

Foot Notes

Aotearoa, is the most widely known and accepted Māori name for New Zealand. The most common translation is “the land of the long white cloud”.

Hawaiki, is, in Māori mythology, their original home, before they travelled across the sea to New Zealand. It also features as the underworld in many Māori stories.

Rangatira are the hereditary Maori leaders, ideally, rangatira were people of great practical wisdom who held authority on behalf of the tribe.

Waka are Maori watercraft, usually canoes ranging in size from small, unornamented canoes used for fishing and river travel, to large decorated war or travel canoes up to 130 feet long.

Tangaroa is one of the great gods in Maori mythology and is considered by them to be the god of the sea. He is a son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, Sky and Earth. He is the father of many sea creatures

Hinemoana, in Maori mythology is an ocean woman, and personification of the sea. She is second wife to Kiwe, a male guardian, of the sea with whom she has many children.

Whanau, pronounced fa-nau is a Māori-language word for extended family.

Hui, is a Māori word meaning a gathering of people. In modern times a gathering of New Zealand Māori people

Matahourua in Maori tradition, was the name of the canoe of the legendary hero Kupe.

Mere is a type of short, broad-bladed weapon in the shape of an enlarged tear drop. It was used to strike/jab an opponent in the body or the head; it is misleading to call it a club. It is usually made from Nephrite jade or greenstone. A mere is one of the traditional, close combat, one-handed weapons of the indigenous Māori, and a symbol of chieftainship.

Moa were nine species of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand. The two largest species, reached about12 feet in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 510 lbs. Moa were the only wingless birds, lacking even the vestigial wings. They were the dominant herbivores in New Zealand for thousands of years. Most, if not all, species of moa died out by 1400 due to overhunting by the Māori and habitat decline.

Huka Falls are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo in New Zealand. A few hundred meters upstream from the Huka Falls, the Waikato River narrows from approximately 100 meters across into a narrow canyon only 15 meters across. The volume of water flowing through often approaches 220,000 liters per second. At the top of the falls is a set of small waterfalls dropping over about 8 meters. The most impressive, final stage of the falls is an 11 meter drop. The drop is technically six meters but the water flow, five meters deep raises the level to 11meters.


© copyright, April 2014, Jane Stansfeld

Winter’s Hold



Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold.

Spring, pent up, anxious for winter to die

Urgent ever pressing, ever getting more bold,

Rends winter’s air with a pressing cry

“Babe’s in the womb anxious to unfold

Newness, birthing and growing, I do not lie

Plants in the dirt need release from your cold.

Bleak one, oh winter, you’ve grown too old.”


This poem is in response to the SpeakEasy challenge to write a piece starting with the words, “Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold” and including a reference to the above Leonardo da Vinci drawing. The challenge made me think about the strange weather which we have experienced in Austin, Texas this spring. First a late frost nipped my budding Amaryllis and then a hail storm last week sheared off the booms of those in flower. Fortunately only about 10% are early bloomers and the rest are now in their full glory. Today we are warned that another cold front is on its way but we are assured that it won’t get below 39o F.

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Public Dominoes – a poem

This poem describes a lunchtime game of dominos witnessed in a Pub called The Victoria in northern England.

Up go the dominoes,
Into his hands,
Covered by the right,
A ring on each finger,
Ill-assorted array!
They glint as he downs to the table,
Following, Morris smiles
Through bushy beard,
Eyes mischievously aglow,
Down another domino.
Controversial this?
Sure, his eyes spell it,
And all display surprise.
Next that friendly pair,
Betty both to me,
Down dominoes successively.
So, back to Barry comes the game,
Simple banter following along,
I’m knocking,
No twos or threes…
And then, suddenly,
Morris is out.

© Copyright, February 2014, Jane Stansfeld

Forever Autumn – a poem.

Recently some friends invited us to a “forever autumn” themed evening. I contributed this light hearted poem.

I, autumn, distain my sisters, three
Not one of you as good as me!
I point at my bountiful harvest fare
Look what I produce to share
Fields waving with golden grain,
Riches are my echoed refrain
Orchards full of fruited trees,
Honeycombs gifted by the bees.
Don’t even consider the rest
Forever autumn, I’m the best.

Now winter you banish green,
Perhaps as pretty as a dream
You substitute snow and ice,
But how can they call you nice?
Nothing to eat, ground as stone,
Fast becoming skin and bone
Without my bounty all would cry.
Foodless, nothing to do, but die.
Don’t even consider the rest
Forever autumn, I’m the best.

Spring you come far too late
Life awakes to procreate
Promises to challenge my stored fare,
Blossoms and green shoots everywhere.
Your promise nascent new life
Foodless this only means strife
Your bounty a future lure
The living need so much more.
Don’t even consider the rest
Forever autumn, I’m the best.

Summer with your heat and sun
You smother with frolicking fun
Throughout each dreamy day
Wash away cares you say,
Field and groves growing well
These are lies that you tell
It’s my harvest; that you know
When all you do is help it grow.
Don’t even consider the rest
Forever autumn, I’m the best.

© Copyright, October 2013, Jane Stansfeld

The Glass Box – a poem

Man boxed in glass,
Looks out, and daily renews fragile panes,
To protect himself from outer beings.
Oft-times he takes a shard of life
Within his glassy void.
But casual contacts, made and broken,
Superficial people wafting by
All evaporate beside his vacuum.
For, his barrier, a thousand people
Met and daily touched,
Are transient subjects of study,
For him to see, map, and criticize
From behind impenetrable glass.
So all pass on and leave,
A hermit crab, his shell

When we try with upturned eye,
To return the piercing stare,
To contact that person beyond,
We find a mirror.
In it, an image of our desire,
Reflected back, attractive.
Temporarily happy, we step closer,
Deceived by one-way glass,
We sail in a wave of joy.
But behind, he smiles
Knowing us from our emotions easily seen,
Worn for him to turn and use,
Destroyed to protect the lethal panes
Keeping him alone, protected,
And we, outside, denuded.

But, maybe, if you’re lucky,
You may step so close,
That by a glint of light,
You catch a fleeting glimpse
Through protective films.
Then, use your knowledge,
Protect yourself,
For, nothing breaks the panes,
Not even steel can get within.
All evaporate, love petrified,
Bereft of tenderness,
Turns, to reinforce the box,
As he, alone, within,
Sits and studies people,
By reflections, easily cast,
Upon his box.

© Copyright, October, 2013, Jane Stansfeld

Roadside – a poem

Every Austin, Texas October heralds in a profusion of tall wayside Maximillian Sunflowers. When they burst into bloom I marvel at their beauty and wonder how many, speeding past in their transport, miss this wayside marvel, just as we all miss the smaller blossoms underfoot.

Do we know where we are going?
And if we knew, is it worth knowing?
Radio blaring, I yap on the phone
I never want to be alone.
Air conditioned, fast, do I see,
Beauty in the path ahead of me?

Nature waits patient to be found.
When did I last step on bare ground?
I hurry, blind, thro’ street and lane.
I miss much, ne’er to be seen again.
October’s flowers wave from the side,
I pass all by in my cocoon’d ride.

Later I look at paintings fair,
Read poems of beauty everywhere
Yet, I still travel, unseeing by,
Roadside beauty ne’er wink of eye.
At forty miles an hour I zoom,
Glancing see a wayside bloom.

Sunflowers today in brilliant show
Yellow banks align the place I go.
But, if I walked this path at all,
I’d see the delicate and small
Miracles of light and worth
Bursting joyful from the earth.

If I walked along the way,
What would nature to me say?
Would I be closer to her skirt?
Would I commune with dusty dirt?
Would this conscious act of going
Be the very thing worth knowing?

© Copyright, October, 2013, Jane Stansfeld

The future – a poem.

If I could look ahead,
See into the future,
Would I, peeping, see you?
Or would my stolen glance,
Find another’s eyes,
Gazing into mine?

© Copyright, September 2013, Jane Stansfeld