This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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If you wish to buy this book, which is 230 pages long and is ISBN 978-1-905723-40-9, it is readily available online from its publisher, CFZ Press of Bideford, Devon, UK at and also from such major literary websites as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, W H Smith, and sellers on AbeBooks to name but a few. You can also purchase a signed copy directly from me, the author - please email me at for full details.

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Monday, 25 April 2011


There are many traditional, quite often poignant religious folktales featuring animals, some of which are well known, others less so. In the following poem, I have combined two of these age-old stories, both of which are Easter-themed - the famous legend of how the robin gained its red breast, and the less familiar legend of how the crossbill acquired its twisted beak.


A tall wooden Cross cast its pitiless shadow
Across a green hill ‘neath the grey, leaden sky.
For mankind had crucified Jesus, its Saviour,
And left Him there helpless to suffer and die.

But two tiny birds came to visit Lord Jesus,
Two small humble creatures with hearts full of love.
The little brown robin and bright crimson crossbill,
Each blessed by the Light of their Father Above.

When Jesus looked down and beheld the small robin,
He smiled at him softly, and down from His breast
His blood trickled slowly like deep scarlet teardrops,
And falling below stained the robin’s white chest.

The crossbill in vain used his bill to remove the
Cruel nails that impaled Jesus’ hands and His feet,
But prised with such force that his bill crossed and twisted
‘Ere, strength being spent, he conceded defeat.

And e’er since that day when they visited Jesus,
The bill of each crossbill is twisted and curled,
While Jesus’ red blood on each robin’s chest lingers,
Reminding us just how much God loves our world.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011



Whenever I see a host of dandelion clocks gusting by in the breeze, I think of a whirling ballet of tiny dancers, twirling and spinning in a joyful celebration of nature, and of life itself, however brief it may be.

Like a fairy ballerina
Dancing softly through the trees,
Gliding silently through Summer
On the laughter of the breeze.

Waltzing gaily ‘cross the meadows
As the hours just flutter by,
Twirling swiftly through the woodlands
Like a spotlight from the sky,

Pirouetting round their branches
In a cloud of gauzy dreams,
Rising gently through the shadows
On the sun’s auroral beams.

Drifting long with other dancers
From this ballet of the trees,
Like a host of fairy stardust
Scattered far through fields and leas,

Till the heavens’ sapphire summer
Is transformed to autumn grey.
Now they’re gone, like cloudy snowflakes,
Having danced their lives away.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Martha Washington, the last passenger pigeon, photographed shortly before her death in 1914, which marked the extinction of what had once been the world's most abundant species of wild bird

When Martha Washington, a small grey dove-like bird, died in a cage at Cincinnati Zoo on 1 September 1914, her passing marked one of the most shameful episodes in the history of humankind – the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which, incredibly, had been just a century earlier the most abundant species of wild bird in the world, whose vast numbers as witnessed in enormous flocks migrating each year through the North American skies could be counted in the billions, until they were decimated by hunters. This poem is a tribute to that lost bird, and a stark reminder of the inconceivable wickedness responsible for its extermination. The final verse’s last word, ‘fly’, deliberately breaks the tradition set throughout the poem of ‘sky’ being the last word in each verse, in order to underline a change of direction in the poem, from realism to mysticism.


Each year, across the New World sky,
Would flocks of birds in millions fly –
Unending flights eclipsing light
While travelling through the sky.

Known as passenger pigeons, they –
The birds that hid the sun’s bright ray
For days and nights while endless flights
Migrated through the sky.

But hunters saw this awesome sight
As food for sport in wild delight,
And shot to kill as ever still
More birds passed through the sky.

Huge raucous clouds of birds in flight,
All unsuspecting of their plight,
Were seen and shot, then left to rot,
As more soared through the sky.

The heavens filled with countless birds,
And through the lands their cries were heard,
As they flew past, upon their last
Migration through the sky.

The pigeons’ flocks were soon reduced
When men with savage guns were loosed –
Who aimed and fired, and ne’er grew tired
Of shooting at the sky.

Dead birds grew greater every day,
But mankind’s greed was swift to pay,
For soon, as feared, they disappeared –
No birds flew through the sky.

Then parties searched for any few
Survivors of those flocks that flew
Across the lands in mighty bands,
A-flying through the sky.

But none did any human find,
The victims of his brutal mind.
Extinct at last – the days were past
When flocks whirred through the sky.

At Cincinnati Zoo one day,
Poor lonely Martha passed away.
The last was dead, her soul was led
Across that boundless sky.

And only then did mankind weep,
A bitter harvest would he reap
For many years, as futile tears
Fell flooding from the sky.

But though their mortal days are done,
The pigeons’ spirits linger on.
For up in Space, beyond man’s face,
On silent wings they fly.
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