WILD NATURE POETRY AWARD competition now open.

Marilyn Timms, a Gloucestershire writer, is a great believer in beginner’s luck. The first poetry competition she entered won her a holiday for two in the Caribbean.


Her poetry appears in journals, online, in anthologies, and in her first collection, ‘Poppy Juice.’


She has performed her short stories and poems at five Cheltenham Literature Festivals and seven Cheltenham Poetry Festivals.




Howard Timms, a Cheltenham playwright and actor, is a recent convert to poetry. This resulted from his availability as a companion for his wife in her many poetic endeavours.

Collaboration on this book was a natural outcome.


Howard’s poems have appeared in print and online magazines and many in open mics. Howard has performed at six Cheltenham Poetry Festivals.

Cover artwork Marilyn A. Timms




138 x 216mm


70 pages


£10.00 + P&P UK


ISBN 978-1-912876-28-0


PUB: 30/03/2020










Deciphering the Maze


Marilyn & Howard Timms



Deciphering the Maze is a collaboration of poems that explore falling in love, marriage, and loss. It charts how the authors navigated a way through their own and each other’s cancers to a joyous reaffirmation of life and pays tribute to loved ones who lost the way.


Each poem gives one poet’s viewpoint – sometimes they describe the same event from different perspectives.

Gloves are on


I’ve joined the ranks of the croupiers

or so it seems to friends.

Others think I’m a magician

with my white-clad, sleight of hands.


Any magic in my fingers

is neither white nor black

but blood-red ooze

from thin-skinned, cracking


chemo-battered digits.

A spell of gloom and grime

on tough cotton armour

wards off cut and thrust

coming even from paper.





I stand in front of a mirror, naked.

It’s old, even older than me.

The silver back is crackled, misted,

but still brutally honest in its message.

Outside the window, the tree leans into the mirror,

bare limbs on display for all to see,

the angry cankers bold upon its bark.

Look! it shouts. You could have cured me.


Again, I run a finger down my ribs,

my nail rising and falling over each

bony ridge in a slow slalom of despair.

I dig deeper, insinuate my hand between

the bones, burrow through the warm damp

to caress my own gall, my oak apple,

round and smooth as a pebble.

Then, with one talon, I excise the interloper



Navigating the maze

After Max Ehrmann’s ‘Desiderata’.


Walk placidly amid Life’s noisy squalls.

Remember, silent thought serves as a balm.

Without surrender, seek good terms with all.

Speak your personal truth with soothing calm.

Keep humble focus on your own career

whether high or low, it’s your possession.

Love is the way to keep your life in gear

true love-knots never tie with feigned affection.

Don’t doubt what you can touch, or hear, or see

nor let fear grow when you’re alone or blue.

Like trees and stars, you have the right to be.

Keep your personal view of Life or God with you.

Our world hurls nightmares while its beauty gleams.

Choose wisely and embrace your happy dreams.





I don’t want a funeral. Please.

Let me spare you the long wind through

the gravestones, the wilting flowers,

the awkward wait at the crematorium,

dreading the sight of my hearse.

You do not need to hear platitudes spoken

by someone who has never met me.

Let me spare you the urge to leap up

and rip down the encroaching curtains,

to halt the slow grind of wheels

that steal my coffin away.

Let me give you the warmth of familiar rooms

where decades of love are squirrelled away.

Let me release you from the constraints

of stiff-upper-lippery in a public place.

Let me cosset you with family and friends.

Stay home. Revisit the furnishings,

remember when and why we bought them,

take in my books, my paintings, my smell.

Howl if you want.

Then hug children and friends, share memories,

eat cake, lots of cake, play music, and laugh.

Laugh and laugh.


Paint and pencil


I saw her portrait on the bedsit wall

great company for any lonely man.

My friend had painted all he knew of her sweet face

above a pencil outline of her naked body.


Her eyes lassoed me

her lively lips emanated charm.

I longed to know her secret self

convinced she’d be the only one I’d love.


I met her in December

no spotlight’s glare, no limelight, not a candle

but light enough from my friend’s eyes -- and mine.





You, swamped in a hard-collared, circus-tented

waterproof — surplus even to Army Surplus needs –

harvesting rain, guttering it down your shrinking,

shrivelling, Sunday-only suit.


Him, the mutual friend, the artist

who painted That Portrait, oil-paint-sure

of my face, a hazarded, hopeful-pencil

delineation of my naked body.


Me, your goddess, buttoned up in my virginity;

my white, fluorescing-in-the-lamplight

plastic coat flaring open over lust-red silk;

cat-walk confident in six-inch stilettoes.


The unexpected meeting.

You extend a hopeful, introductory arm,

cornered-pheasant-hands jerking and twitching,

flailing at the army-surplus wall, failing to escape.


The snow-flecked rush of Christmas rain,

gossip-hounds racing down the roof-steep lane

to bark the news They’ve met! They’ve met!

into Oxford’s sleep-shut, stone-clad, indifferent ears.



Approaching dusk


Life, not death, should light my endless thoughts.

Black night at end of life makes all go blind.

If spirit can make me be and see, that’s good.

If not, what on earth has life been for?


In life, I know that night must follow day

but I can only guess what’s after life.

While I can find, return, another’s love

why not make thoughts, and lives, that outlive us?


When twilight comes, will I have the strength

to rail and curse at stealthy creep of night

or seize my cudgel pen and with a will

beat back the darkening hues?


If words and love are spirit too, that’s good.

They are, I’m sure, conservators of life

brightening this world for those who linger on.

Perhaps my formless soul will also see their glow.





Tonight, cancer,

I see your true colours:

sour yellow with shadows

of greenish-purple pulsing

underneath your skin.

You are a toad-shaped moraine

left by a retreating glacier

stoppering my life. A pirate.


You smell of stagnant ponds,

old churches, chicken innards.

Your voice is the hiss of willow

branches flayed by the rain,

floating on the wind

like a young girl’s hair.

Never again, you whisper.

Everything is finished!

9781912876280 Marilyn and Howard Timms landscapr



Trees block my path,

each long trunk a stab of pain.

Pygmy branches split into fingers,

grow and divide like errant cells.

Leaves wear the orange of suspicion;

flaunt the scarlet fire of diagnosis.

The heated air peters out through

yellow, palest blue, to cooler greys.

I hide my shame in darkness,

bemused by jumbled avenues.

Dwarfed, I cling to a trunk,

smell the burn of chemotherapy,

taste the ash of splintered dreams,

follow the echoes of my lover’s voice.