Graveyard Crows, poem by Ja Lorian Young (Mythic Poetry Series)

One final, Halloween themed post. Jackdaw likes Graveyard Crows-a great, atmospheric poem. Enjoy the rest of the night, Winter looms large.

Silver Birch Press

by Ja Lorian Young

What is it, do you suppose,
that goes on in the heads of crows
that sit upon the graveyard gate
and patiently commence to wait
for spirits gone awandering;
these crows in solemn pondering.
They sit together, wing to wing,
and sometimes they begin to sing
in cawing cries the living hear
as pestilence upon the ear.
But spirits drifting to and fro
are savvy to the words of crow.

“The leaves are gone, the trees are bare,
a chill has settled on the air
and here we are, past Samhain’s gate
and so the hour has gotten late.
Come on, come on, it’s time to go
if we’re to beat the coming snow!”

But spirits rambling toward the door
are hesitant, all wanting more
of all the things they leave behind
and fearful of what they may find;
what fate awaits them where…

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Halloween:Three Personal, Family Ghost Stories

Two components of Halloween/Samhain celebrations, from both a pagan and a non-pagan perspective, are ancestors, and ghosts. So I thought I would combine the two in this post with three stories from my own family, two of them passed down, one of them recounted to me personally.

For any serious paranormal investigators out there, you can file them under the headings of Death Bed Visitation, Ghost Sighting, and Near Death Experience respectively. I am not claiming them to be true, supernatural experiences beyond all rational explanation, but neither am I dismissing them as anecdotal events that are grounded in purely biological and physical laws as we know them. I’m just passing them onto you as I received them. Make up your own mind on the cause. And the effect.

Death Bed Visitation

My Gran had a sister named Margaret who, being eleven years old, was three years younger than my Gran. One day, around 1924, the sister was in Queen’s Park, which is a public park in Harpurhey, Manchester. In a built up area, this was one of the few green spaces that families could visit to escape the bleak, polluted streets of the industrial, run down city suburbs of the time. While she was there, like so many others, Margaret drank water from one of the water taps. Who could have foreseen that such a casual act was to cost her her life, as in doing so she caught diptheria.

She soon became very ill, and her family gathered around her bed as her condition worsened. In those days it seemed that so many people died at home, as opposed to the modern custom of removing the act of death to hospices and hospitals. As she became weaker, and her end drew near, she suddenly reached out, her arms spread before her, and exclaimed “I’m coming, Mama!” looking into the empty air above her bed. With those final words, Margaret died.

On the day of her funeral, in the manner of how so often life’s occurrences can be perverse, a letter arrived informing everybody that poor Margaret had passed her eleven plus at school. While other young scholars throughout the country were being congratulated on their achievements, Margaret was buried in the same grave as her parents.

Ghost Sighting

One day, sometime after 1927, my teenage great aunt came flying recklessly down the stairs of her home, in such a speed as to risk life and limb. Her stepfather, (who had married her mother, now deceased, after her real father was killed in the First World War), was sat at a table downstairs and startled by the girl’s sudden, breakneck flight.

“Whatever’s to do?” he asked the frightened girl.

“I’ve just seen my Mam!” she exclaimed.

Her stepfather said “Don’t ever be scared of your mother. She loved you and would never harm you. What was she doing?”

My great aunt went on to tell him that she had saw her mother just standing there, looking at her, while shaking her head. She never spoke, nor attempted to speak. Perhaps she would have done if the girl had not bolted in fear.

Not long after this episode my my great aunt’s stepfather died. My great aunt, as so often happened in those days, abandoned her education to become a mother figure to her siblings. She always said afterwards, when recounting her extraordinary occurrence, that she thought that the reason her mother’s apparition was shaking her head was because she was aware that her widowed husband would soon be joining her, and could foresee the life of struggle that lay in store for her eldest daughter, having such responsibility and struggle thrust upon her at such a young age.

Near Death Experience

Around a year before my Dad’s death in 2003, he was sat watching the tv at home in the lounge. The video player on the shelf beneath the tv was connected to another television in the bedroom upstairs, and my brother had put a football cassette in the video player and then gone up to watch it.

After a while my Dad began to struggle with his breathing, in pain (it transpired later that he had had a heart attack), he reached for his inhaler to try and find relief, but on taking a few puffs found it did not work. Barely able to move and desperately wondering what to do next to summon help, he thought that his only hope lay in if he could manage to turn the video player off so my brother would come downstairs to see why his viewing had been interrupted.

He reached for the remote control, struggling to breathe, then suddenly-he was gone.

He said that he was no longer in the room, but ‘somewhere else’. Surrounded by pink-tinged cloud, he was aware of people being around him though he couldn’t see them. Then, up ahead, he saw the figure of a man. He told me “I’m not saying it was Jesus. But it was a man with a beard, and his skin looked like he was Mediterranean. My language was terrible-if God would have been there he would have struck me down. I was saying ‘You can **** right off! I’m not ******* coming! you ****!’ “

All the while that my Dad railed at him, the man just faced him, smiling silently, until the figure moved his head at an angle to look behind my Dad, looking beyond him, a puzzled expression on his face. My Dad then ‘shot backwards’ and found himself back in his armchair before the tv. But stood beside him now was his father, my granddad, who had died ten years previously. His father said “Don’t worry, I will see you again one day, son.” To which, still in fate-fighting character, my Dad replied “Not for a ******* long time you won’t!”

At that point my Mum walked in through the front door, took one look at my Dad’s ashen, stricken face, and remarked “Have you had a wash today?”

There you go: all families have their stories, and these are just three of ours.

Happy Halloween to you all. Keep the light on.

A Short Dialogue With Sheryl Crow

I went to see Sheryl Crow last night at an old Manchester nightclub called The Ritz. I first saw her  about twenty years ago, at the Academy. I think the years have been kinder to her than to me. In fact last night she could have been the same Sheryl Crow from two decades ago, except with a greater back catalogue and minus the leather pants that my friend was so enamoured with way back then.

I told my other half that I was going to see Shez Croz, chiefly because she hates it when I call her that.

I have never seen Sheryl Crow rock before, but in her encore she did just that with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll. She also made If It Makes You Happy quite sexy, which is a way I’ve never heard it before.

I saw Dylan once, and he barely said a word throughout the concert, he just closed himself off as if he was playing within his own, private, bubble. Crow from the outset last night had a great rapport with her audience, and of course her comments were directed to me, standing out in the middle of the faceless crowd. Here is a short excerpt of our conversation:

Sheryl:“This is a nice spit and sawdust place you got here.”

Jackdaw:“You should have been here twenty years ago-it was grab a granny night. They’ve still got the same carpet on the stairs.”

Sheryl:“It’s all hot and sweaty.”

Jackdaw:“Sheryl, believe me, you do not want me to take my boots off.”

Sheryl:“Are you all gonna party tonight?”

Jackdaw:“Me and my friend here might be going for a curry.” 

Sheryl:“I have no idea what is going on in the world today. I have two kids, I can tell you everything about kids tv.”

Jackdaw:“Over here that darn Peppa Pig has her own tv channel. It will go straight to her head. The same thing happened with Miley Cyrus.”

Sheryl:“You’ve been great, lovely.”

Jackdaw:“You too-chicks with guitars and all that, but I’m a married man. The wife works in the funeral business, and keeps threatening me with a free funeral.”

After blowing her out, I decided to forego the curry and got a small pizza to take home. Just a small one which was enough for me. But my wife swooped down from her early-night bed and tore two pieces from my grasp. Next time I’m sitting in to eat.

I didn’t mention the other woman.


I know, this photo could be anyone. It could be me in a wig. It could be me without a wig.


The set list for those of you who care about such things:

Maybe Angels
A Change Would Do You Good
All I Wanna Do
My Favorite Mistake
Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely
Real Gone
Can’t Cry Anymore
Best of Times
The First Cut Is the Deepest
(Cat Stevens cover)
Sweet Rosalyn
Anything But Down
Strong Enough
If It Makes You Happy
Soak Up the Sun
Everyday Is a Winding Road
Run, Baby, Run
Rock and Roll
(Led Zeppelin cover)


Sheryl told me to say hello to all you Jackdaw followers out there. Well, I’ve paraphrased her a little, but she and I are quite tight now. See you in Ok! Magazine.

A Sea Of Red

Here are some striking images of the moat of the Tower Of London, filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies, each one representing a British life lost in the Great War.


I like how they appear to flow down from the castle into a sea of blood.


The name given to this art installation is ‘Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red.’


In this centenary year of remembrance, I think it really is quite effective. Each individual poppy is to be sold to raise money for different charities.



Sometimes, when numbers become, well, just numbers, we need a visual representation to help us appreciate the scale of things. Think of the size of the ocean created if the seas of blood from every, affected, scarred country should run and merge into one.

The Vagabond Book (First To Find It Wins)

I have just finished reading Blackmoor, by Edward Hogan. It is a book neatly summed up by a phrase that comes right near the end of the story: ‘…loss far exhausts blame.’

I picked the book up from a second hand bookstore in Shudehill, Manchester, for the princely sum of £2.

In the middle of the book, placed between two pages, was a cash receipt, for unknown items, from an unknown shop, dated 2010.

2010-four years ago. Was that the last time this particular book had been read before it came into my possession? Had the receipt been placed there to mark out a significant sentence? Was it the place in the novel that the reader had reached, only never to return? Or was it merely the place of a random, forgotten, settling?

On the front, inside cover, was a name written in ink, partly scrawled out. The first name was Jenny, the surname was illegible. Next to the name was written ‘£1.’ Buying the book at such a discounted price didn’t cause me to bemoan the  fact that at some time (maybe four years ago?) the book was sold for half the price that I had paid for it.

On the inside, back cover was written, in pencil, ‘Scope. Whitley Bay.’ So, at some point the book had resided on a charity shop’s crowded shelf in Whitley Bay, some 112 miles away from the Shudehill shop where it had tantalisingly caught my eye. That’s some journey. But there is nothing to indicate that Whitley Bay was its starting point. Had the book been passed along a network of eager hands, finding temporary homes along the way in various refuges such as charity shops, book stores, market stalls, and homes of the erudite?

Kindles are good, they are practical and convenient, reducing space and search time, but with them you don’t have that sense of shared ownership. The compulsive responsibility to pass things on. How many people had held this paperback in their hands before me? Sometimes, though not every time, you get clues. Cash receipts, bus tickets, scrawled names and place names.

This afternoon I added my own contribution to the book, writing ‘Manchester, 2014’ beneath the Whitley Bay legend, and handed it into the RSPCA shop in my home town.

Long may its journey continue.

Imagine one day that I’m browsing in a coffee scented shop, overlooking the sea, down south in Cornwall, or maybe finding respite from the rain up north in Inverness, and I pick up a copy of Blackmoor, maybe moved by nostalgia, or curiosity, or something else that comes into play when you are promoted to act out of instinct, and inside the back cover I find written ‘Scope. Whitley Bay,’ beneath that ‘Manchester, 2014,’ and beneath that a descending list of other place names, and dates, added in chronological and geographical order, providing a traceable route and history all leading to that very place.

How freaky, how amazing, would that be?

Odds, anyone?

Keep looking people-that itinerant book is out there somewhere.



One And One

Lost in their own kaleidoscope of context, they regard each other with a suspicious eye. Curious, and aware of difference and distance.

Checking out each other’s innovations, reluctant to concede the ground.

One receives the baton, wholly unaware, the other passes it on, with regret. And not a little envy, whispering “Good luck,” before they ride away, in their opposite directions.



One last return to that coastal town, and the rain drove in from the Irish Sea, the October wind triumphing in gusts. Sheltered within our crawling car, we witnessed the season stamp its seal through a conquering night, barely held at bay by faltering, neon light. The streets were swept clear, the waves threatened to swamp.

We bid our farewell for the year. The dark rejoiced.



When Write Is Wrong

The same thing happens every time. Whenever I find myself in Waterstones, when I’m not there to pick up anything in particular but just to lose myself amongst the shelves, I pick up a fiction book, read a few lines, and think to myself, ‘I need to start writing.’ Then, in comparing, I realise that my writing is affected, full of pretension and hyperbole.

In contrast, these lines that I read are not fleshy but stark and sparing, dragged out from the marrow and offered up for the cardinals to kiss.

See, there I go again.