First Call to Samaritans, by Helen May Williams

Can you hear me alright?
Is this a safe place to talk?
Can I tell you anything, things I can’t tell my mother?
Can I share my innermost feelings with you? Are my secrets safe with you?
Can I say all these terrible thoughts, and know they’ll never come back to haunt me?
Can I share with you, a total stranger, things I could never tell the family?
Can I keep on talking, about all this stuff that’s on my mind?
I’m sure there’s other people you need to talk to rather than me.

Right now, you’re the only person that matters to me.
Please tell me more about all that stuff on your mind.
Please tell me those things you can’t tell the family.
Because I’m a stranger they’ll never come back to haunt you.
Your secrets are safe with me.
I can hear you alright. I’m listening attentively.


Helen May Williams formerly taught at the University of Warwick and has written extensively on twentieth-century poetry. She runs the Poetry Society’s Carmarthen-based Stanza. The Princess of Vix, is published by Three Drops Press. Her book of mainly haiku, Catstrawe, is due for publication by Cinnamon Press in 2019. She blogs at and edits


on March 22nd Bruxelles terror attack by Helen May Williams


there are no words left

we used them all up too soon —

not knowing worse was to come.


I should have hoarded some

for this next catastrophe.

shall I say je suis Bruxelles


say we are all victims now,

innocent casualties and

suicide bombers both?


say: yesterday I

walked by the old port & saw

still-silver dead fish

dumped on clear seabed

dulled blank eyes questioning why?


Helen May Williams

13 November 2015 to 16 November 2015 by Helen May Williams

pebbles on a beach

cubes in an underground vault

human lives lived in

interstices of cement —

blocks of space & blocks of time


friday the thirteenth —

lately there is no exit

no waking dream no

ingenious solution

to resolve nightmare deadlock


Bataclan Paris

organised barbarism —

paleolithic curse

two tribes live side by side

each one the barbarians


‘ . . . gunman in the eye

he was young in his twenties

calmly reloading’


whorled calcium shells

dissolve into fatal white dust

clouds of destruction


‘ran to lighting room

right of stage —ten people there

there was no exit

we had run from one trap to

next —  we waited for silence


‘. . . . reloading their guns

so we ran across the stage

saw them firing on

piles of people in the room

my eyes saw scene of carnage


woman twice wounded

bleeding losing consciousness

carried her to exit’


others hung from

upstairs window sills — let go

hobbled down back street


‘they strafed restaurant

as one we fell to the floor

we stayed there for a minute


‘I noticed woman

next to me —  she was

fatally wounded’

her reporter’s voice without

any trace of emotion


rules of warfare changed

some time between world war 2 &

Vietnam conflict

and the current day — so who

are the barbarians?


 . . . interrupt this nightmare

to bring bodies piled three deep —

pebbles on fraught beach


Entrevaux’s mayor

checks his watch one more time

then leads whole village

through narrow streets to midday

at Porte d’Italie


steps into dignity

stands on war memorial

requests a minute’s silence


through tears we read the

rollcall of world war one

dead for liberté

égalité fraternité

a century ago


in clear blue midi sky

we read the names of fresh victims —

neoteric glimpse


public commemoration

of héros morts pour la patrie

not an empty gesture as

thousands pay respect —

wherever they stand


in this shared moment

we have processed to vision

of next terrible war


Now by Helen May Williams

Now Turks-head pumpkins

trail across wet concrete

their fruits still tiny


now there’s a heatwave

in Europe — even in a

freezer truckload of

so-called immigrants


now nasturtiums shed

their caper-substitute pods

before the first frost

wilts their peppery leaves


now father & daughter

cross so many borders

walking for days through —

serbian / croatian /

hungarian / german


now borage stems break

with an excess of blue

star-like flowers still

harbouring anxious bees


now she skips along track

through gap in razor-wire fence

carrying her teddy


now hardy orange,

gold & yellow marigolds

continue to bud, bloom &

set scimitar seeds


establishing their home

in this temperate Welsh plot

undeterred by westerly gales


now rumours from ahead

name it the death route / yet

father and daughter

still walk it into tear-gas /

hunger / thirst / opprobrium


now verbena, bay,

rosemary & thyme stay

in outdoors beds &

pray for mild winter months


now in searing heat

steel gates straddle carriageway

razor wire unfurls


now almond trees

shake in equinoctial breeze

yearning for the sharp

dry cold of the Pyrenees

only one generation away


now tear gas cannisters &

water cannon bombardments

target baby-carriers —

young men hurl rocks in return


now blight infects

outdoor tomatoes

(their name an indecipherable

smudge on greyed plant label)

before their fruits can ripen


and courgette flowers

slime their soft mildewed rot

on immature fruits


now is such a time

of arid silenced prayer

of forced bivouack

on fenced-in alien

hard-shoulder tarmack


now spring’s ebullient sowing

is a few scattered notes

in an abandoned

blue gardening journal


now babies are held out

and toddlers crawl

on no-man’s land appealing

to lines of frontier guards

in full riot gear


yet aquilegias

self-seed in neglected pots

and finally I have planted

home-grown bergamot


while in Hungary’s

humane corridor

human packages are

delivered swiftly

to their destination

Winter Ritual (Northwest Coast) by Helen May Williamn

Up before dawn –
after the solstice
the morn remains
darker for a while

running alone
through deserted
urban streets

(she dreams a time
when they are really together)

on slate-blue
towards the dunes.

The moon is huge,
absolutely full
and radiantly close
over the low sea
and grassy sand;

(samphire sprouts
where they don’t spray)

back eastwards
the sun starts
over the level-

The moon and he
are with her still

despite the street-light’s
neon glare

despite the ringing
in her ears
from the last time
he beat her.

I wrote this poem in the mid-Eighties and David Morley published it in the long defunct University of Warwick publication, Communicate (1993). 

Sousse Massacre by Helen May Williams

Sunday, 28 June 2015

in memoriam of victims of Sousse massacre

bathing in the sea
camels swayed along shoreline —
‘very very calm’ . . .[1]

he was twenty-three
decent break-dancer —
strolling on sand   gun in hand[2]

29 June 2015

10:29:  a tangle of nightmares haunts me this morning

shredded pink scraps in
drawstring muslin bag —
intestines?   humanity?

[1] . An elderly woman from Egwys Gymym remembered the beach at Sousse which had camels on it thirty-five years ago when she visited it.  The gunman was described by eye witnesses as ‘very, very calm’ as he started shooting people lying on sunbeds dead.
[2] A video of the gunman Seifeddine Yacoubi breakdancing was posted on Facebook.

16 June, 2015 by Helen May Williams

16 June 2015

robin twitters at barn’s mouth
as I go to take pebbles
from under the pile
of disused bulk bags —
I don’t see the nest

we twitch a corner
& there they nestle in a crease
pale precarious eggs

June 17 2015

For five days now hundreds of African migrants have been stranded on the rocks along the coast of Ventimiglia, the Italian border town next to Menton in France.  Euronews.

‘meandered around this
charming old town
perfect to stay in
for Monte Carlo Grand Prix
at Monaco: —
just a gentle
thirty minute train ride
down the Riviera’

‘lovely little bars
hand sewing machines . . .fake bags
hawkers drive you mad
police should really clamp down  —‘
‘beautiful old Italian town’

six days on the rocks
six cases of scabies  —
police remove with force

18 June 2015

fleeing thread-bare pasts
seeking future designs —
history on the rocks

the precariat
clings to lampposts  ducks truncheons —
hands protect their heads

that’s the fourth summer
we’ve disturbed the robins’ nest —
they still confide in us
flit in under my spade
for the juiciest worms

June 19, 2015

Laudato si’, mi’ Signore

the Earth  our home  is
like an immense pile of filth  —
she cries out to us
we forget we too are dust
our bodies her elements

June 20, 2015

on the discovery of a mafia illegal waste disposal site 60 km from Naples

with shovels we found
that the soil was blue or pink —
beneath the surface

Helen May Williams is currently an Associate Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at The University of Warwick and is completing an edition of memoirs by her late mother, who worked at Bletchley Park and for E.C.I.T.O.