Poetry Blog by John E Marks

Tags from last 12 months

Ice light in my eyes

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Iceflowers in the wind

this storm black night

Stings me awake

dreams scatter the light

(black with cloud,

earth, in grave colours)

No black candles here

no witches’ moon,

No lifting of the gloom

gone, all gone, too soon

(see the dead a-glimmering

brimful against the sky)

Alone in a room

iceflowers zoom

Shimmer in my head

like the living and the dea...

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The hill was steep upto the Ashton memorial

At 5 am  iI was wondering why I was walking up

The hill. I rarely stopped to think in those

Long-gone days, just what I did was what came

'Natural'. I hought of my  friends as permanent

Features in my life. Time would tell me that was

Not right. Those with money and charisma would

Be successful. The rest of us would struggle. I'd


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A drinking man

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It was on a road out of London pulled up at a pub

I heard them say the words that I remember to today.

The drinking man he suffers glug, glug, glug. He loves

The taste of whiskey, the craic,  all that convivial shite

But he remembers, truly remembers - he's a creature of

The night. Looking for a moment of content, looking for

A solution, he rumbles all the lying, theft and prosti...

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Identity theft.

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Staring at the red candle, remembering the smell of patchouli oil

Mixed with Red Leb from all those years ago.On Saturday 4th July,

1846 the  London Daily News extolled the virtues of this peculiar

Indian oil in preventing moths. Nothing to do with hippies except

India and olefactory-based  imagined communities from the past that

Have a grip that will last. Ad agencies will use the ...

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Stumbling on broken glass

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Fresh water suits my watery
Nature. As I squint at the ripples,
Watching the ducks glide beside me

Keeping me on the straight and narrow?

The calling of strangers splatters across
The sky and I choke on what I know 
And cannot even whisper out, or sigh.

Mountains and sky reflected in the water?

And the ordinary has become extraordinary
Amongst the golden gleams of sunset
We ...

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The price of coal

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The children were attending, or not, sitting at their desks or not,

On the terrible day of the spoil slip. They may have been thinking

About Halloween but unlikely given the date 21 October 1966

Americana was still at a distance from these south Wales valleys.

More likely the boys would be planning to collect firewood for Bonfire night.

The unforgettable  truth was that 14...

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Quasimodo and Esmeralda

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The priestly fathers love to laugh at Quasimodo

They said he was a dirty broken gypsy boy, who climbed like a monkey

These priests in their black robes, jewels and gold crucifix lusted after young Esmeralda

Her wild gypsy eyes flashed and she kicked and she tore and she screamed

Magically  Quasimodo lifted Esmeralda into the heavens above

The bells of Notre Dame which had so deafene...

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Lifting the Veil/Shelley

The 1997 collection from Manchester poet John Marks. He was a part-time tutor for the Open University specializing in 18th cent. European literature and 19th cent. British religious history.

ISBN 0 903610 20 5


Low-slung August sun shadows stonework into the 
 deeper shadow lands — 
 phantoms adrift on the wide Sargasso sea — 
 and so unruffled, these lawns, 
 and all this ...

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Killing off the Elephants

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WE let others kill the elephants

In our name we are letting this obscenity

Happen. Again and again until the elephants are gone.

It is easier than doing something

That might embarrass us or tire us

WE fear being accused of

Creating a scene by screaming out

Man's cruel derision to elephants

Who we already know mourn the deaths

Of those they love. Scientists are discoverin...

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Fear in a handful of dust

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No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace,

As I have seen in one autumnal face. John Donne


To fear a note of music is not rare.

Listen. We know the wild that is in us

In a Hammer Horror or under Victorian

Street lights. The echoes of a Whitechapel

Hacking dispels air, makes breathing difficult.

The dreadful dreams of sepsis still haunt

Me. Reach inside and tug at t...

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Empty Bench

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Ghosts are everywhere

The pulse of her heart stopped

Wraiths chattering and mixing and melding

In the invisible air

The odd number is the one

Moment lingering in the chair

Talking to a lady no longer there

Odd that even two is only ever 1 + 1

And associations carry on until the wood

Rots and there are no trees and no ice

And no air and nobody there

Only the hallowe...

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The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. Luke 16:19-25

Take the earth’s resources from the poor.

Rob them. They can’t fight back.

They have wives and children to feed.

Yes boss. Sure will boss.

Let them do all the work, stretch

Them on the rack of survival. Grind them

And beat them and terrify and mist...

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stormy weather

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there's only so much reading you can do

so much listening to storms rumble in

from far horizons

we think this earth is solid under us

but talk to a Seismologist

then you'll quake

we carry this dream of solidity

with us always: in hospital, at the grave-side

everywhere our dream allows us to live

hoping, just hoping

that we're travelling towards

the harbour

and n...

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finisterre to fitzroy

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finisterre is no longer there

the end of the earth has gone

from being occasionally poorly

with sprightly attempts

at good visibility;

she entered a decline

she was last seen

veering off across

the broad atlantic;

her funeral was at sea

her replacement

the comic Jacobite FitzRoy

has sought to claim lineage

with Admiral Robert FitzRoy

HMS Beagle's capain


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Hushed, stuttering, sotto voce conversation

Of women of a certain age squatting in a cafe

Like tigers in a rage. Red in tooth and claw, 

They defend their young with barbed remarks that

Carry such sage implications

That the ripples of misunderstanding extend far and wide.

Of their dark past little is known, except mothers

Perform many daily tasks whilst with joy and grief


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The Doors of Perception.

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Jim Morrison would throw a massive party at the cemetery in Paris

Where his mortal remains were buried one bleak summer day in 1971

He was the man who came back through the door

To attend his own wake and to read more extracts

From Joyce's work-in-progress Finnegan's Wake

Anybody who has passed through  the wall

Will be changed,

She may be wiser buthe  will be unsure of everyt...

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A judgement of conscience

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Before the Reformation

The Christian's duty was 

To carry out the instructions,

For the whole of the community, 

Laid down in Matthew chapter 25 – 

That all Christians shall:

·         Feed the hungry

·         Give drink to the thirsty

·         Welcome the stranger

·         Clothe the naked

·         Visit the sick

·         Visit the prisoner

.          Bury...

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The Moor's Last Laugh

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My daughters mean the world to me

To keep them safe is my intent

But in a time of war can fathers

Protect daughters? I used to be

So cheerful, so easy in my cares.

But now I hate the moonlight

Scared to be taken unawares.

We are occupied now by  Christian armies.

But we keep Muhamed close to our hearts

Whilst professing to be Christians.

In the church the Inquisition ...

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The Buddhas of Bamiyan



One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan before their wilful destruction


Reading between the lines

Becomes a habit of mind

Look again

Out of the side of the eye

Change your mood, gender, age, intelligence

Then look again

What we perceive

We half-create

What we have

We love and hate

Aye! The implication is

Clear: write without fear.

Buried in her books


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- early onset

the blue is missing from the sky

the trees have no leaves

outside it is very cold

the wind is cruel

there is a person

in front of me

i don't know who she is

i remember playing out

with my sisters 

on a skipping rope

it is still very cold inside

that lady told me it is morning

that is why i stretch and yawn

the woman said i had a visitor

i was frightened to...

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Free Speech

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Imagine the ego you'd need

To say "son we're on the long march

And the killing has begun. 

20,000 purged. It's essential

You know, to know who to trust

As we march over mountains and

Learn to drink dust." The gulag,

Concentration camp, torture chamber

All designed and working to save yer

From thinking for yerself. Chile 

Under Pinochet, China under Mao,

Russia unde...

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Johnny Keats and the footloose Cavaliers

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Melancholy's lack of zest

Is written all over palimpsest:

To die at twenty-five to some

Will hardly seem to have been alive.

But Johnny Keats and the Cavaliers

Lived for poetry, music, kisses, tears

Eschewing self-pity or suicide

They tried their best to stay alive.

No crossing of the river Lethe

No seeking out of empty-headed

Oblivion.They preferred to breathe.


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A satire of sorts

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and I force myself toward pleasure, 
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper

through the tunnels,

over the wind-swept bridges,

through the sedentary, school-less

villages of the old and unwise

Into the land of my enemies

where hostile witnesses abound

skilled at shaking fists, digging up dirt

spitting and being contemptible

wizened fac...

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Another day

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The sky is grey today with streaks of blue

Swirls in the sky reflect sombre horizons;

Behind my back cumulus clouds mass

Over the hills, conspiring in their usual

Ragged silence. In front of me are drear

Trees laid bare, a mist of water's in the air.

Caught cough, cough, coughing in the peasoupers

Of the past, I pull my scarf tighter and focus keenly

On the patterns of inf...

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Poetry and Philosophy

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Philosophy or poetry?

Plato preferred philosophy,

He would being a philosopher.

Poets, of course, are  liars by profession,

And endeavour to give an air of truth

To airy nothings.

Poets, like children, personify ideas

Through extended metaphor and simile

Imagine in more than one dimension

A golden age, an Arcadia, which poets have invented...

Is bewilder’d by these sp...

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(This poem is dedicated to the beautifully lyrical music of rapture and redemption which this young Californian produced prior to her tragic death by heroin in 1979.)


She's the shadow of a shadow,

She's the smile upon her face,

She's tantalising, like music,

Released from time and space.


Her image is a mirror,

Of glance and glimpse and gleam

On St Agnes Eve pursuing


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A wise fool

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Bewildered, at the things left unsaid

Serendipity, chances, cut dead:

But wise enough to play the fool.


A vicious wind on a January night

Put out the light and then put out the light

Memory cuts through this taut cold

Slices through it like a knife

Signs hidden by an iron fog beckon:

A life lived in vain..

Across a black hole in time.

I listen to the be-jewel...

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In the beginning....

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My brother and son on the edge of the cliff

Walking and talking, they look out to sea

I shout and I shout, but they don’t hear me.

They’re fading, they’re falling, off the cliff side

The sky is as huge, and the sea is as wide

As the moving of the moon, of the rising of the tide.

This Calvary moment, when Satan speaks well

Of how he’ll adjust things and make it all right,


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Moments of Vision

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Moments of Vision are fading away

But a magical moment is, here, today;

All it will cost you,

Is all of your life.

Cast over the sea and cast over the moon

She'll be reading the stars

After reading the runes.....

Green shades, dappled sunlight

The landscapes of the eye

A life passing  by

Music lacks the primal scream

Modulated, nuanced, 

It is more than it seems...

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never-ever seen one

of these newmen

are they like newts only longer

or do they lack semen

anyway I've never seen 'em


newmen: what do they do

take their kids to see the oldmen at the zoo,

go to work when they don't want to

spend all their time and all their money with their children

I do


is a newman always young

never tired, knackered, crotchety

is a ne...

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The clock ticks so slowly, my mind spins so fast

Imaginings hover just out of reach, how long can a minute last?

01.32: A dialogue in my mind as I try, fruitlessly, to unwind. Imagine if I could send you a screen-shot. A screen-shot of my mind. I'd save all these words. No. It'd be absurd.  You'd need a screen-shot of time.

01.48: I'm going to oversleep, I'm going to be late.Tick-tock. Ti...

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Rodinsky's Headsone

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Neglected places and anxious faces:

Cut off from the swing of London  life

Just as the hidden chambers of the psyche

Are cut off, isolated from consciousness.

In the old Jewish quarter of Whitechapel, 

Lived a hermit who vanished from his room

Above the Princelet Street synagogue. 

This room revealed documents encrusted with Kabbalistic symbols.

Books written in Sumerian, A...

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Rodinsky’s Room

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Shifting shades afflict the ghost of David Rodinsky

As he returns to his room in Whitechapel, London

For one last look at the Aramaic and Hebrew texts

Which provided him with the hex of disappearance.

Where he came from nobody knows. Was he Jewish?

Yes and no. Was he British? Who knows? Not he.

Certainly he lived there once: ate, slept defecated

Until ...

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Анна Ахматова

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I want to smell the tender roses,

Before their petals droop and fall

In that one garden in St Petersburg

The most beautiful city in holy Russia

In the whole world this city stands out

There statues will remember me when I was young

And I remember them all under the river Neva.

In the fragrant silence between the Tsars and Putin

I have changed form

No longer a young woman...

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In this country there is sometimes a fierce hurricane

This easily destroys that which has taken generations to create

All things move towards dispersal  

Trees must be covered with mustard seeds

I say it as a storm approaches.


Tonight the cheerless autumn moon

Shines on us all good or ill

Some people are enthralled by definitions of hurricanes

But others conceal secret...

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For Al-Mu'tamid (Seville, 1040-95 Christian Era)

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To say two things in saying one

The wind churns the lake
Into an interlocking frenzy

Of burnished grey metal

Ibn 'Ammar will seize my girl's glance

And in Arabic poetry forge a full romance

Out of burnished skin and pliable gold.

What a fine day this has turned out 

To be. Her eyes would melt metal and forge

Attachments that tempt time and freeze the

Lemon trees. Hearts...

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From the Farsi

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Goodbye my Sufi lovers and friends

Nothing exists now to connect you to me

Tayyar is honourable and full of good intent

I rise from the trap of the world

I ask you to be my servant in paradise

You are my dancer, I am your poet.

On some days I taste the rain-drift-clouds

When you sew I watch you and fall in love

Again I remember our first meeting

Amongst the sweet smell o...

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i.m. of Vasily Zaitsev

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Who controls the past controls the future.

An anonymous red army soldier,

With a slightly Asiatic glint to his eye

At the gates of Auschwitz,

Said 'This was why we fought

The fascists so hard at Stalingrad.'

And hard, it certainly was.

1.8–2 million killed, wounded or captured

On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched

A two-pronged attack targeting the weaker Romanians ...

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As we, again, set sail for Byzantium

Be prepared.

The Turks

Have spent 500 years wiping out

Every trace of our 1500 year occupancy here

In Constantinople.

Our voyage will be a long one
Full of adventure, full of discovery.
Covering much time and space
Yeats set out but never arrived

His spirits flagged:
But St Sophia waits!

Surrounded as it is by minarets

This cathed...

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Bewilderment and all the things left unsaid

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The wind is vicious, cutting through this January night

Slicing like a knife through my meagre clothes.

Signs on the road are hidden by an iron fog

The cry of the wind is all in vain.

I kiss you across a black hole in time.

In the old be-jewelled spider-webbed

Frost-filled graveyard, the dead remain

The same: yew trees are shadowed against the moon.

No trembling now from th...

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Inner City Blues

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The old pub on the corner lost beneath a motorway junction; stands

in a similitude of snow now. Its windows are gone the way

Of the church spire from whence the müezzin calls a different faithful to prayer

The bronze statue of an eminent Victorian child abuser

Glowers over what was once his property, his factory, his people

There is wet snow in the air.


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Whining poetry

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Complain with the full force of a Jesuit priest

Whine like a man who knows he's out of time

Casuistry and sophistry

Work together

In perfect harmony.

But poetry's more about wine than whine

More about seeking to express the inexpressible

Than complaining about how difficult it is.

A true poet makes the difficult easy

Can turn water into wine in a half-truncated line


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The rags of time

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A whole life spent out of kilter

When every day is out of whack

So when the storm hit

And the lights went kerflooey

I was ill-prepared.

There is no going back

And if a little dreaming is dangerous,

Is the cure to dream more?

Well, I wish you were here: that's for sure.

On a sad, autumn day

When all the words that ever were

Just drained away

Leaving me aghast,


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The sense of an ending

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The middle of May

A day, like any other,

Sad tonight, she is


The silvery moon

An empty tree-house passes

For a black shadow

Silvery moon-dance-shadows,

Shh! Today the rooks gather


Blackly gather around telephone poles

Alfred Hitchcock is not directly responsible for

This beautiful May day

Maybe, Ariel or Prospero or Caliban

My sou...

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An Act of Treason

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Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE, MC

An Anglo-Jewish volunteer - did his patriotic duty

Joined up on 4th August 1914

He was one of the First World War’s greatest poets; 

A fearless soldier who won the Military Cross for bravery,

The citation read:

For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches.

He remained for 1½ hours under rifle and bomb fire


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At the pomana - the death feast - I missed him most

But I am relieved to know that under the stars of this cold, pellucid night

The ghost of the gypsy soldier is not without a home

No Romany man can live alone, our women are not alone

We carry our home in our hearts, our women wear topaz and dance

No, we will never-ever part: the man I killed is part of my family

The Go...

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a work-in-progress

the advice is still 

to take another route

some writing is not about something

it is something:

like first we feel

then we fall

under the shadow of the shelter of trees
where we listen to the birds


lizzzen to these bees

who scrape a living
in the unacred blue

trees can do wonders too.....

haloed be her eve,

her singtime ...

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A Psychiatric Disorder

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“I done me best when I was let out

Oh yes I did: whistle-blowin, liftin the lid

I think I always knowed it'd go wrong

Nuffin fer a laugh, nuffin fer a song

A hundred seas could separate you

From me, our sea of troubles,

Fear death by drownin

Or one in a thousand years of nights

Will parcel me up and remove me from sight

The cubby-hole under the stairs

Was for wettin t...

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A Town like Malice

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All Souls and All Saints

At the Moravian church

With its memories Of Jan Hus

And all those Hussites burnt at the stake

For believing differently.

Meanwhile somewhere in England

Fireworks like blood red poppies

Explode like nebulas of stars

Descending into the black hole of suburbia

A tang of smoke clings to our clothes.

Elsewhere a veneer of dusty history sparkle...

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November 2018

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These long, black evenings fill with premonitions

The falling of the leaves remind us of our losses

Captain Wilfred Owen killed in action during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal

One week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice 

Such terrifying bloomings of a malignant fate force us back into caves

We dream of warmth, food, sleep

In a blue-haze

Of gui...

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