Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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John Marks on Hypocrisy (14 hours ago)

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Vautaw on The stolen child (1 day ago)

New Shoes on French kissing (3 days ago)

Vautaw on French kissing (3 days ago)

Vautaw on A Rainy September (4 days ago)

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Paul Sayer on A Rainy September (6 days ago)

Brian Maryon on Feed your head (6 days ago)

John Marks on Feed your head (6 days ago)

Johnny Keats and the Footloose Cavaliers

Melancholy's lack of zest
is written all over the palimpsest
of a young medical doctor-poet
who died at twenty-five and will, to some,
hardly seem to have been alive at all

But look at his writing
Johnny Keats and the footloose 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 seeki...

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this is a satire of sorts
as I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into tunnels of my own making,

over the wind-swept bridges,
I force myself through cold, wet air
through the sedentary, school-less
villages of the old and moneyed classes
into the land of my enemies
conservatives who conserve nothing

this is wh...

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The stolen child

"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."

William Butler Yeats, 


I remember falling  as a child

Being lifted by a faery-wild;

She kissed my cheek and mussed my hair

And then she wasn’t there.


Some blind folk see the faeries clear,

For faeries are always close or ...

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French kissing


“Love is so short, forgetting is so long..” Pablo Neruda, ‘Love’


For example, I might say.one fine evening when I was sixteen
Not stuck in rowdy pubs with dazzling chandeliers,
But walking with her, carelessly, by the river..
We promenade under beech trees
Everything smells so good, so fragrant,
When you are young,.the air is so sweet
You close your eyelids and we kiss;
The win...

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My Sweetheart the Drunk

When I look into the mirror

I do not see my face

I see the ghosts behind me,

Trailing blood and lace.


I excuse my misapprehension,

I apologise for my fault,

I'd love to fully explain

My face, my persona, my whole gestalt.


But I aint a good prose writer

I cannot see the end

I  always hear the thunder,

It is deep within my heart,

Trying to tear me apart


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A Rainy September


This rose for all the world
For you,
These tears for all the dead,
Those empty words of morning tide
This ever-present dread.

Those cloying smells of perfume,
On the dresses of the rich,
This workman stumbling
His body in a ditch.


September's moon still shining,
On this old planet's doom,
Her wind and tide conspiring:
A chill invades the room.



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Feed your head

Skylark songs lit up America
fifty years ago, on a windswept moor,
songbirds-skylarks soar into the Woodstock air
we were there
now, we trudge through memories.

Her coat was brown with feathers
she sang songs too warm, too hot for today
still, I have that evening tucked away,
in my book of wonderland music,
let's soak up words, enable the dead to speak,
like scissor sisters in whit...

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Red-gold glow of stormy autumn
oughter-fade into winter
as leafy-mist lights this late
November dawn recalling me,
incuriously from insomnia,
O! the design hidden in words,
like smoke signals
rising from a gun, from a fire  drawing fire.

Tended by an old man in a black suit
the front of which, bedecked with medals,
is time-ridden by an absence missing,
gone  missing, in 1916.


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For Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones

" Beautiful spirits on underdogs sides."

You two had the temerity to trust to justice

To plough your young years into uncovering justice

Even for those for whom criminal justice had thrown away 

The key, trusting that everybody deserves a second chance.

You were learning together with men who'd never

Been offered empathy or kindness. Men who now look

To your example of tre...

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Roman de la rose

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash


Sky and sea and land, three old amigos,
overlap like love and hate and fate, but then……… the dreadful daylight starts of unkept promises and broken hearts….god’s dying to fix you up, y’know….but, unfortunately, those damned gombeen men conspire to extinguish every ounce of youth and beauty in poor folk, whether in this life or in some dreamy city of t...

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The time of our lives

Charlie and I walked our post-cancer walks
Down this narrow stretch of green in the city
For a full decade. Now he's gone, I must carry on.
We aged together, blended into each other,
Man and Dog. He recognized the smells, me the sights,
But his life was shorter than mine. That afflicted me like
A sentence. Very few minutes passed
Without me thinking of that.  He connected me to the

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Milk and Honey

They'd tried to take the sting out of death
A grassy meadow, secluded plot, trees
Which are often exactly what we need
But not now. Now we needed a New Orleans
Blues band blasting out the fact that life is short
And can be glorious, but not for Jim. No, not for Jim.
Too many desertions.Too many lapses in care.
Too often nobody there to help him pick up the pieces.
To begin again, it all be...

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For Kassia: a bold and beautiful Byzantine poet

The love of adultery is a sin of man

Devised to ruin the goodness of woman,

It is a temptation that must accept

The full springs of your tears.

As you, who bring the rain to wash us clean,

And to make us fresh again,

Bow down to the sighs of my weeping heart.

You altered the realm of being

By your incomprehensible incarnation.

And now the followers of a desert seer


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Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Christmas roses bloom in the dying of the light
it’s not a rose it’s a beautiful buttercup, slight
like the golden marvels we used to decide
which side our bread was buttered, when granny was alive.

Was the yellow reflected on your chins?
No, these flowers resemble wild roses — poisonous to humans –
helleborus niger macranthus –
 enough to tangle any t...

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An unholy roar began to build
That cherry blossom day

Thunder in the air
Then, miraculously, quiet.

A low rumble, a terrible tremor,
A move towards total devastation
Of the air, on that day
When the earth began to shake.

All the skies of all the world were scorched with fire

And the air exploded
Fusing flesh with flesh
Into a whiteness
From which the dark shadow of a child

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No place to be

Yeah, I were a soldier me, constantly, for years, still am now I’m on me arse. All these gobshites with their feckin poppies. I see watermelon smiles — to the ears, not the eyes, unexploded ieds — women-with tanned arms walking for miles. Men with children on their backs … jumping into the sea without thinking, to avoid me, the army. Mebbe someone, some being, somewhere, will save me? From what? M...

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An inception into art

The clear gaze of another day
Takes me wherever I do not want to go
Up hill, down dale, tumbling a-go-go.
He is my best friend, since I was a boy,
The wave of his kind eyes
As he says goodbye, his thin hair, his worry lines,
His photos, removed
Under the wings of the laughing birds
I comment upon what is past and gone
He  focuses upon the afternoon moon
I drink beer, he smokes some skunk

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A withering

Shrivelled, exposed, cold,
Warps and wefts waste away
the body afflicted with decay
O!, I say,  the hey-ho way, of the live-long-day.
Whatever has lived
Will wither, languish, and decay.
Time  pines us away
aghast in a quagmire of guilt, regret
spilt water, wine? I forget
which itch of memory did the damage.

No transubstantiation this,
no move into immortal bliss:
this work of resi...

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Along the Unhallowed way

This old bloke pushes t'other old bloke in a wheelchair

Down a dreary Salford road, avoiding kerbs, talking

Always talking, talking of nothing, talking of everything:

What it takes and never gives back. The load.


With wheels of fire and halos running all amuck

These two desperados meander along past

The pound shops and the bookies and the booze 24/7ers

They know all t...

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For the stoic and the silent

For the Alberts & the Adas and the Agathas & Alfs,
For the host and crowd of ‘old ‘uns’ ‘going south’.
For the stoics and the silent, for the quietly afraid;
For those who’ve always known the outcome’s  - grave

Thank God!
For those who disapprove, of everything I say
But who’ll defend my right to say it night and day.
When priest or rabbi or imam degenerates into hate
“Écrasez l’infâme!” a...

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When the poet ceases singing


When the poet ceases singing
There’s an end to everything:
Birds in the trees, music,
Tones and timbre, plangent and deep,
Tempests flare in the mind of man
Foreshadow that terrible realisation
That you too have followed this same cliff path
On nights of luminosity and in the darkness-drear
Of night. Mother, father, lover, friend
Swoon towards the moon in triumph
Or despair. Or ...

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His headstone verses were writ in water
They draw the eyes unto the fact of death.
Lichen lines love-and-only-love remembers.
All we knew was the deepest blue
Of a good man’s eyes. It is written in our blood
That mortal love will always end like this. Time
Weathers the stonemason’s art to a flat palimpest
Of hieroglyphics which resemble not the zest
Of pumping blood. Stones do not r...

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She doesn't look, she sees
The black hole. Heading for her.
Scared of unfounded stories
Circulating in her head -
A brain-tumoured-tainted, untrained structure -
Cells multiply, you see, wildly
Deep sea squalls fling
Seas against concrete. Defences breached
By unaccounted time. Rhymes come & go
In this muddled mind of mine, multiples the arrhythmia
Of this, my broken heart, apart from th...

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The Pharmacology of Shadow



Sadnesses besiege me:
At the dying of the light
When starlight illuminates
The endings of the night.
I tingle in the frosted air of sight
Starlight is mirrored in the water and my eyes
When humankind abandons its disguise.
The spin and whirl of hemlock
Help witch and Wicca sway
Under the greensward
2020  a day like today
All that was dark
Is summoned by the llight
The Si...

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A sonnet for John Donne (poet)

"You made me forget myself, I thought I was someone else, Someone good........" Lou Reed RIP


Airy valedictions cannot span this bridge in time
What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is very definitely mine.
We both can hear the quiet roar of our own new found land
As time drifts to a stop and as we focus near and far
We no longer stand amazed at the hollow rancour of public life
And have ...

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Nice butchery

Halal and  Kosher
Ritual means of slaughter
Such savage butchery
I swallow my frustration
Stick a smile upon my face
Make a face to meet
The faces that I'll meet
Pretending neat and tidy
As we do. Replete. When inside
We are a shocking shade of blue.
Blues hit the spot, all colours drain away,
Fade into this unholyday.
I stagger from hour to hour
Meet my match in the oncology
Ward. S...

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A permanent loss of happiness

Beneath this beach of sand and shells

I see the image of the rolling sea.

Such new-found-land frames and hides

These wide horizons; I walk along the cliff:

Sheer drop upon the windward side,

Embedded trilobites beneath my feet

Quartz and Muscovite from the granite

Weathered by winds and waves

Sea-forming outcrops, hidden rocks, caves.


Time carves the face of all man...

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Rose, the loveliest of pagan namings,
see clear to another day
The past a foreign country:
Where we gave so much away.
Happy trails
Landed us in Golden Gate Park
San Francisco

Palo Alto was a world apart
Looking for a revolution
And this was it:
No empty-headed technologies
No silicon in the valley
Just a box of rain

Such a long-long time gone by.
Such a short-short time to be th...

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Counting the cost

Before ideas or ideology
Comes flesh and blood
My brother'd be 65 today
Blown away at 41.
No swan song.

Before I've thought of a thing
It's happened again somewhere
To someone
In this strange universe
Of isolated broken things. 

When I'm drinking
Sometimes I think
All is safe and cosy
I know I'm fooling myself
And it's taken a lot of booze
To get so far down the road of illusion

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The sounds of the day
Are clownishly fooling
But won’t go away -
There's a nightmare to follow
This minor delay.

Yes, it’s tick-a-tock-ticking
We’re all going away.
For the old witch is flying -
 to the edge of the moon
and the war is beginning
So it’s boom, brother, boom!

Starlight is raging -
it's all over so soon -
but now it's recorded on  bloody old Zoom..

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The beautiful Cathars of Languedoc


The ideas of the beautiful  Cathars of Languedoc spread across western Europe 700 years ago
Cathar comes from the Greek: καθαροί, katharoi, "the pure [ones]"
They built on the dualistic theology of Manichaeism
Which they blended with the eastern Christianity of Byzantium
They were ascetic: believing the material world was the evil realm of Satan

Whilst the world of the spirit was the b...

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Private lives

I am not the man I think I am.
On the wild and rocky coasts
On these isles by the sea of shame
Mists roll in off the Irish sea
Soak these shores with hardy flowers
to bloom in crevices, cling to fossil rings, 
too like vermilion skies, the lips of women,
to huddle within sound of summer laughter
Druid priestesses daub their menfolk
with mud as they, too, battle modernity
in all its Roman...

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Locked up north

Third tier anesthesia
In a locked up north,
We keep the life we’re given,
Our store of words aint fled,
Belief? Empty as a music box
Providing housing for the dead;
The bridge twixt give and taking
Has crumpled into dust
And for the cowering people — wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beasties -
Survival is a must.


We struggle to talk as free folk,
We no longer dream of the new Jeru...

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A moment plucked from a past
That cannot last
The tone and timbre of a long-lost voice
Heaven-sent, her voice in my head,
No longer alive, no longer dead. 

The recollected smell of burning gas
On a cold winter's morning, in, maybe, 1965,
When she was so glad to be alive, and kicking.

I am rudely yawning as she warns me
Not to rush
To take my time.

I do not mind her warning, as I s...

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Soul music

Dead men lie the same

Silence is their game.

Their sleeping is a metaphor

For a  life lived w'out shame.

Memorials of stone,

Such a public display

The soul's on its way.

A soul set to roam,

A long goodbye.


The transmigration of souls,

The Hindus' voyage of dharma

The Greeks crossing the Lethe.

Reincarnated endangered species

With  souls fre...

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Photo by Flo Meixner on Unsplash

“Comforter, where, where is your comforting?
Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?” GM Hopkins, ‘Terrible sonnets’ 

On this flaming day in June, such beautiful pagan mountains surround
Your uncertain presence in this bastion of the Jesuits.
I overheard disquisitions concerning the nuts and bolts of poetry
Whilst your real presence crept into my he...

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The Cure



Bracha1 year ago (edited)


"My beautiful mum was suffering from mental illness/heavy depressions back in the eighties and took her own life in 1989 at the age of just 26, when I was only one year old. Today I was going through her old record collection and found a little paper inside The Cure’s Disintegration album sleeve. It was an old handwritten note by her with some...

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City of the Bee


Manchester's home to me
Connects me to the past
My grandfather Jack
Set off from here
For four years
Fighting in France
A dearth of romance
whilst in the trenches
but he were wed
on his safe return
despite all his pals
being dead.

Manchester, forever connected, ironically,  to Ariana Grande
And the 22 dead and 59 wounded.
Manchester were never right good at submission.
Ask ...

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I am not diverse.
I am English
And a man
Father of four daughters
Two sons, one dead.
Three beautiful grandchildren.
Agnostic, questioning, stoic
Almost as good as a woman in bearing pain.
Cancer survivor
Sepsis survivor.
Loyal friend.
Earn my own money
Share money, willingly.
Not diverse at all.
Nor divine
Nor lucky
Nor unluck...

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Crimson & Clover

Now I don't hardly know her
But I think I could love her
Crimson and clover  — Tommy James & The Shondells


Daughters oughter be careful
Of lads who call their home a 'pad' - 
Cos that's just sad.

Flaxen-haired girls must learn to twirl
Their curls so fleetingly -
Well that's as maybe.

Rowdy-as-the-wind lads can do a ton on a BSA
But they canna say 'I do' - 
No matter what the g...

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A whole life spent out of kilter
Every day out of whack
So when the storm hit
And everything went kerflooey
I was ill-prepared.
There’s no going back.
Now, if a little dreaming is dangerous
Is the cure to dream more?
O! I wish you were here:
On this sad, autumn day
When all the words
Just drained away

Leaving me aghast.
With nothing to say.


This inner city cul-de-sac is lit...

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poetry is...

 “Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.” — Carl Sandburg, from The Atlantic, March 1923

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Inside Out

There’s an end to everything:
Birds in the trees, music, family. friends,
Plangent, too deep to keep,
Tempests flare in the mind of man
Foreshadowing those terrible realisations
That we too have followed this same cliff path
Guided by nightly luminosity, stuck in the sheer darkness
Of the day. When mother, father, lover, friend
Have turned away and swooned towards the moon in triumph
Or d...

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Baffling how I came to be a pauper, he thought,
An ex-serviceman, me, still with an upright back.
Thing is: I never really arrived home. Did I?.
Not a real home. Everything had changed.
Belfast, The Falklands, Belize, Operation Desert Storm
Are with me every day.

Like many men who wore the uniform he's reluctant to see a doctor
“I’ll be reet” he says, “after a bit.”
Where he ser...

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Fear in a handful of dust


Words cannot echo mood,
It’s impossible to convey
The tingling numbnesses
Of the grief I felt today;

The semi-detached daze
Of continuing depression;
The tight closing-in of the dark,
That stark foreshadowing of art..

The fear that accompanies
All that  I do,
Meanders like an ox-bow lake,
Can take years to breach the gate
To the dangerous flood-tide of suicide..


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The wind outside my window
His soul alive just by my chair
A friend you trust implicitly,
A lover who's not there?

A reckoning, that’s obvious,

A memory that’s been falsified
A woman here today
An empty cot at eventide
Who'd say?.

This never-ending circle,
Beginning is the end,
The man who you once trusted,
A friend?

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“I know the life of the world as it is now is not living, it is a bad process of dying.” DH Lawrence

You both died
And I was broken for many, many years.
I can no longer hide from myself
Behind this screen of anonymity:
I have stood in empty spaces,
Walked along the winter beach
Stripped of everything except wind and sand and sea.
I have looked into the summer sky for your blue-blue eyes...

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                                                               Chicago POW camp


History written by the victors
An anthem for the Union dead?
The winds of change
Have blown away legions
Of southern poets and artists:
No longer published, no longer read:
Not all of whom owned plantations
Nor approved of slavery. They just wanted to be free,
Free from the Yankee behemoth to the north.


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Exhausted your contemplation of misery? 
How much is it worth your soul to know?
Evil exists, persists, when it benefits you.
You hope he is just an adventurer who deceives himself.
But, remember, the devil has uncovered himself in his power.
We are all sentenced to death.
Condemned. World without end. 
Are you magnanimous, generous?
Full of the milk of human kindness?
Neither am I. 
Is ...

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Something found

The ease and simple grace
Of this woman who’s died
Cannot be lied about
Cannot be denied.

Her echoing presence
Still sings in my head
Still whispers in my heart,
We’re never alone, never apart

Like the mocking bird’s song:
These mimus polyglottos,
Speak of a hidden art,
Which sings and recreates
Moments of the heart.

Oh! it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird
And it’s a sin to mock ...

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