Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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An adamantine distress

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Like a swimmer driven by a whirlpool of distress, Without a  morsel of hope, lampooned by regret,

In a storm of my own making; beseiged by clouds; 

I hide. Adamantly anchored to a despair, twenty fathoms wide

I'm riven by the whirlwind of my observable distress;

Starving and  alone, my anchor is the live-long day and yet, and yet, I fade away. 

Dressed in a black haze: dappled sunli...

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Nothing more

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash


Than the regiment of day

Can drift my head away

Back to the cancer hospital

To the chemo and the radio

And injections in the vein

Thank God it didn’t enter

My brain. It’s your loved

Ones take the strain.

I remember Emile, yes,

Named after Rousseau’s

Eponymous hero. He hoped

It had not spread. Married

At the weekend, h...

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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 the winds and waves

Sea-formed outcrops, hidden rocks, caves.

Time carves the face of all mank...

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


My hesitancy has bothered me for a long time

It is not the cruelty of children that angers me

But that my hesitation to commit the word to air

And, aye, maybe, to the heart, was treated as an affliction

By those with the polished shoes and starched aprons which set them apart;

Sometimes I was not even there when they mocked me but I knew


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These fingers point at letters

Those letters point at words

And then the disturbance -



My love she was a vixen

And howled in the night

Those feelings they just left me -



The mourning which continues

Throughout decades, in a line,

My lover she engages me -

In time.


These swirling skies of fortune,

The lakes’ grey and white despair...

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Bullet points


In England's fields few poppies grow, Chemical fertilisers have seen to that The land is still owned by the same fey aristocrats Who’ve plundered and marauded for untold centuries. On the slivers of common land that remain The common sparrows still bravely sing, Scarce heard amid the empty political posturing. No-one listens to the Glorious Dead. Lip service only. Instead, if ...

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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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For Anna Akhmatova

The guest was uninvited but arrived anyway

In this universe of moulding, he is the clay.

The freezing blizzard of my heart departs

As I look out of my window into this universe of things

And, for a micro-second, my wounded heart sings

With love and with the lack of love,

With all we seek to find

With memories buried in

This golgotha mind of mine.

I am no different, thoug...

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The rising of the north

Do you really want to sit there on the 21st floor

Mixing matches, making matchstick men to bore

Your friends witless as you, once again, tell the tale.

Of when you once went north, further than Watford vale,

I know you never doubt yourself, my rhyming cavalier,

But a little word of warning in your shell-like ear:

Waiting for promotion to SW3?

Waiting for the loss-adjustors, to...

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Vanishing point


(This poem is dedicated to the beautifully lyrical music of rapture and redemption which this young Californian, Judee Sill,  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 ...

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Solstice Song

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It is the year's midnight, the old gods have gone to ground,

Their acolytes burnt, stretched upon the rack, hung, drowned.

For century after century the druid - the knowing of the oak -

Was driven out of place, trapped and yoked.

Walk with me in the freezing mist of a December night - don't be squeamish, don't take fright -

See this land under the moon's milky light:

The yew tree...

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Morning Glory


Tell the truth, but tell it slant. Emily Dickinson

Born, bloom, die

All in the one day

Blur a glass darkly,

Drifting away.


A physician’s proof of death,

Marked by a girlhood’s fleeting fancy,

A garden romance

A moonlit dance

With Chopin playing lightly

A nocturne.

And no rectangular wooden box

To be seen.


Instead a thing with feathers


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The sting of the wind
 On this cold black night
 Reminds me of my
 Ancestors who rode
 This same wind
 As they trudged to work
 On early shift.
 This  connection, now, is
 Deep in my blood
 Deep in what I mean
 When I say words
 In tones that rhyme. 

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O! daughter dear, on this mid-western afternoon,

When I can see all the way to Sacramento, I cry

For you, Ariel-blue, in all your golden-girlhood

Too lovely for a life of pettiness and strife were

You. You caught a boat to England, never returned.

No Nazi goblin me, an extraordinary Jew like you,

Beautifully clever Ariel-blue. And, maybe I didn’t talk

To you like I yearned...

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The Twilight Realm

For those who know and know how much they still don't know. Bloodfever


Photo by Jeff Finley on Unsplash


I remember falling as a child

And being lifted by a faerie-wild

She kissed my cheek and mussed my hair

And then she wasn’t there.


Some blind folk see the fairies clear,

For faeries are always close or near;

Oh, better far than what we see

Are faer...

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A rose garden at altitude under occupation

dormant in mid-winter

I picture the rose garden in spring

as the secret garden of my soul

where all that is good and all that is fine

are written in a tender-script divine

where persian berries tantalise the taste

and the morning prayer bells undulate

the breakfast figs are fine

as is the watery wine

and these chinese herbs...

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soft and steady rhythm of a baby


her gaze which tells you all you need to know

her footsteps tender in the snow

the pitter-patter blast of rain upon a window

considering all we do not know

or understand, we stand hand-in-hand

under this beautiful harvest moon




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The Unwritten

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The times of wonder have gone

The wise women drugged

Into submission.

Forensic psychology reveals traces

Of long-forgotten faces

Which, much like Munch's silent scream,

Degenerate into nightmaredream.

Desire, in all its lurid manifestations,

Falls into disuse,

And all is as it was before:

A flat, grey concrete floor

Krema I at Auschwitz

Eminently productive


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Snow... lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

The Dead, Dubliners, James Joyce


Yes, paralysis of the heart

Involves a continuing lack of...

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In the sixties

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The last decade before the big three score

and ten. Best to keep on the move, evolving then?

A rolling stone gathers no moss, they say; not in

Keith's  head, anyway. Soon it will be the freezing season

With all those greens and reds – the hollies and the ivy

and the grateful dead. The starship could fly us, fly us clean away,

But most of us are yard birds, creatures of home, I’d ...

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That long-held sax note- divine 

Makes my soul jus drift away

The smoke, the booze, the horse,

The girls. Sum o'them, thin agen.

Man, the flash of the crack o'th drum

The thumpity, thumpity, thump.

He jus stand there in a haze

John's  soprano sax, Miles' trumpet

Blowin the blues. All the way To Missisip

All the way to me cryin in a ditch.

Those weary, weary blues. No ...

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Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.



Circumstances compel me speak

Ye gods, (for you have them);

From the first of the world

Down to our own time

Don’t frown, don’t shake your head,

Listen to this elegy for a passing time instead.,

A soldier silenced, banned, expelled, made dead.

While life continues, makes the crops no longer joyous.

The sheep forgot, the cattle, bees unkept.

Be thrifty with ...

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The eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month

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These long, black evenings fill me 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,

A godless irony, force us back into our centrally heated caves.

We dream on...

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As we draw close to Remembrance Sunday and all the praising of the armed services I wrote this to show how we really treat those who risked their lives to protect us.



Baffling how he 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 Falklan...

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Those words you don’t remember,
Wind tearing through the sky,
Your soul is packed with fortitude
While sparks fly.


The coals flare into flames, a pettiness
Of heat. Suddenly, replete: golden sands,
Crystal brooks, silken lines, silver hooks.
Glimpsing what’s already there,
She begins to mount the stairs.

Who cares?


Say, a friend you trust implicitly,
A lover you migh...

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As blue as robins' eggs

Memories bring me just diamonds and rust

Nothing more.

Though time's chasm opens before my sight,

And the vertigo returns with the Lapis Lazuli,

I will devote some time to resurrecting the lived poetry

Of the Byzantimes, Persians, Armenians, Assyrians.

Each civilization alloted supreme value to the blue of lapis lazuli.

Lapis lazuli was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun ...

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....early onset


The blue is missing from the sky today

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 it is.

I remember playing out

with my sisters 

on a skipping rope.

It is cold inside,

that lady told me it is morning,

that is why I stretch and yawn.

The lady said I had a visitor

i was frightene...

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I walk a steep and slippery way,
Mixing senses is synaesthsia's way,
It seems as if I am a chorus in a play.

We feel by measure, hidden from the eye
Time is borrowed, blue days wasted,  leant,
I walk along this steep and scattered way.

Winter seeps me into sleep, as my soul flies, 
The gist of an art unborrowed from time or tide;
 I learn by going, where I have to go, inside.

Dark h...

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Another day


The sky is grey today with streaks of blue

Swirling northern skies 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 p...

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The speech of angels

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash


“Without music, life would be a mistake” ― Friedrich Nietzsche


A waterfall of notes, rising, descending,

Splashing into my mind, heart, soul.

Music will never grow old.

An arpeggio series of broken chords 

In and out of order, splintering, teasing the ear. 

Plunging into minor keys, soaring into waves of luminosity.

Notes th...

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In defence of free speech

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"First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me." Martin Niemoller.



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I made close friends on WOL

Rachel, Devon, David, Jacob,

Poets of enormous scope and range,

Silenced for their free expression,

Is that a good thing? Whatcha reckon?



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Mind the gap: Work-in-progress

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She's the flinger of plurabilly teas,

She was, once-upon-a-golden-time;

And a good time it was two,

Despite the old hairy gobeen man,

Who was a-coming down a road,

drinking from a can.

She met a nice-uns-little boy name Baby Tookoo,

Her mother slopped her drat story.

Her rather had a leery face:

Sin, sin, Jesuitical-sin


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Arriving where we started

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"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  TS Eliot


Every day, regardless of the goodness or evil lurking in my soul,

I see kipper skies, placid blue occasionally, but much more

Like the swirling, crashing skies of Turner, like the flaming skies the young Mozart

Saw in his mind's eye, when he was adding

Note to eloquent note to produce t...

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(for Kathy 1940–2019)

Photo by Marcus Cramer on Unsplash


She was close to death — 

her loved ones bereft.

I read between the lines,

just a habit of mind,

then looked again,

out of the side of my eye:

more and more, as time passes by

what we perceive

we half-create.

Buried in the earth,

she's still looking at the sky,

a rumble of thunder,

passing b...

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Late October

Dripping into what passes for daylight
In these northern climes,

The moon fades, wind and rain shower,
Trees sway, on this formless holiday
Light, such as it is, tucks away dream,

Children — washed, tired, pale -
Know it’s Halloween
I know it well:
Tired ghosts forget to rise again,
Witches stagger into view
As all their magic fades away.

Clogged motors roar
As the October mist l...

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County Lines spread


A cross all the living and the dead

Their line is our time

We need them, fled.

A spring day in late fall,

She can no longer stand 

Tall, crumpled, bent,

She has lost the lines that link

Her to her family, friends.

Now lines link:

Road, rail, phone,

Needle, plunger, sink

into an unguarded atonement.

Her lines enmeshed in this stinki...

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dedicated to the men and women of the Syrian Defence force, and the Kurdish YPG,  who, with the help of volunteers from around the world, defeated Daesh and are now seeking to defend the feminist and democratic Kurdistan from NATO-supported Fascist-Turkish genocidal murderers and rapists 


My parents were Christian, Serb,

I remember the icons in my mother’s house,

The smell of meat on...

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Mem û Zîn‎: brothers-in-arms

Absinthe, this pearly-white,

Clouded, aniseed-tasting drink

Stinks but is addictive, especially

Here in Paris on the left-bank,

Near Montmartre

Where the Institut is

Where we plan, conspire,

Work out who is the traitor

Who the informer, who the liar.

Anyway, I am always thirsty for absinthe.

I am always thirsty for wine too

To the extent of our boundless, limited e...

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Fire fly

Out of all this mush,

With a little bit of a push,

Emerge fire fly.

O! fly so high firefly,

Illuminate the sky, firefly

Take a break, firefly;

Phosphorescence on the lake,

Fires fly

Float over the image of moon,

The lapping of the lake

Firefly, a soft-bodied beetle,

Firefly, related to the glow-worm,

The winged male and flightless female

Both have luminesce...

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In the silence of the Kurds

Kurdish poets with military experience have fallen silent and I am bereft;

Poetry has always been the main pillar of Kurdish literature

The fight for their land and the fight for their identity are the same.

The Kurds are not divorced from the west - Eliot's influence on al-Sayyab  for example -

And the hot wave from Arabia did not destroy the Kurds, many are Christian, Ezedi and secul...

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Translating the rain

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I wish she knew from the very start
Which mountain the sun came from
For your eyes can be deceiving in rain
Fountains are rain corralled and I'm tempted
Into sleeping on your neck. A servitude of roses.
In which green bay and the rolling sea spy on me
That's deep, but it aint at all clear. Like seawater,
Lagoons on tropical Islands are lost on me.
Kind of like a fantasy.

I wish you a...

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Season of mists

The cold autumn rain falls full in my face,

wet westerlies come with a trace of winter;

as I walk, I take account of my losses.

My mind drifts into the past:

a phantasmagoria of well-remembered faces

tumble into the valley of the shadow of death.

Phantoms afloat, all around me, looking quizzically

at the remains of a life long left or soonest parted.

The trees of this woodl...

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Yezedi - 2014-2019


Winter on Mount Sinjar in 2014,

By the Christian calendar.

That year lasted forever:

Such a long, long time ago,

Now the Turks have come

To do the work of Daesh

And the Sunni tribes and foreign Salafists

Conspire to kill the Yezedi, even in Lalish,

Our mouths expel a hidden heat

It is the soul of the Ezedi.

Never before has the sun

Filled us so full of tea...

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What have you done?


Walking down a dusty, dirt road in Rojava,

near the border.

Sand in my mouth, tears on my cheek.

NATO jets flying under Turkish colours,

bombing, massacring, the soldiers of the Syrian Defence Forces

and their internationalist Kurdish YPG allies —

a modern International Brigade.

SDF forces are now, this minute, pulling soldiers (Kurdish, Arab, American, British, Serbian, ...

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Slash and Burn - extinction rebellion

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Planet earth she suffers

Torn at by your knife,

Slashed at by machete

Exploited all your life.

Poisoned by your chemicals

Murdered, raped and pillaged

Consider the obscenity - 

The whole world is just one village.  

But you really ain't bothered, are you?

You've got your money in the bank

You own your slice of heaven

You're comfortably numb, to be frank.


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A grain of sand

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Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?  Robert Browning,"Andrea del Sarto", line 98, 1855.


Kicking off his work boots on a day of gooseberry bushes and old Daily Heralds

Jack's eyes slowly rose from the mess of laces squirming around his fingers,

(memories of the front, the hot metal of the gun, lingering);

His eyes rose up, past the dresser, bless...

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David always told the truth to me

and, of course, we argued endlessly

about what, exactly, was 'true':

both working class self-taught autodidacts,

what would you expect us to do?

I continued to learn a lot from David's poetry too

Until his mighty verses were expunged from view.

David told me the precise name and location

Of a church in ancient Antioch,

In war-torn Syria ...

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Love in a police state

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We were in a public garden 

In England in May.

We sat together

In mild, balmy weather.

We did not track those

Who moved around us.

They had their instructions,


We looked at the water, and we looked at the ducks,

And the weeping willow tree was there:

Reflected in your eyes,

A subtle disguise,

I dropped words into your ears

Like pearls.


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Whining poetry

The Gracehoper was always jigging ajog, hoppy on akkant of his joyicity.

James Joyce, Finnegans Wake


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 perfectly.

But poetry's more about the wine than the whining

About seeking to express the inexpressible

Whilst complaining about just how dif...

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