Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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John Marks on The Unsaid (Sat, 24 Apr 2021 02:39 am)

John Marks on Gérard Manley Hopkins SJ (Sat, 24 Apr 2021 02:37 am)

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M.C. Newberry on John Keats 31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821 (Tue, 20 Apr 2021 03:11 pm)

Water tree

We have no way of dealing with the sea,
Drinking water is fine by me.
but sea grasses do not fool me
Into visiting seabeds.  
Human hands stain the sea with detritus
There is now no water music in the secret garden
Of the sea,
Moisturize before the wastewater grips you.

Water is repetitive, water is the doyen of tides,
menstrual cycles, sister moon's loony tunes. 
When water drips off ...

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Rain's a risky business,
past priests issued receipts
for the dry mantlepiece.
I knew from the very beginning
that this was home: four walls, concrete
no mountain ranges
the rain just fell and fell.

Your story is teary,
liquid eyes deceive the rain.
Springs are sources of water,
rain on display, alluring
the sound of fast asleep
sprays a bondage of roses for you.
Time passes and nothi...

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Empire of the Sun

The best of us fell on the Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele,
Our luckier cousins long ago set off across the broad Atlantic.
Convicts moved straight to the antipodes
To the Swan River of Western Australia
Convict scum of the East End born to live again.
The ragged Scots, after Culloden
So many Irish everywhere in the Empire
The Raj spice and opium settlements in Shanghai,
Every mountain climbe...

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On first looking into Popōcatepētl

“The movements of some more little red birds in the garden, like animated rosebuds, appeared unbearably jittery and thievish. It was as though the creatures were attached by sensitive wires to his nerves.”
― Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano


The extenuation of time into rhyme
Devil’s in the detail, in time
A confusion of contusion, a microbial illusion,
Stretches out meaning so that

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The last Byzantine

Between 1915-1922 more than 3.5 million Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrian Christians were murdered by the Turks so that now 99.8% of the population of Turkey are Muslim. This marked the 'irrecoverable' death of the Byzantine heritage mentioned in the poem 


Her love didn’t come from nowhere.  
Her father was a bastard, a sailor on the seas
A Byzantine, by birth, like me. 
Her mother, an An...

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And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. Revelation 20:4

All across the Nineveh plain the lights are going out
Crosses driven into the hearts of the last of Mesopotamia’s
Christians. These Assyrians, speaking Aramaic, the language
Of Christ, have been loyal throughout the long centuries
Of subjection t...

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Photo by Charles Tyler on Unsplash

We walk a steep and slippery way, 
Mixing senses in synaesthesia’s way,
It seems as if I am a chorus in a play 
We feel by measures, hidden from the eye;

Time is borrowed, blue days wasted, time slips by,
I walk along a steep and scattered way. 
Winter seeps me into sleep, now my soul flies, 
To compose this gist of an art, as time goes by,

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At the ball


The devil's in the detail,
Your cousin's in the pub,
He's been boozing since 11am
Aye, there's the rub.

Look in the Gilt mirror
Inspect the back of your mind
Microscopically construct an armed robbery —
 you dirty, rotten swine.
The suspect proceeded to inspect his nails, to laugh quietly to himself, to sip his whiskey, to look around, to frown.

Robbery is the state of play

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27th April: the Bollin valley, Cheshire

An old man sees a young woman
Who is careless of her beauty and he feels
A sort of envy but kinder, It is not mourning
But a sad-happiness that spreads within me,
Feeling happy that the blind do not confront the dark
And that the wind that tosses her blonde hair,
As she talks animatedly with her girlfriend,
Is the same wind upon which I catch her perfume. 
I am so glad she can't imagine th...

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Bright star

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

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

Like the rippled skies of Turner, of wind on a lake, of how the skies of the young Mozart

(And he was forever-young) might have seemed when he was adding

Note to searing note to produce the magnificence of the Requiem or the Magic

Of the Flute. A God-given piec...

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A sonnet for an old friend

Whether on Ynys Môn or in the Bollin valley
I am at home with my friend of sixty years..
There have been gaps, it's true, when you
And I fell out of orbit, But we always knew
We would reconnect. Now, as two old duffers,
Rapidly running out of puff, we take delight
In the sights and sounds we share or even
A companionable, silent staring into air.
We are not at all the same in taste or beli...

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The Unsaid

Wind cuts through this January night
Slices like a knife through my meagre clothes:
Signs on the road hidden by an iron fog
The cry of the wind is all in vain
Nothing is the same.

I kiss you across this black hole in time.
In the old be-jewelled spider-webbed
way we kissed tender to kiss long,

Frost-filled graveyard remains
For the happily insane.

Yew trees shadow against the moo...

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Gérard Manley Hopkins SJ

On this flaming day in June, with such beautiful pagan mountains rising all around, I felt your uncertain presence in this bastion of the Jesuits.

I listened, and you, doubtless, overheard, disquisitions concerning the nuts and bolts of your poetry

As your real presence crept slowly into my heart, I knew your journey of renunciation saw you washed up on many steep and rocky promontories,


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John Keats 31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821

Melancholy’s lack of zest
written all over his palimpsest:
to die at twenty-five to some
will hardly seem to have been alive.
but  for Johnny Keats and the footloose Cavaliers
poetry, music, art, tears were eternal.
They eschewed self-pity, untold fears.

They tried their best to stay alive
In a world without antibiotics.
no easy crossing of the river Lethe
no seeking out of empty-heade...

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Wie prophetisch - Rainer Maria Rilke

A great deceit is practised by the liars who rule the world
Playing the fool they tell us we cannot be ourselves.
And we believe them, more fool we.
They tell us to be satisfied, to fall into line,
But amongst themselves they call us
Filthy, ignorant swine. 
They drink their wine slowly,
Savour every drop.
Laugh at the face outside the window
Dirty, ignorant sop. 
On April 19, 1903 in Viar...

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Summer 1967

and then you are alone
nobody left to draw on
nobody left to love.
Morning words beseech me
beg me not to love.
but all I can remember is
love, love, love.


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Would we smile sometimes in the evening breeze
if the wind kissed your scattered hair?  If all the dogs we loved were dead?
We don't have to follow the road less taken,
even if we sometimes lie flat on our bellies, 
like collies used to do when low lying dogs helped us corral sheep on hillsides and in  meadow valleys.
We called them using the Celtic language in England
Yan Tan Tethera - words ...

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Adam and the apple tree


There was no apple tree in our garden 
Just the occasional gear box,
Rusting chassis, exhaust pipe, the usual urban detritus.                                                    These objects still exist inside my head.

There was a brick wall with crumbling mortar
Where birds nested, spiders rested  and wild flowers grew.                                                               ...

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Casting shadows


 Ghosts see into the pulse of her heart 
 seep into the stopped wraiths who chatter, mix, meld
 into the invisible air
 only odd numbers now
 leave me a moment
 to linger in the chair
 talking to a lady no longer there
 odd that even two is only ever 1 + 1
 associations carry on until the wood
 rots and there are no trees and no ice
 and no air and nobody here or there
 only th...

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Ghost writing


 This shadow behind the sun, the echo of her words,
 Meanings stuck in transit, the music of the byrds,
 Brimming lives at stake, my friend, as all hearts ache,
 Years pass by like phantoms, the passions of the heart,
 Silence breeding silence, pink faeries take their part,
 Forget what you remember, give and never take.
 Veil the mysteries of time, swords buried in a lake.
 Mirroring ...

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for all who struggle with addiction and substance abuse

In this country of old men
there is a fierce hurricane approaching
which easily destroys that which has taken generations to create.
All things move towards dispersal.
Trees must be sacificed as storms approach.
Tonight the cheerless moon shines on us all, for good or ill.
Some people are enthralled by definitions of hurricanes, mete...

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A California Spectral

Squirming words,
squabbling, fighting, reeling words
sore with myself.
so sore with myself
a world of regret,

This absence of you
it's all I can do to write to you.
O! I wish I could turn words into wishes.
O! I wish my days would fall into line
my eyes rise for you
without the slightest disguise
for you.


This evening is so heavy, the rain has been & gone,

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As if you had a choice

When sadnesses besiege me
And I've forgotten how to think
The words I once learnt by rote
Return, to release  me from the brink
Of black despair. The Lord's Prayer.
Not an 'I' in any version you'll see,
To cause my heavy-hearted pulse
To slow. But as I free my throat
From the buried strangled cry:
'Why me Lord? Why must I die?'
I slip into awareness, 05:19 again.
My cheeks are wet, my e...

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Hermann Hesse's  glass bead game  had its part to play

As did chemotherapy and surgery and a day

When I walked across a Lancaster field 

A skylark rose so fast I froze.

But that was when I was  young and foolish, and, by the way, the wench is dead

I have an affection for the past

that can not last 

and a rhyming chiming mind

that has nothing  to do with a series of dreams


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Moses of Khorene

Memory-diamonds shine through the rust
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.
Time's chasm opens up before my sight,
Vertigo returns, a Lapis Lazuli night.
Resurrecting poetry, lighting a light.

Civilization alllots meanings to things: 
Like the funeral mask of Tutankhamun
I prefer lapis lazuli free on the wing
Blue as the blue of robins' eggs.

Ultramarine pigment of supreme rarity 

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Outfoxing the furies

A wise fool once said, before he was dead:
Fluid the medium by which we desire, 
Heavy the limits to which we aspire.         
Lift yourselves free on the wings of a dove 
To practise perfection by drinking his blood.
This illusion of earth is splintering fast      
We grab at the air, as we fall at the last:
Witchery, Witan, Wicca and Wizard 
Pursuing the furies is why we are feared.

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Charlotte's one day late Birthday party

In Victoria Park Salford we held a party
On the 2nd April for Charlotte who was 2
On April Fool’s Day. There were balloons
Footballs, Easter eggs and so much love.
It was cold but very sunny, she loved it.
Charlotte is not a people person per se
She likes space, walking and talking
To herself and Peppa Pig who came
To her party but did not impress her.
Just a big cartoon pig who disappear...

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I had returned to that reassuring but profoundly unsatisfactory state known as 'being in one's right mind.”
― Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception 


The days of stormy autumn come
Mother, child, brother, son,
Memories, like dust, infest my eyes, 
Swirling, like Turner’s skies;
Like water under wind,
Mixing greys and blacks, whites and blues,
A chiaroscuro, tussling monochromes

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Kosovo crucified

A vanishing life along these cobbled streets,       
endless grey days of August in the Balkans
At heart my Orthodox soul grieves               
for these long centuries of despair           
and for all the bodies that were left there.

Landless, we were robbed by the Turks,
our churches smashed, 
our daughters raped 
our sons taken as Janniseries
to return to us as the sultan's savages...

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The speech of angels

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

A waterfall of notes, rising and falling, 
splashing into my mind, heart, soul. 
music will never grow old. 
Arpeggio series of broken chords rising descending
in and out of order
plunging minor keys, rising waves of luminosity.
Notes compose a chord played or sung in a rising or descending order.
to create. harmonies of...

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The rhythm of a dream

I stumble into my usual discontented   
bout  of sleep -  
a fragment of the fourth dimension
traps my insides inside an echo of a dream –
time, like the river Lethe,washes over me,
I am left bereft, left to float upon the river of unmindfulness
towards the golden dome which glows with synesthetic force –           
a pulsating kaleidoscope of times –     present-future-past –
flashes fast...

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Early spring



Life just gets worse and nothing happens
Disadvantages contest tree buds.
Fear ceases to exist
I fall into the shiny twigs
A nest I do not rest.
I am not scared of the death
That awaits me.
I was looking forward to the journey
Until I remembered love. 
My greatest insecurity, rests on this.
Yes, it does hurt when buds burst.
Why else would we hesitate?
In springtime bound...

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Vergissmeinnicht (Forget-me-not)

            Captain Keith Douglas (1920-1944)


In Calvados you have your cross
And though we won, you most surely lost.
Your sacrifice, at twenty-four, to modern ‘wit’
Is nothing more than a crying bore.

Who now has read Alamein to Zem Zem
Your story of the war in the western desert?
For though you certainly knew how to kill
You did so with no draperies over your eyes.
Or soul...

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leaps and bounds

one wish at last
go quietly of an evening 
to die at the edge of the sea 
where the forest is close to me 
waves to gentle my dreams 
as I slide into the sea

sky, wide and clear like a new apron, 
a dance of light in the night 
no rich death here just weave 
a bed instead, inside my head, 
while young ghosts in the hallway
weep silently

spring arrives in leaps and bounds 

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“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”
― George Eliot, Middlemarch

Spring is born
And wanders free
Unlike you and unlike me - 
Adrift upon a nameless sea
A son of Adam
A daughter of Eve
Innocence too hard
To retrieve.


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Song of the Harp

The Iraq war was woe to this life
We live in such a bleak age
Nobody concerned about God
Even as we approach Easter
My Lenten fast sustains my faith
Whilst on TV JC vanishes on a distant horizon
Composed of A&E visits and very bad hangovers;
Behind me, born of an atheist family,
Lurks the shadow of a man
Of a witch, of a priest, of a carpenter, a wizard,
Of a wise man who never catches u...

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Count yourself lucky

  Poverty very stressful                    everyone happy rich       says you gotta be popular, climb outer d'ditch. Popular, sweet as sugar can be, but, for       me,  a few high denomination bills, take the edge off those pills, release me from all ills... sweeter than sugar can ever be    old dollar bills.

       In this perfidious world,        everyone happy.   Not.        Happy if,      ...

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Curved air

He lost his mum when I was ten                    Life was never the same again.                  Loss is an understandable song of pain      Also an absence and an agony that never passes.  Life can never quite intoxicate me again.  Photos of her are the  icons of my soul.

I know she will never now grow old.  Only I am left to remember her smile: sad and sweet. She'd already had the news, I gu...

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Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, 9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986

In an upside down life, her body is both white and beautiful. She paints her body in ochre and azure blue, like the druids used to do. Wode she were, for sure. Peut etre. Gallic shrug.

Seven pots of sticky red wine sunk with water snakes onto her breast. Sore crushed through she were., Nazi soldiers served first. Hand moulded she were.Spoilt. Sees into the life of things. I still keep my son's ...

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Non-woke rant

Somerset evening: cider mainly,
The reddisk of the setting sun
I stumbles among the trees and roar
to the gods of the lost trees:
A rustling army of fallen leaves abound me
Encircle me, quite. Alcohol blushes reach a wall of cloud 
A visitor from the north, that's me
Gravitational lines pull us apart
as friends of yours  come and go
An elderly uncle sails over the trees
Means nothing to ...

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Things fall apart

This mourning moon comes out too soon
This unrest rids me of the zest for living
My insides squirm towards a common grief
An inside loneliness that strips me apart.
My body is dying, sentenced to death.
I know: despite this cavalier attitude, that I owe you 
So much, the clouds are so vast and we are so small.
Yet I must prepare, for when I am not here. not there
Things do not go my way: s...

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The end of me

Wonder shining in my eyes
like I'm three years old again,
I will rise, like today,
Talk to children, sometimes.

The sky - the real sky - 
Shall shelter and storm the earth, still;
Black soil shall breed many satans, still.
Azure clouds, from which no rain falls, 
Shall mass on far-horizons, threateningly.

Large drops of rain shall fall, freezing into ice;
Angels shall lie about thei...

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Loss has no end

We wake to the rumbling thunder of blood,
Pumping hearts, twisted hearts, this shadow and I
Squeeze into the thick silences of trees.
The dark lights of Christmastide afflict us
Twilight memories drift, flux, flicker in this breeze of time.
Penumbra-beginning, hologram-end, my friend.

Such pungent affirmations,
Slip into the generations of suffering:
Eyes lifted to a cross, a crescent, a...

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Troubadour: Nick Drake (19 June 1948 – 25 November 1974)

The world hums on at its breakneck pace;
People fly in their lifelong race.
For them there's a future to find,
But I think they're leaving me behind.  Nick Drake


I still walk beside you: a tall, stooped, quintessentially English presence.
I listen to how those flat Fenland vowels swirl into melodies
melded with the staccato RP of Cambridge.
So many minor key explorations of sadness;

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¡No pasarán

écrasez l’infâme - repress the infamous thing for
the Scientific Enlightenment came at no small cost:
imprisionment, blasphemy, books burnt, inquisition, internment, death
the Secular, Spiritual Sceptical, Scientific spirit survived and slowly tamed Christian fundamentalism.
now, a new constant vigilance is the price we must pay as unreformed Islamic superstition, seeks to re-establish a new

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Otro día

Dust motes dance on a sunbeam
as I scribble down a memory, pot it like a plant:
bedazzled, bedraggled,
dazed by the sun’s gaze
I write romance

Sunlight slants
Where the winds’ forget-me-nots blow
summer days’ sway
into a dreamless sleep
dust motes gleam in the sunbeams
that I keep.

A primal scream seeps into these splintered recollections,
forming sharpened shards,
while meaning s...

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Harvest moon

Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash


Soft and steady rhythm of a baby
her gaze tells you all you need to know
her footsteps tender as the snow
the pitter-patter blast of snow upon a window.

Considering all that we do not know
or understand, we stand together, hand-in-hand,
me supporting she, she supporting me,
under this beautiful harvest moon.


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The snow moon

As we move towards the Ides
of March, awake, as if from sleep,
Peep up at the snow moon sky.
If you want to read this sky
look up, be high, as clouds
scurry by, just as they did
in Roman times. Forget
context – be free to see
the full moon of late February
slide across  the Aurora sun. 

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Words cannot echo mood.
It’s impossible to convey
the tingling numbnesses
of yesterday, today.

The semi-detached gaze,
a tight closing-in upon oneself
foreshadows pent up tears.

The fear that accompanies
almost everything I do
meanders like an ox-bow lake,
and can take years to settle at a flood-tide
to knock us off our feet,

It is then our time gathers
to a slippery greatness,

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i.m. John Donne 1572 (London) - 1631 (London)

Such 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 no more time for the mere indulgences of strife.
We look too much upon these empty places, the ...

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