Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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Near is very far
Space, time

Dark star
A black hole for
A wandering soul.

There’s a vastness that appals
White walls.

Scurrying through
The corridors
Of the Christie, this Monday morning
Meeting Emile, yes, named after Jean Jacque’s eponymous hero.

Married at the weekend, it has spread,
He fears he’ll soon be dead.

His Caribbean lilt

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Lorca’s blood wedding bleeding 
Into lemon-tree-soil
Reminds me of nothing more than the toil, toil, toil
Of life in Al-Andalus.
Priests chanting their rosary
Like it was El Maleh Rachamim
Or the Mourner’s Kaddish (which it probably was, if the priest
Was a Jewish Converso, who changed his religion
To save his life or, maybe, the life of his children). The Moriscos (ex-Muslim Moors), as us...

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Life is but a dream...

She still walks beside me
Tall, stooped, a quintessentially English presence.
 I listen again to how those flat Fenland vowels 
Swirled into melodies melded with the staccato RP of Cambridge.
We knew so many minor key explorations of sadness; 
Pulling at the scabs of loneliness and regret.
Yet you beget songs made plangent
By the melancholic timbre of your voice.
Your abiding mood was irre...

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Antonio Salieri, a man of less than monkish virtue, and of very little talent,

Falsely promised the deliverance of Jerusalem from infidel rule,

This was a lie. All his music was packed full of lies and thefts.

At the age of 35 Amadeus Mozart fell ill. Mozart was prodigious producing:

Opera buffa such as Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte

Opera seria such as Idomeneo and Die Zauber...

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The marvellous Lidos of London 

Nowhere better to live that summer

So many bodies lifted into the sense

Of immortality, of continuance, except

My black gay friend who nearly

Ended it all in a council house. I turned

Off the gas and he managed to last

Long enough to play drums at Wembley

Stadium on a certain day. We once

Drove up to Harrow-on-the-hill

He felt ill when ...

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The stolen child

I remember falling as a child
And being lifted by a fairy-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 fairy wings that brush our faces
Like spiders’ webs or shimmering laces.


Such magical, lovely, lonely things
A rustle in the wind remi...

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Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses

Treading through the dark Sargosso sea
A freezing mist in the air, a winter sway,
Celtic, crossed and re-crossed, we're on our way.
A watery Calvary stares into our blemished air
And you cannot, ever, ever, be there.
Today we dead coagulate - we are not where you think we are - 
We thicken into consciousness.  Our dying words still taken at the fall
Rampant, they are on our cracked lips, no...

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"Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home. History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” James Joyce, Ulysses



All that we expected


Marriages crumble

Families disperse

All epics and rhapsodies


The hour of our birth

The hour of our death.

Icicles, stalagmites and stala...

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My love didn’t come from nowhere.  

My father was a bastard, a sailor on the seas,

My mother just a peasant

Spent her life upon her knees.

The noblesse oblige,

The drinking and the drugs,

Were countered by Intelligence

And a tingling in the blood.


We were the late Romans

Much diminished and now, finally, gone.

For since the death-stroke of 1453,

When we heard ...

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tadpoles squirm

around the rusty rims

of tyres,

in the old canal,

this spring/

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Wish you were here

The glass bead game had its part to play,

On that formless holiday,

And chemotherapy and surgery,

And a walk across a Lancaster field one day

When I was young and broken.


A skylark rose so fast I froze 

looking! looking! on my toes

catch the song flying away.


A stuttering of a past

that does not last 

within a rhyming chiming mind

O! that charming man, I ...

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An orthodox fugue

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Two tunes weaved into one

The first a musical mingling

The  other psychiatry

a loss of awareness of one's identity,

Paralysis,  hysteria, epilepsy.

cobbled streets and smoke

 these long grey days of August

at heart my orthodox soul grieves

amidst  these long echoes of despair

 all the bodies buried there



our sons taken


to return


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The vanishing life

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two menorahs loosen

memory's chains

and restore the past



here in my head

a dark star's velvet scream

is heard but

never seen


leave  the poor

as they were before

footsteps in the snow 


Paris 1942

the Gestapo

arrested you

another wandering Jew

they perform another round-up,

and a seemingly innocent Jew,

Paul Leon,  you, j...

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Such eloquent Graffiti

It was an ordinary, wet north Manchester night

Of solid rain, unremittingly wet and cold.

When, suddenly, all the rivers, in all the world, stopped flowing

And all the summer colours leached away and never returned

And the wind it got so cold and stings like hell

And then the sky descends into the air.....

And you're not there.


The blackness is deep, deep and remains...

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Sons and brothers.

."Remembering death, I know the life of the world as it is now is not living, it is a bad process of dying. And what we must live for is a new world of life. It doesn't matter when we die, so long as we live fulfilling the deepest desire that is in us. And a life which is a denial of the deepest desire is much worse than any death, it is a sheer lie." DH LAWRENCE


I have drunk a lot of whis...

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onion dome

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Translating the Slavic psyche is not easy, let's strip down the layers

The hiding from barbarian Ottomites, Austro-Hungarians and Germans 

For centuries, Czars and Serfs at each others' throats.

There was a Russisn actor who hid himself away- very well - but he disappeared, into a cherry orchard.

Every body is dressed in a black haze reflected against the snow:walking graves.

Down b...

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Dappled sunshine

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 Before, I loved the rainy mornings of my life

And I never thought that friendly mountain passes

Would ferry me away

But  now happy times are seldom

And the rain runs away with me.


From holiday beach to temptestous sea

The thunder clouds gather like swarms of angry bees

I have lost my faith in the indomitable sea.

And I have lost my faith in humanity

I sing only one...

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Ripple in still water


All that is, is not,

Numbed into meaning:


Occasional flowers,

In a city without sleep, 

They die in the sky

Whilst counting sheep.

Moon people kiss,

Not like normal  people do, 

I dreamt a dream with a broken heart

And the dream is of you.

St Stephen with a rose

In and out of the garden he goes

Country garden in the ...

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The magnificent Moors

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Catholic priest crucified

On Good Friday in Mosul,

Children blown to bits

In Lahore's  Shalimar Gardens,

A piece of pink Heaven on this bloodyearth.


Built by the Mughals to celebrate God

In marbled, mosaic mosques:

It celebrated the Hindus and the Buddhists,

The Sufi saints who'd moved into the future

Keeping their close hold onto the past.

It celebrated the Chri...

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A charmed death

I do not drink,

But I am living under this mountain

That might crush the life out of me

Any time, any day,

So, I drink anyway.

Too much grandiosity

Dims the soul

Makes us old.

I hear the wise ones pleading, pleading when on fire,

So much screaming, as the flames they get higher:

Hebane, belladonna, mandrake, datura

All of these, like mescaline, can see right throug...

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i.m. Pte Jack Prince

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As the wind blows ever faster,

And the temperature drops,

– I am recalled

To my dialogue with the dead.

My grandfather, Jack, had his

Last pint of bitter in this pub

I am sitting in before

Embarking for France in 1914,

And his first one back in November 1918.

2020 Jack - alive in my heart - always loved, never seen -

Not a line of his writing have I, not a wisp of his...

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Early Spring in England

On this beautiful spring day in February

With delphinium-blue skies and cheeky

Crocuses splashing purple and dazzling

Daffs nodding in agreement, on this mild Aprilesque

Zephyr of a breeze. Then folk do long to go on pilgrimage,

My pilgrimages are to interior parts

Where I  seek relics of a past that cannot last

I imagine that if a poet, who I have in mind,

Were given one m...

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Desires, memories, fears, so many tears,

I only know that here is the murmur of the waves,

And the spindly branches tremble on the trees

The morning light is thin, flimsy,

The vagaries of auguries are spread out

Like a blanket over the antique branches

Of oak trees and the birds sing

to the rising in the East, of the sun, which is magical;

This is a birth day, a death day, ...

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Being here

Some muttered words on a windy night

Make me listen closely to her heart-beat.

Words can decline into cant – quick, flippant, arrogant

Listen! to the Gregorian chants of the monks:  singing across the centuries.

In silence, I admire the stonemason’s art, their way of seeing things,

Frozen in time, giving form to a vision of God-knows-what,

A palimpsest of languages: Latin, Norman...

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Daily life

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I  struggle every day to remain well,

It's an obstacle course, of sorts,

Yesterday, I was ko'd, knocked out,

But before the count of 10 I was 

Up again, fighting to recover my balance, my poise.

On my toes

I rose to the challenge.

Today,  I Am fasting, the best detox I know,

Hoping I will recover, in time 

To watch a film, have a meal,

Get up from my bed. Be well.


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outfoxing the furies

Fluid the medium by which we desire,

Heavy the limits from which we aspire

To lift ourselves free on the wings of a dove

To practise perfection by drinking his blood.

The 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.

Opening spaces and stretching out time

In a ...

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from swerve of shaw to blend of bray

On March 15th 20118, I was two days away from the delirium of sepsis and I wrote this.


“In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!”
― James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

catching my death

is an English melody

travelling from heat to freezing cold

culture, religion, ...

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i.m. Vasily Zaystev

Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev was a Soviet sniper during World War II. Between 10 November 1942 and 17 December 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, he killed 225 enemy soldiers, including 11 SS snipers


Who controls the past controls the future:

An anonymous red army soldier,

With a slightly Asiatic glint to his eye,

Like Vasily, at the gates of Auschwitz,

Said 'This was why we...

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The Home Front

I know a woman happily demented

She scatters petals as she sleeps,

Sings the songs of the 1940s,

Thinks she is Bo-Peep.

When she worked in a cake shop

She was put to the test

She casts her mind back and lets it rest.

Passes the test of time. In rhyme.

Dresses her hair in a yellow head scarf

Says apropos of nothing but the truth

"The hyacinth will soon be out. I love 


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Lovers' parting

You are my moment, and my dream,

Great is my say in the passing of your day

The  rules of aesthetics do not apply

You are only a beauty because you pout and lie

How secret you are; and true

As you crave me to be.

Stay unreachable, far away because

The dream of happiness is more than happiness.

Be garrulous, free with words and with youth;

Let your hair and your ec...

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The rags of time

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The guttering rain of home 

Stains the memory

Longer than churches

Can stand.

Is it duty to devotion

Or devotion to duty that keeps

Me standing in this field of ripe poppies?

At a loss. I don't know

How can we translate this chaos

Into words?

The grammar of suffering

Is indecipherable.

Lost in translation

Faith no longer floods my mind

My mind reminds me


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A love supreme

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Oh Lord, my God,  I fell asleep,

No longer in a state of grace,

No longer a beautiful woman, 

No longer a poet, beloved by the Emperor,

I am a harlot, like Mary Magdalene,
A sister of the Christ - dazzled by the myrrh,
By an acre of sorcery,

Destroyed by a terrible moon
By the time of the month; by everything being too late, or too soon.

By the phases of the moon.
Give me you...

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Written near water

“Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again."

- Poem XL
― A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad


Ordinary life creates

Empty spaces

Inside of me

Composed of God-knows-what:


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On 21st December, 1873, Horace Moule was staying with his brother, Charles Moule. When he heard a strange noise in an adjoining room, Charles discovered that Horace had slashed his windpipe with a razor. He was covered in blood but conscious and was able to utter his last words "Easy to die. Love to my mother."

Written two days before sepsis

The sting of the wind
On this cold spring day

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Digital love: Digital grief

If I send you an emoji

Will you know exactly

How I feel?

Will you  truly know

That love is real?

Or, if I send you

A coffin-shaped nail

Will you wail and gnash

Your teeth?

Will you experience

A kind of grief?

Or, truly, truly,

Will you not

Give a flying toss?

Loss, in all its peculiar manifestations,

Unites people of all races, classes and denominations...

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As the light declines

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Sitting in an old, damp boozer
Brasses polished, leathers gleam,
Wood, dark mahogany, glows.
In the dark daylight lamplight
Watch how the snow flakes tumble
Drift out of a heavy sky
Nature's green, and man's concrete grey, 
Covered for the day,  evolving into this whiter
Shade of pale.
Yes, a pint of porter's yer only man,
Nobody dares to disturb
This chapel of rest
Except when one of ...

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Holy brokenness

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Missing the wildness of my younger self
I degenerate into words. Waiting, between
sentences, for the muse to catch up with me,
I fulminate, flash like lightning, explode 
So that I catch myself thinking this
Is all an act to compensate for the time
Brian climbed that tree before disappearing
To Japan, for all eternity. I wish Haiku was true.
An apple blossom flash of inspiration

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Writ in Wine

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Writ in water

Or writ in air.

Writ-in-times present

Or writ-in-times past.

Writing  lasts.


Writing passes

The test of time:

As life and air

Pine away 

So lines writ-in-wine

Begin their stay;

And never-more

Will fade away.




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the speech of angels

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

A waterfall of notes, rising and falling, 

Splashing into mind, heart, soul. 

Music will never grow old. 

Arpeggio series of broken chords rising descending

Into and out of order. Plunging into minor keys, rising into waves of luminosity.

Notes that compose a chord are played or sung in a rising or des...

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Reading the signs

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A holiday is a holy day,

Etymologically speaking,

Words drift and sway away

From meaning to meaning.

Neologisms take root, blossom, die

Making metaphors into touts

Who turn words inside out

Perform semantic cartwheels and fly

Or shrink: "Nan had a gay old time on the sly"

Words and phrases, used and abused,

Ad Infinitum. Passing by.

Begin each sentence with "So... ...

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Ecrasez l’infâme

The Scientific Enlightenment came at no small cost

Christianity took a thousand years to subdue

Now Islam is in the west, as fundamentalism is born anew

Imprisonment, blasphemy, books burnt, inquisition, internment, death.

Yet, the Secular-Spiritual-Sceptical-Scientific spirit survives

A new constant vigilance is the price we pay

As unreformed superstition seeks to re-establish a...

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The rhythm of a dream


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash


The multi-verse within:

I stumble into my usual discontent

A bout of sleep –

A fragment of the fourth dimension,

Trapped within

An echo of a dream –

Thin, thin

Time, like the river Lethe,

Washes over me

Left I am here, bereft,

To float upon this river of unmindfulness

Towards the golden dome

Which glows with ...

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The spirit of prophecy guided me to this spring of living water 

Where all living things are made a-new: son, daughter

Neither shall there be mourning, all tears washed away

Live with the full force of a Jesuit priest today.

Pass through the door that can never be locked

Don't whine like a man who knows he's out of time.

Casuistry and sophistry work together

To blind men: in r...

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When my eyes are full of tears

And I cannot cry.

When I think I've conquered my fears

But I can only sigh.

When I rise to the occasion,

And hold myself together,

In rain or shine or stormy weather,

And my heart beats fast,

And faster still,

As if I'm running up the steepest-steepest hill.

Then the memories tumble out,

And stop me dead,

And I cry, at last,


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Sylvia's Father says

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

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

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

Too lovely for a life of pettiness and sin were you

You caught a boat to England, never returned.

My heart burns for an extraordinary Jew like you,

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

To you like I yearned and wa...

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The Withering

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Exhausted and betrayed in the frosty air of this desolate day

I am dried up, shrivelled, exposed, weather-beaten.

This wasting away of the body afflicts me with decay.

The hey-ho day of the day-to-day fades away.

Forever. Friends desert me quite.

What was, is rubbed away, out of sight.

Wither, languish, and decay: time pines away.

In this quagmire-swamp of guilt, regret, spilt...

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Non Serviam: 29 May 1453


Passing whiter shades of pale, pretty traces of lace,

Reveal the opal-sluminosity of these late Romans,

Indigo-dreams red with gore on this bloody May day

Negating their quiet absorption into the timeless

Creation of Constantinople’s drift and swell,

Elysium’s perfumed garden of lucidity bust open

By Mehmed’s desecration, on his sweltering road to hell.

Digging stench...

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A raggedy thin cotton dress
Torn. On the little girl playing
On this freezing December day.
Was she torn from her mama or given away
She's left by her friends
And deserted by her dad
And neglected by those who pretend to care.
Little Ellie is sad and hungry
The priest says ‘she’s going-on bad’.
Her school calls the doctor,
And the doctor calls the nurse,
Torn this and that way,
She’s j...

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Irish Times

Walking over O’Connell bridge in central Dublin

On this freezing morning. Body hunched, coat pulled

Tight. Hearing the cries of seagulls, or is it the hawkers

In Henry Street? Over in Blackrock, Éamon de Valera,

Has begun to die. The sky is heavy with snow

As in Joyce’s The Dead. I walk to Bewleys

In Grafton Street, dispense with my fluttering

Of snow as I take off my overcoat...

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Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night

And all her forgotten beauty

People pass out of sight

On this August midnight

When the serpent and the saviour sit


Somewhere in old-England.


No truths are hidden from our lady moon

No disguising her faint silvery tune.

Such wide-open rosy faces, face the blackest of skies,

Gnarled hands shade their frightened eyes,

No, no,...

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