Poetry Blog by John E Marks (2018)

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Unlock your heart

Unlock your heart with the grateful dead

The original code is nearly always 0000

Pull off the shackles to unlock your hands and other necessary appendages.

Rotate your heart 90 degrees counterclockwise 

Look out of any window

Squeeze your heart.at what you see

Set a new combination by turning the tide.  

Choose a magical number and never-ever hide, never-ever part

NEVER ret...

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The unpurged images of day

The King of the moon came looking for her

With blood dripping from his mouth

And a wide toothy smile as wide as the Bosphorous.

Aristomenos became the daughter of the Ancient Man.

Did everything she can to remain Byzantine

But the Ottomans raped her and laughed at her and smoked hashish.

She asked herself what the Greeks said about murder

And refrained. Uttering such-and-such ...

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A rose garden at altitude under occupation

especially in mid-winter

I picture the rose garden

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 us

and dates from al'andalus tempt us

and the figs are fine and the wine just fine

and chinese herbs help me see

the tibetan plateau  all around me

where all that is, is being ...

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the room  is crowded, sultry 

with an air of frustration

the functionary loves his power

to make people wait for necessary pieces

of paper:

some need to register births, others deaths,

they sway and smell of drink

others stink of sweat with holes in their clothes

a woman is beginning to screech and plead

she is pregant - see - and has cildren to see to

the functionary...

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Tomorrow belongs to me


Shout it out or whisper secretly in my ear

Tell me all the things I never want to hear:

Tell me how Sharia law liberates the woman:

Tell me how nationalism is patriotism writ large;

Tell me how we need to empty out the prison bars.

And I’ll tell you our lives are way too crammed with things

How we need to let go, to hear the song thrush sing.

If we allow irresponsible mac...

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Winter Blue

Hanging on or just scraping by,

Keeping my head above water

I'll never learn to fly

In this monochrome world

Of winter trees stripped

To skeletons against the snow-laden

Sky moving in slow motion

And always catching the eye.

On the beach, hunched up,

We face the freezing wind

This wind that crosses the north sea

From Siberia or the Arctic

To exculpate our many s...

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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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Identity theft.

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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The price of coal



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

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

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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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

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

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.

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

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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Free Speech

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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A satire of sorts

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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Poetry and Philosophy

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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Moments of Vision

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 Room


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

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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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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Inner City Blues







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

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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An Act of Treason

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 Psychiatric Disorder

“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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An old, Welsh witch once said this:

"Taliesin, don't be sad if you're alone
On Ynys Môn you have battled mightily
Despair will bring us no advantage.
No man sees what supports him
Courage is invisible. Study The Mabinogion
God will not violate his promises.
We must suffer in Gwyddno's weir
Where our stand against the invaders
Will end in defeat! We must learn how to fail
Being sad will...

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Winter on Mount Sinjar in 2014,

By the Christian calendar.

That year lasted forever:

Such a long, long time,

Our mouths expelled a hidden heat

The soul of the Ezedi.

Never before has the sun

Filled us so full of tears

Though we have been persecuted

Since the killing-wind of Islam arrived

These particular torturers arrived in the night

Stole our daughters, killed ou...

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From last November's quiet recall to duty

This piece of graffiti on a dry-stone wall

His headstone verses are writ in water

Drawn by the eyes of his future daughter.


And all he knew was the deepest blue of Lapis lazuli

A  good man’s eyes are written in the blood

And mortal love will always end in death. Time

Weathers the...

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words echo

the soft and steady silence of a baby


the gaze which tells you all you need to know

her footsteps tender in the snow

the pitter-pattered blast of rain upon a window

considering all we do not know

or understand, we stand hand-in-hand

under the beautiful harvest moon

setting off too soon, determined not to be late

seeing her lost in thought by the five-barred gat...

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Anthem for all all these damned Youngsters



What church-bells or calls to prayer by the muezzin

For these young men who kill themselves?

      — Only the monstrous hypocrisy of the media

Can call attention to this national blood-loss of young lives

No mockeries now for them from politicians who do not care; 

      Only the voice of the mothers whose sons are no longer there —

Only black and white boys' photograph...

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Listen to the lion

With the golden eyes of a pharaoh –

My lioness extends her paw to me -
Her forebears brought down rhino –
Under the sweltering skies of the high veldt:
Lithe and supple, fleet of foot,
She covers this northern turf
With ceaseless leaps and bounds.
Her loyalty is unbounded by species,
Affiliation is to the death.
No treachery in her world of smell:
No subtleties of intent

No pretence...

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The River

A river runs through us
the river of life
With its twists and its turns,
and its banks out of sight
...early morning
mist, fractured light,
these dregs of the day –
Away, away!
The flotsam and jetsam
of the years passing by
Swirl in the whirlpool
float in the sky.
the azure blue
heat-haze sky
childhood, all gone by
Down in the depths,
murky and drear,
Listen to the heart...

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All Souls' Day



In memory of Malcolm Lowry

No se puede vivir sin amar” ..

It is a time of wind and rain

And in the green wood
The voices of the dead
Coagulate and skim this edge of consciousness.
It is a time of heavy-hearted dread.
It is the day of the dead.
And what have we done
Since the last, lingering death?
Nothing, nada, no.
The wicked still prosper,
And the rich come and go

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Butterflies alight

To live a life in a day
the difference is plain

There's no doing it again

A flight within the 4th-dimension
No squirming weasel words for you
Just a graceful flutter and decline

With no direction home
No squabbling No fighting No waiting in line.
The begetting is done

On a wing and a prayer
No absence of synaesthesia there!

A mingling of the finest bouquet

With the deepest ...

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A Commonplace sacrifice of a life

The roses of Picardy are blooming,

Red like the blood we will spill,

The sun shines onto the yellow wheat

Which drifts in the summer breezes

Sill, we face the Saxons, brothers-in-arms,

And this quiet landscape will soon explode,

With all the bloody gore of war.

We swore we would survive.

My tommy gun spat bullets for days

My hands bloody, burnt and raw.

Sweet Christ w...

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The sounds of the day

Are clownishly fooling

But it won’t go away -

A nightmare to follow

This minor delay -

It’s tick-a-tock-ticking

We’re all going away.

Such a story to swallow -

When the old witch is flying -

On the edge of the moon

And the war is beginning

And it’s zoom-slugger-boom

The starlight is raging -

It's all over so soon


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An Archaeology


He was but what he was, nobody cares

Or knows. We forgot easily what he might

Have been. And all thought falls into

The remains of this tear-filled parting forever.

Dreams I had, come and dreams I had go,

Leaving nothing but the faintest

Impress of my hair upon a pillow.

Shadows flit across this static air

And the sun-soaked dust rests here in mid-air.

My dreams rem...

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Offensive verse

Poems that do not rhyme often

Do not help themselves - considering -

Poems that deal with obscure subjects

Such as by-gone times and dead people fail

To engage the attention of those who'd.

Choose to focus on supermarkets, special deals

Buying stuff online and being a very BIG part

Of a WhatsApp group that crosses generations

And sexual orientations. .

If you think you'r...

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The red-gold glow

of stormy autumn

leafy-mist lights this late

October dawn recalling him,


to the design hidden in words,

which swirl like smoke

rising from a fire, from a pipe,

tended by an old man in a black suit

the front of which is bedecked with medals

time-ridden, he is missing, gone  missing in 1913;

this fleeting meeting with the present


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The flowers of the forest

More than five rugby teams' worth, of men, every week, dead by their own hands, 

Young men mostly, three times as many men as women,

Nearly 6000 a year, 60,000 over a decade and....


Using the traditional routes to oblivion - hanging from a tree, opening the arteries, being free with the pills

A closed garage and exhaust fumes, jumping off high-rise flats, bridges, cheap thr...

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A bride's beauty surpasses all

The love farmer can say

I said she was a human person

And that destiny is the fruit of love.

When the crowd gathered and saw her,
They cheered and sang songs.

When love is a glory and men

Shake hands

All bodes well.

There is no war.

We all have a country

And a heart beat of dreams

Music makes us cry out loud
And love is curtailed


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Poem for an anonymous Moorish Poet on the defeat at Seville November 1248


We have eaten rats during this seige

The Goths want us acquiesce to Christian suzerainty.

They never tell us why we should do so

We have our music, poetry, wine, gardens and our beautiful women.

And beauty gives light like lamps to one travelling in the dark.

Makes one wake up, notice a sparkling jewel
A pearl from the deeps of a distant ocean

A rarity of dreams:

A passi...

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Kassia: A Bold and Beautiful Woman, a Byzantine Poet

Κύριε, ἡ ἐν πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις περιπεσοῦσα γυνή,
τὴν σὴν αἰσθομένη θεότητα, 


Oh Lord, my God,  I fell asleep

No longer in a state of grace

No longer a beautiful woman

Beloved by the Emperor,

But a harlot, like Mary Magdalene,
A sister of the Christ

Dazzled by the myrrh,
By an acre of sorcery, by a terrible moon
By a time of the month.

Nothing is too soon.
Give me your t...

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