Poetry Blog by John E Marks (2019)

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A waxing moon

The sky was pink that evening

Blotches of an adamantine brittleness

Spread slowly all over the Cheshire plain,

All over the acres and acres of rich pickings.

The quarter moon is waxing to the right

Behind my back and out of sight and mind 

A grove of black, spidery trees skeletal and strange

Put me in mind of a MR James story

Of an unrequited remonstrance 

That stands on...

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A rose garden at altitude under occupation



The unpurged images of day

Will not give me away to complacency

Even after fifty years of Chinese

Occupation we Tibetans continue

To resist, especially in mid-winter

When we picture our rose garden,

The secret garden of our soul,

A place where all that is, is good 

And all that is, is fine

Is writ in large, in watery wine:

Written in a tender-script divi...

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One thing turns to another thing.

This is the story of continuous change

Nothing remains the same. 

The sum Is always greater than the parts

And a metamorphosis of hearts

Occurs when we know that

Differential calculus

Plots the rates

At which things change.

However, the total always remains the same.

E = mc2. 

Energy equals mass 

Times the speed of light squared...

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



We have eaten rats during this seige

These 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 lights like lamps to one travelling in the dark.

The nearness of death makes one wake up, notice a sparkling jewel,
A pearl from the deeps of a distant ocea...

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For when I am weak, then am I strong

Sometimes, I lack command of cadences and tones,

Sometimes, words tumble from my mouth like grain,

At other times words are pulled like teeth.

 I sat down by the Manchester Ship canal,

On a cold grey December day,

I wept because of the curse I carry:

The curse of a glint of a light from Elysium

Or Zion or heaven-knows-what-you-will.

I cannot sing the songs of the Lord,


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The flowers of the forest


You were lonesome and blue eyed
And so special to us
You should have taken a long break
Instead of a long drop from a high place.

"That Year" by Brandi Carlisle


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

In these islands.

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

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


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Lost in translation

In Latin or in Portuguese 

o sentimento de amor

Is just the same: 

The sentiment of love

Can quickly catch aflame.

A lack in the discipline

Of the eyes breeds

A brooding wish to exercise

Or exorcise, a fire that re-iterates

The eradication of disguise

Leaving us contemplating the irreducibility of fate.

Extending the same disregard for grammar:

(declensions decl...

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To the crags, where eagles soar

Away with the moon

with her shadows and all

those sturdy penumbras

you saw in the ball.

Forget you, forget you

I  fall out of bed

and all you beget

is so-suddenly dead.

She’s tousled & sleepy,

this edge of the moon,


Angus, dear Angus,

just walked out the room.

His pool-side of shadows

is living alone,

with ginger-nut biscuits

and large gulps of...

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The foggy, foggy dew

Once I knew you,

Red hair blowing free,

Catholic and wild:  

The young banshee.

A Jacobite, like me.


The moral guardians condemn us:

Say we are transgressors,

The breakers of the law.


So then we ask each other

What is life for?


It’s the wildness that’s within us!

Our spirits roaming free:

The accomplishment of nothing

That is you and me.

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A winter blossoming

In this mild mid-winter breeze of splintered selves

The trees blend into silhouttes; and I see elves

Whose shadows transform perceptions

Into creation. And all the world of

Getting and spending grinds to a halt,

For one holy day. Death may be far away or near

At hand, we have no crystal balls. We must put

All our heart and soul into conveying the simplicity of love

To those...

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A continuing calvary


At this turning of the year

We confront an unholy nexus of fear,

Solstice: the apex of the year,

ride the crest of a wave of darkness

The drunkard's Christmas kiss

As the sun squats on the horizon

Of his squandered life

Fear you can cut it with a knife

transforms the frosty night owls of winter

Into a travesty of this lack of light.

Beneath this peak of dark


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To the Ghost-dancers of the Sioux

Don’t let the fat white males into your land

They have no concept of stewardship

They think they can own the air and the land.

You watched them massacre the holy bison:

The white buffalo are dead

Their bodies rot under the holy sun.

These bastards have no respect for themselves:

They are rapists and child-killers.

They love watching sadistic pornography.

They spoil all t...

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Noli timere

Redemption comes at such a cost
Freezing winds off the Irish sea
Blow me away from hearth and home
At such a cost - loss pressing on loss - 
Yet still the winter-birds sing,
Seemingly, so carelessly,
And we know it costs them their whole life
To fly this way and sing and eat and build and build.
Yet still this merely human, framed of earth, 
Cannot scrape away the curse of discontent: 

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The grey skies of Manchester,
Designed to oppress,
Yes, my head is in a mess.
This place of the bee is home to me.
Old boys return blisteringly unaware
Of the significance of a long, cold stare
Lost boys don't even mention the drugs.
In a chapel-of-rest or a public bar - don't wander far.
Out in the street, a mass of metal and rubbish
Outside the flats, wrecked fridges, torn up sofas;

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With an abiding glint of love in her faded eyes, 
Brown eyes that inhabit my dreams, spark my memories,
My mother has dementia, a cross for us to bear
So saith her silver-tinted hair. She laboured for our family.
With her handbag gripped in her laughing lap,
She still smiles at my silly jokes and repartee 
We share so many ways yet she's the opposite of me:
Freer, grander, more baroque, a h...

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Call it dreaming

"My son Brandon died 9 years ago. I have returned from Indiana to Texas where he was born and mixed his ashes in with my garden. I have brought my child home." YOUTUBE comment on 'Into Dust', Mazzy Star

Photo by Matthew Cabret on Unsplash


I knew from the very beginning

The sun would rise

Teaching me to cast my eyes to heaven

Cloudy days are like sacrifices

To compensate ...

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Skin is wearing thin

Homo sapiens have out grown their use. Billions

Long in the tooth but not sharp at all

They snarl at each other

As they queue in the supermarket

For the bargains.

Humans defame the dignity. 

Of the wild animals

They abuse, flay alive, eat.

Monkeys, lions, gazelle.

Any living thing

Is worth more.

Homo sapiens have no shame

They seek to inflame each other

By th...

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Christmas roses

Christmas roses bloom in the dying of the light

But 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.

Do we like butter or not? Was the yellow

Reflected on our chin? These flowers resemble

The wild rose – poisonous to humans –

Helleborus niger macranthus –

Enough to tangle any tongue.

Words wea...

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Wild is the way

Wild is the minute and clear is the sky

A world of smell and sight and sound

The portals of discovery all around,

We enter this world, this newfoundland:

The sheer vividness of colour,

The all round visibility of sound,

Flesh and blood, all the half-created

Epiphanies of cloud and sky and sun,

Enter the mind and fly from  the eye -

Into the kippering sky, clouds come rus...

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Tabula Rasa

I saw her in the street

We were polite, random, neat.

Forgetting what drunkenness

Created in the way of becoming diabolical

Divine Tabula Rasa – blank slate.


Once one, kind, sweet woman,

Polished floors with rage

Arms red and fleshy –

The dark memory of her soul is not pale;


It was late, near the Spaniard’s Inn,

The full moon was shining,

With all the sol...

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A rare descent

Sitting on the apple tree
Purloining space and time
A wee robin redbreast
Doing what a robin does
Pecking as it ruffles its feathers
Scattering rain drops all around
The robin expects nothing, except luck

The luck of the draw
The cock Robin
Has a hen Robin and sings to her with glee.

Even in the soaking rain
Such sights and sounds astound me.

Nothing is as iridescent as this robi...

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Solstice Song

It is the year's midnight, ye 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 into subservience

Come! 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 m...

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For Cathy, poet

Love...cultivates. Goethe


We walk a steep and slippery way,

Mixing senses in synesthesia's way,

It seem as if I am a chorus in a play.


We feel by measures hidden from the eye

Time borrowed, days wasted, time goes by,

I choose to walk a steep and scattered way..


Winter seeps me into sleep, as my soul flies,

To the gist of an art unborrowed from the eye;

I l...

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On the Narrow road

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.”
― Basho


Open your heart to the misery

Of those who live without hope,

Learn to walk in another’s steps

To learn to extend your scope

Learn not to avert your gaze

When the world is set ablaze.

Give all that you have to give

And expect nothing and you will see

With the eyes of a child.


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Love will tear us apart, again

my friend, Ian Kevin Curtis

(15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980)

strode up those stairs, so long ago,

and still, your voice pumps out

in all its brittle beauty

leaving the depression

and the epilepsy behind

telling us what love will do

how, precisely it will tear us apart

some will listen and never know

the man you were

me? I cannot abide the way

you hid the man you wer...

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A sliver of a moon highlighting

the stone house by the river

full of young people, rushing

hither and thither, a cascade

of sound, a highlight of laughter,

a blaze of eyes. No disguise

but so many discriminations:

of face, of education, of class

we knew it couldn't last.

I retreated for forty years or more

but I always knew I'd come back

to settle the musical sco...

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The Alpha and Omega

He'd despise with his eyes those alive in sackcloth and ashes

The weaponised clones of a myopic dwarf did not do

As they were taught. They denied themselves the water

Of life. They inherited nothing.

No morning maniac music

Shaked them awake.

Those who'd once brought hope

Now mired in hate.

Over the mountain, clouds scud

Blood on the floor

And mud on the faces.


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Nothing more


Calling time on the cinema queue

We let our dreams come true

It was the evening of the day


and blue.

At least, I still had you.


Giving up on our one chance

Of silence, it is true,

Who knows where the time goes

Enhances you.


And, so,we wound up

Like I knew we'd do:

Bruised black and bruised blue

Back in the cinema queue.



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Burnham Beeches with Anna, 1985

the sadness of sundays
even amidst
the various
reds, yellows, browns and golds
of stormy autumn

and as I walk
I have in mind
the fragility of your veined

so who am I to resist
this child's
every imperative?



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The solitary rose of your breath

Angels  alight, a slight, feathery goodnight kiss,

behind her eyes her guardian angel sighs.

Listen! to the whisperer behind the song,

misfortune exorcised by fluttering fugues begin again

to sing a song in a minor key,

a longing to be whole and free.

Let'so roll away the stone:

for on this seafront there is a stone,

where, in the creamy moonlight of romance,

men and wo...

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Bandit country

In this land of loughs and dry burials

The invisible forms itself into visibility

In the dialect of words – tattered,

Stained, inadequate – visceral words

Spew like blood from a gargoyle

Into this mist-ridden air where these

Burrows hide the dead inside blessed

Earth where dogs still dig for bones

And where the music of the very air

Is lacerated by the explosions of ange...

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A shadow behind the sun

Dried up, shrivelled, weather-beaten,

Rock- hidden fossils set in stone,

These evolutions of Medusa

Afflict with a petrified decay.

And all, all she gazed upon

Can never be rubbed away.

Stains dry and calcify

Deep in the  bogs, in a quagmire,

A swamp of guilt, regret

Spilt water, wine, I forget.

No transubstantiation this:

Yoked, ploughed, dragged,

Inchoate ...

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Sanskrit sati (“good woman” or “chaste wife”), a Hindu custom of a wife immolating herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband


Moths fly high

this cold delight

of a summer's night

their wings sing,

but my mind's not right;

see the showers spark high

like flaming air

sizzling on the water

blowing in her hair

and the women heap wood

on the fragrant...

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Shadows on a broken vessel

Photo by Dmitry Ermakov on Unsplash


Fresh water suits my watery nature.
I squint at the ripples of redemption,
Watch the ducks glide beside me

Keeping me on the straight and narrow.

The call of strangers splatters across
The sky and I choke on what I know ,
And cannot even whisper out, or sigh.

Mountains and sky reflected in water.

The ordinary has become extraordinary

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A Byzantine Lamentation



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,

Was 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,


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The red glow of our one-bar electric fire

Reflected on our hardly bearded faces

The multi-coloured music of curved air

Synaesthesia rampant, the sweet smell

Of burning Lebanese hashish everywhere

That thick and smoky sweet sweet air.

And young Nick Drake still alive amongst

The flat-fen-lands of Cambridgeshire

Five leaves left a common currency  

And me the lad from the ...

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Haight-Ashbury, 1967


Rose, the loveliest of pagan namings,

She said she can see clear to another day

1967 and the happy trails I followed

That landed me plum in Golden Gate Park

Then Palo Alto in the pacific sun

Looking for a revolution

And this is it:

No empty-headed technologies 

Still no silicon in the valley

Just a box of rain.


It's a long-ding-dong time to be gone.


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An old soldier

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 lazy 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, fingering,  lingering);

His eyes rose past the d...

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A fugue in a minor key

Stand here in your own blood,

My brave heart,

Your shadow and I spy

Firm, thick wood.

The dark lights of Christmastide

Afflict us

Red and green sunset drops

Create an awesome flicker

Of candle-light and in the mean time,

We mark the end of the hologram-life.

No disguise

All begins with grief,

Such great wordy statements

Fall through the looking-glass


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A perennial translation

The woman time forgot

Is beautiful today

Moulded in clay, frozen

And unrepentant.

She will tear you apart

With a look, or, maybe, a knife.

This lake by which

She lives is frozen.

Dare we skate

On such thin ice?

Glaciers melt

And water haunts the air

Birds migrate and block the sun

And, still, we have not fled

All that we once remembered

Cities, technolo...

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Had enough

Not fit for purpose

And all their other clichés

Batter down the airways

Assuring us that greed is good

That we can borrow and never repay

Seeping this repetitive, lying shit

Deep into the soul of the nation,

Leaving me marooned

Growing old with the weariness

That travels through the blood:

As I try to pass by these nets

Of race, nationality, class, religion

But ...

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End Times

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. Revelations 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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A change of state

His denim shirt ripped

And blood-stained

It was such a shame

Mick was a dealer, 

A user too;

Smoked what he sold

And sold what he grew

But County lines geezers

Had swamped the north

With the Psychotic stuff,

Packed full of THC but also:

White Nurse, White Stuff, White Junk

Skunk caused, Horse delivered

The knifings 

The knifings

Caused the pain

And t...

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My body is a pebble

And I live on a dark star

On the edge of a black hole

Which I will fall into any day

Now there is a singularity of night

An utter absence of light.

The colours leached away

When I wasn't looking

And now the music is silent too.

What should I do?

The speed of light

Is certainly

Insufficient to escape

From this orbit of gloom

This reconnoitring of grief


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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 is so cold and it still stings like hell

And the sky descends into the air

And, all of a sudden,  you're not there

And the blackness is...

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squirming with words,

squabbling, fighting,

reeling with words

sore with myself.

so sore with myself

a world of regret,


this absence of you.


O! I wish I could turn words into wishes.

O! I wish my days would fall into line

my eyes could rise for you

without the slightest disguise

for you.


Evening is so heavy, the rain has been & gone,


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Quietly, she spoke of tea, toast, the faint after smell of cigars,
Let us say we met in a room: curtained, peeling, private.
Briefly she consulted the winter afternoon,
Reviewed the deadening, leadening sky.

All was discreetly done.
No presences danced beyond no lifted curtains.
Darkness had silted us away.

Words, like spoons, stirred the air.
We slipped into a net of inquisitions.

And al...

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A London view

Emotion recollected in tranquillity

never did quite do it for me:

I see the river Thames,

I see the people flow,

all kinds and conditions,

in rain and sun and snow.


the Green man in Kingsbury,

a pub which abhors the National Front,

or, you may wander in Kew Gardens,

or, you may sometimes have a punt.

Westminster traitors to the north 88

Brixton dreads to...

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Near water

Ordinary life creates

These empty spaces

Inside of me

Composed of God-knows-what:

Certainly lacking in originality.

Pale-blue eyes

On a snow drop face

Seen-through lace,

Seen-through lace.

These empty waiting rooms of the heart,

Set to tear us apart,

These ventricles of the brain, never the same.

Birdsong flung

Into fond recall

A dry-stone wall,

A dry...

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In the apple market

your south London twang

accompanies the many undulations

of time.

Your wild androgyny

mirroring the mirror

of yourself

skimming off the water

of childhood,

like a shaking dog.

You lit up, spot-lighted,

an iridescence of sound


Your songs were the water

I needed;

Your terse verse

spread underground

watering imagin...

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