Poetry Blog by John E Marks (2020)

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An Irish love poem

Dallying in the evening wild, studded with barbed wire,
My mind takes a turn for the worse.
Oak trees help me flee to the world I need
My mind is soaking up this new year’s eve 
Your slow gaze onto this solitary page
Releases the frame of my bondage to the world
Now only the mind can release the tension of the moment
My imagination leaps, frees my broken body,
into the dream of transmi...

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The worried well

Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi


Gripped by the foreboding
Of a nascent dread
We watched as our liberties
were stripped away
Whilst chains of transmission
Decreased the space where some felt  safe.
Forced many back between four walls
Appalled at their own weakness
The worried well can go to hell.


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The Unwritten

The times of wonder gone
The wise women drugged
Into submission.
 First Peoples neglected
Their land abused.
Forensic psychology reveals traces
Of long-forgotten faces
Which, 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 pr...

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Ritual slaughter

Halal and  Kosher
Ritual means of slaughter.
Sanctioned by religion.
Such savage butchery.
I swallow my frustration.
Stick a smile upon my face
Make a face to meet
The faces I meet
Pretend I'm neat and tidy
As we do. But not tolerant
Not of this unalloyed cruelty.
We are in a shocking state of blue-hypocrisy
If we let people do, as some people do..
Look in the slaughter house
All col...

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Redemption song

“He who kisses joy as it flies by will live in eternity's sunrise.”
― William Blake


It is easy to walk away from faith

Harder to climb back on board

The ship of faith as it navigates these stormy seas.

The scientific sage of this secular age

Associates blind faith with barbaric ignorance

Murder, in the name of God.

True faith links us to childhood innocence

To Wordsw...

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Cancel culture

His headstone verses writ in water
Draw the eye unto the fact of death
Nothing left, bereft. Except the words.
Lichen lines that love-and-only-love remembers.

All we knew was the deepest blue of
This good man’s eyes. It is written in blood
That mortal love will always end like this. Time
weathers the stonemason’s art to a flat palimpsest
of hieroglyphics which resemble not the zest

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In the house of the rising sun

Let's away to the blue mountains
To the elegaic music of loss when 
the sun above us burns the mists away
as we walk into the valley of youth.  
Today, I will walk the blue mountains of forgetting,
Just a wall above the far-horizons of delight,
no closer after five days of tramping the fields;
for five days I kept going whilst knowing futility
in every pore, I just  keep going and going.

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Photo by Mario Rodriguez on Unsplash


 The extenuation of time into rhyme
 The devil’s in the detail 
 A confusion of contusions, a microbial illusion,
 A stretching out of meaning so that
 As soon as sad-so-sad covid rears its ugly head
 A crying game ensues, tears shed
 Mood into an Aztec-under-the-volcano
 Cacophony of rumblings of stars, bowels,
 Owls’ uncertain stutterings ...

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A Sufi Saint contemplates his imminent dissolution

Goodbye my Sufi friends and lovers
Nothing exists to connect you to me
Tayyar is honourable, full of good intent
I will rise from the trap of the world
I will not ask you to be my servant in paradise
You are my dancer, I am your poet, we laugh
Together on days when we taste the rain.
When you sew, I  watch you and fall in love
Again I remember our first meeting
Amongst the sweet smell...

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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 mankind
Time shears t...

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A love supreme

This whiskey priest
Grits his teeth at human fallibilities,
Frailty is just that  I drink the stuff,
But with a holy glimmer of delight
No guilt, no sleight of conscience
Or of hand, just the taste of heaven
The  more often I drink Fuisce Baile,
plain n rough
The tougher I become. Rum..
Whiskey, old-Irish say, Uisce Beatha,
Means the water of life in the Gaelic,
And in Druid...

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Flogging a dead horse


Photo by Pieter van Noorden on Unsplash

Early on in Dostoevsky’s great work Crime and Punishment,
Published in 1866 when Dostoevsky was 44 years old,
Raskolnikov, an ex-student in St Petersburg, sees himself as a young boy,
Walking through a provincial town with his father.
Outside a pub, a drunken rabble surround a weary old horse,
Hitched to a weighty cartload that it cannot pos...

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The lost boys


The red-gold glow of stormy autumn fades into winter
As  leafy-mist lights this mid-December dawn recalling me, 
in-curiously, to the design hidden in words. 
Words whirl like smoke signals rising from a fire, from a gun, 
from a life tended by an old man in a blacked out suit 
the front of which, bedecked with medals, is time-ridden.
 He is missing, gone missing, in 1914.


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No mobile phones,
In the zone of the dead,
No wi-fi signal 
Even his venial sins were left unsaid.

Such a blither and a blather
Of the blessed signal
Emanates from masts, alone on a hill,
Veering from Porn Hub to Politics' thrill
                               God! I told you before, I'd much rather be ill.                                      

Is telecommunicat...

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In rings of bright water
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 and whites and blues,
A chiaroscuro, tussling these monochromes
Into the piebald skies of heaven above.

Below, girls in mucky summer dresses,
Chase boys with unruly mothers,

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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, bored enough
To score an attendance at his own wake, and to read more 
From Joyce’s work-in-progress The Finnegan’s Wake.
Anybody who has ever passed through the doors of perception
Will be changed, changed utterly...

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The second Armenian genocide, 2020


President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Wednesday, September 28, that a proxy of Syrian fighters has been deployed from southern Turkey To Azerbaijan.

 The war has now begun
 And will end in the holy city
 Of Jerusalem.
 And many will burn their eyes
 Before she is done, or dies.

 The Turks refuse to accept the Armenian genocide of 1915. Now, in 2020
 Armenians are, again, bei...

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Photo by Jerry Wang on Unsplash


 Ghost writing the sting of the wind
 Shivering spring day
 Reminds me of my
 Ancestors who rode
 This way
 Battling this same wind
 As they trudged to the pit
 On early shift.

This connection, now, is
 Deep, sunk into my blood,
 In all that I mean
 When I say these words
 In tones that rhyme.

Words that would’ve
 Carried meaning s...

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Lonely as a ghost
hit by a train,
quite the same

six beers in
this stinkin' sin of despair
contaminates the very air;
rain smears and soaks
everywhere, I turn

to face the future
i need stitches, a suture,
to hold the pain at bay

the ventricles of the heart
never dreamed that we would part




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Moments of the past do not last
days kicked into the long grass
A warm early-summer’s day
gold petals into bloom today.

For God’s sake!
stormy-autumn comes
later, flurries of snow melt
into a body without  heat

Frozen snow above
tumbling-heaps of red, gold, brown
that used to crisp-crackle underfoot
like old ghosts who lose their threads,

Druggies:  their fragile, thin

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Born again

Do no harm: sin, or virtue, are secondary to this injunction. Deadly sins of poverty, hypocrisy, abound. Don’t let red anger blossom in you. Nor black despair. Keep blood in your cheeks. Do not let desire dictate your life. But make your heart beat faster; spread the laughter. Do not promulgate the short fuses of envy or jealousy. Vanity offers only a pretended life: stripped of gentleness and str...

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Look at these lines – fishing for compliments –
Hooked, they drag us back.
Leave us squirming on the dry bank:
Palpitating, bruised from the fight.

Removing the pin from the mouth
It’s a painful business. But worthwhile.
Who’ll throw us back in to sink or swim?

Alone, we wriggle to the edge then flop
The shock of contact leaves us breathless.

It’s hostile here. But we feel. We ...

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Christianity being their greatest foe. In A. D. 634 they slaughtered thousands of Christians in Syria. Monasteries were ransacked and the monastics and the people were put to the sword. Beheadings were considered the preferred way for executions of those who resisted them.


rich metaphors drawn from the sky and sea
rich funereal language, baptism, burial and birth,
blossom and harvest, wi...

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Before and After

We live and love among other worlds,
I expect the end of the world,  
If it comes to find me,
Into what, I do not know.
I may write a poem to mark this transition
But I may be silent. Which is a relief. For some.
I think that I have the means and inclination
To make the attempt to be better than I am.
Though I know my wife is better still than I can ever be .
It is not easy for me to have...

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The remains

What remains is writ in water,
writ again in the purpled gardens of the mind,
viewed in the tattered remnants of adversity,
unresurrected, in all honesty, undead.

Hands around your lover’s waist,
kissing her waif-face,
eyes shining with tears,
mouth tasting of brandy,
swilling around memories.

A ghost dog sits on the gravestone
looking at the azure ocean,
remembering the battle for ...

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The inarticulate love of country

Y'know what I mean?
The BBC battering on about the redundancies
Whilst ripping off millions of over-75 OAPs
They're milch cows, uncomplaining, easy meat, 
For the most-part old poorish decent folk having to fork  out for BBC licences
Meanwhile, on the BBC radio pretend socialists witter on about minorities, again,
While collecting thousands of pounds an hour
Before shifting out of Salford b...

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Two days before he died
At night, in the rain,
I shared a cigarette with my brother, Pete,
We talked of nothing, of everything,
I knew I loved him,
But not so much.

Death, he said to me, isn’t anything,
Nothing more than
Bird-song when you listen
Real close.

I told him he was a bad liar
And had he been talking to those doctors ...

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Redemption song


I can hardly speak but I try:
my brain falls silent, still
it is the dying of the day
when a ferment of tenses
leads me up many cold-cut cul de sacs..

I linger on a moonlight-figure
palely mirroring the sparkling frost,
she’s gone but never lost.

Suspicious of the silences within
outside is wild, the colour of blood
soaks into the sky.
A barge meanders down the river
on a ...

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Johnny Keats and the Footloose Cavaliers

Melancholy's lack of zest
is written all over the palimpsest
of a young medical doctor-poet
who died at twenty-five and will, to some,
hardly seem to have been alive at all

But look at his writing
Johnny Keats and the footloose Cavaliers
lived for poetry, music, kisses, tears
eschewing self-pity or suicide
they tried their best to stay alive..

No crossing of the river Lethe
no seeki...

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this is a satire of sorts
as I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into tunnels of my own making,

over the wind-swept bridges,
I force myself through cold, wet air
through the sedentary, school-less
villages of the old and moneyed classes
into the land of my enemies
conservatives who conserve nothing

this is wh...

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The stolen child

"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand."

William Butler Yeats, 


I remember falling  as a child

Being lifted by a faery-wild;

She kissed my cheek and mussed my hair

And then she wasn’t there.


Some blind folk see the faeries clear,

For faeries are always close or ...

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French kissing


“Love is so short, forgetting is so long..” Pablo Neruda, ‘Love’


For example, I might say.one fine evening when I was sixteen
Not stuck in rowdy pubs with dazzling chandeliers,
But walking with her, carelessly, by the river..
We promenade under beech trees
Everything smells so good, so fragrant,
When you are young,.the air is so sweet
You close your eyelids and we kiss;
The win...

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My Sweetheart the Drunk

When I look into the mirror

I do not see my face

I see the ghosts behind me,

Trailing blood and lace.


I excuse my misapprehension,

I apologise for my fault,

I'd love to fully explain

My face, my persona, my whole gestalt.


But I aint a good prose writer

I cannot see the end

I  always hear the thunder,

It is deep within my heart,

Trying to tear me apart


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A Rainy September


This rose for all the world
For you,
These tears for all the dead,
Those empty words of morning tide
This ever-present dread.

Those cloying smells of perfume,
On the dresses of the rich,
This workman stumbling
His body in a ditch.


September's moon still shining,
On this old planet's doom,
Her wind and tide conspiring:
A chill invades the room.



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Feed your head

Skylark songs lit up America
fifty years ago, on a windswept moor,
songbirds-skylarks soar into the Woodstock air
we were there
now, we trudge through memories.

Her coat was brown with feathers
she sang songs too warm, too hot for today
still, I have that evening tucked away,
in my book of wonderland music,
let's soak up words, enable the dead to speak,
like scissor sisters in whit...

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Red-gold glow of stormy autumn
oughter-fade into winter
as leafy-mist lights this late
November dawn recalling me,
incuriously from insomnia,
O! the design hidden in words,
like smoke signals
rising from a gun, from a fire  drawing fire.

Tended by an old man in a black suit
the front of which, bedecked with medals,
is time-ridden by an absence missing,
gone  missing, in 1916.


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For Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones

" Beautiful spirits on underdogs sides."

You two had the temerity to trust to justice

To plough your young years into uncovering justice

Even for those for whom criminal justice had thrown away 

The key, trusting that everybody deserves a second chance.

You were learning together with men who'd never

Been offered empathy or kindness. Men who now look

To your example of tre...

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Roman de la rose

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash


Sky and sea and land, three old amigos,
overlap like love and hate and fate, but then……… the dreadful daylight starts of unkept promises and broken hearts….god’s dying to fix you up, y’know….but, unfortunately, those damned gombeen men conspire to extinguish every ounce of youth and beauty in poor folk, whether in this life or in some dreamy city of t...

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The time of our lives

Charlie and I walked our post-cancer walks
Down this narrow stretch of green in the city
For a full decade. Now he's gone, I must carry on.
We aged together, blended into each other,
Man and Dog. He recognized the smells, me the sights,
But his life was shorter than mine. That afflicted me like
A sentence. Very few minutes passed
Without me thinking of that.  He connected me to the

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Milk and Honey

They'd tried to take the sting out of death
A grassy meadow, secluded plot, trees
Which are often exactly what we need
But not now. Now we needed a New Orleans
Blues band blasting out the fact that life is short
And can be glorious, but not for Jim. No, not for Jim.
Too many desertions.Too many lapses in care.
Too often nobody there to help him pick up the pieces.
To begin again, it all be...

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For Kassia: a bold and beautiful Byzantine poet

The love of adultery is a sin of man

Devised to ruin the goodness of woman,

It is a temptation that must accept

The full springs of your tears.

As you, who bring the rain to wash us clean,

And to make us fresh again,

Bow down to the sighs of my weeping heart.

You altered the realm of being

By your incomprehensible incarnation.

And now the followers of a desert seer


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Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Christmas roses bloom in the dying of the light
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, when granny was alive.

Was the yellow reflected on your chins?
No, these flowers resemble wild roses — poisonous to humans –
helleborus niger macranthus –
 enough to tangle any t...

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An unholy roar began to build
That cherry blossom day

Thunder in the air
Then, miraculously, quiet.

A low rumble, a terrible tremor,
A move towards total devastation
Of the air, on that day
When the earth began to shake.

All the skies of all the world were scorched with fire

And the air exploded
Fusing flesh with flesh
Into a whiteness
From which the dark shadow of a child

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No place to be

Yeah, I were a soldier me, constantly, for years, still am now I’m on me arse. All these gobshites with their feckin poppies. I see watermelon smiles — to the ears, not the eyes, unexploded ieds — women-with tanned arms walking for miles. Men with children on their backs … jumping into the sea without thinking, to avoid me, the army. Mebbe someone, some being, somewhere, will save me? From what? M...

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An inception into art

The clear gaze of another day
Takes me wherever I do not want to go
Up hill, down dale, tumbling a-go-go.
He is my best friend, since I was a boy,
The wave of his kind eyes
As he says goodbye, his thin hair, his worry lines,
His photos, removed
Under the wings of the laughing birds
I comment upon what is past and gone
He  focuses upon the afternoon moon
I drink beer, he smokes some skunk

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A withering

Shrivelled, exposed, cold,
Warps and wefts waste away
the body afflicted with decay
O!, I say,  the hey-ho way, of the live-long-day.
Whatever has lived
Will wither, languish, and decay.
Time  pines us away
aghast in a quagmire of guilt, regret
spilt water, wine? I forget
which itch of memory did the damage.

No transubstantiation this,
no move into immortal bliss:
this work of resi...

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Along the Unhallowed way

This old bloke pushes t'other old bloke in a wheelchair

Down a dreary Salford road, avoiding kerbs, talking

Always talking, talking of nothing, talking of everything:

What it takes and never gives back. The load.


With wheels of fire and halos running all amuck

These two desperados meander along past

The pound shops and the bookies and the booze 24/7ers

They know all t...

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For the stoic and the silent

For the Alberts & the Adas and the Agathas & Alfs,
For the host and crowd of ‘old ‘uns’ ‘going south’.
For the stoics and the silent, for the quietly afraid;
For those who’ve always known the outcome’s  - grave

Thank God!
For those who disapprove, of everything I say
But who’ll defend my right to say it night and day.
When priest or rabbi or imam degenerates into hate
“Écrasez l’infâme!” a...

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When the poet ceases singing


When the poet ceases singing
There’s an end to everything:
Birds in the trees, music,
Tones and timbre, plangent and deep,
Tempests flare in the mind of man
Foreshadow that terrible realisation
That you too have followed this same cliff path
On nights of luminosity and in the darkness-drear
Of night. Mother, father, lover, friend
Swoon towards the moon in triumph
Or despair. Or ...

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His headstone verses were writ in water
They draw the eyes unto the fact of death.
Lichen lines love-and-only-love remembers.
All we knew was the deepest blue
Of a good man’s eyes. It is written in our blood
That mortal love will always end like this. Time
Weathers the stonemason’s art to a flat palimpest
Of hieroglyphics which resemble not the zest
Of pumping blood. Stones do not r...

Read and leave comments (0)

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