Poetry Blog by John E Marks (2021)

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keith jeffries on ¡No pasarán (1 day ago)

John Marks on Otro día (2 days ago)

Vautaw on Harvest moon (3 days ago)

andy simons on Grace under pressure (Sat, 13 Feb 2021 11:34 am)

keith jeffries on Grace under pressure (Fri, 12 Feb 2021 10:56 pm)

Brian Hodgkinson on The unsaid (Sat, 6 Feb 2021 10:31 pm)

keith jeffries on February early morning (Mon, 1 Feb 2021 12:51 pm)

Nicola Beckett on These empty streets (Mon, 25 Jan 2021 03:19 am)

Vautaw on These empty streets (Mon, 25 Jan 2021 02:04 am)

Martin Elder on IMPERIUM (Sat, 23 Jan 2021 02:50 pm)

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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End times

They gave us three options: conversion, death or jizya [a special tax for non-Muslims]. We have no money, so we left.


All across the Nineveh plain the lights are being snuffed out.                                                          Crosses driven into the hearts of the last of Mesopotamia’s Christians.

Christians. These Assyrians, speaking Aramaic, the language of Christ,         ...

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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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Spring Blue

Memories  diamonds and rust
nothing more.
time's chasm opens before my sight,
vertigo returns with the Lapis Lazuli night ,
resurrecting lived poetry
of the Byzantimes,  Armenians, Assyrians.

Each civilization allloted supreme value to the blue of lapis lazuli.
Lapis lazuli was used in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BC).

Blue as blue robins' eggs fly, ultramarine, a pigment of supreme ra...

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Ynys Môn



On the north coast of this isle of the druids
I see cliffs sheer, hear gulls scream incessantly,
I know Celtic monks set off from here
In flimsy wooden ships to Ireland
With only their robes, their faith and their blessed literacy.

Their Latin Christian  inheritance was attacked
But never extinguished by invaders:
Angles, Saxons, Jutes, ...

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It is not the cruelty of children that angers me
But that my hesitation to commit the word to air
And, aye, maybe, to the ear, the heart, was treated as an affliction
By those with the polished shoes and starched aprons;
Sometimes I was not even there when they mocked me but I knew
What they did and ‘never-a-bother-it-was-to-me’.
But it was. I was brought up to be brave but inside I was ...

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Terra Nova

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, passions of the heart
Stalk in silence the silence of her heart, faeries take their part.
Forget what you remember, give and never take.
Lift the veil off the mysteries, see the lady of the lake. Silky torn up la...

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A Rhapsody in Blue


Blue as forget-me-not blue
Blue as an Alaskan blueberry
Blue as an English May morn
April egg shell blue.

Endurance is a flower
A bulb in winter’s depth
A rare-repeated wonder:
A sin we must forget.

In this-world-of-my-creation
In this world-of-make-believe:
Cancer, the death of children,
Are fallen autumn leaves.

I see this road before me
A road I walk in vain
A road ...

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Grace under pressure

Feel the ripples of fear
don't hesitate, draw near,
people spend their lives avoiding 'situations',
running away from 'situations'

Consequences of such avoidance - 
sins of omission -
frozen secrets in rocks of ice
leak out into Trilobites
staring out of the deepest past

It is, of course, possible for
any woman or man
to stop this dance of death
by just being who we are,


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High-Rise Flat

pulsing pale waves of mist
kiss, bless,
these distinctions
as fear parades these walkways
as we fade into the rain which seeps through the holes
in the fabric of my heart;
we are torn apart

The road forks as,
streetlights shine,
streets stink of fried food
rats scurry into mind.

These are the concrete estates
of the heart.
high-rise cladding
smoulders invisibly.

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Himalyan Greeks*

Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2011

 Abstracted in Afghanistan
 I pick cankers for a simple
 choose a rhapsody in blue
 love lapis lazuli
 and you.

 I paint the Virgin Mary
 with ultramarine pigment
 extracted from lapis lazuli
 where I am with the brave Kalash,
 in their snow-capped mountains,
 of the Hindu Kush,

 The blue-blue skies
 reflect their blue-green...

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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 moon.

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The old religion of love


I do not think
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, screaming when on fire,
So much screaming, as the flames they get higher:
Hebane, belladonna, mandrake, datura
All of these, like mescaline, can see right through yer.
A br...

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February early morning

Freezing rain soaks my clothes, my hair,
I do not care.  I am not there.
I stare at the mortar
between the crumbling bricks in this old wall
built by the calloused hands of men who’d survived
the Somme. Who’d been called ‘dirty scabs’
in 1929 by striking dockers, miners. They’d hung their heads in shame
but they’d had mouths to feed. They’d taken any work they could obtain.
They’d carv...

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Photo by Carlita Benazito on Unsplash


 When I have been drinking a lot
 The Irish way — night and day — 
 I think who would wish to fall in love?
 You cannot wish it to happen
 Like the sun, once, happened,
 You cannot let someone love you,
 Without smelling early morning 
 dew on a rare May day.
 And if not, well, loneliness is short,
 The important thing is not to hate

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Anna Akhmatova - poet

“You will hear thunder and remember me,
and think: she wanted storms...”
― Anna Akhmatova


She said to me:
If you hear thunder
Pray for me
And remember we loved to listen to a thunderstorm
Whilst we were here in bed together.

Outside, the sky was much the same
the weather drained of color,
shocked into the routine drift and swell
of another rocky road to hell.

The strip of ...

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Covid patient

This thick freezing mist

Lends a heaviness 

To this oft-breathed air.

He was ventilated

For weeks

In the one bed

Whilst life, of a kind,

Continued outside.

It did not matter

How much we cared

We just couldn't be there

With him.

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These empty streets

Photo by Francisco Suarez on Unsplash

 Since new year, I’ve taken to walking these empty streets
 At 3am. So quiet, you’d think a nuclear device had wiped out
 All the people, left the buildings intact.
 Stopped twice by the cops. ‘Can we inquire…’
 You could tell they were English. No less the servants
 Of a repressive state. Told them I was thinking
 They didn’t know what to make of...

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Photo by sanin sn on Unsplash


The best of us British fell on the Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele,
Our luckier cousins had long ago set off across the broad Atlantic
Convicts moved 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 with the spice and ...

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The last time I saw Bill was when I took him to lay a wreath on his wife's grave
Just before Christmas. A week later Bill was dead. Massive heart attack took him dead on cue.
From a single parent family in the 1930s, brought up above a shop, no chances offered, no respect. That was his lot.
He joined the British army as a teenager (a new word then) and toured the trouble spots of the world. He ...

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Our endless numbered days

Sky and sea and land, these three amigos,
 like love and fate,
 lately delayed the day when the dreadful daylight starts
 of unkept promises and broken hearts.

God’s dying conspired to extinguish every ounce of youth and beauty
 to send us scurrying to the heaven-sent skies,
 or some dreamy city of the sultry south,
 where word of mouth only carries a smidgen of meaning,
 and that’s ...

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Summer snow

 “Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
― Dante Alighieri, Inferno

A rose in December,
 snows in July,
 as far as we know
 the unexpected will die.

 Common sense has infirmities
 deformities, affinities,
 with pie in the sky;
 we seek to get by.

Nothing happens too late
 that isn’t taboo
 a floating moon slips
 above stone-built walls,
 a story of ...

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Gorffwysfa* - Welsh, place of recovery 

This is the place of recovery
This is where we begin again.
Amharic text reminds us,
As we live beneath the sun,
That she was a warrior,
An Amazon on the run.

When sky was black and yellow as gold,
She was dragged across the sunless sea
By men without a soul:
Her stories and her narrations,
Her lives as yet untold
Were dumped inside a slavers...

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29 May 1453 - 11 September 2001

Waiting for the barbarians is over:
A whiter shades of pale, pretty traces of lace,
Reveal in opal-sluminosity these late Romans,
Their indigo-dream, red with gore on this bloody May Day
Arabian savagery negates their absorption into the timeless
Creation of Constantinople’s drift and swell,
Elysium’s perfumed garden of lucidity broken by
Mehmed’s Turkic desecration, his sweltering road to ...

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Body on a beach


There’s a body on a mid-winter beach
Bloated by sea water, battered by waves,
The skin an indeterminate grey but the DNA
Gives it away: stomach distended, flesh declined,
Soul departed, a package of flesh left behind,
With seaweed dancing from her open mouth
That once kissed another, a mother, a lover.
Spoke words of comfort to the dying, bereaved:
Religion indeterminate, national...

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Stormy weather

Photo by Breno Machado on Unsplash


In the year-of-our-Lord 1972,

there’s only so much reading one can do,

only 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

through time and space: 

in hospital, at the grave-side, through tattered l...

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Woody is a dog

He does doggy things

And sleeps like a log.

Just at the moment

He’s barking in a mirror

Every time he looks again

That damn dog gets thinner.

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Pulsing waves of mist,
a pale kiss & bless you,
as we walk along
these walkways in the sky
rain seeps through the holes
in the cladding
(we've heard that word a lot, of late)
straight into my heart, so scared are we.
Streetlights shine
on a town like Malice,

behind the eye-line:
rats scurry
this estate blooms
with youths who
screech while seagulls see
the black...

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Beneath this beach of sand, shells ,sea
A permanent loss of happiness, awaits me
I see this image of the rolling sea.
A new-found-land frames and hides
These wide horizons; I walk along the cliff:
Sheer drop upon the windward side,
Embedded trilobites hide beneath my feet.
Quartz and Muscovite from the granite
Weathered by winds and by waves
Sea-formed outcrops, hidden rocks, caves.

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Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash


 Blue-valley whisper,
 thoughts rarely derive,
 blue-valley mutations,
 evolved and alive.

 The music is frugal,
 and spreads like a stain,
 left-behinds remain.

 Heredity heralds
 our sun-blasted days,
 immune to the shadows
 of our wavering gaze.

 Such sun-blind imaginings
 can ping off your eyes,
 breath-in then breath-out

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ICU doctor

Yet ghost prints are on our lawn
 and wilderness is in the wood,
 lurking in coughing fits of blood.

‘Annals of Cartmel’ 1872 by James Stockdale


Melanie from rural Bohemia, in the Czech republic,
Saving lives in Oldham. Fighting Covid
Like her grandparents fought the Nazis
like her parents fought the Russians.
After a 12 hour shift, she knew exactly
how the moisture hidden in the...

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The sting

A cold and dreary December rain
Poured down again, pitch black,
By 3.30pm, here in the sodding north.
He thought 'I'm within striking distance'
'I'm that close'. The ghost-voice of fear,
Was in his ear, but he ploughed on,
Taking out his phone, he found her number
Regardless. Logged on to their special site.
Left a message, as agreed, he was only 14,
After all. She replied with just a kis...

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Revising the rain


Photo by Anant Jain on Unsplash

She knew from the very start
Which mountain the sun came from
For eyes can be deceiving in rain.
Fountains are rain corralled by man 
I’m tempted into sleeping on your neck. 
A servitude of roses.
In which green bay does the rolling sea spy on me
That’s deep, but not at all clear. Like seawater,
Salty lagoons on tropical oslands are lost on me.

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