#23 – Orphosis


Some body hair and a deeper speaking voice
seem poor reward
for thirteen years of dutiful
eating and shitting.

Boys should pupate,
and claw their way from the chrysalis
transformed into kaleidoscopic manhood.
Or at the least should
slough their skins,
peel off their old selves
and step out sleek and bright.

napowrimo sitrep

I’ve decided to try to get to thirty poems, but loosen the time constraints. Just FYI.

#22 – ‘the little screen’

On the little screen
that shows the progress of the flight
Europe is a blob of green
between the beige and blue and white.

Sand and sea and snow,
expanses that once defined
the limits of the known,
the limits of the mind.

We no longer need to wonder
at the unfamiliar;
the wild places just pass under
while we drink our cans of beer.

#21 – ‘Too much espresso…’

Too much espresso
on an empty stomach.
I’d almost forgotten what it’s like;
the jitteriness, the edges of the world exaggerated,
so each lamp-post is a monolith
against the sky.

How wise he was,
that Ethiopian goatherd who, seeing
that the berries of a certain bush
had made his flock
go wild-eyed and nervous,
decided he should try them.

He understood that sometimes, people need
to be uneasy in their skulls,
to whet their senses until
they can almost see
all Plato’s demons in the walls.

#20 – ‘extreme sports videos…’

Extreme sports videos
are always better with the sound turned off:
a restless arrangement of white and blue.
And at the centre, a twisting figure
fighting to find the simple path
through chaos.

Now three days behind. Oh well.

#19 – kitty ditty

How did I get two days behind? Oh well.

Kitty Ditty

Kitten pie, kitten pie,
it makes me sad, I don’t know why;
perhaps because their lives were brief;
perhaps the fur caught in my teeth.

#18 – Tarifa


It seems like this should be
one of the great myth-places of the world;
where the churning grey of the Atlantic meets
the winedark Mediterranean,
where Europe extends towards
an Africa which seems so close
that Jesus could lean out across the Strait
and share a manly handshake
with Muhammed.

It’s not, of course. It’s just
a windy beach resort
where sunburnt men in flipflops
drink caipirinhas and discuss the surf.

Cultural geography is not so literal-minded.
Europe can as easily meet
Africa in the plantations of Jamaica,
or Islam in a tunnel under London.

Perhaps a landscape should not mean, but be;
a curve of bluegreen water
breaking against the beach,
thistles flowering on the sand dunes.

#17 – ‘The mysterious…’

The mysterious translucence of candied peel
is a proof of the existence of God.
Stained glass just does the same thing,
See also: rainbows, sunsets,
and backlit copper beech trees
in the spring.

#16 – a bit of Lorca. Sorta.

This requires a note of explanation. I thought I’d have a go at doing a version of one of Lorca’s Sonnets of Dark Love that maintained the form. I only managed the first quatrain, but it looks enough like a stand-alone poem that it’ll do. The poem this is taken from is much more interesting than my slightly wishy-washy rendering of the first four lines would suggest, but hey-ho. The Spanish for translate is ‘traducir’ and I can’t help feeling I’ve traduced a bit here, but never mind, he’s been dead for 70 years, so it can’t do him much harm.

I must not lose the mystery
of the polished stone of your eyes,
or the mark that is left upon me
by the rose of your midnight sighs.

Lorca is definitely worth reading; I was particularly struck by the Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, of what I’ve read so far.

#15 – ‘Poetry is a prestidigitation…’

Poetry is a prestidigitation
of the tongue;
wordy gesticulation
designed to misdirect,
distract, deceive
and help the audience believe
you really do have nothing up your sleeve;
to make it clear
an elephant can disappear,
a rabbit can become a bunch of flowers
and a rose can be
death, or purity,
or love,
or all of the above.

#14 – a skipping rhyme

A Skipping Rhyme

These are the end times
how do I know?
Three little birdies
told me so.
‘Death’ said the robin
‘Famine’ said the wren
‘Plague’ said the sparrow
and just then
who came along
but old Jack Daw
and all four together said
‘War! War! War!’


5 6 7
8 9 10
back to the start
and go again

#13 – a poet’s lament

A Poet’s Lament

I should try to write something good
instead of all this froth;
I should search out some inner flame
then find my inner moth.

napowrimo status report

I have been doing my napowrimo poems, but they won’t be up here until some occasion when I feel like putting them here. Just so you know.

#12 – two squibs

I spent about two hours in a bar staring at an empty notebook, and all I could come up with were these two bits of nonsense:

The Blonde Waitress

Although the conversation barely slows,
a dozen pairs of eyes watch where she goes.

Intelligent Design Explained

Creating both man and disease
might seem a tad ironic;
but think, without malaria,
we’d have no gin and tonic.

napowrimo 4-10. Or something.

I can´t work out how to do a hash sign on a Spanish keyboard. Ho-hum. In fact all the punctuation seems to be in the wrong place. I also notice that on IE version whatever this is, the site is displaying incorrectly. Fucking Microsoft. Why don´t they have Firefox anyway?

It doesn´t seem fair to do napowrimo this way, I shouldn´t have to read my poemy things a whole week after writing them. Here we go.

Who could ever hope to silla
finer city than Sevilla?
The architecture has no pilla.
So let us give three chillas
and have some billas
and Tilla Marillas
and watch the picadors thrust their spillas
into the quivering rillas of stillas.
Tired of Sevilla?
Never filla.
Cordoba is very nilla.

a short one:

The bath is short, so I lie
like a toppled buddha
to wash the sand from my hair.

another short one. Most of them are…

Sometimes kindly reality, to spare us thought,
behaves exactly as we think she ought;
a group of children with untidy clothes and hair
play untidy football in a sandy Spanish square.

A double dactyl:

Windhover Schmindhover
Falco tinnunculus
Angel of Death to the
mice on the hill;

whirring his wingtips so
scurrying critters are
bent to his will.

no title:

a leaf turns
in the breeze

a leaf turns
in the water

a leaf turns
in the mind

a sparrow bathing in the dust

Finally one *with* a title

The Andalusi Notebook

I know why the sky is blue / and why moths fly into flames.

These are not metaphors.

The caged bird sings for the same reason as the uncaged.
All insight is reductionist.

Whether I believe that is irrelevant.

I am writing this at night, outside a bar next to an olive tree that is claimed to be the oldest in Europe.
I am drinking red wine.
There are horse tethered nearby.

All that is also irrelevant.

Things that have died in my lifetime:
the typewriter;
the Pope;

The death of the typewriter was the death of Modernism.

The death of Yugoslavia was the death of Modernism.

The death of the Pope was the death of Modernism.

Nearly there…

Pour on water, pour on water

St Paul´s is burning.
Slabs of stone fall inward
from the dome.
Swifts twist for moths
among the smoke.

A bronze sword lies in the thick silt.

No title, again.

It purifies:
the slow white heat of the south
that presses on the land
until by afternoon
only the bees are moving
in the thyme.
The soul is left dry and bleached
like the skull of a horse.

and a clerihew for luck:

Federico Garcia Lorca
was a prolific talker
who would frequently recite
long, long, long into the night.

#3 – Cloisonné Flycatcher

I think there’s a good poem somewhere in the idea of a field-guide. This is not that poem; I would need to spend some more time working out what overall effect to go for. But that’s napowrimo for you; can’t afford to think things through.

Cloisonné Flycatcher Muscicapa umbraticola

L11-27cm Nests in dense clumps of burdock or chervil, under the eaves of hospices, or in the crevices of drystone walls of slate or limestone. A scarce autumnal visitor to Northern Europe; in Britain confined to Renfrewshire and the Welsh Marches. Sometimes seen on migration hunting for spiders along canal towpaths.

Identification Smallish flycatcher with upright stance and fretful manner. ♂ made unmistakable by tarblack head, lilac throat and poppyred primaries fringed with gold. The ♀, a muted greyish-brown, is sometimes mistaken for Concrete Starling, Dingy Swift or Broad-beaked Warbler, but distinguishable by ticcing head motion and skulking habit.

Voice Generally quiet. Alarm call a rasping frep-frep. Song, delivered from a thorn or chimney-top, a slow, tuneless ‘clü-clü.. cli ti titi-tu’ (‘Baker, Baker, tell me where I am’).

#2 – Epigram

Not in good poetry-writing form today, so this will have to do:


Footballers are messengers of death;
a few short years from clear-eyed youth
to stiff and out of breath.

#1 – Siesta

Well, here we go again. Napowrimo poem #1 for 2006 is a ‘translation’ of a poem by Antonio Machado. I don’t speak Spanish (I was working with a prose translation and a dictionary), I haven’t attempted to maintain rhyme or metre, and I’ve allowed myself a degree of freedom. I’m by no means convinced by the result, but it was interesting to do. Here’s the original:

En Memoria de Abel Martín

Mientras traza su curva el pez de fuego
junto al ciprés, bajo el supremo añil,
y vuela en blanca piedra el niño ciego,
y en el olmo la copla de marfil
de la verde cigarra late y suena,
honremos al Señor
– la negra estampa de su mano buena –
que ha dictado el silencio en el clamor.

Al Dios de la distancia y de la ausencia,
del áncora en la mar, la plena mar …
Él nos libra del mundo – omnipresencia –,
nos abre sendar para caminar.

Con la copa de sombra bien colmada,
con este nunca lleno corazón,
honremos al Señor que hizo la Nada
y ha esculpido en la fe nuestra razón.

And here’s my version:


In memory of Abel Martín

While the burning fish carves its arc
beside the cypress, under the utmost indigo,
and the blind boy fades into the bleached stone,
and in the elm the green cicada’s bone-white song
rolls and throbs,
let us give honour to the Lord
– the dark incisions of his good hand –
that ordered silence in the tumult.

To the God of distance and absence,
of the anchor in the open sea…
He releases us from the world – is everywhere –
opens to us a path to walk.

With a glass brimful of shadow,
with this never-full heart,
let us honour the Lord who made Nothing
and whittled our reason out of faith.