#6 – ‘O for a beaker full of the warm South’

O for a beaker full of the warm South

Surely sashimi is a haiku on a plate;
the dark translucent red of tuna, soft in the mouth,
and edged with green wasabi.

It’s tempting to believe that cultures
tell themselves in food; to dip a spoon
into a gumbo thick with sassafras
and claim to taste the swamp,
lynchings and jazz.

In austere Iran, land of sun, cement and ayatollahs,
black-veiled women make
coffee fragrant with cardamom,
tea of rose petals or aniseed,
lamb with cinnamon and apricots,
saffron rice, sweet and jewelled with fruit,
and, with everything, green herbs – coriander, fenugreek,
tarragon, parsley, mint and dill, in pilafs, omelettes, yoghurt
and, on the table, bunched to chew with bread.


#5 – ‘Crow’


Dark as the sky and strong as salt,
   the oldest of birds is Crow.
His name is death to all who live
   in the trees and the snow.

His beak and mind are sharp as flint
   and subtler than the breeze.
He calls the thunder, and his song
   is the falling of trees.


#4 – ‘The Thames’, lithotint, 1896

Oops! I posted this over at PFFA and forgot to post it here as well.

The Thames, lithotint, 1896

The river reflects a watery light,
diffused through fog and coalsmoke.

On his balcony at the Savoy,
Whistler brushes tusche onto limestone,
trying to catch the greys of stone and water
in a wash of grease and lampblack.

His wife lies on the couch inside
in a restless opium sleep. Her skin is pale
and her eyes are smudged with shadows.
The cancer eats away at her.

One by one, the gaslights flicker on.
Hansoms clop on the Enbankment.
Whistler works to differentiate
the shades between dark and light.


#3 – ‘why I didn’t write a poem’

I wrote
an oak is a malignant acorn

but the new hornbeam leaves were opening
like tiny fans.

I really will try and manage something rather longer soon. Harry


#2 – ‘A Lesson Unlearnt’

‘A Lesson Unlearnt’

There is some stupid part of me
that still expects
a cigarette
to be a cool blue draught
curling past teeth and tongue

so after a few pints
I sometimes scrounge one
and surprise myself again
with the nauseating tang of them.


#1 – ‘House’


Above the hall of dancing horses
windows rattle in their frames
and bishops wager the resources
of the Church on parlour games.

The rats that scurry in the chapel
gnaw the walls to make their nests;
as Eve is reaching for the apple
babies squirm behind her breasts.