Poem in Visual Verse

This is another of those strange images Visual Verse excels in, that inspires nothing at first, but generally ends up provoking something. Thank you to the editors for liking this loopity-loop poem.

Space sponge

Is it a plane, is it a bird,
or a loofah lost in space,
polyped and poulped, médused,
bewitched, bothered, bewildered etc,
Zeppelin-bellied, hoola-hooped,
playing the game
of who gets thrown out of the basket next?

Or a shipwrecked baguette,
sunken, spongified,
among figments and fantasies
of Aldebaran’s nightmares?

Coleridge would have known the answer,
seen it drifting on purple wings
among egrets and flamingos,
where he lay dreaming in a blue haze,

he’d have whispered it in Dorothy’s ear,
who would have whispered it in Willy’s,
who would have yawned and asked her
for another dozen fried eggs,
yellow and glistening
as a host of dandelions after the rain.


Poem in Visual Verse

My poem for this month’s ekphrastic challenge is up in Visual Verse. You can see the image here.

Misky pointed out that we were both in this edition, and reading through the rest of the poems already published, I see that Merril and Kerfe are also there. Must be a first.

Not swimming, drowning

An early memory, the municipal swimming baths.

Grandma said, everyone can swim,
so I ran, raced, leaped into the smooth,
silky softness of the deep water.

I remember silver ripple-lights on the surface,
silver not blue, the smack,
and I felt the water wrap its arms
around me, pulling me down, feet threshing,

legs not mine threshing,
bubbles, a mass of chiming bubbles
and the gag of chlorine.

An older girl pulled me out,
left a child-fish gasping on the side,
mouth gaping, spewing water,
and the silver ripples winked innocently.

She has no face in my memory, just a shape,
lithe, a dark costume but I remember
the water’s eyes, unrepentant.

They had death in them, callous
as black leather trenchcoats
with winking ripples at the lapels,

and I have never forgotten.

¡ Ya hemos pasado !

A poem I wrote to the rather unlikely photo that was this month’s prompt from Visual Verse. They didn’t want it, but after the time I spent working out how to type upside down exclamation marks, I can’t let it go to waste. You can see the pic and read the selected poems (of which Kerfe’s is one) here.

¡ Ya hemos pasado !

Ils ne passeront pas !
said Général Nivelle of the Germans at Verdun.
No passarán !
said La Pasionaria of Franco and his traitors.
You shall not pass!
echoed Gandalf.

And today, in or out of reality,
what do we have to add?
You can fuck right off!
This is mine, and it’s staying mine!
Go home, you’re not coming here!

Will this be our contribution to the fight for liberty,
our barricades be walls and gunboat patrols?
Will we take to the streets
only to protest against compassion?

No worse perhaps than those who went before,
our hands are no bloodier.
The past too was cruel and brutal,
and we are kinder to kittens.

Perhaps our crime is indifference,
because horror is banal,
our passions vicarious,
enacted on a screen,
voyeurs of a virtual existence.

Visual Verse

Kerfe has just pointed out to me that we both had pieces selected to appear in last month’s Visual Verse magazine. I hadn’t noticed. Kerfe’s poem and my short prose piece are together, which has happened before and I like that. You can read mine here.

The Quai de Brazza at Bordeaux has been tidied up beyond recognition. From a crumbling relic of the city’s past glory as a rich commercial port, the overgrown cobbles and tramlines have been covered in tarmac paths for cyclists to whizz along, screaming at walkers to get out of the way. There are lawns where colonising saplings were starting a forest, and the old port warehouses are fancy coffee shops or boho hangouts.

It seems like a terrible shame to me, but land is expensive in the city and if there’s a buck to be made, someone will work out how.


What with Paul Brookes’ poetry challenge and NaPoWriMo, I didn’t get around to posting this one that was published in April’s Visual Verse. Thanks to the team for choosing it.


I wonder what she’s trying to prove,
the statue, athlete, red, her perfect symmetry.
Like the tiger, she burns bright.

I wonder why they put her there,
looking out to sea, poised like Nijinsky,
juggling with her Olympic hoops.

Who is she gesturing at across the sunset
water, where ordinary folk like me come
to watch the tide come in?

With her hoops and her unitard, red
as blood, I can almost hear her shout,
but I don’t understand the words.

It’s only when the sun goes down, and
the rays slant across the water, slipping
through the hoops, pinning her to the sky,

and the gulls circle in a mocking wreath
about her head, and the tide rises and slops
around her points, that I understand—

the posturing is clutching at past glories,
a blind Arno Breker gathering only
indifference, points, poise, irrelevant.

Such immensity of water can never be conquered,
no matter how much red she spills, how high she holds
her banners. The crowds have all gone home.