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Category: writing

i.

“Blindness removes unwanted overtones
..from my life, concentrates my thoughts,
..and presents my stories with a purity that

..you people with jazzed phenomena would
..find hard to fathom; I know rhythms and
..rhymes and reasons set in sundry seasons,

..cut in an arcane template; poet, your words
..(sometimes the lack of them) augment my
..blindness – for that you have my gratitude.”

:

The big stone’s a cutout from the milk-ink
sky and the ink-milk sea, a nonsense that
won’t leave your eye alone, an uncanny
boathop, catching at the brave backscatter
as they do at the forescatter and false dawn;
eye up to the hill they (Vikings) named for
wind – the ferry takes us to a land of old-
fashioned cutlery and curtains and a black
cat that creeps through the open window.

:

..When they say ‘all the fun of the fair’ they
..have no idea of the terror, of how, for the
..fortnight or more after the taint of mud and

..trodden-grass is in the air, and the low girl
..remembers the showmen’s smirks as they
..make her try her hand or take a ride; she

..was bidden step up and see the camelopard
..and the Borneo man; she is as slow as she is
..low, the fair requires speed before anything.

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

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Christmas in the Court of the King of the Manouche.

Poor Monkey, you stand in awe
at the birth of the Lamb of Tartary,
snow sticking to your horripilation
in adumbration of the inevitable sacrifice
that will follow his humble borning.

You have no gift, you stand because
you can’t kneel, you stand because
just as you are witnessing this birth
you know in yourself the births of Judas,
Barabbas, Ananias, Dathan, and Haman.

You’re even blind to the shimmer
of Japanese beetles motionless above
the earth bank that doubles as a manger,
though the shimmer draws inexorably
those who can kneel. Poor Monkey,
poor simian, will no one pity the Monkey?

Meanwhile…
in the Court of the King of the Manouche,
glasses clink; one who denies he is a fish
drinks like one, the Old-man-of-the-woods dances
(yes!) his hop-kick gopak, the elephant
celebrates motionless, and a huntsman spider
roasts flies on an open fire. All’s well,
all’s crackers and party hats;

the King spreads his arms and thinks, My children!

The wind begins to howl, three riders approach
seeking the Lamb. I’m no Herod,
says the King of the Manouche, spreads
his hand over the whole of his kingdom,
debatable though it is, and casts peace.
Even peace on the Monkey, although he
does not feel it as he creeps away in tears.

Ignore the shadow across the moon;
it’s due to the long, far-out ellipse of a visitor
who finds it hard to leave us, so much
does he love us.
A chorus, in Japanese –
Beetle in the highest,
beetle on earth,
beetle to all men
!

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

i-am-not-a-fish-cover-extractI pause from my current series of poems to present this seasonal(?) piece. The Lamb of Tartary, the Monkey, the Old-man-of-the-woods, the Elephant, the Huntsman spider, and the King of the Manouche are all characters who appeared first of all in my collection I am not a fish, along with other characters such as Beatrice the rat and Mr. Coelacanth (the actual fish-in-denial). The collection was nominated for the 2013 T.S. Eliot Prize. It is still available, though I don’t get any royalties from sales (due to a peculiarity of the publishing contract I won’t bore you with). I would very much like you to read it; in fact, any show of interest might persuade the publisher to increase the print run. Click the pic of the cover to see more. Thank you. M.

g.

“The vigour of my dreams, colours the sighted
..can’t know and dionysiac geometries in awed
..tumble; I should write them on my placard but

..who would read the glyphs of that old, mystic,
..inner city, who would toss a penny into my hat
..for black (I’m told) worms that dance? Organs

..of salvation, or so our imaginations are called;
..do you wish for my true story? I’ll tell tales of
..the weird cities of time and space; so, so be it!”

:

Twice a day the sky’s a smithy and an anvil
and the man who hammers it and the blood-
splashes on the buildings; then
Schuldberg
(that high mountain of guilt that she has to
climb) is the gnomon that points to each
door in turn, oblate segment and an unholy
finger, accusation of the lintels, recorder of
our keystrokes, limner of our sins, numbered
in (nameless) ones and (unrecognised) zeros.

:

It’s a ‘My hat!’ moment. There’s a roomful of
people praying to flayed, drowned Bartholomew
for a miracle – an emotional response always

trumps a theological one; we move from room
to room as from chapel to chapel, in each we fill
a vase with flowers, decorate the space as a tomb;

outside is a chorus of crows, and we realise their
racket’s not mockery but praise! Good journeyman
crow, the cleaner-up of other people’s accidents!

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

f.

“We were coupled, you and I, not a period,
..not a moment, but this state continuous, a
..hold, a resonance, where a life is made or

..‘leaf’ and ‘branch’ become ‘tree’; I cannot
..shorten my tongue to speak it, low diction
..thieves from it, not religion, not art, poetry

..begs it, makes beggary of it, but our mouths
..were single, singular, we became I despite
..friction, a whole pond mill-calm in worlds.”

:

Trees are a growth on the world’s body, not
clinging to the surface but wounding, deep,
long-seeking, long-sapping, unseen tearing,
drinking; parasite birds feed and void here,
in forest rashes; symbiont flowers spring up
and die away, and in lean, long nights these
woods are scars, woodlice raw the cicatrice
and root to make-up the taints, the tangs, the
vapours to draw creeping things home, here.

:

Oak logs went to make not just ships but the
trestles for Bartholomew Fair, to hold all the
bolts and blues, the indigoes and lengths, the

serges and the piss-soaked tweeds; love and
drunkenness, joy and vice, all the trades we
think we know from night-clubs and twitter

trolls, all the Indians and dwarves, these rude
boys, these girls, midnite-pastors, pedlars on
scooters, all are kids of the one wilder wood.

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

e.

“You often ask how would
I change the world? The end
of patriarchy? The collapse

of capitalism? Peace? Save
the vivliothiki of Alexandria?
I couldn’t destroy choice like

that; but every one of us to
take a step towards the light
would put things to rolling.”

:

. The coarse times of a day,
. those when that image is
. full of noise and begging
. to be cropped and be made
. sharper; a mist-devil, who
. gives words we all believe,
. deceives, steals half our eye,
. challenges the notion that
. there is bloodstained dawn.

:

To him, every woman was
someone’s Mary, looking
beyond what was close-to

and praying; to him, nine
out of every ten Messiahs
was a fraud and the 10th a

failure, nine out of every
ten gods a graven image,
and the 10th a crow tyrant.

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

Please feel free to read my most recent short story, ‘Grandfather’. It’s not an easy read, I have to warn you, as it contains violence, adult themes, and characters that use racist vernacular.

d.

“You call me steadfast and yet have no
idea of the movie playing now across
my inner sight, how it changes from

minute to minute, never replays, is the
moving river reflecting a bloody dawn
and a bloodier sunset every day, each

snowflake-sure, cocksure, peopled with
bandoleros, cataphracts, mahouts, fey
girls, beyond my placard’s great telling.”

:

Call and come. The patient reader sits,
frowns a little, feels the page’s edge and
flicks it like a doll’s fan; the book’s got
knocked edges, cover gone somewhere,
an alien inscription on the flyleaf. Day,
a quiet insinuation to the room, calls and
comes, dials its progress on the wall. Go,
day, and see if the reader cares; or will
she bless the night and put the book by?

:

The wolves of the fair hunt the lambs of
the town, divide mothers from the bairns,
blood the unwary but never meet their eye;

the birds above scream the news; there’s
a ghost that weaves a signature path with
needle-precision, stories in a vague pouch

that’s never opened; the wolves bristle as
he passes, and when one howls all howl,
one passes a lamb all pass; all lambs pray.

__________

jupiter©Mairie Marshall

c.

“The other lovenik told me
it’s a black hole that sucks
you in, brains, bones, soul,

and all, once you cross the
loss horizon. That gels with
me, my last lovenik and I

became slaves, each crying
that the other wasn’t master,
both rain-in-the-face sure.”

:

Another red morning, blood
and bells, sheepback clouds
bleeding, river bleeding, the
windows over every scheme
bleeding, this dark sheet of
hills impervious; light from
the east and dull drifting sky-
water from the west, old and
distant landscapes faded out
.

:

A bewildered couple took a
jazz-cure, lying back on the
bed of vibes, brushes, snares.

It had little effect beyond a
severe silence, where there
was once domestic carnage.

Outside, it all passes: cars of
the neighbourhood, daybirds,
feral dogs, new-driven leaves.

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

b.

“I’ll not look at you, because a gaze
changes the thing it falls on; I’ll not
touch you with my palm, because that

involves the crooking of my arm, a
gesture of acquisition, colonisation,
ownership; instead I’ll run the back of

my hand over you, the way I would
feel my way from a darkened room or
a burning building; I’ll never use the

word ‘love’ because it’s selfish; I’ll do
you so much honour, but not gild your
statue, because you’re nature, not art.”

:

A clerical grey waistcoat; a funereal
necktie knotted badly and showing its
workings; a white shirt bunched and
gathered at the shoulders; a watch-
chain hung with widows’ mites; cold
silver in hidden pockets against the
possibility of tipping Charon; trousers
notched at the back of the waistband
and tensed by a single gallas, the other
having snapped; a hat doggedly level;
shoes bright from much care; rings, an
identity bracelet mimicking a torque
.

:

If there are rules, then play by them.
If not, then time yourself by the sun.
It’s winter, and as a consequence the

days are short and cold, but in a nook
that catches light there’s a little empire
of Welsh poppies, stubborn, sere and

Cymric, yellow as blackbird-beaks,
paying hat-honour now and then to the
breeze’s blandishments. We witness a

million million images every day and
break them down into meaning, set
that on a frame, and wonder, wonder!

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

a.

To title a poem is to exclude.
Explain please. Well, if this
poem were called ‘cat’ you’d
know that it was not about an
elephant, even if some spark
wheeled an elephant into the

room to stand up patient and
barely breathing, swaying a
little in embarrassment while
we pointedly stared at the flat-
screen and fiddled with the
remote; his presence and his

zoo-smell would be latent, or
potential, and not kinetic, not
dynamic there’s be no hint of
grey, no waft from his ears, no
thought of ivory, no mahout,
no ankus or howdah or India.

:

To stand above, to stand alone,
to consider what’s right, or to
subject ideas to trade and one’s
concerns to a patent, to weep,
to hold hands with your next-
door neighbour, to break bread
with the hungry, to go hungry
yourself, plays on our minds.

:

The cat of course left the room
as soon as the elephant entered,
because it was an affront; but
then all things are an affront to
a cat; it moved to another room
and thought “This is a place of

blood, and therefore it will suit
me,” but then every room in the
house is a place of blood to a cat
and every nook a place of sleep
or slaughter to the embodiment
of solipsism, a Cartesian ghost.

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall

H is for Hungry Ghost

I am still deciding what I might do next with my poetry. Probably I’ll stick to a familiar format, so as not to unsettle you too much; but the thrust of the poetry might be a little different. But as ever, I expect you not to marvel at my genius – rather you should feel free to pick the poetry-ball up and run with it. Meanwhile, here’s a poem I wrote in 2009. It’s from my 2010 collection Naked in the Sea.

H is for Hungry Ghost

H is for Hungry Ghost

for seven years now (or is it seventy-seven
it is so easy so ironic to lose track)
I have been a gaki

you may have seen me after dark in the Shinkasen
between Utsunomiya and Oyama never beyond Omiya
as lights dance insanely in the window
there is your reflection in the corner of your eye
for a moment it has horns and a gaping mouth
and those insane lights are now dancing
where your eyes were dark a moment ago
that’s me condemned to lick the carriage window
and repeat the station-names
Niigata, Tsubame-sanjo, Urasa, Echigo-yuwaza,
Jomo-kogen, Takasaki, Honjo-waseda, Kumagaya
to the rhythms of the train

I live with a jikininki who does nothing
but steal rings from corpses
and moan about her lot in after-life
I hate her
I have exchanged love for hate and hunger
paid for love with loss
and I am a hungry ghost

__________

jupiter©Marie Marshall