Stick Insect

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            Stick Insect

Stick insect makes itself resemble stick,
earns its name, stick insect,
phasmatodea, to speak Greek,
more commonly, phasmid,
to lift the lid.
Lives in glassy tank,
lit by green bulb, yellow bulb,
silver bulb, red bulb, blue bulb,
to create exotic, tropic,
jungle light effect,
look inside, stick insect,
hard to detect.
Owned by Hugh Minn,
happy home comes he from bank,
humdrum office tedium,
in sweat wet shirt, askew tie,
to stick insect,
for it respect,
never would eject,
liked it, alien, strange,
not like moth or fly.
To his smart, shiny flat,
friends drop by,
at first, puzzled,
glass tank wonder at,
bright bulb lit,
vacant, empty, seems to be,
apart from twist of twig and leaf,
shallow silver water tray,
little bit of grit.
Some too polite to ask,
retain civil mask,
till he points to stick insect.
Oh, yes, there it is, they say,
with relief. Well, I may.
So like the stick it sits on,
the pattern, colour of that leaf.
What a camouflage, clever chap,
hard for lizard, grasshopper, spider
to detect and trap.
Often with a smile, such words they say,
thankful for view through
Hugh’s magnifying glass,
a rare moment new
they do not will to pass.
Always think stick insect looks nice.
And when Hugh Minn
brought home Laura Leaf,
her hair long, bright with henna,
from theatre date and dinner,
was stick insect that broke the ice,
made her smile, warmed her heart,
more than Hugh did,
grateful was he to stick insect,
his pet phasmid.
Told bachelor pals,
not eagle on arm,
panther on lawn,
but stick insect
would impress and charm,
a pet passion in woman
would wake, inject.
They smiled, shiny eyed,
at his regard for stick insect,
why for it he had respect.
Told them Laura Leaf
first warmed to it, then him,
would be wedding soon,
after, Hawaiian honeymoon,
so was pleased to lay and fill its water tray,
add fresh leaves, give its twigs a trim.

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The Queen of Sheba

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        The Queen of Sheba

I hear the Queen of Sheba came to King Solomon’s court.
All in praise of his wisdom, she showed him the gifts she had brought.
Questions answered, she was well pleased by what she had been taught,
then returned to her own land, after finding more than she sought.

She gave him precious stones, rare spices, almug trees and gold.
Her navy brought these gifts from Ophir, so speaks the tale of old,
so pleased was she by the wisdom of Solomon told,
all the treasures and wonders his house and his kingdom did hold.

O, wanderer that I am, I hear such tales,
even in places seldom reached.
The Queen of the South came from
the uttermost part of the Earth,
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
as Jesus preached,
as part of a lesson he teached.

In her name that is fair, there is poetry there.
She alone is the woman,
to know the mystery of her,
the Queen of Sheba.

Was this meeting between two rulers within palace walls
not like a close encounter in the far star kingdom halls,
a mystic meeting that not by chance, but on purpose falls,
between two different peoples, who answered eachother’s calls?

And so all praise to your pyramids, your spaceship designs,
your angel temples, your jewels, your tall stone god men in lines,
for I have found here in your land, old high wisdom shines.
Prepared for me on a table, a fair feast of fruits and wines.

My gifts I lay before your golden throne,
my gifts I brought for you alone.
Your wisdom and civilization leaves me in awe,
I lay my treasures at your door,
for what to me you have taught,
like when the Queen of Sheba came to King Solomon’s court.

The first Sumerian kings welcomed the gods, long ago,
on the tops of their temples, and to them the priests bowed down low.
From their remote planet homes, they stepped from their starships slow,
and like the Queen of Sheba, they travelled for wisdom to know.

In her name that is fair, there is poetry there.
She alone is the woman,
to know the mystery of her,
the Queen of Sheba.

World Cup Goal

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                                World Cup Goal

You got to kick, head, chest, shin
the ball, to get
between the posts, under the bar,
over the line, into the net,
to score a goal,
good for your team,
your heart and soul.
Seems simple now,
had to learn it once,
could not forget.
Listen, your trainers say,
when wedged out the way,
go on and play.
When you must, tackle hard,
avoid a yellow card.
Be calm, all fury fled,
so the referee never shows you red.
Like winged footed Hermes,
race through the defending wall,
score a World Cup goal.
Watch Trojan towers fall,
swim free from the shoal.
Like a deer chased by a lion
over a grassy plain,
show why you diet, why you train,
run on, to score a World Cup goal,
shake the stadium,
like a power chord in rock and roll.
Meander in the centre circle,
then turn and shine,
shoot, a star speeds from the galaxy,
the ball crosses the line,
you score a World Cup goal,
leap high, cart wheel,
in more than sporting ecstasy.
See the colours of your country in the crowd,
never knew the human voice could roar so loud.
Tell the press you never read the press,
what pundits write could not matter less,
but you read what they say,
slyly, in the hotel lobby, anyway.
You dare not do it, dare not lose the game.
If you score a World Cup goal,
they will never forget your name.
Never play to draw, ever play to win,
if you lose, take it on the chin.
Now in the vortex,
the wheels turn round your feet.
Score a World Cup goal,
the mosaic to complete.
Wish all nations could learn
from a World Cup goal,
release a flight of doves,
light a clear blue flame,
for perpetual peace,
everlasting healing of heart and soul.

 

 

 

Ankles and Ants

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                   Ankles and Ants

Sir Edward Burne-Jones
was, no doubt, like you,
impressed by his own name,
pleased that by his art,
he had attained his fair modicum of fame.
Before his easel, in his studio,
he lounged back, reclined,
to view his latest, unfinished canvas,
after he had long and suitably dined.
The door opened, and his young son, Philip,
quite casually, stepped in,
to present to him a piece of paper,
without expression, no frown or grin,
which had a rough drawing on it,
bare as a fish without a fin.
“And what is this?” Sir Edward asked,
raising his right eyebrow.
He could see what it was,
but he wanted his young son
to tell him, anyhow.
“It’s a quick sketch of my ankles and ants,”
his young son replied.
“As you can see, I wrote ankles and ants
at the bottom of my sketch,
to give it a name.”
His father looked at him quite wild,
when usually Victorian and tame.
“I am pleased that your drawing
is coming on by leaps and bounds,
but do you understand,
what you have said and written sounds?
Surely you mean your uncles and aunts?”
he mildly fumed, as if the proverbial spider
was crawling up his pants.
“Thought that is what I just said,”
his son replied, as if he were a kite, untied.
“My word. Blunderbuss and croaky crows.
Ants, my dear boy, are insects,
as well you should know.
Spring comes and over the floor, they flow,
and on the window sill, they go,
while ankles are part of the structure of one’s feet,
to make, as it were, the legs complete.
God forbid that I have birthed a boy
who cannot spell or pronounce his words, correctly,
even if, when you grow up, you show signs
that you can draw quite well.
Ankles and ants, uncles and aunts,
may sound the same,
but they relate to different things altogether,”
explained Sir Edward, like an owl,
who had lost a feather.
His young son shrugged his shoulders,
shook his head,
left his father in his studio.
His footsteps to his mother led.
She was fussing with the flowers,
as she often did.
He showed to her his sketch.
She looked at it as if it were
a rag he had found down a grid.
He was relieved to find
she knew who his ankles and ants were.
When he told her his father seemed confused,
and did not seem to know,
she told him that all creative persons
can sometimes be quite slow.
He shrugged his shoulders once again,
stumped up the stairs, to his room,
lay his sketch upon his pillow,
and wove wild dreams upon his loom.

Streets Speak

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                    Streets Speak

Listen hard enough, streets speak
hold you in conversations long gone,
so much was debated, meant something at the time,
mutterings over newspapers:
Can you believe the latest crime?
Who would have thought it?
It broke down last week.
It seems, I only just bought it.
Oh, I know, not worth buying anything cheap.
Only useless things, like ornaments, are made to keep.
Kids eat too much sugar.
They say it’s bad for your teeth.
Don’t know why the Morgans go, to church, I mean.
No wonder they speak of crumbling belief.
Better without it, religion, but I like Christmas, all the same.
This is one of the few roads that wasn’t bombed.
Amazing the others were all done up.
Glorious sunshine, though, after all that rain.
Come in and have a cup.
Just buried the budgie in the back garden.
I’m not getting another one.
Never mind. They don’t live long.
He liked his seed and water, bell and swing.
Come in, and have a scone.
I’ll put the radio on.
Never know who might come on and sing.

Marionettes

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          Marionettes

He remembers, forgets,
knows those sat,
stood around the bar
were not marionettes.
They did not move by strings,
act on words from the wings.
He could not make them do, say,
as puppets in his play,
what to him would be
pleasing, pleasant things.

He dissembles, regrets,
knows they are,
quite naturally,
at times, frighteningly, free.
Nothing angers, flames, upsets,
the string worked ways of marionettes.
What unwinged his mind,
the plays of humankind.

Now how vividly she shines,
that woman over there,
sat at a table, among friends.
She laughs, leans back in her chair,
a light makes a halo of her hair.
He knows of him she is unaware,
feels sure she is someone’s lover,
could be that man’s wife.
She was another woman,
he had no chance with in his life,
would not dance with him,
by the moon romance with him.
He was hoping he looked pleasant,
not too worn, hard, adultly grim,
but she was never going to turn,
look and smile at him,
invite him to her ocean,
to swim beyond the rim.

His nerves hinted, anyway,
if on him she focussed,
he would find no words to say.
Reluctantly, he accepted,
it was not a play.
They were not players.
Life could only seem that way.
He knew the signs,
he drew the lines,
still he exhausts his mind.
Time to go, he decides,
leaves his vacancy behind.

Back home, in his room,
he tries to work out
the acts of silhouettes,
as they flickered on his eyelids.
So weary now, he frets,
plays with the faces,
he remembers from the bar,
not free of him now,
but as marionettes.
What he wants, he gets,
what he feels, he can say,
and the woman turns
and smiles at him.
In his mind,
he lets his puppets play.

Clown in his own circus,
his chaos upsets,
bewildered by the fuzzy, hazy figures,
the indistinct dance
of self directed marionettes,
he attempts to grasp,
until his brain blanks.
What he remembers, he forgets.

Lies back on his bed,
on his pillow rests his head,
dreams himself as an old man,
sat in a dusty loft,
around him, silver scissors,
black wire, broken nets,
lolling out of boxes,
hanging from the rafters,
a cast of discarded,
long forgotten marionettes. 

The Life and Burial of Lizzie Siddal

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   The Life and Burial of Lizzie Siddal

( You flew too near the sun and you were scorched.
  From The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. )

Your face I knew, long before your name.
You were a bird that flew,
no pen or brush could cage or tame.
Your beauty noble, wild,
like that of a deer,
who runs through the woods,
to pause, alert, by a river,
to stoop, to drink water,
ready to flee from the hunter,
declare yourself free from the enchanter,
always one leap away from his net and his game.
Your face, I saw, once, on a canvas,
and then, there it was, again.
I saw sorrow in your beauty,
tears, strain, as if you had long endeavoured
not to surrender to love’s pain.
Thought your face was idealized,
as in an angel sculpture or Mary icon,
from an artist’s cleansed and clear mind,
his vision of fair womankind.
Now I know, that face, painted on canvas,
drawn on paper, was your face,
that of a real woman,
not an ideal or vision.
My eye can see why he loved you,
wanted you as his muse, his lover,
for there is poetry in your face, your name,
Lizzie Siddal, wild bird that none could tame.
You were the daughter of a cutler,
that is, a knife maker or dealer,
and you were a milliner,
worked in Mrs Tozer’s hat shop,
just off the Old Kent Road,
in murky, foggy London,
when Victoria sat upon the throne
of Britain and the Empire,
before the wheels began to tire,
clog and melt in rusty fire.
The market place and streets you knew,
in company and alone.
It was Walter Deverell,
a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
the Pre-Raphaelite poet, painter,
who told him he had found you,
working in your hat shop,
described you as a stunner,
said that you were tall,
your neck stately,
your brow, your face,
like the carving of a Pheidean goddess,
your hair long, a dazzling reddish copper gold,
with a shimmer, as it fell from your shoulders down.
So after he had seen you,
he asked permission of your parents,
to have you for his paintings pose,
for he knew he had found in you
a fair and rare, wild rose.
Of all the faces he saw passing by in London,
yours was the one he chose.
What draws us together, tears us apart,
but that is the leap that lovers dare.
There’s always the danger, right from the start,
but the heart knows, it is best to care.
First, John Everett Millais
lay you in a bath of cold water,
to paint you as Ophelia,
drowned with flowers in a river,
after Hamlet had scolded her,
told her to get to a nunnery,
after his discovery
that his mother and her lover
were the murderers of his father,
and she had lost her mind,
like you, she had found life to be unkind.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
painted you as Beatrice,
but only after you had died.
Despite those other women
who became his muses,
like Annie Miller, Fanny Cornforth,
Ruth Herbert and Jane Burden,
you were the one he mourned
as his dead wife,
over your grave, he cried.
You gave birth to his child,
but you sat and rocked an empty cradle,
for your child was born dead.
And among the tears you shed,
you were tormented by the face of Annie Miller,
who William Holman Hunt
had taken as his muse,
said he saved her from the gutter.
Now she posed as he painted her,
as his model, his lover.
As the Lady of Shalott, he painted her,
as she sailed in her barge,
down the river, to Camelot,
from the verses of Tennyson,
his Victorian vision of the Arthur king,
haunting as the lays the Medieval minstrels sing.
And your husband painted her as Helen of Troy,
so you felt neglected, abandoned,
a blanked out muse, forgotten toy.
He came home from teaching one evening,
to find you lying dead upon the floor.
An accidental overdose of laudanum
was the verdict when you died.
At your burial at Highgate,
he buried you with a notebook of his verses,
which in the madness of his grief,
he later had exhumed,
so that others might still read them,
and not leave them with you,
underground, entombed.
Do not be sorry, you left behind your life,
your stained and broken love story,
your face on canvas and on paper,
such as the drawing your husband did of you,
he called, Lizzie Lets Down Her Hair.
You are still here, you are there, and everywhere.
Do not cry over what happened to you.
Remember, even if lovers do not part,
in the end, one must die first,
then, the other, after.
But you were young once.
Your hair was long and copper red,
you fed on market bread,
on apple, cherry, strawberry,
from a basket you were bred.
John Ruskin said you were a genius,
after studying your drawings, paintings, poems,
and he should know, for he wrote Modern Painters
and The Seven Lamps of Architecture.
You wandered round the market,
with fruit and bread inside your basket,
and smiled to hear the friendly calls,
the loud lunged, carefree laughter. 

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