The Over You Blues

This poem was inspired by a night of blues at the fabulous Fetes des Fourvieres at the Roman Amphitheatre in Lyon. So it’s dedicated to Emma, reader, blogger and friend, who encouraged me to spend that glorious summer evening there with her.

Over You Blues

I’m gonna leave this town                   and take my mailbox too.

I’m gonna leave this goddam town                and take my mailbox too.

So when I leave this fake old town                 what are you gonna do?

 

With my mailbox all mine                   no more of your excuses will do.

When my mailbox is all mine                         your wrong address excuses won’t do.

I’ll keep my mailbox all to myself                   no more excuses from you!

 

I’m so over you now                even though you done me wrong.

I’m over and out with you now                       ‘cos you done me so wrong

I’m so over you now…                Don’t know why I’m writing this song!

The legendary Bessie Smith.
The legendary Bessie Smith.

 

Mistranslation of French Tax Forms

There is still plenty of unfinished business on the French side of my administrative papers, so I amused myself with some ‘literal’ translations of their menacing letters. Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf and wakes up at night panicking about fines and other punishments? Not me, not me!

 

Apple of the Côte, apples of all orchards unite!

Pursue this chance

limit the number of dates you go out on

keep your bearing regal

and return your ransom

in the envelope joined to the hip of this letter.

You major retard.

Even I can’t keep the imperatives and bad language out.

A man doing his taxes using a calculator and pencil on a white background

What Poetry Is Not

tumbled_gemstone_pebbles_arpOpen eyes of pearl,  ruby mouth,

wax translucent about gemstones and full moons,

wrap waves in gossamer twinkles,

love’s courage and dejection tear at us

with fixed card-greeting smiles.

Stuffed to the gills

with cluttersome grandiose:

pretty-sounding words

don’t worry about the meaning!

I’m linking this to dVerse Poets Pub, my first contribution there in a long, long time. The form is one created at the Pub: a quadrille, a poem of precisely 44 words, and the prompt in this case was to contain the word ‘open’. I cheated a little bit with some double-barrelled words, but for much clearer and better poems, do join us over at the Pub!

Happy Anniversary, dVerse Poets!

I’ve become a much less frequent visitor to the dVerse Poets Pub in the last few months, but it’s still the friendliest, most fun poetic community that I’ve come across. They are celebrating five years of poems, discussions, shared thoughts and laughter, so join us there , find out what Brian Miller (one of the founders of dVerse) has been up to recently, and take part in the first challenge of the week: a quadrille about ‘Journeys’.

A quadrille is a poem of 44 words exactly. Here is my attempt.

Refugees

The journey’s start
your journey’s end
Ouroboros alone knows
when we are done exploring in porous dinghies
or flour containers
in baroque façade deceptions
carton jungle of dead ends
where our feet move on and on for miles
yet our hearts not one iota

Calais

Twenty Years After in Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine

I don’t usually celebrate my publications on my blog [And why exactly don’t I? That is a subject for another day.], but I do want to share this one with you. I am very pleased that Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine has just published one of the poems which has meant the most to me, Twenty Years After.

This is a poem I wrote three years ago in a sudden fit of inspiration on a business trip to London. The first draft of it is here. It’s about the person I fell in love with during my first year as a student in the UK, someone who broke my heart. I’d forgotten or buried the memory for many years, and have never seen that person again, but revisiting the Barbican brought it all back. On a frozen winter day, we’d practised our ballroom dancing on its empty terraces, just before going to a theatre performance. As the snowflakes started to fall around us, I thought I’d met the love of my life. Now, older and wiser, I know that life is constant flow. And so is love.

I’m really pleased it’s this particular magazine, which I’ve been reading online for a few years now, because I really admire its mission of interculturalism, more important than ever in today’s world. So, if you want to hear some international voices, all united by a love of the English language, do join me there.

Barbican Centre, from euron.co.uk
Barbican Centre, from euron.co.uk

Very rough drafts of poetry

Never throw out old notebooks, even with the looming threat of an overseas move. I just came across these lines of poetry. I transcribe them as they are, unpolished, but there is room for development at some later point in time.

I come from a long line of peasant women
plodding uphill on the hottest of days
tilling the soil
harvesting potatoes
lifting full metal buckets of water
dropping babies in the cornfields then back to work.
Men gone to war on fronts left and right
cattle rounded up for troops
making do with bone soup and cornmeal pap
nettle soup and pumpkin plump.

I come from a long line of stoics
who expect no respite from labour
no love everlasting
work is their curse and due and praise
and rest comes too seldom
no one owes anyone happiness.
They crawl up the mountain like a murder of crows
in their black widows’ garb
laugh with gaps in their teeth
grey plaits swung firmly under kerchiefs.
They have never dieted in their lives
food fuels their bending and plucking
running after sheep.
They can drink men under the table.
They’ve endured
and bred in me a fibre
smacks of backbone
yet fluid like a reed
when the breeze turns into storm.

Peasant women in the field, by Camil Ressu (1880-1962), a Romanian painter who often painted rural scenes
Peasant women in the field, by Camil Ressu (1880-1962), a Romanian painter who often painted rural scenes