18th November 1307

This is the date (according to quasi-mythical accounts by Tschudi and other Swiss historians) that William Tell (Guglielm Tell in Romansh, the 4th language of Switzerland) had to shoot the apple placed on his son’s head. I was also inspired by a recent exhibition I saw, with Swiss history recreated in Lego bricks. I couldn’t resist a little joke about Swiss love of rules, discipline and quiet…

From voyagefamily.com.
From voyagefamily.com.

Shot the arrow to the quick
the flip
the treat of being true
if blue
the running wick
of jokes askew.
No hat is worth
a bowed head
or bloodied brow.
Push through,
Guglielm Tell,
but in silence please.


I Miss…

Over at dVerse Poets Pub, Mary is tending the bar and asking us to write poems in answer to the question: ‘WHO or WHAT do you miss?’

I miss… understanding (between people). We are too quick to judge, to criticise, to retort, to ban. However, the poem below took me in a different, unexpected direction, although it started with a lack of understanding…

From pbs.org

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

His head contains worlds.

People pop out to smoke cigarettes

simper, gossip, screw and pray

maggotty ideas fester – let them die –

voices assault us daily.

What is real he no longer can say.

He’s tried to flirt with mainstream

but his world stays out of kilter

at an angle only he can measure

drumming beats no one will follow

there is no shared vision

how we wish we could belong.


Come inside the head, ladies and gents!

Pause, admire, discover

underneath he’s much like you

a gentler man of erudite barbs

one read and you’ll be captivated

I know he’s worked so hard for this:

How can I make you know too?

Moving Beyond the Clichés

What is Love?                   

smells of linden-trees in bloom and girls in flower

the colour of the sky when you wear tinted sunglasses

taste of sweet-n-sour sauce at two in the morning

feels like repeated blows to your chest, strong-armed into breathless

sounds like the background buzz taking over the ear of the matter

What is Anger?                       

Sets in when love meets the acrid smell of hotel-room encounters

you bring back the scorched branding of cattle irons on my skin

the colour of migraine-inducing flashes of scarlet and indigo

sounds like hostile parrots trapped in a cage that’s far too small

feels like dim flickers of lightning about to flash from every pore

tastes of gravel mixed with ashes

What is Defeat?

semolina-pudding grey of school lunches

tastes like sand grains in your picnic

smells like clothes you’ve rolled into bed with for a day, a night, a day, a night

feels like pushing kettle-bells through mud

even the lampposts have been trained to catcall and taunt you

I’ll be away this evening, so am linking a bit early to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub, where we are celebrating Diwali and you can enjoy many other poets’ offerings.

Angery by Kristin Elmquist, from fineartamerica.com
Angery by Kristin Elmquist, from fineartamerica.com

The Rival

I’m linking this poem to the wonderful dVerse Poets Pub community. It’s Open Link Night, which means any kind of poetry form or topic goes!

The Rival

Google in grey-green dawn
search the directory for images of the rival
knowing only her profession and nationality
you stumble on pictures of doting mammas enclutched by wild-eyed bambini,
sunglass posers posting nothing but world travels and bliss
and Facebook status confirms indeed their elevation,
one splendour in tattoos and bikini against an anonymous beach background…
Which to choose?
Which one to spit?

You don’t know why you need to stick the thorn in deeper
or dig at the wound oozing with rank pus.
You let their names perform saltos on your tongue,
savour their multiple vowels, feel the firmness of foreign consonants,
their flesh, their purpose, their youth… and cry foul.
You cannot fixate on any one
so they form a togetherness, a ripple army
of seduction and accusation:
‘you neglect so he’s mine’.

Meanwhile your own dereliction
your ruin, your addiction,
howls night after night
in has beens, what ifs and too lates.


From eng.namonitore.ru
From eng.namonitore.ru

She needs to believe
in magic routes and jungle paths
wants full growth and roots piercing unshrivelled
a flash of silver on the Little Prince’s fox
being singled out as the most important being
to one other
music celestial or otherwise to braid into her hair
colours to skip to in early morning shimmer
words to gurgle out with mischief.


He deals in numbers
facts and proofs
and probabilities will show
that nothing stays untarnished
he can prove with simple laws
of gravity and rationality
that the weight of the world cannot
lie on her shoulders
so he need never lift a finger
to share a non-existent burden.


I am linking this to my wonderful poetic home, the Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub. Join me there for many poems and poets of note!

Life Endures

How tall we sink to stand up proud.
Snow drags us down, the sledge lies waste.
Rotting wood, rust-red stain
linger on the dank-wet smell.
We try to hide the holes
gnawed by hungry winged fiends
canvas-scraped death we look in the face
while knives tear at the awning
but scars are integral, scars mask our flight
the yearn in the fleeing
the shudder in mouthfuls
words carefully chosen
or else
swallowed deep inside.

How deep the well and murky.
How friable the shelter.
Find twinges before the gush ends
before the light fails.
When all is said, done, shuttered
how fiercely life remains in the picture.

Copyright: Bjorn Rudberg

Over at dVerse Poets Pub, Bjorn has us telling stories about the prehistoric stone carvings found in Sweden. I chose a snowy tale, of course, but join me over at the site to see many other pictures made by early man (and woman).

Hardboiled with a soft core: crime fiction from the North

It’s not just the capital cities in Europe which provide a photogenic noir backdrop to hardboiled crime fiction. Gunnar Staalesen’s lone wolf detective Varg Veum operates in the northern climes of Bergen in Norway, while John Harvey’s DI Charlie Resnick battles increasingly violent incidents in … well, maybe Nottingham is not quite that far north, if I’m to be honest, only about 130 miles north of London. Both of these strong, silent types are now nearing retirement, so they are showing a more sensitive (or perhaps just more vulnerable) side of themselves.

inheritwindGunnar Staalesen: We Shall Inherit the Wind (transl. Don Bartlett)

Who’d have thought that wind farms and ecology can lead to murderous intent? An ageing Varg Veum proposes to his girlfriend but shows no signs of slowing down otherwise. He still seems able to run and fight his way out of trouble along with the rest of them, while his ability to outsmart his adversary, his tendency to make irreverent quips and cheeky retorts, his talent for getting into trouble remain undiminished. But he is also more self-aware, more likely to recognise his mistakes and try to repair them. And he blames himself for the events and actions which led to his girlfriend being in a coma at the start of the book.

However, despite the thrills and plot twists, the novel is not all about action: readers will find thoughtful characterisation and topical social and economic concerns which are so often linked to Scandinavian crime fiction.

vargveumNot all of the Varg Veum novels have been translated into English, and certainly not in the right order, but I remember reading Staalesen a few years back and thinking his stubborn, wisecrack-filled hero reminded me of Arjouni’s Kayankaya or Harry Bosch. A well-paced, thrilling plot, the usual topical social concerns we have come to expect from Staalesen’s confident pen. The author is a classic in his own country: there is even a statue of Varg Veum leaning against a wall and staring moodily into the distance in Bergen. And I can imagine Varg attending the Bergen Jazz Festival, perhaps together with the detective featured below…

CiHandJohn Harvey: Cold in Hand

John Harvey is an immensely prolific writer, and his jazz-influenced Charlie Resnick series has received numerous awards and high critical praise. I am a newcomer to his work, but I could not help admiring his strong, muscular, lean and yet very poetic prose. A detective of Polish origin who loves cats, Billie Holiday and Thelonious Monk? Count me in!

Charlie gets pulled back into frontline policing as gang violence with smuggled weapons escalates in Nottingham. Fellow police officer (and lover/nearly fiancée) Lynn tries to break up a street fight and gets caught in a shooting, in which one teenage girl dies. The girl’s father publicly accuses her of putting his daughter’s life at risk and Charlie and Lynn find themselves struggling to reconcile their personal beliefs with their professional lives.

Life happens – sometimes it is cosy and everyday, sometimes it is brutal and painful, just like real life. Harvey is a master at rendering both the comfort of the common-place and the shudder of deep grief. I am full of admiration for the economy of his prose, capable of conveying so much emotion.

I don’t know why it took me so long to discover John Harvey as a crime writer. I was a regular reader of his old blog (now closed) and his poetry, but he still blogs occasionally here about poetry, music and various other book-related themes.