They will never have been so beautiful
as they are here by the pool taking selfies
on a stick in their wedding clothes together,
white tulle misting over blue water,
morning suit as faint as distant smoke
as the candy stripe golf cart edges into shot.
Years later they will have asked who’s the man
with a gloved hand in pink plaid shorts?
Will he have been the secret agent who was sent
to the resort by one of the agencies of despair
with marital bed bombs and mortars of remorse
Or just another questing American
who had lost a ball and needed the nearest bar?
They will never have been so complete
as they are here by the pool taking selfies
on a stick in their wedding clothes together,
white mist, distant smoke, interrupted.
Couples many times more married gaze on,
slung up between palms in rattan hammocks
sipping hi-octane cocktails mid-afternoon,
waiting for the cicadas and salted snacks.

Commended by Brian Patten in the Milestones
international poetry competition, 2017

i.m. Jo Cox M.P. for Batley and Spen

Over the Kazakh steppes
an Englishman drops from space
in a frilly white jellyfish
landing with a powder puff.
“The smell of Earth is so strong,”
he reminds us before he’s carried
to safety like a baby, woozy
with ozone and wonder.

In Yorkshire, Hate stalks the lanes,
spraying petals into the gutter
because kindness frightens Him
more than death or insignificance.
A thousand Poundland candles
now blaze like daisies in the rain
making felt-tipped condolences
run to mascara upon the grass.

But we’re still too wobbly
with stargazing to hear Hate rage
in court “Freedom for Britain!”
Freedom for the misfit triangle
that slipped off its Continent
to drift in a moist blue ball,
snapped at 5 miles per second
by adoring astronauts.

I entered via his red silk tie at the weekend.
Access through other orifices will now be denied.
After the Intervention and a light sleep
he fed sparrows some cake in the Rose Garden.
His recovery is progressing better than expected.
The copy of The Bell Jar that he placed by his bed
he discovered in the White House Library.
It carries a dedication and kiss from Jackie Kennedy.
His new veganism will come as a surprise to many.
Expect Executive Orders giving federal support
to lentil and chick pea production in the rust belt.
His planned beard should follow his current hair
with backcombed sideburns and ginger soul patch.
I’m pleased to say he took easily to the pink mankini
in which he’ll dress for next week’s press conference
with a new mascara and rouge he’s modelling
for new Secretary of Homeland Security, Shakira.
The proposed repeal of both the death penalty
and the 2nd Amendment he intends to celebrate
with a concert by Neil Young and Henry Rollins,
sponsored by Patron tequila and Mexico Tourism.
The final appointment to his all-women Cabinet,
Sharon Olds, starts her Senate hearing next week.
The First Lady has been released back into society.
She plans to devote her life to elephant welfare.
The President will be meeting Justice Secretary
Toni Morrison to reinstate facts as a benchmark
for truth: alternative facts will come with warning
from The Surgeon-General and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
All scientists are requested to emerge from hiding
to return to their labs and classrooms immediately.
I hope you enjoy putting your new President to work.
Please take care with Democracy going forward
and don’t mention pee-pee. We can’t afford a relapse.

The lad reads Camus like Sisyphus,
every Penguin page so inclined
that the meaning might roll back
with a groan into cerebral rubble.
He says truth’s just a bigger boulder,
harder to shoulder, shape or throw,
gathering speed but no moss…

(moss)
which older men should mould
as a felten hat to cool their brains
or sport as a velveteen jacket to dine
in places with strict dress codes
so that they may complain about
the dreadful amount of piss
the ruling class leave on the loo seat…

(loo seat)
the last porcelain bastion of thought
on the digital plains of distraction
where cats battle it out with cakes,
side-boobs and Presidential candidates
all as sweaty and convicted as crusaders
waving their many pouted Selfies
like Madonnas…

(Madonna)
whose cult is overdue a comeback,
– Joseph’s wife, not Guy Ritchie’s –
to be venerated with roadside shrines
by bus stops, piled with stone cairns
showing how far our myths have come
since Sisyphus, Prometheus and
that fire the Gods still want back.

Shortlisted in the 2016 Live Canon Poetry Prize

A boy slips through a break in the chain link
down to the creek where the silt unfolds,
recumbent, slick-skinned, more than ready
for its thick veined estuary to come home.
He picks across the flats with his school bag
trailing herring gulls and something eggy.

He’s collecting the pocks, flecks and shards
from this mud-welted margin of the past:
pot handles, a buckle, a marble eye,
coins faint with kings, queens and tridents,
a long white bone worn flute smooth,
a medal celebrating motherhood.

It’s all been lockered fast under his bed
which sails every night down the high street
along rivers planted with humankind
who branch up tattered as scarecrows
begging that you hear their history
before they wash to weeds on the waking tide.

He’s late for class because his feet have stuck
so he waits for the waters to free them
as dockyard cranes make equations in the sky.
A bright red container hangs from cables
dense with bar codes and fast machines
selling happiness, flat-packed from far away .

Commended in the 2016 Wild Atlantic Words Competition 

 

 

Something made us smaller today,
pushed under scudding bulletins.
TV polls predict a humbling.

You can already see the landslide
burying light behind the eyes
that sell us flat whites and pastries.

You can nose out the rot of hope
in burger bars and betting shops
where we snack down on fat and luck.

Even the bus stop tastes of Trump,
here in my newly foreign land.
In other news they forecast snow.

We’re just grateful for the blanket.

Published in The Irish Times the day after the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

The facts are important:
earlier today jihadi bombers fast-tracked
themselves to paradise in Brussels airport.
TV kept showing a man, his leg blown off
propped on an elbow blinking at his watch
like his flight was unaccountably delayed.

New York at Ground Zero:
the day is sunny with medium wind chill,
the pollen count high for the time of year,
mostly maple, lime and juniper.
At the 9/11 Memorial they’re recycling
all the tears that ever fell and still fall,
over black slate walls in sparkling nets
though which young rainbows play
with difficulty, practicing colour like scales.
No pot of gold, just a fathomless hole.

Advisory signs say:
VISITORS ARE INVITED TO TOUCH
THE MEMORIAL NAMES PANEL.
Some stroke. Some brush. Some poke.
Some finger trace what they fear to lose
because what has a name cannot die
under this sky torn to wild blue ribbons
by all the bright new banks.

The South Tower:
with the heel of my hand
I rub and press the raised brass letters
ENGINE 6. NEW YORK FIRE DEPT.
as if there was some dumb luck in it,
celebrating neither death nor life
but the clattering ladder in between.
Back on TV, they’re herding up suspects
who only lived round the corner.

This is the title poem of Mark’s full collection, available after 27.9.16 from Templar Poetry here  http://templarpoetry.com/products/the-rainbow-factory

 

When they are gone
they leave chairs in attitudes of conversation
while the words shuffle off to another room.
Only his silhouette stays, etched over decades
in light upon velvet, a still life with El Pais,
toothpicks and toffees lost between cushions.

The shutters are worn out
with looking beyond the far fields that dissolve
into milk through the copper lip of trees.
His thumb has rubbed down the brown gloss
to a keen patch of grain, whorled like an eye
keeping watch from the wood.

Perhaps you know
of a charity shop that will take the shepherdesses
boxed up in the hall with their porcelain swains?
Somewhere there’s a silent family that needs
a wall of encyclopaedias from 1972 (volume K
pressing a gardenia to its heart).

The dial has broken,
so long has the bedside radiogram been tuned
to the same station, short-waving like him
between Hilversum and Madrid, twitching
with static and meds as the military bands
tramp along behind, warless and triumphant.

She takes him up to the 32nd floor
in London’s hard money district
to celebrate the big day at a restaurant
significantly closer to Heaven.
The protuberances of high finance
poke through cloud, chrome-ribbed:
the cigarette lighter, the vibrator,
the Ladyshave, the vast dictaphone,
all the naff caboodle of an 80’s playboy
or some gargantuan James Bond
who’s just tossed the lot away.
Vertigo zip wires from his calves
to his gut to the sirenscape below
as they toast the Anniversary.
She’s the one with a head for heights.
For him, it’s the perfect altitude
for another assisted crash landing
while she circles over the big stuff:
kids, house, holidays, hormones
the lack of public hand-holding.
THE COMPLETE FAILURE
TO HOLD FUCKING HANDS.
The Szechuan signature dishes
undress in his shuttered mouth
but none of the words will come.
Eastwards, along the brown river,
brass cymbals of sunlight crash
over mansion blocks and stadiums,
carparks, markets and stockyards,
over all the choked roads that head
everywhere but to this ledge.
He presses his palm into hers.
Their fingers steeple to a summit.
A thousand feet up, his life still beats
to every breathless second of her.

Runner-up in the Ware Poet’s Prize 2016

“Why the bare chest Mr Putin?”

Behind us, salmon bounce the falls
sideways, backwards, upside down,
flipping as if the rocks were sizzling.
He’s giving me that whipped dog look.

“You must feel the sun upon your heart.
It is Russian sun so it makes you strong
like a bear or a city or a larch.”

Anti-machismo snow starts to fall
in big doily cake shop flakes
that fade on his oh-so-tattoo-able torso,
slippery clean as a hard-boiled egg.

The salmon now vault like acrobats
in harlequin jackets flashing on and off.
Putin slips down his camouflage fatigues
to silver underpants, legs like trees.

“In Russia, our fish don’t swim,
They dance. All animals dance by law.
Even our donkeys and foxes.”

Now we’re at the abyss, how will he fish?
A rod and fly, maybe strangulation?
A couple of grenades would do the job
although crossbow is more his style.

But it’s too late. A spiked fin protrudes
from his chest and rainbow scales glitter
around his neck and scalp. His feet
splay out into a mottled fan.

The President of the Russian Federation
scythes through the thundering spume
to gavotte around a pink bellied sockeye
who Merkels back with quivering gills.

 

Runner-up in the 2016 London Book Fair Poetry Competiton
sponsored by Impress Books