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poems beginning with J by Jehanne Markham

Poems are catalogued alphabetically. Please select a specific section by clicking on the the alphabet above.

Click on title to see poems:
MEMOIRS OF AN OPIUM PIPE
MOON
MR CUNG
MY GRAND DAUGHTER EATS TULIPS
MY HARVEST
MY SWEETHEART TELLS LIES
MARCH
MAY



MEMOIRS OF AN OPIUM PIPE

I remember the first pair of hand that held me
and placed the fine spout to my lips:

a gentleman tailor form Phnom Penh,
his fingers soft as a girl's.

Smoke rose in a small coil
of oily yellow.

Small dragons nosed at my bowl,
cool feet in the dust.

The hours of night broke
slowly like an old train going south.

Draw back the crimson sash,
let me lie down in the gathering light.

from Thirty Poems Rough Winds 2004

MOON

Lovely lopsided moon,
I can see you from my dark house.

A lamp, a plate of light,
an almost spherical white stone

balancing between the black apple branches,
a loose balloon.

And in the circle of your pocked marked face
the rabbit still holds up two smudged ears.

Shine on then, over railway stations and ploughed fields,
over-hearing human prayers and fears;

always moving on, yet always constant,
moon, you earn your living in the night.

MR CUNG

We were two ladies in the noon day sun,
jolting over the pot-holed roads of Phnom Penh,
in a tuk-tuk, (half motor bike, half van).

The sun shone on Mrs. Ada's bobbed white hair
and her swan-like neck,
it surprised me, she never wore a hat.

We stopped on the corner of two small streets –
CUNG, TAILEUR, HOMME ET DAME –
with our bags of material swinging round our feet.

Mr. Cung was absurdly elegant, small and thin,
he wore baggy pants and a vest,
his face scratched with lines like an old tin.

Behind the red felt curtain there were rolls of cloth,
dust, threads and a floor length mirror to stare in.
He took our measurements with the ghost of a smile,

his fingers fluttering over our figures
like butterflies over tall flowers.
What, if he knew you, he might have told:

They have taken everything from me,
my mother, my father,
even the small wooden house we lived in.

from Thirty Poems Rough Winds 2004

MY GRAND DAUGHTER EATS TULIPS

My grand daughter eats tulips
She likes the taste of scarlet
She sees these beacons
Among the ruins, these warnings,
These beautiful warnings:
This is Spring.
These globules of red satin
Lisping their frailty in the four o'clock afternoon.
She hears their drumbeat
Inaudible to adult ears,
Licks the waxy sheen on their clapped petals.
Cockatoos and canaries, dragoons,
They are all calling her.
The birds perch on her shoulders,
As she runs over the grass,
Forwards, into the day.

from Ambit 212 2013

MY HARVEST

This year the trees are laden with apples
but my harvest is different;
the wind blowing down the green lane,

the owl flying over the field
like an avenging angel
twisting his white head but not seeing things.

Dark thoughts underneath my pillow
rise up at night
like woodlice under threat of fire.

Sometimes it seems
I can never rest again
so much to gather, so much to hold.

In my hands, sea lavender,
our last walk across the marshes,
hiding our sandals in the long grass.

2014

MY SWEETHEART TELLS LIES

Shattered you like a river
Turned your shore
To greyness
Currant spotted with dead fish.

A moth on the wall
Itches like a white flame against the dark.

My cat lovely
Has a throat like a snake.
We wait like tigers
With our eyes.

from The Captain's Death Soul 1974

MARCH

March is when the daffodils come out,
their slim green throats slit open, one by one,
yellow, yellow, yellow, is what they shout.

Another Easter, chocolate eggs in pyramids
and six-packs of hot cross buns.
March belongs to others,

my February is gone.
The birthday table with snow drops
my mother arranged when I was young;

the parcels wrapped so crisply
on the white cloth,
the future still to come.

2016

MAY

When the hedges are splashed with limey white and in the wood
the bluebells are ringing their high blue notes in pools of light.

The workers who laid down their tools to earn their human rights

Once I leant my head against the trunk of a beech tree not yet in leaf
Oh was all I said, remembering the tramp of your feet
the slap of your boot buckle with every tread.

The workers who dared to form unions to unite

Here comes May with her white blossoms sprawling
through the long white days
her cups are printed with pink where bees go crawling.

The workers who put up their fists and had to fight

How the tulips swell their satin heads
plucked from Chinese wall paper
the rich colours of spring are burnt orange and blood red.

An eight hour day, an eight hour night