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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.

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When you were a baby
how easy it was to love you.
Firstly, you were utterly cherubic.
Your rounded limbs, the perfect shape of your warm, downy skull
and your baby smell!
Sweeter than all my mother's puddings,
more intoxicating then a vintage bottle of champagne-
my own child – no one could tell me now
that I loved too much.
You absorbed my love and it made you strong.
"A wholewheat baby," your uncle chipped,
as we sat on the garden step.
You stretched forward against my hands
in your battered gingham rompers,
the tub of your body, a mysterious god
whose legs gleamed with the first breath of summer.

Whose legs gleamed with the first breath of summer?
The tub of your body a mysterious god
in your battered gingham rompers,
you stretched forward against my hands.
As we sat on the garden step -
"A wholewheat baby," your uncle chipped.
You absorbed my love, and it made you strong.
That I loved, too much.
My own child. No one could tell me. Now,
more intoxicating then a vintage bottle of champagne,
sweeter than all my mother's puddings.
And your baby smell,
your rounded limbs, the perfect shape of your warm, downy skull.
Firstly you were utterly cherubic:
how easy it was to love you
when you were a baby.

from Ambit 212 2013


Those elegant folk
Leaning on the ship's rails

In double-breasted suits
Trilby hats evoke

An era of dignity and soul
Hope against hope

For a better life
Work and education would give

A roof over their heads
Where the family could live

Kids standing to attention
Looking straight ahead

In the bleak British streets
Ignorance and degradation

From the landlords of the day
No wish for integration

Sign in the window
Says No Blacks may apply

That was the Fifties
Photos were black and white

Now it's 2018
And the vindictive edicts

From the Home Office
Are seen in broad daylight

The victims of our colonial past
We enslaved with cruel hands

In return they gave us music
Reggae and Steel Bands

Bob Marley was the king
Singing of love and redemption

Bringing people together
Of every race and skin.


In the garden little teeth of blue and white
turn up in the soft earth
like whispers from the past.

Cakes were baked and cooled
and sliced upon the plate
where hands picked up the crumbs

and flung them to the birds
who still fling themselves from branch
to branch the small velvet chested

bunch of winged waistcoats that lunch
upon seeds and things laid out
on the tipsy tilted table

while I weed and clip
among the ground elder and the rose
finding chips of cups

and tiny patterns of sponge ware
that grow among the roots
and worms dull cracked spode

and willow patterned fragments
where the house cow once stood
and mooed waiting to be milked.



Oh mother you have gone
Down the dark corridor
Where rose pink worms wait.

We sit around like sacked staff
Chewing the cud
Railing against impossible conditions.

All the gifts that we brought you
Still cannot compensate
For the loss we are about to inherit.

You sailed away on a cloud
Of morphine and love
We hope, we almost pray.

from Our Time of Day Oberon 2014


the dining room is plum red
the red cupboard is hotter than love
but the air in the bedroom is cold
out of which, your quiet face
mouths for help
The tender china
Swept and swirled
Over table clothes of white.
The ellipse of a cup
The fast smile of a jug
Sliced and shadowed by mauve.
Through the window
The garden shrieked with heat
Driving flames
Into the hearts of flowers.

In the bathroom, that hall of mirrors,
Diamonds hung in the floor,
Purple, orange and blue.
Marthe's childlike face, looking down
And then yellow fell on her shoulders
Under the glint of turquoise water
And one lilac leg extended straight against the zinc.
Her small dog curled on the mat and watched
Your butterfly boxer hands
Punching death on the noses
With colour and light.

from Twenty Poems Rough Winds 1999


Sprung out of the dark,
a fabulous fantasy: a work of art!
Lips like kissing cherries, legs that easily part.
So secret in the green woods, so newly intimate,
to have a plump queen
to stroke his long ears
(no more work-a-day worries or fears)
on some lush mossy bank
pocked with white anemones
like soft stars that close their points at night,
as wild violets and heartsease
undress their purples in the moonlight.

This was ecstasy for the old ass
who had found such a comely lass
in the shade of a woodland glade
and she, splashed with sap from love-in-the-mist
thought his stumpy hooves were adorable too
and longed to be kissed
smelling of hay and oats
stroked his soft grey nose,
entwined his prickly mane
with the petals and stems of a sweet musk rose.

How happy he was
like a babe who fell asleep
in the winding arms of a woman's keep.
Both dreamers did upward float
until Puck came in with the antidote
and Bottom awoke, thinking he was rehearsing a scene,
his head still full of delirious hope
about a world so magical that words had not the scope
to explain, delineate or demean.

January 3 2016