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poems beginning with O 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:


after Po Chu-I
O peony,
Empress of the circular bed,

Your papery pom-poms rest between
Thin pea sticks,

Pink as powder puffs.
You wait for hands to cut the stiff stems

While buds swell
Across the blue corridors of early morning.

from Ambit 210 2012


Old letters
Crumpled inside

Old envelopes already opened
Delicate. I do not

Tear them.
They raise old feelings

Heart beats
Steam up my specs.

Old love
Presses through the vessels

Into the marrow
Sucking on spikes:

Still as a bee
Still there on the page.


On that day it was raining
All the trees were wet
They hissed like falling gravel
Beyond the curtains of net.

My heart was beating fast
As I stood with my hand on the door
I saw the roses cracking
On the brown linoleum floor.

I said goodbye to the garden
And the sulking magnolia tree
I spat at the blue hydrangea
As it spitefully brushed my knee.

Goodbye, Finsbury Park!
Goodbye, fat Jimmy, the grocer!
No more lying alone in the dark
Wishing someone was closer.

I took the bus down Holloway
I got off at Upper Street
I couldn't believe love was so easy
I thought it had had me beat.

A thin moon was waxing,
The sky was green and wet
I walked along smiling
Even before we met.

From Ten Poems Redstone 1993


Stroke my hair
be kind to me

a body with no other
just air and furniture

feels like a sentence
without full stop

I loved that other
to feel myself against it

heart beats behind the ribs
the secrets that we knew

and those that we did not
made us who we were

sweet and sour
cold and hot.


On the North Circular
circus highway
feeling slightly mad
hands on the wheel

and the rising sweep of road
above houses
around warehouses and light industry
landscape of iron girders and bill boards
winged cars we are all driving along a grey road
speeding across no man's land
man's land
dead land
far away some people are sleeping
in darker places.

We are all together
we are all alone
a double decker bus comes bearing down from the left slip road
seems like he means to crush me
the whole of London in the weight
but he doesn't
we are all following something
the melting rubies of the car lights
streaking ahead.
In the dark
alone in my little tin box
then on up and over
passing a slow truck, a slow car
tick, tick, tick
the indicator flashes a lime green dart
then down
steady into the underpass
I'm taking the precise right road
third in from the left
not the fourth road
that leads to a terrible place
of LOST among the post, post war modern
landscape of unlived
building projects and wholesale shops but
no sanctuary
only road without end.

Back on the right road
away from the dizzying desert of sky
and wires and backs of buildings

and dead land
and dead houses
and one way systems that lead to concrete swamps
where you will never
where I will never
but now, having taken the right road,
the precise, third from the left road,
not the first road
that leads to some god forsaken suburb
where the poor live
the disenfranchised
don't leave me here
where sad faces
where somber trudging
where hidden

the little threads of gold
between the bricks
and the drug swoon
of lost mornings
and the coming to somewhere down the line
oh god don't lead me
into those quiet roads
those desolations rows
where Sky dishes wait for rain

but no, I'm on the right road
the M11
the blue sign with two converging parallel lines
we, the chosen many, are sucked onto it
here we go
I'm out of town
the long, long road is squashed with darkness
I'm on my way
away, away before the light –
before the day begins.

Across the central reservation
the cars are stacked in three lines
methodically drawn to the city
which I'm leaving far behind
creaking and snouting they crawl in spasms towards the first roundabout
the first set of lights
suckers, I think, they should be free, like me
not caught in the early morning rush hour
from which there is no escape.

Suddenly there's a speed limit
hanging in the sky
a red 50 in a circle
but the cars in the third lane
roar on
up overhead a rectangular sign
hanging in the night
a red neon car upside down
car crash
inside my head
what else can it be?
but we all drive on
but the sign comes again
and again
the ruby snake is slowing down
almost walking
everything is changing into slowness
is stopped.

I am alone in my car
6.41 am
a dirty lorry
in front
in the dark
the cars still hungry, steaming
engines importantly throbbing,
brake lights gleaming
headlamps on, ready to roll.
Inside the cars heads turn
but no doors open
is this the motorway?
it feels so strange
now we're almost gasping
waiting like fish with only a little water
before we can swim on down the river of road.
How long can we stand it?
On my right two men in the back of a hired car
one rolls the window down and smokes a cigarette
a woman
walks hurriedly forward
towards the unseen thing that has happened
that has stopped us all in our tracks
she's on the hard shoulder
with a stole round her shoulders
I turn my engine off

sit quiet this is only a temporary inconvenience.
The unknown holds us, uneasy
waiting for an explanation
an invisible barrier has come down
stopping all movement
someone else's story
perhaps some else's death or injury
there's no knowing
only a feeling of being on the edge
of someone else's calamity
the stunned ache reverberating
along the white lines of the road.

It seems a long time with no radio to listen to
or companion to moan to
but suddenly it's over
the interlude of stillness
while an unseen
tragedy may happened off stage
the lights are on again
the rumble and hiss
and turning over of engines
moving on
on the hard shoulder
there's a black taxi with no front wheel
and a yellow ambulance, police cars,
a man is sweeping up glass
now I've passed it
7 o'clock news and weather – thank god!
this is normal life again.

Moving on, moving on,
this is motorway living
skimming over the road as quickly as possible
getting away from the other cars
going home to the soft arms
of the country.

And without me noticing the black sky
has evaporated.
The curtain goes up on another day
another stage set
lilac through gauze
a flush of gold
that grabs my throat
the fields like soft carpets rolled out to dry
the first moments of the day still wet
like my tears of joy at being alive.