A quennet- a form invented by Raymond
Queneau in 1975.
This is an Ekiphrastic poem, dealing with the
discussion of a visual work of art. It was commended
in the Ware Poetry Competition, judged by John Greening
and appears (ed) in the subsequent anthology.
It was inspired by a visit to The Sandham Memorial
Chapel at Burghclere, near Basingstoke, which Stanley
Spencer decorated with murals, depicting the
ordinariness of war, on The Home Front and in
Macedonia, where he served as a medical orderly.
The formatting is not quite right as WordPress
doesn’t allow me to centre and retain the spacing,
with the short noun phrases being centred beneath
the long line of 3 noun phrases. The 5 line interlude
with the syllable counts of 1-5 should also be centred….
Nevertheless, you’ll get the idea!
precious horses scavenging boar tortoise company
protective firebelt unravelled puttee distant Christ
Macedonian map heavenly tea wounded convoy
unravelled company Macedonian mosquito precious kitten
A re-blog from my past!
Now welcome Summer with its clear blue sky,
its dim green tunnels with enticing shade –
the humid air buzzing with insect life.
At last our favourite footpaths are quite dry;
we quench our thirst with home-made lemonade.
Now welcome Summer with its clear blue sky,
its dim green tunnels with enticing shade.
Buddleia blossoms to the ground are weighed,
where Peacocks, Painted Ladies are arrayed.
Now welcome Summer with its clear blue sky,
its dim green tunnels with enticing shade;
the humid air buzzing with insect life.
Blanche Parry- Wikipedia image.
Painting possibly by Marcus Gheerearts
I had her from her aunt, The Lady Troy.
She was to prove her weight in gold to me –
not troy weight- I jest- but avoirdupois.
That’s what she had: a certain gravitas,
so that I trusted her with all my jewels.
Whether a rainbow surrounded my throne,
or no, she sacrificed her life to mine,
seeeing in me a pearl of rarest price.
She that rocked my cradle, cradled my throne,
as confidante; mistress of our muskcat.
Two maidens: both preserving the jewels
of our virginity; joking in Welsh
at the frivolity of flatterers.
She deserved better than backwoods Bacton.
She did her bit for them with that Bible.
I’ve seen the funerary monument,
with me decked out as Gloriana and
she twice my stature, kneeling prayerfully.
Well, I paid for her to have Westminster
and sent them one of my cast off dresses.
They’ll make a stunning altarcloth from it.
As the eyes of a handmaiden look to…
She never lost her focus, even once,
unless it was to supplicate St Foy.
There she was, clutching that little salve pot,
looking for an ocular anointing,
so she could detect once more loose settings
and not have to feel under beds and chairs
for a stray gem which rolled from my casket.
I’d found a virtuous woman, whose price
was proverbially above rubies.
Eighty two years: of sound Welsh Marches’ stock…
The Tudors liked to trace their line from such.
You can’t replace staff like her any more.
She was my staff – further, she was my friend
and now that she is gone, who will rock me?
I feel I’ve lost a mother once again.
She’ll be His when He makes up his jewels.
She was the brightest and best in my crown.
Assizes, Colchester, Dame Alice Lisle, Ellingham, equivocation, Habeas Corpus, John Hickes, Judge Jeffreys, Kings Bench, Lord Chancellor, Machiavelli, Monmouth Rebellion, Moyles Court, Nelthorpe, oysters, Ringwood, The Eclipse, Tower, Wapping, Whigs, Winchester Castle
THE EQUIVOCATION OF THE FIEND
Maybe a writ of Habeas Corpus will liberate me from my confinement
and then I can steal away from this loathsome Tower and gain passage
abroad, but there is no Court competent to assist me in this wise and now
I am fast losing strength. I am supposed to be thankful for the protection
I have, while the country demands that a retrospective Act of Attainder
should result in my condemnation for multitudinous murders.
The wheel has come full circle. A mob had congregated outside my
house in Duke Street and mocked the bills which announced the sale of
my property. Women screamed, offering me their garters, so that I should
hang myself thereby and men raged, advising me to cut my own throat.
I glugged another bottle of brandy to shut out their clamour.
However, I seemed to have one remaining friend – someone who knew of
my predilection for Colchester oysters. A barrel had been left for me at
the Tower and I burst its bands eagerly. Inside there was naught but
shells and a halter. I apprehended its hint. The delivery youth jeered:
“Canst tell how an oyster makes its shell?”
He is not so dim as he looks.
Imagine! Chief Justice of the King’s Bench at thirty five and Lord
Chancellor before my fortieth birthday. I followed orders and to this
attribute my rapid promotion and even more sudden declension.
I had another birthday recently and there was none to exercise common
charity towards me, or to share a celebration. I stand accused of a
lack of the milk of human kindness.
I will never be permitted to forget the trial of Dame Alice Lisle. In
contrast, she was deemed to have shown exemplary, even saintly,
compassion and hospitality towards distressed fugitives, but there was
considerably more to the case than was imputed.
I was compared unfavourably to Nero, Satan, Cain and Judas, but I only
sent Whigs to Heaven. It was common practice to lash rogues with the
tongue and, after all, I had cross-examined some of the deepest-dyed
criminals in the land. Their weeping and cries for mercy only served as
an irritant, much like the grit in an oyster shell, but without any valuable
How difficult it was to extract the truth from Presbyterian liars! I grew
adept at sniffing one out at forty miles. (Hence the posy of herbs that I
was wont to hold to my nostrils.) Severities may be properly used, I
believe, in common with Machiavelli. Particularly in times of threat t
Yes, Dame Alice, I turned a deaf ear to your pleas and you could not hear
the foreman’s delivery of the verdict, by virtue of your three score years
and ten’s consequent infirmity.
A witch, I thought, whose husband had been a regicide and now the old
crone was denying knowledge of the nature of the indictments against
John Hickes and Nelthorpe, initially denying their presence in her house,
Moyles Court. Subsequently she pleaded that she had understood Hickes’
offence to be merely illegal preaching. She stressed that she had no
sympathy with the Monmouth rebellion, but I persuaded the jury to re-
consider their verdict and, on the third occasion, she was pronounced
guilty, and rightly so, for the Law recognises no distinction between
principals and accessories to treason.
“Let the old witch burn,” I ranted, “and let it be this very afternoon.”
The interfering Winchester clergy made an appeal to me on account of
her age and sex and they gained a respite. Our sovereign commuted
the sentence to beheading, out of his merciful bounteousness.
Now the populace desire that I should share her fate. I am eclipsed – ha!-
a play on the title of the marketplace inn where she spent her final night,
before walking out of the first storey window, onto the scaffold. They
said it should be ever after “The Eclipse,” as it drew all attention from its
neighbouring public house : “The Rising Sunne.”
Barter gave us the information. She had entertained, concealed,
comforted and maintained the fugitive rebels. The Devil had inspired her
to quibble, as do all witches. Equivocation is the nature of the Fiend and
all his subjects. I have oftimes heard his voice in the courtrooms and the
serpent-tongued dame tried to move me by a reminder that she had bred a
brat to fight for James, but if she had been my own mother, I should have
found her guilty, notwithstanding her prevarication that she was being charged
with sheltering Hickes before he was convicted of treason. She stated that
subsequent evidence should not be admitted, since it had not been available.
Very clever: but anyone who harbours a traitor is as guilty as any who bears
arms, I believed, and I hold fast to the same conviction to this day.
“Nay, peace thou monster, shame unto thy sex,
Thou fiend in likeness of a human creature
See thyself, devil!
Proper deformity shows not in the fiend
So horrid as in woman.
Shut your mouth, dame,
Or with this paper shall I stople it.”
The reference was lost on most in court. Fools pity villains who
are punished. Know this: that men are as the time is; to be tender-
minded does not become a sword.
It is more than three years since that fateful day in August in the Great
Hall of Winchester Castle. Some say that a lady in grey haunts the inn
and that a driverless coach has been seen in the grounds of the Dame’s
Ringwood estate, drawn by headless horses and containing her phantom.
What is that nonsense to me? Her head and body were given up to her
family, for burial at Ellingham, and now the Whigs have all but canonised
her, raving about judicial murder.
Yet, when I attempted to escape from this hell-hole, no one would shelter
me in a cupboard, nor a malthouse, and I was discovered at Wapping and
my disguise removed. No port is free to me; no place that unusual
vigilance will not not attend my taking. So, here I lie, and suffer the
agony of passing these stones: a pain as sharp as the gravel of her drive,
or an oyster’s grit.
Yet I still resort to my brandy. I am bound upon my own wheel of fire.
My reins are rubbed with sulphurous flames. The gods are just and of
our pleasant vices… I waken to hear myself cry in the night and then a
distant rumble of carriage wheels approaches, or is it a more horrific
apocalyptic explosion? Who is it that dare tell me who I am?
“What is that wailing?” I shout to the guard.
“It is the cry of women, my good lord,” he replies through the grille, most
caustically. “Come here, most learned justicer.” And then he laughs,
showing black tombstones in place of teeth.
“I have almost forgot the taste of fears. I have supp’d full of horrors,” I
remark, before I remember the context. How malicious is my fortune that
I must repent to be just.
Equivocation – the only means of survival. She was more skilled in its
employ than I.
(The grave of Judge Jeffreys was bombed by German aircraft during the War and his remains scattered. The grave of Alice Lisle can still be visited in Ellingham churchyard.)
Photo by Daderot. Wikipedia
Chasers, Caerulae, Club-Tails, Elegans
and Parthenopes, Mercuriales, Skimmers,
Ear Cutters, Devil’s Needles, Adderbolts,
Horse-Stingers, Eye-Pokers – your varied names.
You’ve hung around three hundred million years;
you can move in six directions; hover;
fly backwards and you switch from side to side.
Motion camouflage paralyses prey.
Your ocelli are attracted to bling:
even to a shiny, granite graveslab,
Emperors, Blue-eyed Darners, Globe-Skimmers,
Freeline Emeralds, Dropwings, Brown Hawkers
and even Common Whitetails – your females
(dimorphic) are deceptively like males.
You live most of your brief life as a nymph,
mating in tandem, you create heart rings,
like suave, romantic nicotine addicts.
Your adolescents breathe through their recta,
propelling themselves by the expulsion
of water from the anus. Cannibals,
you can eat one fifth of your weight a day.
Your obelisk posture avoids solar
radiation, yet before you are named,
you can become extinct, though ancestors
can return on your winged frames,
as the Samurai believed, adopting
your form on lacquered and gilded helmets,
in homage to the hovering rice gods.
In Wales you follow snakes and stitch up wounds;
in Sweden, sneak up on lying children;
your songs revived Mayan goddess, Ix chel.
And, when a mosquito tried to steal blood
from Emperor Jimmu, a demoiselle
zapped it. Henceforth, the lands below were called
Akitsushimai: Dragonfly Islands.
Today you shimmer round me and I know
your shy presence is a volt from the blue;
your iridescence a magical gift
like a glass goblet brought back from Venice;
given to one who may never go there.
My friend suggested that I write a poem addressing the
subject of the women in El Salvador who have been imprisoned
after being accused of self-terminations- sometimes when they
allegedly have just had stillbirths. I was unaware of this until I
researched the topic and discovered material on the group Las 17.
The prison terms are in the region of decades.
In El Salvador, there’s an assumption,
in many cases, that a miscarriage
is the consequence of an abortion.
Girls who have been raped can lose their freedom.
A premature, or unviable birth
can result in a forty year sentence.
How can a country of that name sentence
women when it reveres the Assumption
of a Virgin? Supernatural birth
protected Mary from a miscarriage
when she experienced threats to her freedom:
state infanticide, worse than abortion?
Las 17, accused of abortion –
each subjected to a lengthy sentence,
in a land whose motto includes ‘Freedom.’
Youngsters, trafficked, can face an assumption
which might lead to judicial miscarriage,
as ‘Mata Ninos.’ They’re victims from birth.
After civil war there should be re-birth,
with an enlightened view of abortion
and understanding that a miscarriage
is, for women, a kind of life sentence.
And why should the state make an assumption
that stillbirth expresses woman’s freedom?
Accused of homicide, denied freedom,
because of complications to a birth –
to disregard is to make assumption
and logic itself suffers abortion.
The powerful deliver the sentence
and fear itself can induce miscarriage.
There’s no calculation in miscarriage.
It’s spontaneous – there is no freedom
expressed. Those women uttered no sentence:
I now intend to sabotage this birth,
nor ‘Drinking this will promote abortion.’
Blame’s an ignorant assumption.
Restricting freedom; pronouncing sentence
on those who endure miscarriage, stillbirth:
abortion of innocence assumption.
Pangolin – nothing to do with penguin,
porcupine, furniture polish, mandolin.
It’s got no fur, feather, wingspan, or fin.
So, you’ve never heard of a pangolin?
It’s a mammal, covered in keratin.
Keratin? – a protection for its skin.
When it sniffs food, it gives a little sneeze
and it walks just as if it’s got knock knees,
looking like a dinosaur, if you please.
You’ve never seen one? Well, that is because
they scrabble at night with very sharp claws
and their tongues flick termites into their jaws.
You’ve never smelled a pangolin, have you?
You wouldn’t want to, ’cause they pong like poo,
but – hey! – they might not like the smell of you!
They come from Africa, The Philippines,
Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka… it seems
bad men turn them into medicines.
Pangolins don’t like to be touched: not much!
They’ll try to avoid a predator’s clutch
and will hide in a hollow tree, or such.
If they are scared, they’ll roll into a ball.
They like their own company – that is all.
Big cats will just paw them and let them fall.
Curled up, they can look like an artichoke;
they won’t even move, if given a poke.
Fast asleep, they don’t take it as a joke.
Arboreal ones will hang from their tails.
Pangopups ride on the backs of females.
They’re covered in all these cute little scales.
You used to see pangolins in a zoo,
but nowadays there are only a few.
They value their freedom, the same as you!
They’re fussy feeders – their stenophagy*
means that they will only eat two, or three
types of termites, so it isn’t easy
to please a pangolin. Yes, some have tried,
with worms and crickets and larvae, deep-fried,
but the pangolins turned up their toes and died.
So, if you’re offered one, do not buy it.
They only feed on their special diet.
They are not pets – so, don’t even try it!
I don’t want you to taste a pangolin.
You know, it would be a terrible sin
to eat animals who face extinction.
A pangolin has no teeth to bite you.
Its long, sticky tongue is coated with glue.
It swallows stones, which you should never do!
Apparently, it aids their digestion.
‘Quite how?’ would be a very good question.
Look up ‘the gizzard’ is my suggestion.
They’ve been around for 80 million years,
but now conservationists have raised fears
that, if we don’t help them, they’ll disappear.
Join Prince William, His Royal Highness –
try to look on all wildlife with kindness,
whether pangolin, leopard, or lioness.
Pangolin, we have caused you much offence.
Your armour was given you for defence;
now we pledge to protect your existence.
drawings and text copyright- Candia Dixon- Stuart, 2018.
* a narrow range of diet
Females also guilty – should be ‘Mankindsplaining!’ (New generic?)
Hot air forked tongues terminal inexactitudes
tranparent smokescreens inexcusable excuses unmitigated untruths
iniquitous insinuations criminal understatements overblown rhetoric
Father of Lies
Master of Deceit
Hath God said?
hollow rhetoric smooth tongues transparent excuses
Poetic ordinance regarding the Fishing Guidelines for
harvesting of certain shellfish in Guernsey and, for all I
know Sark too!
Haliotis tuberculata (not a nice name!)
Photo by Hans Hillewaert, Creative Commons attrib.
You must not collect
ormers, except on days of
the Full, or New Moon
and two others between
January 1st and
April the 30th.
This is a mere guide.
Please contact Sea Fisheries
for further information.
Don’t take the small ones.
In your possession you may
have cooked, pickled ones,
but eschew the deep frozen
and don’t cull while snorkelling.
If submerged partially,
it’s still a no-no.
The onus of proof is yours
to show innocence.
If you’re dining on a boat,
you’ll have to prove that
you didn’t dive for ormers.
(What the heck is an ormer?)
Anyway, don’t shuck them.
As for exporting –
except the cultivated –
only with permission
from Sea Fisheries!
Don’t even think about it.
That goes for importing too.
Please return the rocks
to their original sites.
Move crabs aside and
don’t stamp on fragile creatures.
Don’t frighten roosting
birds at Lihou, or Lissroy.
Park where you’re told
and take your rubbish with you.
Beware of the incoming
tides. Don’t get stranded.
Do not degrade habitats;
Apart from that, try to have
a relaxing holiday!