Monday, 19 October 2009


Margaret Griffiths was born in London but moved to Dorset. Her father was Welsh, and she values her Celtic roots Her favourite poets include Donne, Marvell, Yeats, and Larkin. She enjoyed participating in online poetry groups.

Sky in the Pie

Two sure cuts open the crust
and release a rush of dark thrushes
with golden beaks, heralding an arc of stars
borne on a rainbow. The spectrum flexes
like muscle, then settles in a single depth
of colour, blue as the powdered lapis
on a manuscript page in a rich book
of hours, blue as a dunnock's egg, blue
as distance. Take your spoon before
it elopes with the knife, and taste.

Clouds melt on your tongue, sweeten
your throat. You chant this day
across the meadows, and call the flocks
home. The sheep and the chestnut cows
and the wild black horses. The wolves
and small quick foxes. All the lost beasts
of your kingdom - Call them home.

© M. A. Griffiths


The mer-folk, they who drew us down, for aye
have lingered in the chambers of the sea
till God's own sunlight makes them flinch and cry
and seek the human salt of you and me.
They round your eyes with coral gems and pearls
and xylophone your ears with magic shells.
You dally-dangle with bright mermaids' curls
and feast on bounty, fresh from briny swells.
But lads, remember you are sons of earth
and darkling depths a strange unhallowed space.
Think on the blessed land that gave you birth,
the holy breeze, a mother's kiss upon your face.
Down here, my shipmates, far beneath the waves,
I smell the churchyard grass in Neptune's caves.


Advertising Arsenic
(based on Emma Bovary)

The image that sticks with me is Emma stuffing
whiteness into her mouth like sherbet powder.
She does it on the run, I think, her long skirts curling
around her legs like neglected cats. She swipes
her mouth with the back of her hand. Then she says,
half to herself, half to me: I will lie down now
and go to sleep. That's how we both want it:
the soft blink into a deep gentle end--but I know,
and how does she not know?--that there is pain
and retching, long hours stretched with suffering
till the body exhausts the light.
........................................Listen, Emma,
Woody Allen says he's not afraid of dying,
just doesn't want to be around when it happens.
We understand that, don't we? I understand you,
feel your desperation, the last leap into darkness
that turns out to be a flame. I would take your hand,
help you step over the stile of flesh into the green
and freedom of the next field, where they are picnicking
in a blur of meadow flowers. Instead we stick
here like flies nailed to a windscreen by a rush
of wind that chills our eyes.
......................................I will leave, Emma,
be gone finally, and you will always run and try
to escape. Your stomach will heave, your guts
will grind again and again, but you never lived.
You have that mercy, yet I cannot forget you,
cannot dislodge the teasel of you from my hair.
I carry your weight like an unwanted child.

M.A. Griffiths

The Dying of the Day

Above his head the helicopter blades
beat like a palpitating heart. He sees
viridian and emerald, deep shades,
ribbed jungle crouching, leopard-lithe, as trees
arch down to glinting sea, with boats like toys,
so clear and close, he could stretch out his hand
and touch the bobbing gulls, the warning buoys,
dwarf waves that wash a miniature bright land,
and further out grey slippers of great ships
with friendly guns and sailor dolls for crews,
before the blue-green plane side-slips and dips
in dreams, a fading pulse through fevered hues.
The wound from slanting steel still bleeds, still bleeds;
the flight of sun is done. The light recedes.


The Rime of the Ancient Mountaineer

Beware, he stoppeth one of three and said,
"I am an Ancient Mountaineer and snow
has bleached my eyes. Cruel frost has gnawed my head.
I seem an abseil-minded loon but O
I have a tale to tell. I conquered heights,
my faithful bergschrund at my side, and scaled
great stones of sky. We shared rapt days and nights
in realms where couloirs of the rainbow paled.

We watched loud flocks of pemmican, and saw
the dainty serac leap from spur to spur.
We climbed to Kingdom Cwm through ice and thaw,
but now the mounting bliss becomes a blur:
I raised my crampon, - ah, my heart was rock, -
Alas, 'twas I who shot the alpenstock."


bergschrund: the gap or crevasse between the glacier proper and the upper snows of a face.
couloir :an open gully.
crampons:steel spiked frames which attach to boots giving a more secure footing on ice and firm snow slopes.
cwm (pronounced COOM): a deep rounded hollow at the head or side of a valley, formed by glacial action
serac: a wall, pinnacle or tower of unstable and dangerous ice.
Alpenstock – walking stick

Small Sister Mary

Small Sister Mary-Magdalene of God,
sleep golden in the corner of wide eyes,
descends where many sandalled soles have trod,
the morning garden scents a sweet surprise,
and sweeps a regimen of stony stairs,
her instrument a faithful old twig brush.
Her head is filled with psalms and plain sung prayers
and thoughts of crumbs to feed her speckled thrush.
She dreams a lady on a sky-borne seat
while early light, through ancient tinted panes,
casts jewels upon her dust-bedevilled feet
with ruby, emerald, and sapphire stains.
An amber spider abseils down her nose
and fledgling imps find lodgement on her toes.


Lorenzo to his Lady

When Isabella found her lover's head
she buried it inside a basil pot;
convenient while he was freshly dead,
but when his brains were roundly rotting, what
excuse did Isabella give for smells
arising from the soil, what curb
could she put on decay? Corruption tells
and surely basil's not so strong a herb.
If, dear, you potted part of me, which part
would your sweet fancy choose to keep enshrined:
my lights, my liver, buttocks, hands or heart?
I know that you don't love me for my mind.
Ah, love, though clerics claim the flesh is vile,
fond thoughts of rigor mortis make you smile.


Isabella, the Italian lass, had two vile brothers, but love was as usual the root cause of her doom. Isabella fell in love with Lorenzo, a carpenter employed by her brothers. Hoping to marry their sister off to a rich guy, the brothers hit upon a cunning plan: they lured the carpenter into the forest, where they killed and buried him. They told Isabella he had gone on a business trip, but Lorenzo's ghost came to her in the night and told her everything, including the location of his grave.
Isabella found the grave, but rather than put a posy on it and say a little prayer, she chose to dig it up. The late Lorenzo was a strapping lad - finding his body too heavy to carry, she hacked off his head and tucked that under her arm to take home. Here she put it in a terracotta pot, covered it with potting soil and sowed basil seeds on top.
The basil did rather well, as you would expect. One wonders if she used bits of it in the pasta sauce she cooked for the brothers. She watered it with her tears and spent hours hugging the pot and talking to the plant. People started calling her batty (little did they know just how batty!) and the brothers couldn't interest any rich guys in marriage with a madwoman, however beautiful.
So they hit upon another cunning plan: they would steal the pot of basil and with the object of her obsession removed, Isabella would return to normal. Unfortunately they broke the pot, saw the head and realising the game was up, they fled the jurisdiction. Isabella, bereft of Lorenzo, Basil and all, pined away and died.
Keats wrote a poem about her; Holman Hunt, John Millais, John William Waterhouse and John White Alexander painted her, but it seems the Italian police ignored the whole thing.

Costanza Carved

Of course, you packed the bloody bust away:
I'm sure your bride preferred to see it go.
Your former love--the scandal--such foul play--
too dark a thing to grace a groom's trousseau.
It's true your deft hands nearly killed your brother
,yet, what man would tolerate that slight,
the horns bestowed fraternally? Your mother
called the guards and spared his hide that night.

And you reformed. A tardy penitent
shaped saints and angels with sweet blessed heads.
Did God forgive the razor that you sent
to slice her perfect, faithless face to shreds?
And did you doubt the glories of your stone
redeemed that living flesh slashed to the bone?

© M. A. Griffiths


A Sort of Ode to the Poem Lady
(or You Don't Have To Be a Hypochondriac, But It Helps)

Hush, they are carrying in the Poem Lady again.
She is too weak to walk herself; she comes swooning
from a room thick with the scent of sinister blooms:
hellebores, opium poppies, lilac, pallid orchids. They wrested
the belladonna from her frail fingers, although she wept.
Her dark eyes are still watery, her nerves as delicate
as a spider's network which leaves stickiness
on your fingertips if you are unwise enough to touch.
Once I tried to bring her a bouquet of peasant flowers:
stiff-stalked Piss-a-Bed, Ragged Robin and corncockle
but they turned me away with curled lips and curses.

A linen handkerchief, redolent with lavender, veils
her temples. One lily hand droops towards a pen.
A rumour ripples round the room that she will write
today—it buzzes fretfully like an exhausted bee.
She grasps the pen—the courtiers hold their breath
terrified they may waft away her strength and inspiration
but she dispels their fears. Her ivory soul shuttles
across the sheet, weaving a lattice of fragrant words:
amaranth, muscatel, damascene, vermillion, amber.

She drapes into Pre-Raphaelite attitudes as Poetry
continues. She writes of her weakness, of her womb
which is connected to the moon by silver strands,
and her sacred suffering self, her sensitivity,
her swollen heart which bleats like a sacrificial lamb.
Her tear-haunted eyes sweep the walled garden
for the Vision Suitable, for trembling leaves
and picturesque petals. She acknowledges
a thrush's distant rapture, rain patterning
her casement, the purple periphery of sunset.

From a world she is too fragile to consume,
she retreats into consumptive dreams, floating off
to seek death like Elaine on a tapestried barge.
Taken by the current, she sings of suicide and pain.
O Poem Lady, may we be forgiven if we hymn life
instead of celebrating the sickroom. O, help us
to wallow in unease and depression and shadows
as we should. Forever and ever, lest Poetry die.

© M. A. Griffiths

The Pismire Oration

Kreck, kreck, the Plumeys have been down pick
pick again. The valley-balls, the lupes, the liplap danglers
are all mussled and distrayed. Who was scooting
on the oakmost roam, and did not give the larum
to beware us? We could all have been mordered
in our buds, culled in curls and couchings.

O my simlings, gather round in heedance.
First we must brush and bellish, make bloomheads
clean and sparkish, then we can cusp and susp
and I will tale you tellings of long days ago,
stores of queens and trells and hellent warfor.

Ho, hard there, fattyfiller, with your seggy bodments,
do not munge upon these leaves. Peel off
and mandicate elsewhere. This pliant plot,
this green clingdom, this is our heapsake,
our hill-land, our gem set in a sylvan lea.

Rejuice, my simlings, simsters. We'll browse avids
on the fallage, surp meet mead nectar soon.
All life is ground and gladly — part from Plumeys.
May Magog smart the flockers from the highs.

© M. A. Griffiths

Opening a Jar of Dead Sea Mud

The smell of mud and brine. I'm six, awash
with grey and beached by winter scenery,
pinched by the Peckham girl who calls me posh,
and boys who pull live crabs apart to see
me cry. And I am lost in that grim place
again, coat buttoned up as tight as grief.
Sea scours my nostrils, strict winds sand my face,
the clouds pile steel on steel with no relief.

Sent there to convalesce--my turnkeys, Sisters
of Rome, stone-faced as Colosseum arches--
I served a month in Stalag Kent, nursed blisters
in beetle shoes on two-by-two mute marches.
I close the jar, but nose and throat retain
an after-tang, the salt of swallowed pain.

© M. A. Griffiths

A Poem by the Green-Eyed Monster

O my God, these poets. How they nature on.
Their pieces are stuffed as full of leaves
as a nursery, as full of birds as a rookery.
Do they write on trees, say, inscribe their words
on sheets of hammered bark? Perhaps they pull
reeds from the river, pound them into pulp
to make their rustic paper. Do they really live
day-to-day with their heads up squirrels' arses,
with nuts and catkins like a veil before their eyes?

Why is it so hard for me to believe that they draw
water from that old cold well, and squeeze dough
between their inky fingers? I picture them
in their armchairs, just like me,watching the latest
mind crud . Just as modern and unnatural, just as full
of e-numbers,however hard I read the labels,
just as dislocated from the primal re-creation.

But somewhere they buy the Wordsworth glasses,
the Tennyson titfer, and the greenest ink
that monks can muster, and off into cloisters
of forest and streams and mountains merrily
they go, journal in hand, quill-gilled.

And I am here, dammit, with a huge red dog
snoring like pre-Genesis, squashing my toes
and there goes the Green Man stalking past
disdainfully as I tip-tappity at the keys as I
catch the rustle of a crisp packet wafting past.

© M. A. Griffiths

Fer Blossom

Tha's not allowed ta bury pigs, tha knows.
I blinks et Blossom's bulk stratched awt on
a bad of bettercups end pink-tinged deisies,
ayes closed es ef ha nipped off en a nep.
Ha ware a soft awd boy. Et ferst ha wouldna touch
tha sows, naver mend thet thay becked partly et him,
but once ha got tha heng of et, ha did his duty
like tha bast. Ha used ta stend nose t'nose
with em grunting softly aftwards. Thare ware summack
about Blossom, but now ha's deed. Deed waight.

Ha'll hefta be hautopsied end cinerated. Hup
en a cloud of smoke. Ha ware naver dastined
fer becon. Ha ware a pat. Ferst I kneels down
ta buss his ear. Farewall Blossom. This es ow
I'll ramember tha, mettressed on meadow,
paceable. I hopes thay'll rub tha stummack
end stroke tha snout, jest es tha liked.
I hopes thay'll know tha loved persnips,
epples and Meltasers. I knows I'll see
tha trottering up fer tha feed with th'others
tamorrow, but tha won't be thare. I won't
stey fer tha rast of et. Wa both knows thet
don't metter a smutter. Goodbay, Blossom.
Goodbay, awd berrel-bottom boar.

© M. A. Griffiths

On Philip Larkin

How pleasant to know Mr Larkin
who has written slim volumes of stuff,
who partook of Earl Grey and parkin
and declined to be seen in the buff.

His manners were British and donnish
(one won't wear one's heart on one's sleeve),
traits that a Yank might admonish,
asking, 'What did this mother believe?'

Some delved in laundry and letters
for a cad with promiscuous needs
but sex clamps us all in its fetters,
and he left us his words, not his deeds

It's rumoured that Larkin was clever,
so perhaps, in the end, it is best,
to let his words speak out forever,
while the poet enjoys his long rest.

They say he was xenophobic;
when bigoted push came to shove,
his verse hardly realpolitik,
but neatly transcended Love.

© M. A. Griffiths


As another full year ends,
Let us salute our absent friends

Count Tosselkov who modelled pollen grains to scale in wax,
Whistle Murphy, who married seven women, each five years
younger than the one before, Cardinal Dab Brockney
who catalogued the thirty-nine sexes of angels,
the Michel-Burkiss twins who circumnavigated the globe
each year while they lived, and were scattered
on the trade winds when they died, Ram Shah Pann
who enamelled his virile member with turquoise and pearl,
Ishmael Serif who perfected pellucid dreaming, Colonel P.D.Beeds
who could see colour with his finger-tips, Pierre Chamberlait
who conversed with molluscs, the Whittaker cousins who sighted
the first green mammal before they were lost in Sumatra,
Sugarcane Smith who wrote a twenty-three volume Epic
of the Great Venusian Wars and burnt it immediately,
Red Haslam who bred flying saddlebacks, James Wade
who invented stained-glass bullets, Rabbi Hyram Hite
who proclaimed that Doubt is the true foundation
of Knowledge, Trapp von Cutler who abducted aliens,
and Sydney ‘Slim’ Milch who pioneered the No-Food Diet.

Please charge your glasses, gentlemen;
we shall not see their like again.

© M. A. Griffiths


'To explain its full nature,' the ferret says,
'would require a more brilliant tongue
than mine; but I can provide a few pointers,
if someone will stow my mice away for me.
I stuffed them with chestnuts and chives,
so I don't want to lose them. Rodents
have a habit of disappearing round here.
Take that as a starter-while light is nice,
mice do not vanish if you keep your eyes
on them. Light comes from the sun, kaleidoscopically
reflected in the ocean ripples, or from the moon
gazing upon a lake or the from the fire in the canopy
of branches when the sky splinters. Light strikes our eyes
and shows us what is what and where is what.
Now, you may ask: how did light
get into the sun-but does it matter?
I feel it was the work of some great ferret,
a hero of our race; but I have no proof.
Light is good and beautiful, and I approve.
'He removes his spectacles, and checks
his turnip watch. Tucking a furry roulade
snugly under each arm, he toddles out
into the tooting street, humming an air
from L'Arlesienne, greeting old friends.

M.A. Griffiths

Throwaway lines

I'll lose some things I will not need:
that tag, these toys, this plaited lead.

I'll ditch some things I cannot use:
that dish, those cans, these rawhide chews.

I'll dump some things that make me weep:
those bones, this basket full of sleep--

and I'd bin this ache inside my chest
if I could bag it with the rest.

- for Sine the Brown

M.A. Griffiths

Holes in the News

They put me in a hole and left me
there. You know the hole I mean.
You scour it out each day until
your armpits leak and blood smears
plum across your nose. When I try
to sleep, they megaphone me, pelt
me with pellets of news. You know
the news I mean.

And I know the other holes
where bodies lie, wrapped or bare,
over-wept or dry. They rot away,
but are replaced. Their faces merge
to one; its mouth becomes black sun.
You know the face I mean. Once

forests filled the holes with roots,
grave leaves rained down. Now
trees are felled for news.
On your knees, you worry at it;
dunk your arms to the elbow in suds,
scrub. You know the brush I mean.

There's a new hole scraped for you.
Wipe your forehead with your wrist.
Rest. What was whole is lost.You know the rest.
I mean oncethe forests filled. Faces felled
like trees. Like rain.

© M. A. Griffiths


He sucks his finger thoughtfully
running his tongue over fresh ridges
where briars snagged his flesh.
A strong, handsome lad, arms and shoulders
shaped by working the Umbrian soil,
now he thinks of the vineyards, and curses
the day he took up the sword and the standard –
not that it’s any disgrace to uphold the
Pax Romana, but sometimes he misses
the smell of rich, damp soil in this parched land,
feels weary of an alien place full of dark religion
fermenting like grain under the sun, Zealots
and priests all gabbling beardily,
eyes bulging like barrel-bungs.

Tomorrow, he will offer a pair of pure white dove
to Jupiter and ask to be posted back
to his green hills. Who can feel at home
in a land where the sky grows dark in the eye
of a bright afternoon? He never wanted
the bloody execution detail: daily splinters
were bad enough, but the thorns crowned his
discontent. Leave them to it, he thinks, dreams
a burst of red grapes in his mouth – first draught
of the new vintage.

© M. A. Griffiths

Studying Savonarola, he considers his lover as kindling

With your amber eyes, yellow and red
of you, sun-sign heart like a blood orange
suspended in a porcelain cage, say you burn

in a courtyard and your ichor drips like honey
on the firewood, on the branches bound in fasces,
flesh fumed in the air, dark as molasses,

but what you are hovers as mist, as the spirit
of water is invisible until steam makes the sky
waver. Say you die, scorched into ashes, say

you pass from here to there, with your marigold
eyes, the garden darker for lack of one golden flower,
would bees mourn, would crickets keen, drawing long

blue chords on their thighs like cellists?
Say you disperse like petals on the wind,
the bright stem of you still a living stroke

in memory, still green, still spring, still the tint
and the tang of you in my throat, unconsumed.

M.A. Griffiths


I come festooned with flowers, smiles and grapes,
prepared to play my part, to entertain
and act the fool, a cheery jackanapes
with jokes and japes. I know I must sustain
a jester's role and this facade can't fail
despite the rictus of a monkey grin.
Give me a short red coat that bares my tail
and I will caper like a capuchin.

Better that than show the dog behind
my eyes, that blackly hunkers down and whines.
It would attack if only it could find
an enemy to bite. Instead it pines;
for neither simian nor hound can tell
if this goodbye will be our last farewell.

M.A. Griffiths

The Bateleur

She was returning to the gauntlet when
a dolt hammered a horn. She slewed left, fetched
off course, alarmed, towards the misty fen.
I heard the shrill cries of the crowd, and stretched
my naked wrist out wide. She landed there
as softly as a stork re-sits its nest,
and gazed at me as I absorbed her stare.
Preening her wind-combed quills, she came to rest
sphinx-still, her eyes a blaze of feral gold.
The handler bustled up to break the charm.
He mentioned luck, unlocked her talon-hold,
and claimed the eagle from my unscathed arm.
Between her wing beats, Nature spurned the rule
that beauty shows no mercy to a fool.

M.A. Griffiths


Enough. I have no stomach to defame
his ghost. The man died well. Set men to prise
his blazons from the walls and doors. My name
will over-write his wealth, my lordly rise
will soon rub out his lineage and line.
Bring in my hounds, my hawks - install my pages,
unlock his stores, uncask his finest wine.
His treasury will pay my army's wages.

My sword is stained with blood, indeed. No, leave
it so. They say good brands must drink their fill
before they sleep. That steel was forged to cleave
the armour of my foes, to carve and kill.
His family? Safe passage to the North,
except that one fair daughter. Bring her forth.

M.A. Griffiths


Crossed out in white, unwilling,
in tidy ranks we lie.
A few had mastered killing,
but it takes no skill to die.

Like poppy petals spilling,
we fell beneath this sky.
So young men earn their shilling
and the living pass us by.

M.A. Griffiths


I sensed you were a follower of Set -
the way you grumbled at the dawn each day,
kept pipistrelles in pockets, and a pet
with three fierce heads to snarl and bark and bay.
I knew you were a demon when your eyes
went black and something vipered into view.
Of course I felt a soupcon of surprise
but Honey, what the hell, I still loved you.

I scarcely scent the brimstone now; it blends
with lavender and violet so well.
Did human sex transmute your horny glands
or have I lost my dogged sense of smell?
Ah well, no man is perfect and, at least,
I'm topped and tailed by beauty and the beast.


Last Orders -The Movie

I'm ordering a Hollywood decline.
The symptoms are ideal: not being sick,
the application of a pale lip slick,
some floaty scarves, a duty to recline
against silk pillows being brave, while friends
and family troop in with gifts and flowers
and wet-eyed memories of golden hours -
stock shots of surf and seabirds when it ends.

Spare me the vulgar things, like diarrhoea,
depression, pain; they're for the hoi polloi.
A dying will seems such a good idea.
I want a starry close, so please employ
soft-focus, and cue choirs' Ave Maria,
then fade me out with Ludwig's Ode to Joy.

M.A. Griffiths

The Night Emile's Mistress Turned into a Cat

She raised one arm above her head.
That was the start of it, a smooth
stretch of muscle, a lengthening of bone.
She was resting on exhausted sheets,
fingertips touching the wooden bed-head.
He heard the scrape of nails.

He lay beside her, drowsy with pumping,
and drifted into dreams, her rump spooned
in his belly, firm against his soft sex.
He awoke to a narrow vacancy,
her furrow parched and empty.
The mattress ached.

She left a ghost of warmth
and three golden hairs on the pillow,
glowing like marmalade. Sometimes
he hears a serenade in the lane
beneath his window.

Queans sing when they disengage,
briefly, bitterly, then they lick, clean,
clean, forget.

M.A. Griffiths


When I broke into the nighthouse
you'd already cracked the lock
standing sky-eyed in the hallway
picking apples from the clock.

Grandpa slumbered in the attic
breathing like a chickadee
as I watched your wicked fingers
lifting heirlooms off the tree

but you turned to me like nothing
angels cradled on your brow
and I saw your leopard grinning
knew you'd stolen wings somehow.

When your finger touched your lipfold
I was thinking of your tongue
though I knew your sails were setting
once the summer dawn was sung.

You’re a robber and a raider
dusty dry dock buccaneer
velvet coat and pirate pockets
crammed with someone else's gear.

Sack the magic and the silver
Filch the music and the score.
I hid one red shivered treasure
that you'll seek for evermore


On the pale shaft of beach, I wait,
the harsh high chalk behind me.
The boy fidgets, racks his throat,
reams nostrils for hidden gold, gropes
his crotch for Christ knows what.
The pony snorts, snickers, shakes its head.
The boy told me it had been down a pit
pulling tin-ore. I imagine them dark
and hunched like dwarves, drawing it
brown-bellied like a swollen bucket
up from a well. The fever in my arm
is heating my brain. God's guts,
I hate this sullen sodden race
spawned by a land below a leaden sky.
I dream of fragrant citrus leaves,
the aromatic ball of bay that crowns
a topiary garden, loud parrots
fed fruit ripe from tropic isles,
Moorish girls quiet as voles, dark
and sweet as caramel, the swirl
of bright fabric, white teeth in brown skin,
sun, by God, the blessed sun
which some men worship as a deity.
Heretics, this disbelief no more sinful
than these white devils with their bleary light.
The pain from wrist to shoulder,
soon I will be home and warm, drinking
ruby wine, hearing fierce melodies
celebrating our victory. Philip will smash
their ships, burn their ports, humble their
mannish queen in honour of the Faith.
The pony snuffs the air. I hearmyself
telling the boy, "Make sureyou keep the beast
above ground.Do not send it down into the dark again"
I give him coins. Feel the gold as cool in my palm as the fire
in my forearm is hot. Soon, I know it will be soon.
Salve, Regina,Mater Misericordiae.
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy

M.A. Griffiths


Unpeel me slowly, like the fruit
you placed on a white plate
ready to accompany the wine
or the cake, frilly-papered,
that you eyed while you ate
your salad and brown bread.
The apricot warms, ripening,
the cake crumbles in its case,
sugar crystallising and re-melting.
Taste me slowly. Let me melt
into the granules of your tongue
like ice cream on shingle.
Make me zing like lemonade
after strawberries, like sherbet
on a rod of liquorice. Make me
flesh and sponge, sweet and sour,
savoured, swallowed, assimilated.
Make me muscle.

M.A. Griffiths


My angel is shaped from clouds, a purl
of dove-feathers, the maidenhead of snow
and sugar crystals, but at the core, an engine
turns and churns and steams to propel
his huge benevolence. White and winged
he trundles down the pavements and into shops,
secreting sides of salmon, brie, sheep's heads,
beneath his robes between blessings. A nun
genuflects in his shadow. He turns and smiles
and O the sun spins from the horizon,
gibbous glory blazes out upon the crowd,
the high street is transfigured. Shoppers weep
into their pockets as he passes by, trailing tail
stream prayers and sweetness like the kiss of a contagion.

M.A. Griffiths

The Duke A-Hunting
("E'en then would be some stooping" - Robert Browning)

Today we step out for his sport and pleasure
across the wide estate, trout-streamed and wooded,
The Duke calls for his pets, his feathered treasure,
and cadge-boys bring the birds, gold-belled and hooded.
My lord extends his leathered arm, his eyes
as bright as gold-clasped gems that stud his fist.
He scans a perch and picks the sleekest prize,
a full-summed peregrine to grace his wrist.

She cuts the morning wind, a grey-fletched arrow
dispatched to strike the prey. She stoops, kills cleanly,
then mantles jealous wings to claim the sparrow.
A merlin stirs and snites. He eyes it keenly.
"Hush, sweetheart, hush", he whispers, maiden-mild,
and strokes it like rich silk, a coin, a child.

M.A. Griffiths

Drips from Psyche's Lamp

Tell me you're blind at night and I'll believe you.
Tell me they raise the sky on ten thousand turquoise poles
and I won't quibble. I'll point out the flapping canopy,
and the places in the T-shirt clouds where their points stand out
like nipples. I don't care about lies, about tall tales,
only about the tourniquet musk of you, the bowstring tight
around my aorta so my brain pulses harder than my heart,
all thoughts turned to sparkles.

Wind me in your elastic time
so I'll live forever before breakfast, so I'll fall apart
and curl in a yolk, then break out all gold and new
like a Paschal chick on a daffodil cake. Launch me
on a crocus sea. I don't care if you're blind at night,
if the sky collapses on me like a marquee in a squall.
I'll be ova, ovine, big sheep's eyes,
I'll be nova, novacodeine, noddy as a noodle,
I'll be tangy, tangerine, mango, mandarin,
tango, tanga, bingo bongo bang.

M.A. Griffiths

Pumpkin Pie

He'd sworn that she was not his type, too thin
with, at most, three-quarters of a mind-
and, Geez, that laugh- a gerbil drowned in gin!
He'd stressed again that he abhorred that kind
of wet-lipped tart with slap fit for a clown,
all tawdry flesh and flash, a laughing stock,
hems hoist like flags and necklines plunging down:
sure signs of too much mileage on the clock.

His wife soon read the tale in Visa's sums,
his statements contradicted, line by line;
how odd a modern fairytale becomes
when fantasy and fact and lies combine.

The ugly sister croaked. Once she was dead,
he'd had a ball in Cinderella's bed.


The Sparrow

I dreamed of Beowulf and dragon-lore,
bright treasure gleaming underneath the hill,
brave kings who drank from brazen horns and swore
great oaths, berserkers crazed to hack and kill,
a lurk of monsters in their murky den,
gold rings, rich torcs, and magic swords unsheathed;
all thrilled my eager childish heart, but then
I found out what these warriors believed,
that life was like a sparrow in a storm
swift-winging through a banquet-hall, from rain
and dark, a fleeting passage, bright and warm,
then through the doors to angry night again.
I grieved then for that lost beleaguered bird,
and now, for truths unsought, and best unheard.

torc. a collar, necklace, or similar ornament consisting of a twisted narrow band,usually of precious metal, worn esp. by the ancient Gauls and Britons.


Playing God

I met with God along the Pilgrim's way.
We shared a six-pack on the trampled verge,
and when He asked me if I'd like to play
a game of travel-chess, I felt the urge
to question Him, though I was rather shy
and doubtful of the Lordly etiquette.
As He set out the pieces, I asked "Why?
"God echoed, "Why you suffer? I forget"
"Are we just pawns?" I asked, and moved one out.
He chose a knight to leap the humble rank,
and said "Don't ask Me what that's all about-
the bishops say it's Satan you must thank"
I carped " The Primal Cause is You, alone!"
God said, "I'd love to chat, but that's My phone."



I'll take the beast out for a walk, beware
the prowling nose, the fangs, the eyes of fire,
the barrel chest and shoulder strength. Take care.
Do not approach too close and tempt its ire.
Velociraptor camouflaged in black
and henna fur, hair-primed to pounce and feed.
What holds this salivating terror back?
One hopeful human clutching one frail lead.

At home, a fast dissolve to precious ducks;
it's kiss me quick and tummy-tickle-rub,
all licky luvvy chops and finger-sucks,
wide liquid eyes that plead for woofie grub.

Part dragon wrapped in fur, part greedy hog,
part loon, part teddy; all beloved dog.


Ding Dong Bell

Great Bast, today she pulled out all the stops,
all faff and fussle just to impress her friends;
the bedrooms were a whirl of cloths and mops,
much bathroom bleach sloshed all around the bends,
great bullishness of Hoover on the stairs.
She wore a gypsy scarf to dust and clean,
to brush the suite and tut at velcroed hairs.
I split, aloof - upheaval's not my scene.
She's donned a dress, a closet lecher's dream,
the pristine kitchen's pregnant with fine food,
the startled rooms and furniture all gleam.
Ding Dong. Her guests arrive in festive mood.
Ah, that's my cue to squat with blissful hiss
and souse the Persian rug with pungent piss.

M.A. Griffiths


His flesh is cartography,
a palimpsest of old engagements:
bullets, knife, grenade fragments,
powder burns on one thigh.
Sometimes he begins to tell
her something, but he hesitates,
unable to articulate.
He talks about the heat
and the cold, the waiting,
the sensitivity of it all.

She gave him the essence
in small iodine-glass bottles.
He uses it to treat the blisters
on his feet. At first he worried
that his men would laugh, but now
they all carry lavender. The thought
makes her smile; the fragrance
of elderly English ladies carried
into the earth's little hells,
over permafrost and desert.

In Grasse, the purple acres raise
a scent so thick, it could
knock larks out of the sky.
The oil is pressed and collected,
concentrated yet so gentle
it can be applied neat to the skin.
When he leaves she says, Take care.
She dabs her pillow with lavender
each night. They say it aids sleep.

© M. A. Griffiths

Growing up with animals

I was an awkward child, always asking
questions, always wanting to know
more: what, if, how, when, where?

Why? My cat reprimanded silently,
plump on the pillow where she should not be.
She slanted sloe irises at me, signalled

she knew more than I would ever know.
Licking her paw, she viewed the lippy kid
with well-fed tolerance. She allowed me

to stroke the bright plateau of her belly,
and caress her ears, while she purred
in my lap. The dog waited for me to explain

things. Cats will eat what they need,
then leave the dish. A dog will clear a plate
in case it's never refilled. Seek serenity,

said the furred coil of felinity warming
my thighs, while the spaniel frowned and gazed
across the room at stomach pangs.

Cat and dog brush against each other,
sleep side by side by certain accidents,
breathe in unison through separate dreams.

© M. A. Griffiths

Bellerophon Before Breakfast

I am heaving my reluctant flesh around with me
as if I carry Quasimodo and his hump. I always
doubted that he could be so agile across the gargoyles,
though I saw him in black and white, his swinging
progress a mix of broken baboon and mounting ibex.
As for me,the spring in my heel has dried up. My elan has died.

I turn on my laptop and it responds with a small cascade
of notes, warm somehow, an emblem of pleasures to come,
like the flying horse that leaps across the cinema screen
while I'm settling back into the plush, holding my popcorn
like a talisman - or like that grey giantess with spikes in her hair.
But no opening credits blaze at me,merely a mundane gape
of mailbox, so I read the first,or last, email. There must be
a difference between them.

Now I am concerned. They want my help to find a child.
She has been missing in Ohio, in Denver and Detroit;
they have been seeking her in the canyons' cleft, across
the level gilt of prairies and Okefenokee's steam. I see
the sheriff who's in charge, know he's hitching up vast
pants to signal he's giving this search his all,his rifle
propped against brush-scratched chrome. I picture
a dandelion's head, its blonde tufts surrendering to the wind.

She was already lost years ago when I first logged on.
I am far away - the dilemma reaches out to me, but I cannot help.
The worry is that it worries me less than it did, as if time
has stretched one cornea over both my eyes, and clouded it
with a cataract, vicarious grief that has torrented across
the screen for so long. I have seen such things that sight
has turned in on me, a gorgon gaze that petrifies soft tissue.

Now I feel incredulity at each new atrocity, but no longer any surprise.
I accept that an angel's apprehension ends, face-down, arse-up,
in stinking mud. Perhaps the stallion is more suited to the air than a man.

Pegasus will stride out of the myths into the strata of the sky,
and Quasimodo will swing down ever lower, his tongue swelling,
his words fading,till the city's common breath turns his heart to stone.
Dark water reflects the clouds: I hear a small flip and flop -frogs
in the sucking sediment at the edge of a great lake.The sheriff hefts
his weapon, and the vehicle drives off importantly. Overhead huge
wings may thunder but cameras are focused on the exhaust-trail
wisping up the road and over the dark green horizon.

© M. A. Griffiths


When the hull grated against an island,
we both cursed crossings, hot-breathed
as buccaneers. The startled parrots flapped
and flipped. A wiser, worldlier pilot

would have avoided this sad scrape,
but our navigator thought more
of air than water. Instead of calculating
angles, he was flirting with the stars.

I saw him drop my steely sextant
into the moon's reflected gaze
when we passed through the Azores.
He pleated sea-charts into butterflies

and lanterns, and played darts
with the dividers. Well, I will light
a fire on the beach to melt pitch,
and caulk timbers, while you hammer

at necessities. We will re-launch
into a fair wind. Later we may discover
a small winged stowaway, bright-eyed,
amongst the ropes and canvas.

Do not scold him. Lift him gently
into the arms of Zephyr and let him fly
over trade routes, trails and dragons
into the wide uncompassed day.

© M. A. Griffiths


Estella buried Pipin
the blasted graveyard
where the convict found him
long ago.

He died of a cracked heart.
She lays a maroon rose
on the gravel mound
and smiles.

Did you, my dear,
believe in happy endings?
She keeps her wedding gown
wrapped with camphor
in case.

© M. A. Griffiths

Staccato for Lovers

No blades were sheathed, no target spared,
Throughout the cut and thrust we shared.
The bitter words like songbirds snared,
And love was winged, as if lust cared.

For pleasure's course, you needed pain
To salt the cooling dish again.
I was too greedy to complain.
When love is bleeding, lust may reign.

Like starving wolves we'd quickly rise,
And feast on flesh with hungry eyes,
With wanton tongues and carnal cries.
Love ran the race; lust stole the prize.

No blades were sheathed, no target spared;
Dark wounds too deep to be repaired.
Our skin was flayed and bones were bared.
Lust sucked the peach that love had pared.

© M. A. Griffiths


I am dying, Egypt, dying
and all the weight of night
and Nile is on my shoulders
and my brow, The helmet
breached, the armour cracked
open like a wounded turtle
the carapace of jewels
is scattered on the flood-plain

I am dying, Egypt, dying
The constellations whirl
children's tops whipped
singing like green crickets
the lilies droop, the lotus
lifts his heavy head no more
armies retreat, blinded
by battle and Ra's brazen gaze

I am dying, Egypt, dying
and Rome sinks into darkness
The age of heroes ends
as Anthony paints the desert
with his blood. Ice and metal
seal the sorry future
the heat and passion drained

I am dying, Egypt, dying
cold Augustus will calculate
the cost in columns
our defeat his triumph
our bloody loss his profit
he will grey the world
and bleach the coinage
we die without glory
but glory dies with us
look, my love, in the East
the brightness fades

© M. A. Griffiths


Sir, I was taught to write
by a former master when I was young.
He had enlightened views they say
but he died childless and his estate
fell into other hands.
I was not needed so I took the road.
I could have fallen into crime
but by God's grace I found my calling.

When I am about my business
sometimes I hear the tinkle
of fine china and silver
from the open windows round the square.
It reminds me of my days in service.

The hardest thing I find is not the hanging
nor the burning nor the gutting
but the first cut that takes
the manhood. I cast it into the fire
without delay. I keep them on the rope
longer than most and have been censured for it
but my purse is no fatter however much
a wretch suffers. I take pride in neatness.

Often the press and sound of the crowd
hit me like a fist. I smell the stink of rut.
I wash my hands and arms and return
to my family, leaving the work behind.
Once I told my Confessor
that thoughts trouble me at night.
By Our Lady, he said, crossing himself,
Without the rule of Law
We would be as beasts.
You are God's instrument, man.

Now I must excuse myself
for the fawn cow is big-bellied
and close to her unburdening.
Last time I had to remain all night
beside her. She bore a white calf
as dawn rose over the beechwood.
My eldest daughter called it Puss.

© M. A. Griffiths


Lord, they say I have one soul.
Can that be right?
Perhaps I am made wrong
for I feel many things in me.

Mostly, says my grandmother,
I resemble a monkey;
that is when I chatter
and play and do not listen.

sometimes, my brothers tell me,
I am like a brown deer,
when I run fast, so fast
like the wind stroking spring grass.

then there is the owl of me,
Lord - my eyes round
with looking and stories
and things to be understood.

Stripped for the water,
I become fish, not thinking
or considering, but warm
in the river's fist, forgetting.

When I stand under the stars
there is something more,
a sharp brightness
on tiptoe like a spindle.

When you take one, Lord,
do not leave the others pining,
it is one hand, five fingers.

Monkey will ride deer
Owl will sail salmon
and light will guide us home.

© M. A. Griffiths


Somewhere in this room
there is a dead bird.
Four plump Java finches
perching yesterday
on the curtain rail -
today an odd number.
Somewhere in a corner or
behind a piece of furniture
there is a dead bird.

I should look for it
but not yet.
The green canary
bubbles with song
sends out a tendril
of notes so beautiful
it touches pain.
One of the doves coos
with tender lust.
A parakeet flirts
its vivid wings

I know somewhere
there is a dead bird
but I will not seek it yet.
In the room of my mind
there are dark corners
where thoughts lie
desiccating like dead birds.
I will not disturb them yet
not while sunlight
smells like honey
and canaries worship Pan.

© M. A. Griffiths

The Dancing Bride

When I was six, and dainty-footed, my parents sold me
to a pedlar, to pay for modern goods they craved:
a washing machine to counsel the neighbours,
two televisions to till the garden, and a computer
that pupped keys to all the doors in the world.
I turned and waved, but they slammed the gate.
The pedlar put me on his tray to dance. I spun
like maple seeds. I whirled into cream, into butter,
my breasts were soft pale curds. I melted
into a salty cracker and swallowed myself.
On the seventh day I rose with clouds in my eyes
and sandalwood nipples. I knew my place
on the mountain. I grew like a princess pine.
Resin sweetened at my core and I threaded calling birds
through my needles. The west wind carried me off and
made me his wife. Lightning sheeted our bridal bed
and thunder rocked it seven times seven that night.
He leaves his feather sandals with me, so I can fly.
When he's abroad, I hear the earth whispering
through the wounds men make. When he returns
I hear nothing but his words. Nothing save his words.
I gathered all the tears my mother never shed
and gave them to my husband. I poured them
into the cup of his hands. He rains them on the village
where I was born, and my small brothers and sisters run
into the yard, and tilt their heads, quick-eyed as robins.
Beware of wolves, I whisper to them, beware of wealth.
But my words are lost above the water's mill.

© M. A. Griffiths

Jerome and a Theory of Nails
Jerome is discussing his mediaeval site, where many nails
have been unearthed. Usually they rust away, he explains.
Just the sharp red sockets remain, ghosts of connection.
Metal was always precious. He bites into the tender waves
of a radicchio heart. Most societies revered metal. Malleable
magic. Makes me think about crosses. Say the crucifixion detail
was short of nails. They must have used great iron buggers.
They drove one through both feet. Chunk. Chunk.
He grates sea-salt meticulously on a cloven tomato.
Say they only used one through both wrists? Hammered
it into the vertical beam above his head. Would that still work?
He'd still be raising himself to expand his ribcage, so
he could breathe. There would still be that strain on the biceps
and intercostals--quite excruciating. I'm sure it would work
as well as open arms. And it would save wood as well as nails.
Jerome was always a keen disciple of conservation. There is a strange
blend of Casaubon and de Sade about you, I remark. He swallows
a slither of Iberico ham and mouths Thank you through crescent lips.
For Eliot or Marquis or meal, I cannot say. But he dances like a defrocked angel.

© M. A. Griffiths

Megaera in the Cocktail Hour

She is standing with the dark-eyed man
in the corner. He is twitchy with his glass,
casting glances at the wall where the clock
escaped. It is because he has to be elsewhere,
locking the gate against defenders.

She has been through several sieges,
has eaten ripe, unnamed flesh
and sucked on roast rat-tails.
She reaches down with tended talons,
tweaks the rule of stockings
which she wears on her shinbones
as a statement of entente.

Icebergs clink in crystal; liners cruise
proud and unprepared across the carpet.
Passengers wave from the shore, their
journey in the air. She is growing feathers
as he squirms. She preens, pecks, crows
'Darling.' He is nestward bound, destined
to feed her green and gold fledglings. The rush
of wings bears him out into the car park
and pins him to leather. He has no chance
to semaphore. He misses Mayday.

© M. A. Griffiths

My Life with a Latin Professor

Lorenzo has been taken by aliens again.
They caught him four nights ago in the car park
of the Conjurer’s Half-Crown, took him up into the starry
starry night. The mothership was retro, tricked out
with silver plastic and plump crimson velvet,
like a 50’s cinema foyer. They freshen the air with
lemon-grass scent. I smell it on his jacket, one tone
above the cigarette smoke. Nicotine is a habit
that hit the greys hard.

Last month, I was carried off by a band of raiding
seraphim. The smell of incense and burnt plumage
lingered between my thighs for days. I hummed Holy,
holy, holy as I vacuumed mats and rearranged our dust
with feathers. Strange how he and I remain such
tempting prey to skyfolk, but perhaps the conjunction

of pheromones that first brought us together calls
upwards like a signal beacon. And abductions,
these enforced absences, are in one way welcome
lacunae in the mundane act of togetherness. Who knows
where Lorenzo will be next week, or how far up
I will fly. I do not envy our friends’ uninterrupted
coupling, their drab separations by appointment.

Tomorrow, I may be radared by an eagle seeking
a swan. Today, I scramble five eggs with milk,
not forgetting a dash of mustard, and spoon the pale
mimosa into two willow pattern bowls. With
wholemeal toast and strong coffee, that will see us
through till lunch. We step out under the open sky
like eyelets waiting to be hooked. Our history
will be as much vertical as horizontal. Our hearts
are always thudding like wings.

© M. A. Griffiths

Cutlet, Mince of Denmark
(A Tragedy in 4 Lamentable Fillets)

Act 1:

What fowl noisette's abroad this night? I walk

the battlements. Porked lightning! Next appears

my father's goose. O Veni, son, he says. We talk

of offal oxtails - poussin in his ears!

Act 2:

I ham a madman's veal. My plans are laid.

I rib Orphelia, my lamb, and swear

that she's croquette and worse, that sweetbread maid.

She drowns, a bouquet garni in her hair.

Act 3:

The barons and the burgers beef. I do not quail.

Words dripping on the tongue, I tell the cast.

I steak my all upon my play. It mutton fail.

I'll pluck my uncle's heart and crown at last.


The thyme is out of joint, and drumsticks thrum.

Did Bacon write this tripe? The butchers come.

M.A. Griffiths

Advice from Mother Goose

Today we'll talk of princes, pets, it's story time

and magic lurks in millponds. Here's a frog

cold-humped by well-wet walls: how such things slime

and slither, silver-muscled, damp as fog

and just as hard to grasp! The waking kiss

is easy--overstressed, I think. The lesson

is rather how to catch, how not to miss

a golden chance, and never mind the mess on

your dainty digits. Holding frogs and newts

takes skill, as slippery as an eel's ringed squirm:

a female art, my dears, that bears rich fruits.

The needful squeeze is confident and firm

to seize control, but not so tight it hurts--

so wise princesses earn their just desserts.

M.A. Griffiths


You always lingered just beyond my sight,

a promise at the golden edge of light.

My hands reached out. My heart was huge with need.

At last I wearied of desire, grew too tired

to hope. The business of the world, its grind

and grief, devoured my time. Grey sirens mired

my course and I was lost, but now I find

your presence at my side, where you have always been,

to crown me with the stars that I had never seen.

M.A. Griffiths

Casting Pearls

As Shakespeare wrote, forsooth, so shall I write.

His hem up lifting, I'll his robe assume,

My verse infuse with his poetic might,

And mind me not that Moderns fret and fume.

Like Circe's pets, they scorn my polish'd feats

And grunt at each inversion and elision;

Such Swine will call Time-temper'd touches cheats,

And claim Tradition's sweets may need revision.

These Creatures value not my antique jew'ls:

"'Tis not contemporary speech." they cry.

I write for the Elite, not vulgar Fools;

The more I Shakespeare ape, the more Bard, I.

Enough! I have great Sonnets to compose.

Bring me my quill, my doublet and my hose.