Salon des Refusés

Here are two poems that I’ve given up on subbing, but am rather fond of. They have about three rejections apiece and I guess they aren’t the sort of thing editors are looking for at the moment. Instead of salting them away, I thought I’d put them up on the blog. The first one went through several drafts. The second is a flight of fancy (ahem) about the failure to write. And it’s rather dark and ironic in tone. That’s a bit of a warning, btw.


Strange Latitude


You are a monster in disguise,

a near-extinct lungfish

sucking the silt of despair from the abyssal plain,

or an irascible god of the ocean,

spewing out the wreck of the Hesperus.


Our dalliance stagnates in a debris field

dreadlocked by sea weed,

barnacled by doubts,

as you tear out the vessels of intricate coral.

I cannot tempt you with sweetened crumbs,

everything is knocked back–

our banter a seagull slammed against glass.


You remain a stubborn blemish

on my mother of pearl emulsion–a sea shanty whine

of florid brine crowning the slapping waves–

your reach outflanking the furthest groyne

in a storm event,

re-configuring my seascape over and over,

your crow’s nest stare projecting

into dark, unchartered waters.


I once saw you in a dream,

floating past as my drowned lover from second class,

washed overboard from a maiden voyage,

discoloured pocket watch for a face,

hands still moving with alien formality.


I want to scoop up all those flotsam words

that drifted between us–

and the day will come when someone will have to

scrub out those rusted sea containers,

prise them open against their nature.


I’m still haunted by the mystery

of a distress signal you never cared to send,

our spoilt cargo the only thing left to cling to.

Oh, to breathe your real air just once,

even your fart stink would be something to savour

before you fade odourless into the ether.



Note Found


I am the empress of failure,

a Queen of the Seas blown open,

bound into a dubious history,

my fuselage gone soft and black,

spilling uneven pages–

so many chapters sooty,

crumbling into dirt with doodles of nothing.


I’d even welcome a lesser conspiracy theory

about a cartoon anvil falling from the sky,

taking away my oxygen on this bright sunny day.


My co-ordinates all set on the path

of a turbo-charged airport novel–

but my chef d’oeuvre couldn’t get off the ground–

oh, how I wished a depressed co-writer

had flown it into a mountainside!


They complained when I handed in

my passenger list, still incomplete–

how come? I had started out so well.

And they walked away.


My final act will be foreshadowed

by outstretched swan’s wings,

written over in sepia ink,

a grand gesture of magical realism,

fading from the title page.

And afterwards everyone will sigh with relief,

grateful to get back to their busy lives.


My acknowledgement torn in half

found in the waste basket, will read:

I just wanted to please everyone–


Salon des Refusés

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