Poem 176 – Riverbank Sketches I

The Cormorant:
He holds his head up high
to look down upon us.
His curled haughty lips
suggest amusement.
I doubt he’s ever glimpsed
his own reflection in
the ripples – unless his smirk
disguises self-denial.

The cormorant’s smile caught my attention as we walked along the Lea yesterday. I’ve grown to love these comical birds, so graceful in the water, yet so clumsy looking in the air or on the bank wings outstretched to dry.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by JJ Harrison licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Poem 175 – Soundscape

The wind’s white noise cannons against my ears
along with percussive rattling of jostling trees.
A distant car alarm melds with an avian
sentry, sounding an urgent, shrill reveille.
The muffled sound of barking blends into
the lapping of the usually languid Lea.
Astride their balance bikes, delighted children
point out serendipitous discoveries.

A blowy day for a lunchtime stroll by the River Lea.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 174 – Fusion Cooking

blend together
two unrelated
cuisines or musical

a fusion dish
of novel taste
an auditory

two particles
at speed into
a forced collision

explosive wave
of energy
reveals sub-
atomic secrets

grab unrelated
ideas and hurl
together hard
to see what happens

conceives surprising
ideas and insights

a man, a woman
heat up their hormones
stir DNA
and leave to sit

new life erupts
through pain and joy
familiar yet
distinctly different

But still…
we build
our walls
close down
the channels
shut down
take cover
our slogans
of what
might be
and be

This started life as a poem about poems and metaphors for World Poetry Day, but finished up as something quite different as I combined not just this and other interests of mine whilst reflecting on a local hotel housing asylum seekers.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by John Legrand on Unsplash

Poem 173 – Service Required

Hello sir, what can we do for you?
A mystery sensation when you pedal?
Hmm, might be the bottom bracket’s bearings,
is there a crunching when you turn the cranks?
Those pedals, are they new? Perhaps your cleats
are loose or worn. Let’s strip her down and change
your chain, it’s stretched and straining the cassette.
Your derailleurs look dodgy, did you know
(a cheeky wink) that wheels have nipples.
We’ll check your cables and their casing, rust
can stop their operation, make them snag.
Same for your brakes, your callipers and levers,
and let’s index those gears to make them smooth.
But sir, I hate to say it but I must,
have you considered that another factor
might be at play? Perhaps it’s not the bike
that creaks (a wince), perhaps it’s you.
Maybe the grinding’s in your knees, the pain
comes from a back that’s old and worn. I fear
There’s not so much that we can do…
                                                                                for you.

I find when I’m cycling for any length of time that I begin to obsess about the sound and feel of my bike. The smallest thing becomes amplified until I become convinced there’s something wrong. Am I just looking for an excuse, or looking in the wrong place?

© Ben Quant 2023
Image by Jarkko Mänty from Pixabay

Poem 172 – Life’s Cycle

Tonight we buried a newt,
a cheeky chap who kept
his gills, those pink and flappy
fronds that waved hello.
A Peter Pan who stayed
in Neverland’s waters
from whence he cheered us on.
He’d flit and spin in joy
with energy unbound,
confounding expectation.
Alas, eternal youth
ran out, Tick-Tock caught up.
We laid you by the pond
and as we did a nearby
dart alerted us to
the first newt of the spring.
The cycle starts again.

To Dennis, our delightful friend.

We have a small garden pond in our garden which became home to numerous young newts last year, some of whom were adopted and brought inside. Sadly one passed away yesterday. He’ll be missed.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Piet Spaans shared under CC Licence 2.5

Poem 171 – The Longest Ride

My longest ride awaits.
The bike is set and shoes
await for me to slip
them on and clip them in.
They sit and beckon yet
I hesitate, it’s been
too long since I have pushed
myself this far. I wonder,
do I have the legs or will
they turn to futile mush,
betray me? Foolishly
I’ve shared my plans. The only
choice is suffering
embarrassment or pain.
Too late I speculate:
why do we test ourselves
like this? I sigh, reach out
and put them on and leave…

Today I’m killing two birds with one stone. I have a midday meeting in Cambridge and decided to use it as a training exercise ahead of the London-Essex 100 in May, and am cycling up and back. It’s just under 80 miles. It sounded fun when I first mentioned it. Today it feels a little daunting…
I’m raising funds for Parkinson’s UK – sponsor my London 100 efforts here: https://events.parkinsons.org.uk/fundraisers/benquant/ride-london-100

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Josh Nuttall on