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

Poem 170 – To Those Tempted to Censor

Don’t steal my words,
make me say what I did not say.
If I’m offensive either
be offended or do not listen.
Let people see me as I am,
judge me on my words.
Shun me, shame me,
even expose me,
laugh with or even at me
but do not steal my_____.

I feel uneasy about the reported changes to Roald Dahl’s books, made in order to align them with contemporary attitudes (I suspect they weren’t even in line with the attitudes of his day!) Whilst I appreciate the sentiment behind this, I’m unsettled by the idea of changing an author’s words because we don’t like them.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Poem 169 – I Collect People

I collect people.
Not in an album like
a stamp collector, or
macabre jars like some
demented serial killer,
but in my memories.

Childhood friends stand by
eccentric teachers that
inspire and shape my path.
Loved relatives are filed
with heroes of the stage
and teenage heartbreakers.

Congregation members,
that walked with us awhile,
together with neighbours
who passed our window daily,
their names undiscovered.
Did they know each other?

Time to time I take
them out and dust them down,
revisit, reminisce.
These familiar faces,
both intimate and distant,
make up my life’s matrix.
I am in reference to them,
embedded and defined.
There is no island life.

A conversation at church about personalities who have been part of our family over time prompted the phrase ‘we collect people’. This stuck in my head and eventually prompted this poem.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Raj Rana on Unsplash (Original in colour)

Poem 168 – The Week’s Weft & Warp

The Ayatollah screams, in ’89,
his cruel fatwa over Rushdi, judgement
upon his blasphemous work. In contrast,
proud fist raised in 90, Mandela stands
defiant, tasting freedom. His smile disarms.

Go back. In ’83 bold scoundrels snatch
Shergar from underneath our noses, boldly
driving their horsebox to his door. Go further.
In ’52, the King is dead. A princess
is lost in Kenya, long live our new found Queen.

This week winds back and forth, its tapestry
an intertwining web. Created by
its stitches, we’re not free but bound and shaped,
informed and influenced, held by its threads.
However, choice exists; we choose which strands
to trace and which to weave for those to come.

Inspired by the BBC’s ‘This Week in History’ earlier this week (8-14th February).

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by hp koch on Unsplash

Poem 167 – The Futility of the Fenland Cyclist

‘It’s just a short climb,’ they said,
‘A little rise, a quick kick.
It’s nothing that will trouble you.’
But they forgot I grew up in
The Fens; a horizontal line
Of land that’s paper thin, all sky.
To me it was Mount Everest.
I set off from my base camp with
Adventure in my heart, but soon
I needed oxygen and Sherpas.
The final straw? A lycra clad
Illusion, laughing as it passed…

I’m currently training to ride the London-Essex 100 in May for Parkinson’s UK. Encountering slopes, my legs reminded me of a fleeting encounter just outside Sidmouth when I was on my first major ride… (Ps. If you want to sponsor me you can do so here: https://events.parkinsons.org.uk/fundraisers/benquant)

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Sebastian Graser on Unsplash