Poem 163 – Morning Migration

Somewhere a switch is flicked, a catch released.
Eager luminescent salmon shoot
nocturnal traps, migrate the lofty spray,
a duvet stretched, inviting pillow plump.
Chasing behind, our newborn day.

A glorious pink sunrise picked out the teased out clouds this morning. Could have captured it with my phone, instead used words.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 162 – To Chris & Anna

I knew you once. At school.
We played, imagined worlds,
Rolled dice and conquered dragons.
We learnt. Shared desks. Since then
We’ve met just once. A brief
Collision, passing by.

We’ve kept in touch, sort of.
We’ve watched each other’s feeds.
Smiled and commented at
Feasts and family gatherings
Matched faces.

I’ve shivered at the sea,
From safe behind my screen.
Watched you crash right in.
Tell me, just how do you
Take your shots without
Sinking? And grin without
Taking in the ocean?

Then, this pattern was
Disturbed. A jolt of memory.
Another face unseen for years.
Decades. And yet, the name
Was waiting to be spoken.
I knew you once. At school.

Do you remember the gossip?
The playground pointing?
Classroom chatter?
‘So and so fancies so and so.’
Watching, that forgotten,
Adolescent urge returns.
I turn to tell my classmates
Only they’re not here.
Perhaps somewhere they do
The same behind their screens.

It’s been an odd few years.
For most, years to forget.
But not for you.
Your joy has brought us joy
Peeled back the passing years.
Your simple post, ‘One week
to go’ elicited
Our keyboard cheers, and so
I raise a virtual glass.

Perhaps one day we’ll meet
Again; for now, a toast.
I break this virtual wall
To type, ‘To Chris and Anna!’
I knew you once. At school.

This was written in celebration of two old school friends who I discovered via social media are imminently getting married. Chris enjoys swimming in the sea in all weathers, something I can barely imagine in the heat of summer! Poem posted with their permission.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Poem 161 – After the Rain


A Sunday afternoon stroll around the New River, Top Field and Baas Hill Common. Although the sky was blue and the sun was out, the waterlogged paths definitely required boots.

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/ko7Tp_LyAt4

Poem 160 – Four Faced

A pool of many personalities.
    Its winter water takes a earthy shade
    Of darkened substance, solid, birds can wade
Upon its surface, under weary trees.
Last month it shivered, sharp, began to freeze
    And whilst the shrieking scarf-wrapped children played,
    Across it’s face an ice-white mask was laid,
Its morgue-like stillness made us ill at ease.
But soon the hope of life will bud and spring,
    The water turn, aping the light’ning skies,
And nests constructed, frisky foul will play.
    Look, summer migrants come on tired wings!
Descend, this paradise their temporary prize,
    For now, its Janus face, a place to stay.
Today, as is often our practice, we went for a stroll around Lea Valley’s lakes. These water filled pits are constantly fluid, their faces changing with the season. Today they were dark and moody, matching their muddy banks. Another sonnet.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 159 – A Sonnet for Jeff Beck

The news of Jeff Beck’s passing was a shock.
    Disciple, six string warrior, he played
    Uniquely. He was peerless to this day.
We cry. The king is dead, the king of rock.
It’s true, perhaps, that thousands did not flock
    To catch him on the stage, perform the way
    He could, making it speak and wail and spray
The air with song-like notes; an ease that mocked.
Despite this, his guitar will always stand
    Unique, unmatched by those within his wake,
Pale copies of this effortless control.
    Unrivalled, fusing different sonic lands,
So few attain the sounds that he could make
    That reach inside and pluck our very souls.

Last night I was stopped by the news of Jeff Beck’s death. Another guitar hero of mine gone, joining the likes of Garry Moore and George Harrison. Very much a guitarist’s guitarist, uniquely blending jazz, soul and rock, along with inventive tremolo and bending techniques he was one of a kind. Continuing to grapple with rhyme, I fancied trying a petrarchan sonnet today. He seemed a fitting object.

© Ben Quant 2023

Photo by Mandy Hall – originally posted to Flickr as Jeff Beck, CC BY 2.0

Poem 158 – Le Vélo Villanelle

I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round
The mercury rises, up and up it goes
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

My eyes are vacant, focussed on the ground
I find my rhythm, legs begin to flow
I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round

Though station’ry, the passing miles confound
Monotony grasps and drags, the grinding grows
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

The tension hangs, a dark’ning electric cloud
My will is draining, boredom bites alone
I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round

Obsessing over every wayward sound
Mechanical stutters grating down below
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

No winner in this race, no victor crowned
All energy gone, I’m spent, yet no one knows
I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

I’ve recently started training for the London-Essex 100, a 100 mile bike ride, to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK (you can sponsor me here), but the weather’s grim right now, and so I’ve been using an indoor turbo trainer. It’s really not the same… I finished this villanelle (no, not the assassin in Killing Eve) last night as another stab at rhyming in a formal form, but didn’t get around to uploading it. I’m pretty pleased with it.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 157 – Was George Lying?

I wake to find the sun still hid away,
    And wonder where. Begin to search it out.
It’s simultaneously both night and day.
    Question: how are the laws of physics flouted?
    It surely must be somewhere hereabouts!
This darkness grips me, makes me feel entombed,
And isolated, life sucked from the room.

My shrill alarm sounds like a countdown’s end,
    Is this some childish game of hide and seek?
This daily madness drives me round the bend,
    ‘I’m coming!’ I cry, as if I now compete,
    And bleary eyed I stumble, weary feet,
Into the bathroom where I pull the light.
Insipid! This won’t set the night to flight…

Still adrift I sit behind the wheel.
    Ignition turned then mirrors checked and drive,
Into the line of mo(u)rning cars that feel
    Deadened, numb, yes anything but alive,
    Striving to find some way we might survive.
Grumbling that our work is never done, we
Feel the lie that’s sung, ‘here comes the sun’.

I’ve been dipping into Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled‘ again, a great introduction to the nature of poetry, particularly metre, form and rhyme. Rhyme is something I have generally avoided, in my hands it becomes something twee and distracting, but he’s persuaded me to give it another go. Here’s an offering in rhyme royal form. It was dark this morning when my wife went to work…

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 156 – Twelfth Night

Tonight come tear the tinsel down
Twelfth Night is nigh, now is the time
The curtain call, the climax of
Our festive feast, is finally here

The cards are crumpled, cast aside
The lights are loosed and limply tossed
With cardboard characters created through time
On toilet roll tubes with cotton wool tufts

Stripped bare to the bark, its boughs devoid
Our tree is trashed and turned outside
Its baubles boxed and banished upstairs
The house is harrowed, hoovered throughout

No food to feed the family remains
Instead our stomachs stretch our waists
And prick and prompt our pilgrimage
To push and pull and pound at the gym

This fullstop flung confounds our fun
Its hangover hangs and haunts our heads
As Winter’s waves unwelcomed wash
And dark descends and dampens dreams

The house seems strangely bare today…
This is a rewrite of yesterday’s annoyingly twee effort. Switching to alliterative verse gave it back its bite.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 155 – Four Candles

Sunday we’ll light four candles,
Our perennial joke,
Anticipated for weeks.
Someone will shout ‘nah, fork ‘andles’*
And we’ll laugh. Again.
It’s strangely fitting. Back then
No one saw it coming.
Now we hold our breath and
Open doors until Christ’s
Born; God’s Son, the perfect
Joke who laughs with us
Divine anticipation.

In the church calendar, this Sunday is Two Ronnies Day, or at least it is in my head (*If you don’t get the joke, you’d better watch this: https://youtu.be/CNTM9iM1eVw). The following Sunday is Christmas Day, the day when God caught everyone by surprise.

© Ben Quant 2022

Poem 154 – A Literary Diet

I’m told we’re what we eat,
If so, I’m made of words.
My mum discovered this
On catching me red-handed,
The soggy contents page
Of the Oxford Dictionary
Left mushed between my jowls.
It seems I am comprised
Of definitions and vowels.

My limbs are formed of nouns
Like leg and arm and elbow.
Elbow is one of my favourites.
Say it slow. El-bow.
How satisfying it is
To wrap your tongue around
It’s form, enunciate
It carefully and full,
Admire its letter form.

Then there are the others,
Obscure and strangely named,
Like supercillium,
And islets of Langerhans.
I learnt of them at school,
But haven’t mentioned them,
Again until the present.
Turns out such beautiful words,
Can never be unlearnt.

But nouns are not the whole
Of me, I’m also made
Of verbs like dream and think,
And leap and hesitate,
Gesticulate and frown,
Digest, impress, caress,
And rest, oh yes, let’s rest
Our tired nouns a while
And let the verbs address.

Or better still send out
Our adverbs, illumination
Their one and only role.
They slyly, kindly find
A motivation for me.
Swiftly, powerfully, patiently,
Reveal me. Show what lies
Hid deep within me. Yes,
It’s true. I’m made from words.

True story, I was discovered as a little one, eating a dictionary! Reminiscing got me thinking about language, and how our understanding of the world and ourselves is framed by it.

© Ben Quant 2022