You wined and dined me till I felt
There was room for nothing more
Then you poured me full of a Camembert melt
And laid me on the floor.
The hardness of your Pecorino
The creaminess of my Brie
Made Parmigiano seem quite tame
While milky Mozzarella seeped.
Rocking back and Roquefort
Bite your tangy Feta
Still (ton), it’s time to move on
From your onion-flavoured Cheddar.
Temptation of the young American:
Bubbling, sizzling Monteray Jack
Meltingly delicious and packed full of spice
But your wax coated Gouda was just as nice.
The following collection of four poems was exhibited in September 2016 in: ‘100 Madonnas’ at the Crypt Gallery, Euston, London.
Four voices: my mother, my son, my soulmate, my soul
Accompanying brochure text:
2000 years ago, this family lived, loved and struggled just as we do today. The minutiae of their lives is long-since lost – and irrelevant; the persistence of the overriding religious portrayal lays claim to what followed. Yet while Mary is universally revered in the role in which she was cast, in her own time she was simply a young woman existing in a harsh reality; a daughter, a mother, a wife, sister, friend… Her world was compact, insular; her familial relationships creating the boundaries of her existence.
These were ordinary people with extraordinary legacies. These words snapshot their world.
Mary, my Mary
Mary my love
Your energy beats me
I’m at your will
Your passion heats me
Like the desert before us
Surrounding our small city
You promised yourself to me
You gave me your word
Of this I’ve never heard
Stay with me
Together we can conquer the world
I’m Mary, I’m me
My hair pulled back loosely from my hot skin
in this evening sun
A chignon, this will one day be
Now just a simple knot
with tendrils framing my face
One day filled with grace
One day ensconced in Wedgewood blue
A flowing gown and regal cloak
the world over
Our lady, our mother.
But for now I’m just a simple girl
A child of Israel
I’m Mary, I’m me
my heavy belly on a bed of hay.
I care not if I share my night
with a donkey, an ass, a brood of chickens.
I yearn only for a corner in an inn, a chair
by the fire
Even a stable
A roof, is all I need.
Pray let my child be born tonight
when the sun is set and the winds blow cool
Let my child be healthy, be bright
Be a beacon of hope
In these dark days
A blizzard is coming, the wise men say.
Wrap up, baton down
Don’t lose your way.
We have no way
We have no plan
My husband is a simple man
This town is harsh, the people shy
Fed up of us visitors passing by
Waiting only to pay our tax
Law abiding, hardworking, facing facts…
We’re trapped in an economic downturn
Future’s bleak, life’s a bitch.
Where’s our saviour – our guiding light?
The inspiration to lead us on.
The angel to inspire my unborn son.
Trust ourselves, that’s what they say
Trust ourselves and we’ll find a way
The answers lie within
Seek our inner guidance – yes,
There’s a guiding light within me.
That light that shines from within
will one day light the whole world.
But tonight I’m just a girl
Tonight I’m Mary
Tonight I’m me
Mary, my child
They told me, “Anne, that child’s unusual, keep her on a tight leash.”
They urged me, “Anne, it’s no way for a Jewish girl to behave.”
But I watched you grow
into a beautiful woman
Calling on them as your friends
Gabriel. He’s a nice lad
Raising your son with the man you loved
Following him into the unknown
Turning your back on our traditions, our faith
Closing your eyes to the women of Israel
Rachel, Rebecca, Leah
is still your future
Whatever religion my grandson may choose
And you follow.
You’ve cleansed your blood
And made peace with God
Watching your child turn water to wine
A stream of magic
Sometimes I think that boy is out of his mind
You’d better keep a closer eye on him
Or you’ll be cradling his bones
Washing his cloth in tears
You’ll forever be my daughter
You’ll always be my lady
Mary, my mother
This beautiful woman
Her angelic smile
Soothing me to sleep
My short years as a child
This funny, smart, insightful maid
Smoothing the hay where my young head laid
Teaching me life
Throughout the strife
Keeping the family strong
While father worked
Chopping his wood
She chopped through life
Pushing me forward
My destiny to meet
The blueprint for my future wife
This woman is my hero
Her Jewish heritage grounding me
The seed is sown
My roots have taken, my branches spiralling forth
A determination to make this world my own
The following poem was exhibited in: ‘A New Home‘ at the Pavilion Whitechapel Gallery in Mile End, London, Feb 2016.
A new home
I came from there
I came to here
I left behind my home, my fear
My car, my job, my shattered dreams
I came in search of what it means
To rest a while without the pain
Of fighting, loss and, yet again,
Discovered peace and harmony
In a culture that’s accepting of me
I came from there
I came to here
I left amidst my family’s fear
I came to fight a better fight
To state my worth
To light the light
Of freedom, in the name of war
Across the city that I tore
To cleave through peace
Love into dust
What could have been
Today was a gift.
Your arrangements were cancelled.
My arrangements were cancelled.
No one expected us to be anywhere.
The gift remains wrapped, a mystery
Tied in a bow with a beautiful ribbon of unfulfilled dreams.
The following poem was exhibited in March 2018 as part of ‘In a country far, far away‘ at the Art Pavilion Gallery, Mile End, London, before spending three months in a gallery in Germany.
The Priestess Poet: a woman of her time; a fragment of ours
Accompanying brochure text:
Enheduanna is the earliest recorded poet. She was the High Priestess of the Goddess Inanna and the moon god Nanna, living in the Sumerian city of Ur (Mesopotamia), which is now southern Iraq. This beautiful and respected princess lived from roughly 2285 to 2250 BC, during which time she was involved in some form of political turmoil, expelled, then eventually reinstated as high priestess. While Enheduanna was a real person, her history is wrapped in ancient stories and subsequent folklore. This poem speaks in three voices: the poet, her scribe and an oracle.
As the mists roll away, she appears.
in the flesh.
Hair flowing freely down her naked back
As she steps lightly over peaceful terrain.
The hot Sumerian air moistens her amber skin as she walks on.
Four thousand years from now, this land will be a war zone
Who can imagine it?
Anguished women crying in terror
Battlefields covered in the bloody remains
Of people, of books
My name is Enheduanna and my mother is Queen.
I love being the High Priestess – it’s a young girl’s dream.
The people stand in awe, while
I devote my time to Inanna. And they watch me. As adored
as the goddess herself
with my gold-ribboned head-dress
and crescent earrings: moon-shaped, so pretty, so apt.
I’m an ornament of heaven!
I jot down my hymns, carnelian bracelets jangling as
I script the words myself.
I wonder if my children’s children
will remember me by them.
Remember they will. And her words will last well.
Her Sumerian Temple Hymns place her in future days;
in a history too distant to contemplate.
The world’s first author, ahead
of the Romans; pre-dating the Greeks
While the Iliad, Odyssey and unwritten Bible lie ahead, fragments
of unimaginable script
In languages no one yet speaks.
She’s a bright lass, well educated, and her mind is creative, fantastical, vast.
And she’s beautiful, as a high priestess should be.
The city’s prize.
She’s impressive, too – the first woman to hold a significant role.
A lady of great importance.
Valued by her royal parents, revered by her peers,
loved by me
in a forbidden dance.
Yet her appointment as the High Priestess is political; she’s a pawn.
A shrewd move, some may say, to secure our lands
in this power struggle.
To protect the southern kingdom and safeguard
our wonderful city of Ur – to the finish,
from the start.
My quill is poised, as she speaks, as she breathes, so shall I lay down
her words. As I lay down my heart.
Yes, she’ll be remembered well. And loved
beyond the grave.
Buried in the temple there, laid to rest
in a shroud of linen
upon a reed mat; decorated in gold leaf
and dripping in lapis lazuli, with twelve servants
And the oxen to ride
As the Ferryman transports her through worlds, through time
with silent musicians poised to play.
Left alone until they will come, in four millennia
From across the seas, and the sands, so they will come.
To desecrate the ruins, in astonishment.
She wrote of curses, but this divine
woman spread no evil.
Airing her views
Social, cultural, political.
My servants annoy!
Don’t they realise I am busy? My work is important, equal
to that of kings.
“Something has been created that no one has created before.”
I meld the gods
I’m creating a shift in
the woman’s role.
Bring me a new tablet, my strange little scribe.
I’m a Royal daughter, a woman of the highest standing, an icon.
I won’t be allowed to love.
I write of humanity, of hope, of fear.
I know of battle, surrender and death.
I know of exile.
I know not of passion
I know not of relationships dear.
I love this woman. I watch her from afar.
I am there in the morning when she wakes, and there within the cooling
and dying embers,
anointing her flesh in my mind, with the most sumptuous oils.
I am Sagadu; let history remember me as one whose love was lost,
unrequited by status; untouched, by royal decree.
She’ll stand tall in centuries to come
Leaving her mark across 43 centuries
Never to be forgotten.
She’ll stand above the women of tomorrow
The voice of reason, the sound of being.
A feminist icon; an ideal we cannot articulate,
for we have no concept of its meaning.
Yet, between times, she’ll be lost.
An unheard voice for epochs
Unknown until a time when our world is unrecognisable, yet
her words stand still, shine bright from the masses
and she’ll rise.
In a typhoon of media we cannot recognise.
Enheduanna, a faint echo, whispering loudly through time.
I probably shouldn’t
I probably shouldn’t be here
At 3am, outside your house
Gazing up at the darkened window
curtains that are not your taste
I probably shouldn’t ring you
Let her answer then hang up
Watching as the lamp turns on
imagining your sleepiness
I probably shouldn’t send that text
From an unknown number
linked to no address
I probably shouldn’t be creeping
Stealthily around the back
Checking the kitchen window
the key I stole turning in the lock
I probably shouldn’t have been here
With you, that time, when she was gone
Out of town for just one night
innocently off to visit someone
You probably should have watched me
As I slipped it gently into my bag
And swiped your photo from the fridge
Tearing her off, your arm dangling in space
I’ll replace it now
My sellotaped version with my own face
I probably shouldn’t leave it though
They’ll find it
After I’ve climbed the stairs
Just to say hello
This is what I want
Two hours alone with you
Sharing a bottle of red wine
You’d have one hand tangled in my hair
And the other in mine
Just talking quietly
Because I like the sound of your voice
I don’t mind where
It can be your choice
Maybe the place with purple velvet sofas
Where I wore pink shoes
And someone called me your girlfriend
The following poem was exhibited in the ‘Traditions’ Exhibition from 1-19 February 2017 at the Art Pavilion Gallery, Mile End.
What does it mean to be Jewish?
Mixing cinnamon into the cake
Spicing up the sweetness
Eggs, oil, then bake.
Almonds added to anything
Beaten to a paste
Or stirred in dry from Sainsbury’s
Over mushed up apples
An acquired taste.
More apples, dipped in honey
To welcome a sweet new year
Boiled eggs laced with salt water, instead of shedding a tear
Matzo, flat, unleavened bread
No time to rise
In the dessert.
In my kitchen
It’s good with chopped liver
Salmon and cream cheese beigals. Not bagels. Not lox. This is London.
Not New York. Not Krakow.
Brick Lane buzzes in its melting pot of culture, religion, tradition.
Tradition begins at home.
Dinner together on Friday night
Kneidals bobbing happily
In piping soup
With shredded chicken and soft carrots
Not home grown – the squirrels ate them
They weren’t protected
Like our ancestors.
Mundlin – no one knows what they are
A mystery of old Russia
Before the war
Streams of lockshen
Or, if I forgot
Vermicelli from the Italian shop
It’s twenty years since you stroked my hair
Wrapped your arms around me
and held me there
Twenty years since you made me smile
Watching the sun rise over London, while
the world slept
It’s twenty years since you made me a picnic in the park
And we laughed at everything
as it came, clear
Shining like the roof of a black cab
Twenty years since you whispered
It would all be alright
Built me a castle
Then walked into the light
Twenty years is a long time
To be gone too soon
But on the moon
Twenty years is only twenty days
Still long to miss you
But easier to say
Oceans, what’s mine
Oceans, what’s mine
as you well know
As you wrap yourself around me, and
I around you
You smother me
and fill me
Till I cannot breathe
As you wash over me, in waves
into my lungs
into my heart
Oceans, what’s mine
I’d love to have known you
………….the world’s friend
because that’s what you were all about
……………you loved your people
……we loved you too
……………………….but a fool’s a fool
to play his own game
…….make his rules
and if (by chance)
…………………..he shouldn’t win
.……(and hell should hold a seat for him)
……………………….it’s his own ruin
But not you! Why you?
……You played fair
……………It was all you asked
for war to cease
…..and the world to love
You kept your secrets
……………….behind your mask
………….the face of a clown
…………………..letting it go
….in the words of a song
………………….but this song’s for you
….because you had the power
…………..to love them all
…………………(I can’t even love one)
Reading between the lines
If eloquence should not surpass
in hungry looks, a fleeting glance
A conquest of the hidden sins
where publishing ends and art begins
Keep it for posterity
you’re running wild your charms
Crush the critic’s bitterest pill
Display the rapture that you feel
and arrogantly cast aside
the trends you led when reality died
Captivate audiences with stories untrue
Told with passion where truths are few
A printer’s prerogative; make the old new
it all looks ok in landscape view
Follow the hedonist through the crowd
Stroke the glamour of satirical rage
your life’s an open book
let me autograph a page
And publish it for all to see
in graphic art, Pantone 813
You’re an active agent
Dynamic, conditional perfect
You come around, in a declarative mood
as you wrap me in your complements
Your definite article is strong, so hard
As we copula
Reciprocal pronouns and linking verbs
Varying the juxtaposition
Falling from our stream of consciousness
Reflexive in our discourse
One assimilation heroic couplets
The imagery as you back-channel
Causes a cacophony
The inflection – it’s imperative
I feel possessive
Your interjection is harsh, and exophoric
Your demonstrative objective’s predicative
Articulation is so final.
So we predicate a future perfect In agreement
But it’s just an allusion
There’s a clause
You’re transitive, living in the past participle
A negative pronoun in a paradox
You prefer to be polysyllabic Inanimate.
Your pathetic fallacy proves… You’re an oxymoron
They came again on Sunday
they came again on Sunday, their tiny
urchin faces, dirty and framed
in greasy hair, alive with creatures
too small to see
tiny fingers, reaching through the letterbox, into
into my conscience
they called for food, for shoes, for stripy
woollen scarves like the ones on the advert
for Christmas gifts
(where did they see that?)
if their tiny feet are bare, and covered in scabs
they need the money they say
need it for their mother, she is sick
they look so tired and weak
but their energy endures as they traipse the streets
ignorant of cold
(it is so cold)
knocking on doors, like mine
behind which families lie snuggled
and warm, children cosseted, clean, secure, little house
on the prairie
on their side, so dark, so angry, ao alien
I saw them again on Tuesday
in the town
maybe they were twelve years old, and smoking, swearing
in their Nike boots
All poems © R M Wallen, Imaginative Training, 2019