Four poems by John Saunders

John Saunders’ first collection ‘After the Accident’ was published in 2010 by Lapwing Press, Belfast. His poems have appeared in Revival, The Moth Magazine, Crannog, Prairie Schooner Literary Journal (Nebraska), Sharp Review, The Stony Thursday Book, Boyne Berries, Riposte, and on line, The Smoking Poet, Minus Nine Squared, The First Cut, The Weary Blues, Burning Bush 2, Weekenders, Poetry Bus and poetry 24. John is one of three featured poets in Measuring, Dedalus New Writers published by Dedalus Press in May 2012. His second full collection ‘Chance’ is published by New Binary Press.

Four poems by John Saunders


Sixty Five Roses.

All this flummery of cough behind my rib cage

amidst my sticky toffee secretion.

A breathless vista of ventilation

against a phlegmatic sunset.

I am a delicate petal of mutated gene-

a sensitive seedling,

dormant in my sterile garden-

I may never be in full blossom.

My body is a telescope of tangled gut

stretched every constricted day

by its own limitations

and if you lick my skin it will taste of salt.

I am three years old,

can just about pronounce the words.



The Volvo Ocean Race Festival 2012

‘The present is only an extension of the past’ she tells me,

as she hands me my name in Arabic calligraphy,

outside, the Claddagh is shawled in midsummer rain

through which the South Westerly Atlantic wind clatters

ropes off masts, lolls boat to boat, turns inside-out

the shoal of umbrellas swimming through Spanish Arch.

Paella with or without seafood, Chinese Noodles, Pizza,

Chicken or Vegetarian Curries, rustic sausages or Supermacs

burgers run the gastronomic race for our appetites.

On the stage, a young buck from Loughrea  improves

a Dylan song with the authentic nasal pitch of harmonica.

The Port Trophy race takes place in the bay, over ten million

Euro/dollars/pounds of specimen sailing boats trace

the ghost journeys of centuries of  Hookers and Currachs .

Inside the global village, the Museum of Computer

Technology shows me my age, the Crafts People of Ireland

craft, a tribe of  bearded Galwegians plays at being Vikings,

a single Machnas acrobat shows elasticity on a pole.

On plywood podiums, Volvo displays its merchandise,

two girls sing a cappella accompanied by the clatter of coin.



Off the Cliffs of Moher

Her smooth shapely body belly flops

on the ceiling of the sea

smashes green into white,

sloshes close to the rocks

where nothing is ever gone when lost,

is always somewhere.

Polystyrene cups will last fifty years,

a plastic bottle ten times longer,

Tin cans? Who knows?

As we turn they slip from my watery hands

into the gripping deep;

car, house, office keys,

important and replaceable,

unlike the plastic fob with the photo

of you wearing pearly satin,

now hung on the gravelly sea bed,

a lonesome maritime picture gallery,

your beauty on display to every passing fish

for the next five hundred years.



Allegra *

Time will do his usual work, death has done his’

is the memorial to you, sweet child of love

and hate. He cloistered and cossetted you,

was faithful to you for your short life.

You arrived at the Convento di San Giovanni

like a little storm, cried for mother, ate like a sick bird.

You were the victim of his reputation in death,

your body barred from the church yard.

In the convent you were suckled by wet nurses,

prayed over by Capuchin sisters in crumbling brick

buildings surrounded by ancient olive trees.

In the end the fever burned your frail body.

His grief was the passion of his stories,

he never spoke your name after your death.

*Allegra, 1817 – 1822, daughter of George Gordon, Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont.

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