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your grinding beak and saucer eyes

in every way unique


boneless   you have squeezed through

the gaps in evolution


your skin pulses colour

for every mood:


                 from Cephlapod by Martin Rieser 






Mary Anning


In Raqqa



The Peacemaker

Robert Lowell


Sir William Harvey examines a Witch

To the Wall




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Martin Rieser


Martin Rieser is both a poet and visual artist. His interactive installations based on his poetry have been shown around the world, including Understanding Echo shown in Japan 2002, Hosts Bath Abbey 2006, Secret Door Invideo Milan 2006, The Street RMIT Gallery Melbourne 2008/ISEA Belfast 2009, Secret Garden, Phoenix Square 2012/Taipei 2013 and RUR at Glyndebourne in 2014 for REFRAME at the University of Sussex. He has developed mobile artworks using interactive text and image for Leicester, London and Athens and exhibited the Third Woman Interactive film in Vienna, Xian and New York.. He runs the Stanza poetry group in Bristol.







Mary Anning

Fossil hunter


They say I am the daughter of a lightning strike

which threw me into a new way of wonder.

The undercliff roared and rolled last night-


a fair dishing of rocks across the strand

and the Lias full of bones and shells.

I pray in chapel every Sunday for such a fall


for rain and wind to do the work

and the days in fret and mud to be worthwhile.

Poor Tray and I dug for hours and found


a long skull, which must surely sell.

The Bible is one truth, but not the only kind:

I know these bones will remake the world


breaking the old sureties with Deep Time.  

I will send this one to Colonel Birch,

a kind gentleman, who has used me well.




For Jacques Marie Charles Trolley Prévaux 

Born April 2, 1888 Died August 19 1944




What lives, drags itself

back to the ruined towns,

moves like trackless ants

over rubble and torn earth.


From the cockpit

I can see trenches and shatterings,

all the tiny paraphernalia of death.


I wind the camera.

The plane’s shadow bubbles

over the front’s pocked

and futile corridor.




It was in the Marseille dazzle

when they came for us

dressed in stifling black.

I stared hard at the sun.


In Monluc there is no light

except the torturing electric spark ;

I climb through clouds of pain

to the blue silence.


If I could only go higher

I would see the curve

of this small planet

and the light of stars.


With the scent of burnt flesh,

of feathers,  I am ready

now for the long

wingless fall into silence.




In Raqqa

For Ruqia Hassan 1985-2015



If we pay attention to the soldered sky

it is spliced to the earth by imaginary ladders.


No one has shown us any love, except the graveyards.

No one has shown any compassion, except the graveyards.


If we pay attention to the staggered roofs

the music of smoke writes itself randomly.


End this darkness, these random acts of dislocation:

crucifixions in the squares, whippings on the corners.


If we pay attention to the street, metal rains down,

fire rains down, rubble falls and the jets pass.


The walls are painted black, blackness covers our heads,

even our hands are covered. Without dignity life is worthless.


If we pay attention to their words, they pierce like thorns,

their edicts hedge the city, our roses drop in the dust.


My soul is free but my body theirs to break as they will.

We shall not bend, but we will die tomorrow or today.




Zion made a Golem

from the river mud,

to defend the tribe



the words for God

into its clammy ear


awakening the beast

inside its icy heart.


Placed an axe

in its clayed hand

and whispered

all the words for death;


then pushed it

from the door.


The thunder of its step

gave no warning of intent.



Zion led it safely home,

unwound the magic from its brow,


reciting each word

as an alphabet of truth.


Locked its inert clay

within strong walls:

ready for service

in these endless wars.



Onto the road are thrown

the scraps of those who died

under the axe’s blinding swing:


a bundle of red clothes

a broken shoe

the fragment of a bone.






consider the elephant

who hears through its feet

frozen and leaning

on acoustic pads

seismic waves tickling

his inner ear

who when in musht

senses a female rumbling

beneath the savannah

and treks to far horizons

or feels a roll of thunder

from fifty miles

and hurries towards

the fall of rain


so if an earthquake threatens

trust the elephant’s early warning


leave the building



The Peacemaker

Samuel Colt 1814-62


He longed for perfection,

assembling mortality

in six revolving chambers,


a snouted heft of metal,

a mechanism of precision,

jewelled beetle whirring death.


The lovely simplicity

of machine making machine:

in wars was sole victor-


supplying both sides impudently;

yet through prudence and accounting

amassed fabulous wealth.


His gift to nations–

creative destruction;

that the law be met or broken,


that boys retain or lose their lives;

and that mothers might fathom

vast new days of grief.



Robert Lowell

On a photo by Judith Aronson


His hand is Heaney’s gannet,

hovering above the coffee cup

readying to dive for inspiration


into that brew, for whatever

it might snatch: fish

fowl or demon.


I always admired those lines

about the Quaker remains

that were so salty and sad,


but here is a bright-eyed

wanderer, whose hair

was cut for the event


but still curves a poetic

nimbus around his brow

as he launches into voice


from the sofa’s cliff.

Behind, an indeterminate

monkey king lies


in a twist on the table

wrapped in the dark

stories of his mind.






endowed with brains beyond your size

alas   poor octopus   


your grinding beak and saucer eyes

in every way unique


boneless   you have squeezed through

the gaps in evolution


your skin pulses colour

for every mood:


in Marmaris   your spread

bleached tentacles


made crucifixion

in every restaurant


in Skiathos   you fled the probing

spears on rolling curls


bled epitaph lines

with your ink’s dark swirls


when  with jeers  they raised you high

on their triumphant tines.




Sir William Harvey examines a Witch


As the Heart is the beginning of Life,

The Sun of the Microcosm,

A familiar household-god

That does his duty to the whole body;


So is the Intellect

The Master of Man,

Guide of all the body’s actions

And conductor of our Souls.


I have examined the Woman in question,

Who seems to me as innocent

Of all the charges

As any Old Maid.


In truth, she did feed milk to her toad,

But upon its dissection

I found nothing remarkable

In the Amphibian.


Evidence was all I sought,

And no sign of the Fiend

Or other perversion was revealed;

Only the usual veins and sinews,


The Heart still pumping

Under my knife, blue and red:

As perfect an example

Of Circulation, as I have ever seen.




To the Wall

The Execution of Marshall Ney, 1815


The Luxembourg was never so green,

nor my heart so full.

I lost five horses at Waterloo,

where bullets spat, water on a skillet,


I held the bridge at Kovno

while they fell like forests

and swarms of grapeshot

came humming past.


Soon the barrels will level,

and ball breach coat and shirt

to find this heart; beating

in hundred-battle pride.


Steady steps from here to the wall:

birdsong all around,

the squad embarrassed, 

shifting their feet, eyes to the ground.


This is how a Marshall of France should die:

with swallows swooping

and smoke drifting through;

raised head and clear eyes.


"Soldiers, when I give the command to fire,

fire straight at my heart.

 Wait for the order.

It will be my last to you.”





 In Raqqa and Icarus are published in the anthology of political verse Write to be Counted .  Robert Lowell was runner-up in an ekphrasic poetry competition by the Bristol Poetry Foundation and the RWA and has been printed in Poetry Review.


4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think. 

We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org