Mark has published two books with Templar Poetry: The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre and The Rainbow Factory. In 2019, he won the Oxford Brookes University International Poetry Competition, came second in the Robert Graves Prize, and third in the National Poetry Competition. He's recently been published by Poetry Review, Magma, The New European, The Irish Times, The London Magazine and Poem Magazine. He lives in Brexile in the Middle East.
On the occasion of not leaving the European Community,
March 29th 2019
For an hour or two over breakfast
the lethal Etonians were hushed
on the day we meant to leave.
Common or garden birds threshed
a chorus from thin British hedges.
A bog-standard UK sun rose up
sixty non-decimal minutes before
Europe to shake off a bleary March.
Pigeons paraded along the gables
in regimental medal regalia.
New blossom reported for duty
bunting all the pissed-up alleys.
Not a chemist ran short of insulin
and the growling tide of lorries failed
to make a delta out of Kent.
Hate was too hungover to fry up
the Full English with trimmings
in saucy tabloids and talk radio.
On the day we meant to leave,
a bird of unsettled status flew in
to Devon from an African hot spot
laden with unregistered eggs
searching the lanes for spare nests
and any true love crying “cuckoo.”
El Pacto de Olvido
We walk the canal under plane trees,
words in one pocket, silence in the other
past palettes stacked for la cooperativa,
the air thick with dust and late harvest.
We talk of work, cards we’ve been dealt,
the missing people, our grown children,
whose absences now lengthen beside us.
I explain how this hour a lifetime ago,
Nationalists executed the men too unfit
to march to the “work camps” in France,
leaving the bodies somewhere over there
to rot, dropped like sacks in familiar dirt.
They thought nothing could be quieter
than a country of unmarked graves.
Once in step, we speak of nothing more.
Someone’s taking pot shots at the rabbits.
Swallows speed type through pylon wires.
An irrigation ditch fills, a tractor stutters.
Black damsons clack against dry mouths.
Homewards we scrape, shale underfoot.
The price of peace is always a bitter fruit.
The Kodachrome Book
of the Dead
Frozen in their Kodaks,
our old folk wear slippers
to protect the carpet from their feet.
Colours leech. A tap drips.
Dinner lingers in another room.
A yucca erupts on the lawn.
The lounge is an orgy
of fakery: leatherette armchairs,
plaster dogs, silk orchids,
and more fringe than necessary
on lamps, hairdos, lips, pelmets
plus random tassels
wherever there is dangling
and come-hither velvet.
If a grandparent smiles
it is like a wolf had stopped by
for tea and a slice of Battenberg.
Parents vogue in folky
knitwear surrounded by cigarettes
and the Sixties.
Is this how they will see us,
our early years tucked into albums
balanced on the knee like babies?
Will pages crackle as laminates
separate and we stare back red-eyed
as hounds from blind pubs?
Whereas our last few decades
will click past in seconds on a screen,
backlit, cropped and cherry-bright.
There they can find us,
between swipes, catching our breath,
wiping the joy from our sleeves.
After Delius: The New European
El Pacto de Olvido: runner-up in the Robert Graves Prize 2019
The Kodachrome Book of the Dead: winner of the Oxford