Three poems from Mark Waldron’s The Itchy Sea

The Itchy Sea

Mark Waldron’s new book The Itchy Sea is out soon and is sure to be one of the highlights of 2011. His first collection, The Brand New Dark, is mesmerising and he’s one of the most engaging performers of his own work I’ve seen. As he writes in Everything, what’s not to like?


Though a lion may appear to be strokeable,
its fur is, in fact, a lure, a seducement

developed in half-lit rooms by geeks,
a ruse with which they mean to charm our children

before stripping them of their edibleness with no regard
for the agony and shock

which that will cause them. And should they, one day,
find the means to give the lion speech,

then the beast will shed, as suddenly as if from shock,
its henceforth superfluous fur,

and then will take a little breath and lean across
the playground’s fence, in its blue-grey skin, to talk.


The inside, as I recall, is furnished, wallpapered –
any smallish pattern.

The admirable day (though the pale blue sky is imbecilic)
is shown through the windows.

Above the flowers, honey bees
are in any number of positions again and again,

and the trees, though wooden, though peachy,
can’t help but display their leaves, each one of which

is like, though unlike, a hand. Everything throngs on her tongue
as she throngs on mine. What’s not to like?

The Bead

It was on a business trip in Hungary
that I happened upon something particular:
the plainest mundanity protruding
from the shell it usually inhabits,
as the fleshy foot of a razor clam
may stick, tongue-like, from it’s brittle tube
when it is unafraid, or as rude marrow
might extrude from a blown bone.
(That is always how the everyday
is caught unmasked, not, as one might expect,
teaming rampantly underneath its stone,
or squeaking clean like a shaven bear
stood shivering on the forest’s uncertain fringe.)
A few of us were sitting in the hotel bar,
when Ray remarked he’d eaten minestrone
for his supper, and told us he’d discovered,
sitting in the bottom of his bowl,
a blue bead. Caitlin said, in that dry,
ironic tone that comes upon a people
in a time of deathly peace, Well,
you’re definitely the winner of something, Raymond.
And Ray muttered that he’d pushed it
down the back of the sofa.
Some six months later I resolved
to go back for that bead. For when our work
in Hungary was done, and we’d returned
to our homes and reversed ourselves
back inside our callous lives, I found
I couldn’t forget it. I pictured it, as you do now,
at first pale grey to the touch, among
the brittle bits of dirt and dust
in the lightless gutter of its resting place,
and then bright blue as I brought it, gleaming,
to the surface. And the more I pictured it,
the more the fact of its existence became exquisitely
arousing to me. Yes, certainly that busy seed
had stuck its roots down into my mind
until they would have taken
my whole troubled ego with them had I yanked
that gorgeous portion of the plant
that was now quite visible above the surface
of my dreams, and soon some unfamiliar gumption
began to coalesce around the tickling
irritation of those roots, until I found
I’d formed a plan (a plan which I
will never action): to travel back to Hungary,
to the hotel in the small town where,
pretending I’ve lost a valuable ring
(which I’d describe in some pedantic detail),
I’d ask permission of the inscrutable manager,
before I press my nearly blinded fingers down
the back of the sofa. I’d know for certain then,
what I will never know,
the extent to which I am my own ghost.

Go down the The Itchy Sea here

    • Rob Selby
    • June 27th, 2011

    Mr Waldron’s ‘Look, From Where I’m sitting at the Bar’ (from The Brand New Dark) is one of the most memorable poems I’ve read in recent times.

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