Palindromic Poems

Below are about fifteen of my palindrome poems, in reverse chronological order.


A Damsel Auditions for the Mad Dame’s Opera

Damsel, do one bare pose.

Mad damsel, do opera− stars a damsel!

Do one? Oh smug damsel, do oodles!

Mad madam’s gigolos are poodles!

Mad as a…

Damsel, do opera!

Solo gigs, madam?”

Damsel, do oodles, mad gumshoe noodles.

Mad as rats are poodles!

Mad dame’s opera be noodles, mad!


Sonnet I

A palindromic sonnet from 2112 AD, in which the poet, recalling a lost, golden age of food production, attempts to cultivate a burger.


Set a note– Don’t salt a burger up.

Set a pupa in a manic ass.

Mare slups a pupa pure, wets a pup,

Deific, lactates in alpine moss.

Upon a time, we fed on Agnus Dei;

Fed nude – garnets, aortae – mad-eyed.

Ah, burger – art, sacred lore – hops astray.

Art’s asp? Oh, ‘er older-cast, rare grub had

Eyed a meat-roast enraged; undefied,

Sung an ode few emit: an o-pus.

So men, I plan, I set at calcified

Pupa stewer, up a pupa’s pulse.

Ram’s sac in a mania pupates…

Pure grub at last – No! – detonates.



1. Agnus Dei – This means ‘Lamb of God’ and appears to be a reference to a popular pre-collapse religion in which worshippers sacrificed their finest-fed lambs to placate a fussy god. As such, it can be understood to mean ‘food of the gods’.

2. O-pus – A pus which is music to the taste buds. Some scholars think this is a reference to honey: as meat became scarcer many people turned to beekeeping, although honey-production skills were gradually lost and the bee larvae themselves became a staple food. Other scholars claim that the legend was a conflation of the honey bee and the popular pre-collapse singer Maurice Ee, whose hit album Red Rump? Murder! popularized vegetarianism.

Images of Time

Spools emit timed loop.

Metaverses rev−

A temenos, till unmet systems we defile:

Vaginae, coronae, code-born aminos in universes’ rev

A tempo old.

Lost in robe regal

It raced, untended

New as birth, gill, animal foot

Oh photo of laminal light!…

Ribs a wended net

Nude cartilage

Reborn, it’s old

Loop metaverses rev in unison

I, Man, robed ocean, or

Ocean, I gave life.

Dews met system;

Null, it’s one.

Metaverses rev

–a tempo old–

Emit time’s loops

Basho’s Bed

Set a ballade–

Be not sad.

No plan, I forego regret.

A wet I? Mere folly…

Dim, lacy moths, in a vigor, fall.

Ill at last, I move to (no regrets) a faded dale–

A glade, pools.

Some more go too?


Jump! ol’ frog, or flop.

Mujo no oto1


Me, moss-looped, algael,

Added a faster gero note,

Vomit salt, all ill.

A frog, I vanish

To my calm idyll of eremite water

gero gero

Final pond –

A stone bed

All abates


Notes and comments

1. Mujo no oto. Japanese for ‘the sound of impermanence’. Mujo or impermanence is an important concept in Buddhism and central to Zen aesthetics. This phrase also references Basho’s original haiku, the final line of which is ‘mizu no oto’ – the sound of water.

2. Gero gero is the Japanese onomatopoeia for a frog’s croak, but is also used adverbially to describe vomiting. This pun was one of the inspirations for the poem.

I cobbled together this longer poem from some ideas generated as I created my Basho haikiah. In this one, I imagine Basho retiring to a solitary hermitage (in a shady glade, with lacy moths, pools, etc.) and himself diving into a pool to join the frogs. The ‘gero‘ grows more urgent inside him until he can’t contain it (‘a faster gero note’). He vomits salt, and sees that he himself has become a frog.

The final stanza is itself a haiku, and nicely captures the essence of the poem: all regret and suffering disappears in this hermit’s final resting place.

Haikiah (palindromic haiku)

Slate pond –

Lone moon met stem; no omen

Old, no petals

Parts tense, gardenia droner is sad

A cicada’s siren, ordained, rages

Nets trap

I, Basho, sit in a rigor, fond.

No plop, ol’ pond? No frog? I ran

It is – oh! – sabi.


Notes and comments

Fond: Used here in its archaic sense of foolish

Sabi: A Japanese word with no simple translation. An important aesthetic concept in Japanese art and life, it denotes a kind of elegant, refined simplicity with implications of solitude and antiquity.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is Japan’s most famous and beloved of haiku poets.

This haikiah was inspired by his most well-known haiku

furu ike ya

kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto

Which translates fairly literally as

Old pond –

A frog dives in

The sound of water

In a twist, I imagine Basho sitting by the pond again, on another day, waiting for a frog to plop, but becoming overwhelmed by the lonely beauty of the scene as no frog appears.

Moth Ash

Too sere, moths

Ah! To meld, arcing

In ebony align

I wish to melt

‘Til, little moths,

I wing, I lay


Benign, I cradle moth ash to

Mere soot

Base Pairs in Flight

No garden if we fall.

It’s DNA: hate, sin – us all it sires.

I wonder if all after fall.

All afired, low on hope, else writs all in us war1,

Eve sang–

I lamb benign

I wolf no wolf’s eyes raw


War did I call?

Is  lam2 inane?

Volcano erupts a past pure.

On a cloven animal’s ill acid I draw.

Wars, eyes flow on, flowing in ebb

Malign as Eve.

Raw sun –

Ill astir, we sleep.

Oh! Now older I fall all afret, fall afired.

No wiser, I still

A sun, I set…

Ah, and still a few, fine, drag on.


Notes and comments

In writing this poem I realized that structurally a palindrome is like DNA, having two complementary strands coiling around each other in opposite directions, with each letter or word pairing corresponding to the base pairs in DNA.

The theme of the poem is human nature: can we transcend our genetic heritage or are hate, sin and war written into our DNA? The image emerged of Adam and Eve – the base pair – in flight, in the desert, lamenting their lost paradise (I imagine Adam as the voice of the poem and of humanity). The external struggle to ‘drag on’ towards a promised land mirrors the internal struggle to escape the coiled snakes of DNA inside us all.

1. Else writs all in us war: A slightly awkward phrase. The idea is that the ‘writs’ are our genes and the rules of human behaviour encoded by them, which ultimately create conflict within and between people.

2. Lam: Escape, flight from the law.

Base Pairs Alight

No war desired I − ‘twas revolt.

If gun’s fire cinders all

It sires a bedlam.

Siesta set a desire −

Volcano erupts in an onanist.


Pure on a clover I – sedate – sat.

Seismal debaser I still,

As red (nicer if snug fit) lover saw

Tide rise, draw on...


Notes and comments

The starting point (and therefore the mirror point) of this and Base pairs in Flight was the phrase ‘volcano erupts … st pure. On a clov… ‘, so the first challenge was to find a palindromic fragment ending ‘st’, with the letter before ‘s’ starting a new word running the other way. Easy! –  A past / a fast / a mast / in an onanist…..

I couldn’t resist an onanist, and somehow managed to create a sex-themed poem which referred back to Base Pairs in Flight, but in this poem the character has obviously found his/her promised land in licentiousness and hedonism.

Happy Returns

I’m a dog −

Trade sin on a contraflow or rarer ebb.

A yogi, not one yen I possessed.

Dog sore was I.

Nose? Yes.

Leg? Nada.


A fine sir!

A silly ram, alive on tubes.

A vagabond, ‘n’ all a-bony.

No ball and no bag,

A vase, but no ‘evil amaryllis’ arisen.

I fade…


Yet, I had angel’s eye.

Son, I saw Eros – Goddesses!

So pine ye not.

On I go…

Yabberer, arrow, ol’ fart –

No canonised art-god am I.


Notes and comments

The voice of this poem is a knackered old tramp, missing various bits of his anatomy, speaking on his hospital deathbed (alive on tubes) to his son.

Why bother with the palindrome form at all, other than as an intellectual challenge? I am intrigued by the possibility of a text containing its opposite, or turning on itself so that the second half somehow defies or contradicts the first, even though the actual letters are the same. I think this poem achieves this with the change of mood in the penultimate stanza (Yet, I had angel’s eye). Despite his decreptitude he does not regret his life; he has seen remarkable things, slept with beautiful women…

Paradise Tossed

Goddesses, so pit-eyed,

A man, name of Ed – a jewel lie –

Remade tar apes in Eden.

I saw two.

Help!  Pa’s mad!

Anon a monk said:

“Ed – a feet-up1 man – was animals’ mu2 in arcane poem:

On green, evilly dine dragons,

Till an ill-aimed demand

‘Oscillate, my menacer, in a man’

  is made.


Now sin is won, one dams in a man.

I re-cane my metallic sod named Demi.

All in all it’s no garden idyll


I veneer gnome,

Open a cranium,

Slam in a sawn amputee.

Faded, I ask no man, on Adam’s apple,

How ’twas in Eden I separated a mere

Ill ewe,

Jade foe,

Manna-made yeti,

Possessed dog.


Notes and comments

An alternative title was Paradise’s Lost Gamekeeper. This figure has apparently been written out of history but, as this poem reveals, he was there in the early days, overseeing things, rectifying mistakes…

1. Feet-up: Lazy, idle.

2. Mu: The Mu koan in Zen Buddhism.


Mel a sure jam still?

A clear sign in word was

“I fuss a paella” in arcade tome.

Doth Surinam regret Tibetan nit innate?

Bitter German I rush to demoted a cranial leap,

As sufi saw drowning Israel call its ma Jerusalem.


Notes and comments

Ask a stupid question, and the oracle will give you a stupid answer!

Zeno’s Holiday Blues

Damn!  On a time, ahimsa1 I meditated.

“Iberia, Zeno, sir, is sawn up as a pun.

Was sir…is one Zaire bidet a tide miasm?”

I haem it2 anon3, mad!


Notes and comments

Zeno has had a disastrous holiday and is fuming at the sarcastic holiday rep. Unfortunately, having meditated on ahimsa he cannot resort to violence and must hold his anger in.

1. Ahimsa: Principle of non-violence advocated by Gandhi (and Zeno before him!)

2. Haem it: To ‘haem it’ means to redden with anger (my coinage). Haem is a red organic pigment found in haemoglobin.

3. Anon: Here used for ‘anonymously’.

Amatory Rounds

“Idi assumed I made Cilla slate petal,

Or a Cairo paste gem!”

At Rose I rave.

Lit, a lover I felt, till little

My amatory rota may melt, till little

Fire volatile varies or tame gets aporia1.

“Carol ate petals all iced amid emus” said I.


Notes and comments

My first palindrome and still one of my favourites. An alternative word/line break at line 3-4 is ‘At Rose I ravel it / A lover I felt, till little’, which I prefer rhythmically but not semantically.

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