Palindromic Sonnet No. I

April 24, 2013

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.


Historical background

This sonnet was written in 2112 AD, and reveals much about the culinary knowledge of the time. Following decades of environmental catastrophe, crop failures, mass starvation and the collapse of western civilisation, people resorted to eating grubs, insects and parasites. The poet clearly laments the loss of the golden age of food, when people dined on such delights as lamb and burgers, and in this sonnet he presents us with his description of an attempt to produce the mythical ‘burger’ by implanting pupae into larger beasts and harvesting what he hopes will be mature burgers – the ‘pure grub’ of the past.

The first stanza sets out the poet’s understanding of the process. Stanza two recalls the golden age, laments the loss of culinary knowledge, and recalls the legendary (older-cast, rare) grub who turned people away from carnivory by exuding a prized pus. In the third stanza the poet reaffirms his objective, and in the final couplet we learn whether he has succeeded or failed.

It is thought that the poet’s use of the palindromic form (if intentional) reflects the strength of his yearning to return to the past.


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.


Alternative ending/beginning, with L3-L12 variation

Set, as a recipe, fossil byre grub:

Set a pupa in a manic ass.

Mare slups a pupa, tops reviled mare cup;

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

Puce ram, de-liver, spot a pupa’s pulse.

Ram’s sac in a mania pupates…

Burgery bliss of epic era sates.

Images of Time

July 23, 2012

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

Moon haikiah

June 28, 2012

Slate pond –

Lone moon met stem; no omen

Old, no petals

Cicada haikiah

June 25, 2012

Parts tense, gardenia droner is sad

A cicada’s siren, ordained, rages

Nets trap


The first time I heard a cicada was in a Tokyo street at night, and I honestly thought it was a security alarm, such was the intensity of its siren.

With haiku, the 5-7-5 syllable count is only really relevant in Japanese, in which it is as natural a rhythm as iambic pentameter is in English.

Basho’s Bed

May 26, 2012

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 the first Basho poem, After the frog. 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.

Moth ash ver. 2

May 3, 2012

Moth ash

Deer field–

Idle, I freed 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.

Deer field, idle I



Notes and comments

Lying in bed last night I noticed a few more imperfections and possibilities, so here is a revised and ever so slightly expanded version.

1) The opening line ‘too sere moths’ seemed too abrupt, and I realised that ‘Deer field’ was a good context setter and ‘deer field, idle I freed’ is palindromic so could be tacked onto the beginning/end easily. It also works nicely in terms of palindrome poetics in that the end takes us back to the start, but something has changed – the poet himself is now freed, perhaps.

2) I changed ‘ebony / a sign … I say’ to ‘ebony align… I lay’. The use of ‘align’ adds to the sense of the poet melding – aligning himself – with the moths. ‘Lay’ also adds another flying (or landing) verb.

3) Having lost the ‘I say’, the ‘No’ is less dramatic, slightly more detached and introspective, more in keeping with the tone.