eight ways of looking at tethers

for Gianetta Ellis


if poetry’s no more
than silks of expression
schemes and tropes (t.ropes)
metaphor litotes metonymy
i spin in corners the traps
and half-truths of identity


it’s taken forty years
to rid myself of guilt
that i was wired to the oral acrobatics
of the college common room
and wrote with precision the elite
musk of beef lunches with equals
before i smelt the rot of a favela
and hunger of an already decayed lolita
who offered in slurred argot
a magic tour of the universe
for the equivalent of a pound
before i bought a near-lethal high
from a designing stranger
and in a dockside pub dodged
a broken bottle coming in
one that skimmed my milk-white
educated neck missed the jugular
and the Celtic deathwish rush


the merchant thinks product of labour
some sweatshop menial
bound to trot out plastic wordware
for deadlines and this week’s quota


an indifferent day moon
that holds everyone once at least
and hangs at the edge of a wood
lantern with pale face
counting on a rouge of sun


imagination casts the constellations
in wished for figures
but things of earth are inescapable
and squirm on my skin
worm their presence into me
wriggles of grit in an eye fashioning a pearl


for the child it isn’t unusual
that a battered sky under a red tent
is a Punch ‘n’ Judy show
the flash and racket of clouds a sublimation
and the child himself in the loft of heaven
the puppeteer


or for me the shine on the sea
is a fallacy of chained mirrors
and childhood and now are one
the nearness of both elastic and fixed
i speak as if i’m not here or there
but suspended in a moment gasping for air
grasping love


and it’s no matter if i wait or don’t
till something touches me
i accept how the skeins of spirit
tie me to a random truth off the street
to shadows of palms making
catherine wheels on the grass
or unite me with a hummingbird
whirring its need among the orchids

53 thoughts on “eight ways of looking at tethers

  1. Your words, your words! A trip taken with you to a magical place. “…imagination casts the constellations in wished for figures”: something I indulge in every day.
    I hadn’t seen metonymy (or autonomasia or synedoche ) since my school days!

  2. “…shine on the sea
    is a fallacy…”

    more than a silk of expression my friend, it’s two links in a chain of your lines:

    “or for me the shine on the sea
    is a fallacy of chained mirrors”

    I can picture the shine one the waves glittering as they roll, like chains of light. I’ve written about uncoiling skeins in yarn seas, skein also being a wonderful word you used. I very much liked this poem, not simply for the similarities, but for the interconnected beauty and meaning woven through out. Also for getting to know you a little better brother!

    Best wishes John!


      • Why thank you John! It takes one to know one, and you are probably the realist deal I know. It seems these days I mostly only correspond on WordPress with those who seriously impress me, who I have also befriended. I should branch out my time and read more widely, but lately I have been pressed for time, with the commitments I have made to my creative friends, and to my own writing.

        I admire your patience and commitment to getting out there and reading widely, though I am afraid my social prowess tends me towards being somewhat of a recluse. Maybe it’s more just what I am capable of now, and I will stretch myself more with time. I mean, I didn’t really start making actual creative friends, and reading other people’s poetry period, until I had been writing my own for 8 years.

        My point though, is that I believe I can learn to be more real as a poet in creative community from you, as time goes on! For example, I need not feel I must always leave a lengthy comment that takes in excess of 30 minutes, in order to be genuine. Your comments are shorter, and yet express honest appreciation, showing that you truly read the post, and took the time to think about what was said. You’re an asset to the WordPress community John, with much wisdom to share, in your writing and your correspondence with those of us who I’m sure are also honored to be in your circle!

        My best!


  3. It is the raw power of the emotion sculpted by the heartbeat of the pen that produces the power to fascinate and entertain. The tethers of linguistics be damned. Crude and coarse when the
    poison is running its course play to a stunned audience grabbing them by their throats and shaking them. No silk structured work ever replicates that emotion. Damn the tethers full speed ahead fair pen. You’ve awakened me again John my thanks for the spur! Jon Michael

      • I know. I need to read it a few more times. But this is often true of your poems and many others that contain more than surface meaning…Sometimes words are puzzles and I am an avid puzzle solver. Judy

  4. A truly original poem(or poems), John, which capture the nature of the written word excellently. It is difficult to come at this from different perspectives, but you have done so effectively, and I feel the this work could be extended to describe any artistic endeavour. Fabulous writing.

  5. Wow, again I’m taken with breathless alertness – your words, John, capture one into the world you present and makes one a part of it, at least in thoughts of seeing similarities and truths of live that can meander with “random truths off the street”

  6. Hi John,

    What a lovely way to start my day! That was beautifully rendered.

    Good day, my friend.


  7. The fact that it is my name at the beginning of this piece fills my every cell to the brim with love, awe and gratitude. I’ve been wrapped up in your words now for so long, I would be vulnerable to the elements without them. Matters not the subject. It is the way you weave that warms me most. Ever love.

  8. Your words always carries us to places that let our imaginations roam . . . “i spin in corners the traps and half-truths of identity”

    Enjoyed this work Uncle John – have a beautiful day!

  9. John, this is an absolute delight to read, and engage in the ideas of tethers. Your ability to take my mind on such a wonderful visual and thought provoking trip is truly remarkable, thank you!

    Hugs and warm wishes
    (My favorite, vii)

  10. Each one of these eight is a poem in itself
    and could stand independently if so wished.

    Exceptional writing.

    • Interesting that you should like the fifth best
      Dear Aquileana
      as that was the one i spent most time re-writing
      and refining.

      Thank You for your wonderful praise.

      Much Love


  11. This is wonderful john. It’s your style in the way you put it together. It took some time to read and take it all in. So glad you share. Hope you are well.

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