At the suggestion of one of our favourite morphrog poets, we include in morphrog24 a single document with all the poems and translations included in this issue. You can just scroll down the page and read it all in one go. To find a list of links to the individual poets, and to read their biographical details, please click here:

introducing morphrog24 |






This is not about Mickey Mouse ™


and his big round ears, three-fingered hands,

little-girl voice, partial nudity, and yellow clogs.


No. This is not about Mickey Mouse ™.


If it were, some dark night I would hear

a knock on the door at 3, and Disney’s thugs

would rouse me out of bed, cover my head

with a hood, dump me in the back of a van,

and drag me to a dank basement somewhere.

They would shine a bright light in my face,

inflict upon me unspeakable horrors,

and deprive me of sleep – all in defence

of wholesome family entertainment.


© David Olsen


Thirteen Algonquin Moons


Wolf howls in the winter wind.

Snow glistens in a crystalline sky.


Worm awakens stirring in the earth.

Pink summons colour to grey land.


Flower blooms before the stars.

Strawberry sweetens flesh.


Buck dominates the rut.

Sturgeon sheens silver waters.


Harvest gathers the year’s yield.

Hunter presides over the kill.


Beaver shelters against the chill.

Cold opposes the early dark.


Blue rises over an arbitrary calendar.


© David Olsen



Stockholm to Birka


Aboard the ferry

to the Viking village,

as if in a concert hall,

for two hours

I’ve nothing else to do.


The wind’s a stave

of measured time,

and I’m entwined

between a legato wake

and a diesel’s thrumming bass.


A granite glissando

scores the edge of each

islet in this archipelago; 

an arpeggio of pines

lines every horizon.


Above, a chorus

of cumulus shape-shifts

like the borders of Poland.

Shimmering wisps

of cirrus are silver flutes.


For two hours

I’ve nothing to do

but immerse myself

in the muted harmonies

of this cloud concerto.


© David Olsen








Immersing old aches in my steaming bath solving a giant crossword, I come across JFK and his PT boat, jacquescousteau plunging down, down, even a coracle, and a water-filled ditch surrounding a castle, but no sign of Shelley among fathomable opportunities.  A lake in Whitman’s Passage to India?  Tahoe seems more film noir.

I ignore my phone interrupting the affirmative Molly Bloom, like clues about writers, artists, characters, trying not to waterlog them.  The Brontes are here, my glasses becoming a Haworth of fog.  Scipio struts in from 202 BC, and I don’t flag, filling in an Aussie actor originally a comedian.  Don Quixote is simple.  Auden, Diaghilev, and Sylvia Plath, appear, then James Dean in the appropriate sized puzzle.  Good old Vladimir and Estragon move me along, oddly.  Bedevilled by dodgy memory, I am also abetted by Faust.

A clue about a mystery musicologist, moniker Ebenezer, drifts thoughts towards Christmas, and wonderfully obsolete names.  Filling in Bolero its earworm threatens to unravel me.  Soaring around the world in eighty minutes, Europa leads to Zagreb, but African capitals are a weakness.  One tricky answer, extramural, could describe me.  I almost splash the page again when Charybdis fits after I flounder, all at sea, brain whirling dizzyingly.

Like life, crossword difficulty eases somewhat towards the end, but is tough to complete.  I know nothing about pinball machines, religious jurisdictions, or leaders of the Helvetians, stubborn unanswerables spelling failure.  I biro in Femme fatale?’s answer, Bette Davis spot on about old age being no place for sissies.  Were she alive, she would probably rasp a ready witticism about becoming a puzzle answer.  Requiem seems a fitting end.  Well, it’s your funeral, Mozart, I think, skin wrinkling.  It was to begin with.  If I am not cheating.


© Ian C. Smith




In this Town



Mat at the door, glass lamp on a wooden table,

and a painting of flowers. The slim mirror on the wall

is stubborn, and the street is quiet: the deceit.

In Chagall’s Over the Town there is no betrayal.

At the train platform in Woodley, two swifts,

a stone bridge, and the railway tracks to Hyde.

A few trees, steam drift from a red building.

We are the only passengers in our carriage.


In the kitchen, where we are temporarily staying,

a window looks out to a small conservatory,

the garden, two rusted chairs,

and an uncomplicated hedgehog burrow.

We clean doorknobs, food packets, the tabletop.

The orange preserve is a stumbling translation;

nothing will ever, ever, ever be the same again.


All Chagall painted was love, nothing more;

it was not a symbol of insistence.

The tulips are about to bloom, all passing,

and there are small buds in some of the trees.

A bee frets at the window; it cannot enter.

We stay in our own perimeter, incarcerated;

some do not have a home to go back to.

To watch for wild dogs in a pine forest,


to be desolate: never having seen Chagall’s painting,

tasted a rambutan, or forgotten oneself for a time.


© Ion Corcos


An Astrological Munificence



I take the path in pieces, the rough side of a shell,

resolute sun as obstacle.

You show us the way: derelict houses

on the other side of barbwire fences and overgrown mailboxes,

the slow creep of moors.

On the hills, grass and cows, sheep,

a rutted road, and gates. Signs warning not to stray

onto farms.

At your home, cupboards of old tins,

against a wall, a painting of a quiet Colombian river,

cases of photographs under our bed.

Our stay is longer than you thought;

it is all an irascible lingering, more than your murmur,

the short wall across your door.

The baneful sill in your lounge is covered in dust,

and every afternoon you are cranky.

You lay on your brown leather sofa,

curtains half-drawn; fall asleep. 

No bees on lavender flowers, no white butterfly.

I creep into the kitchen, start on dinner;

then we will talk, even laugh,

as I serve another plate of potatoes and carrots,

alongside a ready-made vegetable pastry.

Maybe if the light didn’t lie spent on the flagstones,

or if we gave you a specific date earlier,

we could have even aligned our stay with the moon

and an astrological chart,

then the last word would have been otherwise.

Instead, the ‘ifs’ were not quite.

Still, you waited with us on the train platform,

waved us off; and after six weeks,

sent a message that the last of the flowers we gave you

were just hanging on.


© Ion Corcos


White Shawl

after David Cox’s A Windy Day



You walk along yellow grass,

the sea in the distance; the sky is white,

like the neck of your dog.

The stick you hold is old, as is the cape

around your back.

Two trees on a windy day, bent;

on the beach, a long boat.

You have heard of Crimea,

that it is cold like your home.

You pace against the wind,

a shovel in hard earth;

what you have made of your life is here,

and in the few books

on shelves in your study. No one knows

you have travelled to Rome,

seen the Parthenon, the Black Sea.

You have a limp, your bones brittle.

The damp bites.

When the clouds pass,

maybe you will sit long enough

and a man will come up to you and talk;

you will tell him about your books,

about your red dress,

that you are from Ukraine,

not Russia, that you know your way around

the fenlands of England.


© Ion Corcos


Portrait of a Man



In the morning I put oats in a pot,

add flax and chia seeds, then enough water

to soak. I have a kitchen;

it is not imaginary. I recollect

the wind last night, the crash of lake water

on the shore, the gust on the window.

Sudden winter.

Metal like the grip of cleats

on rocks.

I turn the hotplate on, heat the oats

till the water boils.

I have a table to eat at.

Jackdaws fly over bare trees in flocks.

The wind dries my clothes.

I wash the dishes,

sit on a chair on the balcony.

The afternoon disappears.

A dictionary is not a roof,

or a coot hidden in the reeds of the lake.

A gardener uses a trimmer to mow;

a portrait of a man,

alone. I do not notice the sun

go down,

only orange clouds, and leaves, dead,

strewn on the path.


© Ion Corcos





Cycle Ride North


Alnmouth is grey. Not snowing.

And so we set off. Even when you

forget the map, I find one in a shop.


Three days in and we’re old.

Nothing keeps out this drenching ice.

When will I start to cry, slide my bike

in a ditch, cleave to the comfort of mud?


Four days in and we arrive,

expecting a family fanfare, a measure 

of hullabaloo. It is as though we’d never  

got lost in the fog on the Lammermuir Hills

under eerie giants, the swish, swish, swish

of their blades  —


never been greeted by bin bags

held out wide for our shoes and clothes

before a landlord would let us in —


nor squeezed between lorries and verge

for miles up the roaring A1, two spectres

hunched in the spray — bounced

over cobbles to Leith, too wet for a dry café.


Five days in and we wake 

to the Edinburgh sun 

smiling through the shutters



© Jenny Hockey





Gunnerside Ghyll


and us on a confident bridle path,

alert for a gully the miners once scoured,  

hushing for lead, now our descent

to a dormitory bunk tonight.


Map-flapping wind drives us into the ghyll —

but we find no path across and I’m for the road,

the extra four miles, but it’s past three o’clock

and summer’s closing down.


We keep on trying the slope, the sky behind us

leaking light —and then there’s a man

in country green with a large-scale map

who shows us the route ahead


where dregs of sun spill into our eyes

as we clamber over the opposite edge

and can’t stop our feet from jigging and springing,

never knew turf with a bounce like this


all down a snaking path to Keld,

some kind of drug alive in our veins, 

to cup after cup of hostel tea, tea like no tea

was ever before, to shepherd’s pie and a warning


of trackless moors to come, possible fog.

We just can’t wait.


© Jenny Hockey



Front Garden


After Gregory Kearns’ ‘Cherry Tree Lane’


2 June, 1953

Bonnie Garwood and me

with my arm round her shoulders,

both of us smiling and plump.

I’m an inverted English rose,

swagged in multiple layers of skirt

to celebrate Her Majesty.


Behind us in the window 

a card baptises our house:


a song my Grandad loved.


21 September, 1996

A little landscaped plot

long overgrown, fence gone awry

and someone who’d been Dad

peering across a four-inch chain

bolted to the door.

No-one but me on his case.


15 March, 2018

Nothing shows up on Google

but a tight-lipped frontage

paved over for cars.



© Jenny Hockey





When you arrive you look

at the shoulders of fields

combed right down to the earth,


stare at shadows of clouds on the fells,

clouds like whipped whites of eggs

before the sugar’s spooned in,


watch the forehead of Ingleborough

furrow with pride, sometimes screened

by mist, sometimes a slice of shade,


notice the rickety legs of the foal 

working out how to fold down,

how to come to a halt.


When you arrive you look

at cattle planted between three fields,

wonder what stirs them to move —


but stay here a week

and you have it inside.


© Jenny Hockey






(15 May, 1980)


I was so dressed up,

made-up, ready to meet

the other witches that night.


There was no rain

though I remember rain. No bus

though I was sure I got there


in time. Miles away, too afraid,

at 16 to phone home for a lift.

I had the taste of red wine in my mouth


like artists in the novels

I read, or the books I dreamed

I would write.


I pictured the broom

fixed to Carol’s wall, imagined

how she made it to Morocco


and back, to cut out

all traces of John,

root and branch.


I’m glad to be alive.

I don’t want to remember.

I don’t wish to say what happened.


I’m sorry I got into the car.




© Pauline Rowe



Drowned in Dust


Half a league from my childhood church.

they raise my unbreathing head,

carry my corpse to the Angel and Elephant.

“You’re too young,” shouts the landlord,

“we’ll lose our licence.  Come in.”

The women drinking there are dull with gin.

The medical assistant shakes his head:

“Too late for electricity – she’s dead.”

The women clean my nostrils with soft strips of cloth

leave black rags like tadpoles, blood-clots, tar –

these late ablutions don’t take them far.


The medical assistant raised his hand:

“Does anyone possess a magic wand?”

He shoved a bellows pipe up my nose,

blocked my mouth, tried to inflate my lungs.


Breath, the principal thing to be attended to

was stopped with dust. This dust – your sprinkling,

it turned my lungs to glue. The dust was you.


Life did not appear. The medic lit his briar:

“she is full dead of dust,” he murmured, “little liar.”


It was then they put my body on the fire.



© Pauline Rowe




Bad Dream 5


Sex with Strangers

is a regular inconvenience:


the ones who smell

like the butchers in the precinct


the ones who refuse to wash

or use talc for emergencies


the ones who hold remnants

of food in their teeth


who pee out of the window at dusk –


though I haven’t lived on the fifth floor

for fourteen years –


When I wake up

the shame is like ink

on soft paper


more or less contained

as it spreads slightly, slowly

like a rumour.



© Pauline Rowe





Bad Dream 9


Given my girth, it was awkward

the endeavour to carry my own spare bodies

in thin cases, the machete blunted,

once they were filleted –


cumbersome layers of flesh

in the leather portmanteau –

designed for authentic sketches

and original works of fine art.


There were gouts of blood

on the weapon’s blade

though I failed to find

compelling evidence of a crime.


I looked but couldn’t see

my bones on the road.


I heard the laughter of corvids

behind the box hedge


and the shrill scream of a cat

in our reclusive neighbour’s yard.


© Pauline Rowe










Might as well dress up like wun deer

and run in front of wun mountain lion.


Same smell. Same station. Same result.”



Dose wuz da comments

addressed to da television


dat we wuz looking at

in da living room.



Ronald had moa to say too

while we watched da news


about da teenage girl

dat had her leg bit off


by wun shark in Australia.



He continued

wit wun deadpan expression,


“Dere watah.  Dere rules,”


as we wuz informed

how da young person             


wen bleed to death

and die on da beach.



Blunt and unfeeling

is wat some people would say


but Ronald

wuz just telling it like it is.



Even his cruel joke

kinnah summed it up


on how he viewed

da whole situation—



“Sharks and me

have wun undahstanding.


I stay out of dere ocean.


Dey stay off of my lawn.”


© Joe Balaz



Calvin Liu is an academic specialising in political theories. He taught in Liverpool John Moores University. He writes poems and plays as a way of dialogue with the formal intellectual life. As a Chinese ethnic he’s been in London for 13 years, living in and through the city transliterally.







Portrait of a Pandemic


It was 8 o’clock in the morning and I woke up in a train station.

I didn’t mean to be there, and I’m still not sure why the hall was partitioned.

Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere as I witnessed a sudden death:

A boy was hung where trains were coupled, and his neck was clamped. It ached. 

The platform was crowded like a guillotine.

A man with a cheap loudspeaker in his hand was singing,

‘Peace on mothers of the world’,

‘Peace on fathers of the world’.

He had thick lips,

and the boy had no face.


The crowd was growing, as I soon lost sight of the man and the boy.

People photocopied themselves to fill the hall. Police were deployed.

A hoarse spicy voice was yelling: be quick, be quick, and be quick,

I’m in a hurry!

A truck of high school girls were singing A cappella:

‘Peace on mothers’, and ‘peace on fathers’, Ah lalalah.

I don’t know if they were innocent, or indifferent,

until the moment the crowd was all muted with a trench tinkling.


A posh voice ascended,

and it announced amid jelly silence,

‘The singing man has been arrested’, he exclaimed.

The crowd suddenly dissipated, rolling out a wide path to the platform.

A man was taken and tied by the police, deformed, 

and he had no face.


© Calvin Liu



POEMS BY YUAN HONGRI, translated by Yuanbing Zhang


Don’t Forget The Other You


Don’t forget the other you,

those numerous yous, either in the body or outer space,

those sweet smiles and the diamond flowers that never wither,

that make boundless years on earth turn into a snippet of bird song.

Yes, the crows of a heavenly Phoenix.

Those sweet lightnings hit you,

let you suddenly wake up and see Gold Heaven is with you.

And your body is the golden body of giants,

and makes all time become sweet.










让你恍然醒来 看见黄金的天国与你同在




© Yuan Hongri

Translated by Yuanbing Zhang





My Heaven is Inside My Body


My heaven is inside my body,

my heaven is a great many,

like stars in the night sky,

with silver towers,

huge edifices that look like sapphires ,

golden palaces, gardens of crystal.

My body is bigger than the universe,

countless gods and angels are my partners,

as if they are countless myself.

Neither time nor life and death in my words ,

dawn and dusk are the same name,

and sadness and joy are the same words.






白银的楼阁  蓝宝石的巨厦

黄金的殿堂 水晶的花园








© Yuan Hongri

Translated by Yuanbing Zhang








Playing blues harp in Stanmore Station



It was a dank, sodium lit underpass

that smelt of urine, overripe fruit,

and childhood passageways, yet it suited me

and the acoustics were good. Every twenty minutes

a train would stop and unload its precious cargo

of commuters, some of whom responded

to the urgency of my need, and left offerings

in the blue Captain’s hat curled at me feet.

Oh, I knew I was no Matt Taylor or Sonny Boy –

an Italian flower-seller at the mouth

of St James once pleaded with me

to leave him in peace.

But for a long time one fugitive siren song

was all I could draw from the vacuum

that had opened up inside me,

and at least it was my heart speaking.

Holner was the black lung through which I breathed

in that far away Big Smoke.

My constant companion, my confidant,

my dummy, my signature, the small change

of my blessings, my means of introduction

and departure, the howling wolf at my door,

often my only escape from the straitjacket of silence

that imprisoned me then.

The missing reed in my voice

I was still learning to play around.



© Mark Czanik



Queen of Orange



How blessed I was to meet you when I did.

Champion of all things orange, 

I have so much to thank you for.

For giving me crystals to hang in my window

that cast come and go rainbows on the yellow walls,

and a cigar box painted in Aboriginal colours for my harmonicas,

and leaving that precious copy of Beautiful Losers

on my bed for me to find. 

For letting me tag along on your walkabouts

around Op shops, markets, and sweatbox taverns

in that eternal Sydney summer of 1987 –

usually accompanied by Jasmine, your three-legged black Labrador –  

and showing me how to do battle with brokenness. 

Just getting on a bus with you was an adventure.

You were constantly pointing out people you recognised

in the street, all of whom you celebrated

for some unique talent they possessed

or special place they held in your vast family tree

of really good friends. 

It was like travelling with a poor and fabulous,

carefree version of the Queen; 

one who cooked me countless miracle meals out of nothing

and shared her wine and relaxments;

who could deliver a nasty pinch with those famous toes

if ever I displeased her or make me blush

like the chosen one whenever she called me a dag.

How many bands and shows did you take me to see 

with your mysteriously obtained tickets?

One night it was Elvis Costello. You slept through most of it,

coming to life only after we left.

All the way up George Street you kept stopping passers-by

to tell them I was an illegal immigrant.

I couldn’t stop you no matter how I tried to shush you

or drown you out with my harmonica.

You even came up with a little ditty: ‘Mark’s an illegal immigrant,

his passport’s not so diligent.’ A police car crawled past.

‘Help, I’m being kidnapped by an illegal alien!’ you cried.

‘He wants to be arrested so he can be sent home.

He’s missing his Mum.’

                                      Dear Mandy.

I wasn’t missing anybody when I was with you.

I was too busy trying to stay on my feet 

in the Taureanado of your enthusiasms

and dark romantic wit,

the colour education you were giving me

in how best to remove orange juice

from the kitchen floor in the darkest hours

by standing in your bare feet on a towel

and shuffling around with it; 

marvelling at the Aladdin’s cave of your room

and the frangipanis you wore in your bunched black hair

long before it became Frida fashionable.

Or just being in awe of your Lust for Life.

What did Iggy Pop know. 

Anyway, eventually you lost interest in my embarrassment

and started singing at the top of your voice, 

your One Woman Goddess Midnight Choir

as we walked that long unfolding street towards the home

I was lucky enough to be sharing with you.

That night it was ‘Bury me Deep in Love,’ 

another song I hadn’t heard before.

Which to this day I can’t hear without singing along to.


© Mark Czanik



Poem for Kasamira on her twenty-fourth Birthday



My little berry,

my book-rest and desk sitter,

my sea-girl from Porlock,

my little bundle of joy found stowed away

in the bathroom laundry basket,

my lucky horseshoe, my anchor,   

my buttercup sleeping in the little cave

under my chin, my tribal child

I never wanted to put down,

my ribcage on whom I used to play

Beethoven’s 5th, imperfectly, but with great gusto,   

my kitchen dancer whirlpool 

and list-maker extraordinaire, 

my butterfly double marble,

my creaking floorboard, 

my slip of home-light under a door,

my blow-in firefly from the forest

of beautiful illusions

upon which my life depends,

my unbroken trail of breadcrumbs

leading me back to where

I no longer need to go,

who is not mine at all, 

but a stroke of good lightning,

a thinking tree that knows and owns itself.

My little bandit magician,

still following me through

revolving doors

and coming out first. 


© Mark Czanik