Archive for March, 2023

The Dinner. A satire

Posted: March 25, 2023 in Chat
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The dining room dimly lit
only table and guests illuminated;

the servers encircle in darkness
awaiting the call to commence.

Conversations flow, then break;
laughters explode, cackle,

gutter, die; then other groups,
a break-out of noise, follow suit

and another, another:
obligated laughter, on cue 

A General – Just you, alone? –
unperturbed lifts fine meat from bone,

an epicure’s precision, while finishing
a witty aside.

                         His sleeve
catches on cuff-link, reveals

woad beneath clothes; then covered.
His wife’s bone necklace greatly admired

(Are they… real? 
A solicitous wheedle, 

but required).

The premier slow smiles, 
observing his Head of Security’s 
discomfort under scrutiny.

A glint of honed incisors, tongue-relish. 

Guests applaud some quip, 
then glutted, glow at him. He sips,

having perfected the mysterium
of pose and suggestion

to cover cold threat, his wide

His taxidermist is waiting tables; 

his neat, gloved hands… name-labels.
‘The poor material I get…’ 

his neat teeth, set
smile, hiding status-worries; 

‘- Shot-up, broken bodies, 
for game trophies?’

A craftsman, 
only for as long as the customer 
is satisfied.

Waiting Zone

Posted: March 18, 2023 in Chat
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Of all waiting zones, this, 
as the effects of painkillers 
begin to show, the screen glow
brightening around figures, 
becoming more distant. 
Focus shifting from backgrounds 
of urban traffic, crowds, 
to, yes, this.

And as distinctness emerges 
there is also glazing – 
perhaps the brightness 
is the iris relaxing, flooding 
more light into that 
tight sphincter, and the glaze 
catching more angles of light, 
so every particular 
becomes its essence. 

And where the pain played 
the nervous system
is suddenly to find it has used 
a day’s worth in a morning. 
A veneer, even-sheen 
emerges out of the glare, 
inviting or slipping-in 
a dream here where thought 
wandered; and the moving 
dark of dreams’ peculiar 
evolutions become only 
one stage of those 

Father Prout

Posted: March 10, 2023 in Chat
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Let us consider Father Prout, or Reverend Francis Sylvester Mahony, Irish Roman Catholic priest and former Jesuit.
He was also and perhaps more pre-eminently a journalist, and bon-vivant, born in Ireland, 1804, and died, Paris, in 1866.

Yes, I’m currently reading a biography of Robert Browning, where he figures startlingly:
Browning: A Private Life, by Iain Finlayson. Published Harper Perennial, 2014.

Father Prout was his pen name when he published articles in Fraser’s Magazine and others. (

So, what is the big mystery?
He was a man-about-town, whom Robert Browning encountered when he was first making his way into the literary world in London, in the 1830s and 40s.
So far so good.
Father Prout’s about-town, though, was huge.
Where was he not!

Take the famous Browning-Barrett elopement of 1846.
The marriage itself was planned in a highly secretive, but desultory fashion. But then events took a surprising turn, and the day was brought forward suddenly.
Robert Browning emerged, new passport in hand, who should he run into straight away but… Father Prout.

Then take the elopement itself: train to Southampton, sea voyage to Le Havre, rest, then onward via Rouen, Paris, through France and then boat to Genoa, Italy. Then a train to Livorno, and boat to Pisa. Why Pisa? Because had Shelley loved it.
As their boat approached who was there at the sea front, cloak billowing around him? Father Prout.
On another occasion, Father Prout… happened upon Robert in the street and kissed him full on the mouth – a good deal to Robert’s surprise….

I give these details to show that the Browning’s doings and goings could not have been followed or predicted in any way.

After five-six months in Pisa the couple travelled overland, eventually to arrive at Florence.
Why was he there?
Business in Rome, of course, and taking his breaks in Florence.

The Brownings moved lodgings several times before settling, but also moved to the east coast and back trying to find cooler summer air, to no avail.
Settling back in Florence, who should they meet yet again? Father Prout.

You may think that this was leading somewhere, and it was.
Father Prout became a regular ie nightly, visitor to the very private Case Guidi residence of the Brownings. And long evenings they proved to be.
Robert had became ill, and Father Prout’s remedies helped enormously.
How big is gratitude?
Father Prout liked to talk, smoke, and expectorate into a spittoon, all copiously, for three hours and more at a stretch.
(Why have a spittoon in the first place? Or… did he bring his own?)
When Father Prout finally left…. there was a general burst of indignation and throwing open of doors to get rid of smoke and malice.

But they were not yet done with Father Prout. He had suggested he may return from Rome and stay for another couple of months.

In the 1850s back on an infrequent visit to London… Father Prout!

What of the man himself?
Wiki tells of a roguish sense of humour, foisting origin-forgeries of modern poems, upon the public at one point. He was ‘soon expelled‘(Wiki) from his earlier teaching job.
It also tells of a more serious side. knowing both Charles Dickens and William M Thackeray. In later years:
He acted as foreign correspondent to various newspapers, and during the last eight years of his life, his articles formed a main attraction of The Globe. (
He was well known at another point of his life for the poem The Bells of Shandon.

And his fame has lived on:
The protagonist of Graham Greene’s Travels With My Aunt mentions regretfully his life’s unfulfilled ambition “to be recognised as an English Mahony and celebrate Southwood as he celebrated Shandon.

Even Elizabeth Barrett Browning gave him his due, despite the visits:
Still, one likes the human nature of the man.

I came across an astonishing poem on the Words Without Borders site.

Yu Jian is a Chinese writer; Xin Xu has translated a selection of his work on this site.

Yu Jian was born in 1954, in Kunming, southwest China. He is a writer, essayist, photographer, documentary film director, editor, and director of literary festivals. His day job (!) is professor.

I wish to thank Susan Harris, Editorial Director of Words Without Borders:

for permission to publish the first lines, almost half of the poem.


Rising above the land, it precedes the grayness of Asia.

A robed king, boundless and lost, stands at the edge of Xishuangbanna and Laos. 

It’s the jungle’s shield. The Creator bestows its symbolism,

endowing it with a face of grief, hiding diamonds behind its blue eyelids;

imitating crescent moons to shape its tusks, keeping palm-leaf manuscripts secret in its wrinkles.


For the last seven lines of the poem follow the link:

Also, this is a site well worth spending some time exploring.

Does the poem put you in mind of the elephant troupe that wandered through several Southwest China cities, June 2021: