One poem, one theme

Poets deal in writing about feelings and trying to find the language and images for intense feelings.

Carol Ann Duffy

Thunder in Red

Sweeping, sick, swathes pulses of blood
pop at temples and up into frays of burnt
black hair that bristles. Tongue crackles like
a thunderstorm, eager to strike, to kill,
to bolt out words faster than a thought.

It has been too long since I was last like this
and that angers me more still. Grinding beats

of a heart clap at ribs: the thudding muscle
craves to be free, while lungs ache with
each breath that draws out like the slow
pull of a bowstring bellowing to be let go
with one ignoble intention.

Back up in my mouth I can taste the words
sour and wicked and true. Swallowing

saliva in globules like clotting blood
does not prevent the words from spilling
over arterial lips made thin
with contempt for having ever uttered
a gentle encouragement. Drawing a long

breath, I unsheathe the wickedness
the release and sweet delight of my ire
and scream. Long and hard and true.


This one took almost the longest of the new poems to get right.

The constant desire to make bold or italic key words, the places where I wanted the reader to connect unexpectedly with the material, or even only for the vanity of what sounds most dramatic and cool when the poem is read aloud, was hard to resist, so in the end I settled for none at all.

It was an exercise in remembering to trust the audience, to trust you guys, to get what you want to find in a poem, rather than being led to any particular point or meaning.

Anger, much like love, sex and death (my, and every poet’s, three favourite themes) is an archetype, so it’s prone to cliché at almost every stage and can be tricky to avoid, though I feel pleased with the balance between abrasiveness with the imagery and pacing. Agree, disagree or feeling something completely different? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments!

The next queued poem’s theme will be much lighter, but until then, enjoy a dark, double-feature week…

Stay safe and carry on writing!


This week’s featured image is by Antonio Palmerini.

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