Mandy Pannett

Mandy Pannett lives in West Sussex. She is a member of the Slipstream Poets and helps to run a monthly Arts Cafe in Ditchling. She works free lance teaching creative writing classes and leading workshops. She has had three poetry collections published: ‘Bee Purple’ and ‘Frost Hollow’ (Oversteps Books) and ‘Allotments in the Orbital’ (Searle Publishing) Her novella ‘The Onion Stone’ will be published October/November 2011.

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You are doing well with your life:
a massive, inherited stately home, your memoirs high
in best-seller lists, a polished, immaculate wife.

Tourists write It’s a fabulous house.
I would scribble my message in red:
I loved you first.

This is a difficult room –
watery vistas and one who has painted himself in a mirror.
Outside there are shrubs and rain.

I am not in your book.
Not a word that you loved me, loved me first.
I shall buy a postcard then, mark this house with an X.


Can’t sing, can’t dance, got a face
like a duck, scruffy and fat as a ball ...

That’s what they say of you, Harry.
Yet they’re all mad for your vaudeville act,
the bite and tang of your cockney voice –
It’s like Gorgonzola: the niff,
the gusto of you.

Insatiable, your exuberant zeal:
No nibbling at the cheesy rind, the crummy
flaky edge. You leap and pound
upon the stage, arms and legs in all
directions, guzzle limericks and rhymes
as if they’re pints of jellied eels,
trotters, tripe or saveloys,
carrots, boiled beef.

Listen, they’re all joining in:
I’m Henery the Eighth I am ...
Cu-cum-you-come-cu-cum-ber ...
Don’t do it again, Matilda, DON’T
do it again.

No chance to do it again.
Red velvet curtains are frayed at the hem.
Somewhere a new voice is calling:
Women of Britain say Go.

So sing it once more, you dusty old sparrow,
that verse where the missus
brings in the blue cheese and it’s
smelly and mouldy and gases
the cat so they run for a
gun and fire at the cheese
till it’s dead.


It begins with a cave of fossils and bones:
Remains washed in from a faraway land,
the raven from Noah’s own ark? All things
are possible – these are the days
of biblical truth – yet the entrance
is narrow, too tiny for rhinos
lost in the Flood. He examines
the dung, says ‘Here were hyenas
who slaughtered and ate. No traces
of boats or a dove.’

Famed as bizarre, he’s reputed to dine
on panther or mole, hippo
for breakfast, a bluebottle
puree for tea. Such is his taste –
to savour the sweetness and spice
of the find, give life
to a skeleton, excavate
fabulous beasts.

There are errors, of course –
a primitive man proclaimed as a Roman
Lady in Red, chronology lifted
out of The Book – but mistake is a word
that’s not in his text, no more
than loss or defeat.

Buckland rides out on an old black mare
with his bagful of bits for the dig.
If they come to a quarry the mare will stop –
instinct telling her this is a Jurassic pit.


Sometimes you hear it –
a thud on soft grass or else an underfoot, brown-
mush squash that’s close to
but less

than a sigh

Best if you pluck it ripe from the tree, or rather (not
so active a gesture) cup
your hand round it
push up-
wards and


(Thanks to Geoffrey Winch whose Slipstream Workshop on ‘Fruit’ inspired this poem)


At one with white sand and the sea
he strokes the skin of his dreams. His kaross
is warm on his naked limbs, his sleep
as delicate as his frame, his large-
domed head. As gatherer
of the blue mussel, he harvests
the tidal pool.

Did time dilate in a dazzle of thought?
Was he out of his era and place?
Though he slept with his face to the sun
he would have felt sadness and loss
like rain; drop by drop, like us.

All we have left are shells
and bones that are mute.


Shelley, I said, I know you’re telling me matters
that count but words are liquid
and syllables grey –

Get up, you cry, the sea is in flood!

Well, you always had a mania for water –
the immersion in and the rising up.

Is it so terrible after all
to hammer-blow batter a shell?
To snuff the candle and shatter the false,
to sever the cable of light?

Oh sleep on then, aquatic man, don’t answer me –
May you stay content
a little longer yet.


Swan, you swoop down
on our wetlands but
with another, not
your own mate –

This is not right.
You are written as faithful till death.

She returns too, new partner in tow –
Shocking, this smashing
of myth.

Now why are you both coming back to your haunts?
Just who has left who
in this Eden?


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