An Armoured Inkwell

An Armoured Inkwell

One night from the bureau you took
a small metallic object, placed it, green
in the light of the standard lamp.

Strangely it sat on the dining-table
like an oversize matchbox made of steel.
Slowly you hinged back the armoured lid.

As if you opened a casket of sealed time
into the dark room came the Western Front
all that nightmare of what men did

When old Germany, the most civilized, died
when fairs on English Downs were pulled up
and trenches filled the French countryside

When Sacre prophesied the Great War
its dissonance the anger of the guns
its Chosen One a generation damned.

Out of that bombproof inkwell came poems
against the heroic values: Nie Wieder Krieg.
And for a faraway young bride

From black depths came love-letters penned
as dolphins turned, phosphorescent
in Flanders, at the mouth of the Yser.

‘My most precious possession’ you said
’yours now, since you’re a poet too.’
So came to me an armoured inkwell.

‘I shall not cease from mental fight.’
Often we chanted Blake’s mighty hymn
and I repeat it still by candlelight.


Written for The New English Ballet as part of the Armistice Centenary celebrations, the poem features in the film of a ballet called Remembrance, largely based on the wartime romance of Marie Rambert (my grandmother) and playwright Ashley Dukes (my grandfather). During his time as a cavalry officer in Normandy, he would use the inkwell (pictured above) to write letters to Rambert, who passed it on to me many years later.
Body of Work published

Body of Work published

The first of my forthcoming digital editions, Body of Work is a collection of shorter poems spanning several decades. The idea is that sequences of poems are distributed to different parts of the body; so there are poems of the head, poems of the hands and feet, poems of spleen and heart and so on.

You’ll find poems of the Hands, poems of the Lungs, Spine, Heart and Belly, etc. Subject matter is widely varied: there are urban poems, satirical and humourous verses, elegiac pieces, love poems, haikus and erotica, and a few longer pieces including De Havilland about my airman-father who flew in night-fighting Mosquitoes in WWII. Also featuring in the collection is Fierce Moon, recently published on my blog with a video of the poem.

Here is an excerpt from the Prologue:

“A poem communicates the mystery of a love-affair with experience. The poet’s passion for this world as mirror of super-reality explodes in a sensuality of language. Poems are kisses lavished on life, some ferocious and carnal, others tender and spiritual. A poem solves the primordial antagonism: Shall we eternally suffer or shall we eternally flee beauty? As lovers see perfection where there is only humanity, so true poems redeem the world.”

Body of Work will download to Kindle, iTunes etc, see links below.


Edition: eBook – digital format

Order online – Amazon US Amazon UK  (Kindle)

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