Weather report – Brussels

Weather report: Brussels under mist

Here is the weather report from Brussels…

[Monday, 30th May 2016]

The mist hangs low above the tree-lined streets,
Moisture coagulates on the leaves then drops,
heavy drops.

It’s raining under the trees.

It is always a source of fascination for me. How the leafy trees, under which we may duck to seek shelter from a sudden downpour, store up the rainwater and, after the storm has passed, drip it again in heavy drops beneath their canopy.

[Tuesday, 31st May 2016]

The air is damp and full of smells,
leaf mould and wet earth,
moist tarmac and stone,
and a sudden sweet scent –

is it jasmine flowering unseen?

[Wednesday, 1st June 2016]

This misty moisty weather makes for a most mysterious city,
misty towers, offices, hotels,
mysterious ministries,
emerge from moisty streets
to vanish mysterious in the misty air.

[Thursday, 2nd June 2016]

The same dull light,
the same grey skies,
a chill wind tosses the chestnut leaves.

Seriously –
you call this summer?

Rain is fascinating, and the poet can ring many changes on it, but too much may chill the soul and tarnish the imagination.

[Friday, 3rd June 2016]

Even the birds that sang sweetly in the rain are
quiet now.
The occasional apologetic chirrup.

No more.

You see?

[Saturday, 4th June 2016]

Purple rhododendron,
white azalea,
shaken loose by yesterday’s winds,
battered by this morning’s downpour, now
shatterings of colour on a wet ground.

[Sunday, 5th June 2016]

Last night, the lightning storm flashed and blazed
and far off a little thunder grumbled.

In the mist’s damp cocoon,
chrysalis summer stirred.

For twenty minutes or more this evening a lightning storm with thunder so distant it was barely audible. The fog that wrapped the city, that had wrapped the city all day, was illuminated by the lightning flashes but dispersed the light so it was most of the time impossible to say whether and in which direction the lightning was flashing. Looking for a metphor I imagined this might be how the light of day would seem to a silk coocooned chrysalis. And then…

[Monday, 6th June 2016]

The summer sun’s awake and
the butterfly’s in the balcony box,
tipsy flitting and sipping
one marguerita after another.

After writing yesterday’s poem, it was serendipity today actually to see a butterfly in the sun, fluttering from flower to flower of the marguerite daisies on our balcony, sucking nectar with it’s long proboscis. To conflate the marguerites with margaritas was irresistable.

[Tuesday, 7th June 2016]

A gunshot and a flash of light.
Thunder breaks directly overhead and
trees-full of roosting birds empty in panic.

A hard rain begins to fall and
loud on my stereo The Doors ride the storm.

Nothing distant about this thunderstorm. It announced itself with an almight clap and a flash on top of one another and apparently on top of the house. The setting sun was lighting a clear sky to the west, but overhead the thunderhead loosed its rain in a rush. I was already playing Bryan Ferry’s version of A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, but now I turned up the volume and quickly found Riders on the Storm. Very satisfactory!

[Wednesday, 8th June 2016]

The sun has set, but the western sky
still glows with the last light.

In the garden the old chestnut plays a game of its youth,
reaching topmost twigs
after a crescent moon.

Inspired by reading Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches in the translation by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Penguin 1966), I set myself the task of writing a daily poem somewhat in the same style. ‘Somewhat in the same style’, because I didn’t want to drive myself to the mechanical counting of syllables in the bastardised style so common among westerners attempting to write haiku. (I know, I’ve done it myself.) Nobuyuki Yuasa’s translations of Basho, though they are not always successful, do not chain themselves to this. Instead they are mostly rendered as quatrains (with a few couplets), and they do not follow any specific syllabic scheme. These poems were my starting point.

‘Somewhat in the same style’ also because I’m not trying to set myself up as any sort of a master. However it is inspiring to see, reading the introduction to this book, how Basho seems happy to sit with anyone one his travels and write poetry with them, perhaps to help them become better poets. And the only way to become a better poet is to write poetry.

Writing the poems, my first thought was to post them on Twitter. I did so, but my choice not to count syllables means that several of them were really too long. I truncated a few in order to tweet them, but they were not very satisfactory. The above are all full length.

Planning this, I thought I should take up a theme, and ‘weather’ seemed to be appropriate. It was a good choice. The weather gods blessed us – or cursed us maybe – with a varying and at time dramatic range of weather over the ten days I pursued this theme. I didn’t have problems finding topics to write about (though as you see I got a bit tired of the rain/fog/mist/humidity).

Finally, how successful I was isn’t for me to say, but I am generally happy with what I achieved. My next theme is ‘travel’ – both in a larger and a smaller sense. Maybe I’ll post some more of my efforts here later on.

Fouad the Suave Zouave

Fouad the suave Zouave (after Vincent van Gogh)As his red pantaloons and braided blue vest,
his flowerpot fez and his manner attest.

He’s Fouad the suave Zouave.


All the girls sigh for his melting brown eyes,
All the boys copy his manner streetwise.

He’s Fouad the suave Zouave.


In the depths of the desert or on Paris streets,
By the coast of the Med or in between sheets,

He’s Fouad the suave Zouave.


He smokes his own roll-ups but always obeys,
Restrictions he thinks are a modern malaise.

He’s Fouad the suave Zouave.


Massage at the hamam, a shave, the steamroom,
A glass of mint tea and a dash of perfume.

He’s Fouad the suave Zouave.


Salam alaykum. Bonjour, habiba. Maa’ismik?
What’s your name? Je t’aime. Bahebbak.

He’s Fouad the suave Zouave.

This poem originally appeared as tweets on Twitter as a response to the Artwiculate word game, and then on TheSupercargo main website in 2010. I’m republishing it here with a new illustration (apologies to Vincent van G).

My Search Optimisation Software informs me that it is a bad idea to have less than 300 words in the body of a blog post, and that my keyword density is “over the advised maximum” – for that reason perhaps I should add a word or two more in this post-poem text. The zouaves were originally an infantry unit of the French army recruited in the French North African colonies. Whatever it’s origin or value on the battlefield, their colourful uniform was a magnet for artists – including Vincent van Gogh. Although zouave regiments were established in other armies (including the US during the American Civil War) I don’t believe there are any still to be found nowadays. Fouad is my idea of a typical zouave, suave (of course) with a combination of Gallic and Arabic charm, both a soldier and a lover.

In memorium Lou Reed

Of late his face in repose
     had grown imperious,
          worn and time-beaten.

Now he’s gone,
     but his music still
          walks the wild side
                of perfect days.

Lou Reed now and then

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

© TheSupercargo

Gertrude Stein

Pity Pittsburg Pennsylvania

claims Gertrude, rather than Philadelphia.

If the latter then Gertrude Stein

would have been a real Philistine.

Instead we must assert that Gert

emerged with her battling wits from the Pitts.

Gertrude enrosed

© TheSupercargo

I’m not at all sure who this poem is trying to imitate – not Gertrude Stein for sure (and apologies to her shade).

The Tirade of Tiresias




The Tirade of Tiresias

is a tedious tetrametric poem

in which a







at interminable length.




© TheSupercargo


Skittish dancers


From Skitland come the Skittish folk,

they mix their Is and Os,

they’re very partial to a joke

and known to “imprivose”.

In tartan kilts they’ll sing a song

and if not scared or startled

they’ll dance on stilts “a Hoghland flong”

then drink until they’re plastered.




© TheSupercargo

The word of the day on Artwiculate today was “skittish”. Sadly, all my Swedish readers are going to look at that first line and read “From Shitland come the Shittish folk…”

Fear purple

Purple people eaterIn a world of








begins to seem





© TheSupercargo

Click here for more porphyrophobia.

Rehearsing winter

Dandelion clocks rehearsing winter




The summer meadow,

green-gold last week,

this morning’s hazed with white.


Dandelion clocks rehearsing

frosted winter.

© TheSupercargo

This poem describes a true event, but started life as a response to a Twitter wordgame. I liked it well enough to rework it for Articulations.

Atropos and Mnemosyne


His same question,

my same answer,

again and again.

Atropos clips

the gossamer threads of his memory

faster than

Mnemosyne can weave them.




© TheSupercargo

I’m aware this should probably be Atropos and Clotho, but Mnemosyne seemed more appropriate.






If someone with porphyrophobia

     runs screaming

          from a reading

               of Alice Walker’s

               The Color Purple,

          does that count as racism?




© TheSupercargo

Porphyrophobia really does mean an irrational fear of the colour purple. Look it up! And the doodle is of the front page of my copy of The Color Purple, hence the Virago iron logo.