I wasn’t certain we hadnt already featured this poem by Robert Klein Engler. I realised there isnt an index on this site and I had a long trawl to make sure. I felt sure we had another poem that mimicked the style of an exam paper.  Mimicry is something of our time.

Fran Baillie’s poem mimics the sonnet form which it uses, to some extent. It is also a response to another poet: a joust with the master, and an expression of a feminist standpoint.

So that’s two high-spirited poems, really, about love, which is not such a fashionable word, although the world would not survive without its reality. The third poem gives us a jolt. It is more what we are accustomed to, via the  media, and in this poem if the people cannot express any sympathy, the elements do  –  in the poet’s imagination.

This all seems a bit heavy – even the lady’s reply to Donne carries a serious rebuke under the jest –  so I’m starting with a poem in a lighter vein by Sheena Blackhall, who always knows how to balance light and dark. A Handbag, Darkly, was the title of a Fringe play of some years past, written by a member of my family. And Sheena’s version of the handbag is full of interesting, but not necessarily very nice things.

The weeks go by and we’re short of submissions again.  You can call them contributions, because most are used.  Kindly send to sallyevans 35 at gmail dot com – they have to be previously published.


Sheena Blackhall
In a Handbag, Darkly

A very plebeian vole with no credentials
A trainer from a phone booth
A cellophane love-heart
Three  grapes from a Delft dinnerplate
A right old Pussy Riot
A farewell  gesture
A rusting precentor
Three guffawing toads
A phalanx of chewing gums
An extinct harmonica
A freudian chinese urn
An ancestral larynx
A nest of tongues
A very excited avocado
A Byzantine penis
A processional of bedbugs
A clarinettist’s jockstrap
A mother-of-pearl urinal
Five Confucian slippers
A buzzard’s rhapsody
A republican seagull
Death, dressed as a cucumber
A necklace of wasp stings
The scent of a plastic daisy
A dried turd on a horseshoe
The sound of two hens clucking
A horizon of hyenas hyperventilating
The tattoo from a barmaid’s breast
A rag-mat in progress
Three hairs from a spiritual cat
A counterfeit catkin

Published by Lochlands, Maud, Aberdeenshire, 2012


Fran Baillie
An Epistolary Sonnet:
The Lady Replies to John Donne’s Elegy 19

Dear John, I must decline what you suggest,
I’m not a fertile country to explore.
Though you persist in knocking at my door
and think that I will yield to your behest,
this lady’s not for shafting like the rest.
Your catholic taste in every kind of whore
is legendary, and good sir, what’s more,
you really need to give that tongue a rest.
I won’t be safeliest with one man manned,
your roving hands aren’t licensed, they can’t go;

my hairy diadem, you understand
is mine and I dictate when it’s on show.
To enter in these bonds is to be free,
methinks you jest, old man! You’re kidding me!

Previously published in Northwords Now



Robert Klein Engler
Final Exam

Essay Question:
Compare the touch of a lover’s hand on your shoulder to a red leaf falling on
the grass. Are the weight of these gestures enough to break a heart? Make
sure your answer includes a note of frost.
Multiple Choice:
a. To live without your lover is a waste of the body.
b. To live with one you don’t love is a waste of the spirit.
c. The body and the spirit are like the moon above a black lake.
d. All of the above.
True or False:
Nothing is whole that has not first been broken.
Fill in the Blank:
I had a drink with a man I knew in college years ago. He confessed he slept
with the one I could never have. That night I dreamed I had a sore on my
thigh. I squeezed it, and gold puss oozed out.
Extra Credit:
Find the Metaphor-



Gabriel Griffin
Lament for an illegal immigrant   
No moon, but fishermen
are used to that and the sea’s chanting,
the descant of the nets. The decks silvered
with sea verses, the minims 
and trebles of fish hushed
into songbooks of ice.
Something didn’t sing, humped
in the net, thudding onto the deck.
Its ears heard no notes, its eyes
were blind to the men standing there,
its throat choked with words
that no-one would hear.
They let the sly octopus
sidle to the ship’s side, forgot to stop
the herrings’ arch and leap.
The sea moaned, the fish
slipped out of tune, the kittiwakes
hurled screeches like broken strings.
The men unfroze, thumped
what didn’t sing, what was lost for words,
over the hissing deck. Tipped what had
no hope, had never had a hope,
back to the sea. No word spoken, no
hymn, no prayer.
But the wrack in the nets wept. The sea
beat its fists on the boat. And the wind got up

and howled till dawn.


previously published, Poetry on the Lake