Sunday 27 February 2022

Five Poems by Michael Wooff




The stepmother was Charles Perrault’s idea.

Madame d’Aulnoy gave us instead Finette,

A girl who was intrepid, knew no fear,

Running the gamut of danger’s spinet.


A king and queen three daughters had all told,

But fate, unkind to them, their kingdom wrecked.

“Our daughters must be left out in the cold,”

The queen said, “or we’ll lose all self-respect.


It’s hard enough without five mouths to feed.

These three I’ll take to where they won’t come back.”

And twice she tried and twice did not succeed.

Then, with the help of ashes in a sack –


The first and second time with string and thread –

Finette laid out a trail to lead them home.

No sooner have the sisters gone to bed,

Their mother’s off and leaves them all alone.


The sisters of Finette chose to drop peas,

Not knowing of their sibling’s other trail,

And almost faint when pigeons on them seize.

But in their need Finette will not them fail.


All three know they’re not wanted anyway,

So why not make the best of a bad job?

They plant an oak tree, ask Finette to say

What she can see on climbing to its top.


Suffice it now, to cut this story short,

To say in what she sees they are deceived.

In castle grand, by wicked ogress caught,

Finette says she can cook and is believed.


The ogre asks of her to bake his bread.

She lights an oven, gets him to go in,

Make sure it’s hot enough: he ends up dead.

She decapitates the wife – bad won’t win.


And all this as a prequel to the ball,

To which her sisters go, leave her distressed

Until her eyes upon a gold key fall

That opens up for her a magic chest.


Inside it she finds what will save her life:

With gorgeous gowns her sisters she’ll outshine.

A Spanish horse will rescue her from strife,

A prince find her lost shoe, and all be fine.



Self-Portrait between the Clock and the Bed


Even the grandfather clock without hands

Does not surprise us.

Very likely its blank face is meant to mirror that of

A man in the picture in his late seventies standing next to it,

Racked by insomnia before a bed, the black and red striped patterns on which are hypnotic,

Dressed neatly in a white vest overlain by a dark jacket, dark trousers, dark shoes.


Many former pictures haunt the walls behind him.

Under him the floor looks polished, shines.

None of this is reflected in his pale pink hands that hang so stiffly or his face,

Curmudgeonly, mesmerized, brown with its long vigil.

Half-open, the door does not admit visitors.



The Dog and the Fish and the Angel


In later life Da Vinci saw Milan

And then Bologna, where the new French king

To meet the maker of Vitruvian Man

Came, back to France that genius to bring.

And in Amboise he’d live in Clos Lucé

And be allowed to do all things his way.


It had not always been so. In Florence,

Starting out, Verrocchio’s apprentice,

His garzone, he’d shown no abhorrence

To perform the meanest task. Inventive

Even then, Pollaiuolo’s white dog’s blurred,

Fish swings as though Tobias on each word


The angel says hangs, hurries to keep up.

Such telling details, dashed off in a trice,

Are proof he can do more than just sweep up.

His angel in The Baptism of Christ

His master looks upon and almost chokes

With envy: from small acorns grow great oaks.



Tasso talks of Paris


Tasso talks of Paris, a place I hardly know.

“Has Ronsard sent you?” He’s a poet I never met.

“We went to the Louvre together. It was wet.”

They have asked me in France to be mayor of Bordeaux.

Ten years ago, it’s true, my friend La Boétie

Having died and left behind some unpublished work,

I visited Paris, my duty not to shirk,

To have printed there his writings. It would pay me.

How sad it is to see in Ferrara this man

To the status of inmate in madhouse reduced,

Though he is well cared for, of that there is no doubt.

But he has the appearance of one weak and wan.

His tongue our brief meeting has precious little loosed.

He no longer has now the strength to even shout.



John Clare Committed


Richard Dadd the patricide came later.

He could be violent, had to be restrained.

Foreign travel made of him a hater

In Bedlam then Broadmoor though artist trained.

John Clare just obsessed about his writing,

To be Byron, Shakespeare, all wrongs righting.


Both attention to the telling detail

Chose to give.  Dadd with palette knife and brush

Depicted elves and fairies without fail

And saw no need to panic or to rush.

Clare, a poor badger, pinned down by a stick,

Bayed at and trampled, could not fire a rick.


Are these things that cannot be forgiven?

Must we always rue our not fitting in?

Clare for “Lines: I Am” is to be shriven.

The belfry his bats did their flitting in

Was one where words were bandied back and forth

And ever valued at their truest worth.

Michael Wooff was born on the last day of August 1949 in Ashton-under-Lyne, a town approximately ten miles east of Manchester in North-West England, where he still lives now and has been, and continues to be, a regular contributor to the Flash Poetry group on As far as writing goes, he does what he can when he can. Life begins at 70?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Three Poems by Steve Klepetar

Changing So many women turned into trees  or reeds or weeping stones. There was a man bent over a pond  who became a flower. Another died  b...