Poetry – John Short


I dreamed of an aquarium
fixed into my back
a miniature box
with tetras and an angel fish,
its glass sunk deep
instead of memories,
I had to ask each day
if they were still alive
framed there
in that wall of flesh.
It was necessary
to watch out for these
delicate creatures, cradle
this transparent cube of life
while treading carefully
to avoid spillage
as police tracked me
through the rain-washed streets
of a dismal foreign town.
Why? I asked.
You’re just the kind, they said.
A typical demeanor
that gets us to our feet
every time.

(Barcelona 2012)

The warmth has gone,
the boar’s head taken down
all fireplace brick surrendered
to the sledgehammer;

that old woman who
punished fruit machines
denied her home-bound pleasure,
the jaunty evening crowd
now scattered like funeral ash.

The barmaid with her optimistic hair
left stranded, the perennial
inviting smile subdued by silence.
I’d like to ask what you make
of all this murder –

what led them to decide
that these cold grey walls were
somehow more appropriate
than the pulse of Life.


Some writers marry other ones
it seems the natural course
but she has never read a book
in fact she hardly learned to read.
In Nigerian villages, they say,
you have to pay to go to school.
Her father was a teacher too.
In time I’ve come to understand
that this is just an economic irony
of life down there, however,
she can handle a sewing machine,
make clothes, cook plantains,
construct wigs from human hair,
dismember a goat in record time,
balance a suitcase on her head.
After seven years I’m comfortable
with these skills, this situation,
living without literary discussion.


I tread an open road in Spain
with walking boots
and canvas rucksack,
fresh loaf, cheese and wine.

The pebble track unfolds ahead
then leads to unknown
towns and villages up north.

A stream runs to my right.
It sparkles in the morning sun
and follows the road forever
like a faithful companion.

Romantic at heart, I dream
of Don Quixote, Laurie Lee,
Platero y Yo, but get instead
a dust cloud raised by packs
of cyclists clad in Lycra.

Yet it seems the clear waters
sing for those with time to listen:
onward towards the distant hill.

That hill on the horizon
I know I have to reach
if only to see beyond.


sometimes he drinks
sitting on a bench
in the petanque arena.
There’s a Christmas tree 4 meters
tall, with coloured lights
(it’s nearly April but
that’s not his problem).

Near the tree
and illuminated by the light stands
a curious statue: a tarnished
metal goddess, life-size
mottled green,
her right foot rests
upon a Corinthian wheel
which in its turn
rests upon
the belly of a baby satyr.

The satyr
with horns and cloven hoof
squirms among nineteenth century
flowers and grapes,
its mouth open and full of rain.
It seems unjust
to be forever under the feet
of Universal Justice;
small hands
pushing vainly against the wheel.

Which makes him think
that satyrs,
like Lucifer and the Djinn
must be abominable
in the eyes of God
(for showing signs
of individual will?)
and suffer accordingly
for their diabolic

About the contributor

John Short was born in Liverpool and studied comparative religion at Leeds University and Creative Writing at Liverpool University with Richard Hill. Later he spent some years in Europe doing a variety of jobs, finally settling in Athens for eight years. He returned to England in 2008 and began writing more seriously

Related Articles

More Like This