The Frog Princess

The Frog Princess

After the explosion I liked it in the dark.

I liked the drip and plop and the river smell

you get from being down a well.


I didn’t call out.

Alone, I was content.

I felt I deserved my punishment.


 The dark was my shield

I would lie under it and stare

feeling my safety in despair.


I heard you sing

of an end to pain,

how I might be beautiful and useful again.


You dropped a rope and told me not to worry. I

f I would let you, you would pull me up

but there was no hurry.


I did not believe a word you said but that was a start.

I began to feel around in the mud

for the pieces of my broken heart.

Ted Hughes Collected in a Squall. Hay, 1996

Now that the wind’s dropped again

I find myself thinking of Ted Hughes,

his big pale face bent, the sweat running down

from his streaked hair, dripping on to his open

book of verses, down over his long probe of a nose


under a dangerously swaying array of crazed stage lights, chains rattling,

with that vast marquee swelling in a Welsh squall,

swelling then sucking like bellows at his last Hay Festival.

Dying, he clung to his lectern, shouting


like Captain Ahab at the wheel, daring anyone to jump ship,

run for shelter.

Nobody moved, how could we in that welter

of wind and words? We could not choose but hear

you, you bloody-minded Ancient Mariner!



Amelie’s Havanese pup makes an entrance

Put a crack in the door

he’s in


you knew he was there

and where

does he begin?

Which way’s he facing?


He’s slid

past the stairs

on the shiny floor

but aft or fore?

On his feet

or belly up?

Is it a mop

or a pup?


Still sliding

he’s all tail



to a Cuban headful

of salsa

or rumba

Ahi va!

He’s Wilmer y Maria!


Such a thrashing

wee-wee splasher

squeaking like a bat!


to tell with such a

furry whirrer

which is this bit

and which that.


And when he

makes one of his entrances

– when he’s off on

one of his ecstacies –

the only hope of

getting his attention is


a little chunka cheese!

Just now

Just now


I raised the blinds to see

the moon caught in the chestnut tree.

Lit from within

it shows its embers through its skin


and now again


up and to its right

another miracle of light

sits in a twig’s fork

like a puffed-on spark.




when smouldering star

and glowing moon ignite

they’ll scorch away

this rumpled papery night.

And God created jam jars

In that one

with the gold lid

stabbed by the kitchen scissors

there are unnameable leaves and some grass.


He is sleeping now,

the furry caterpillar that is happy

to walk your finger

and the green sticky one.

that plays bridges

is hiding, too.

Where the glass thickens

at the bottom

a magnified beetle in three parts

shiny black with wicked pinchers

goes round and round.


I have finished the jam

in this other jar.

I shall make a lid for it with paper

and a rubber band

and fill it with grasshoppers.


It is good having light in the daytime.

You can see them better

and make them hop.


On Daytime Five I shall let

the waters bring forth abundantly

and introduce frogspawn.

End of Term

What are you doing? Are you sleeping?


Safe in your hideous tower

high in the air?


When you awake, sit in your golden chair,

look in your gilded mirror

will you stare

at anything besides your golden hair?


And when the mirror cracks

as it must surely,

will you run out

where once grew fields of barley,


cry: I am known in all the land!

and vainly looking for your pedestal

discover even that has turned to sand,

to rust, to dust; to smoke – a choking pall.


Carer with Irises, 1890

I said to him Vincent

but he was, like, silent

so I didn’t raise my voice I said

Mr Van Gogh

don’t you think that’s enough?

but he kept right on stuffing

irises into the jug

that little white one.

I said That’s enough!

You’ll spill the lot

all over your nice white cloth!

He took no notice

carried right on

jamming them in.


Poor silly bugger,

he’s only been

and painted that white cloth green!

Horse. Chestnut

Close your eyes and run your fingers

through a bag of them.

Listen and feel

rumbling silk;

one living, moving muscle.


Stubbs made


of conkers, surely:


across the barrel,

on the point of hip;

that vegetable gaskin,

silky fetlock, hock.



on the shimmering

smoke of mane;

from the skirt of his tail

to the white fire at the dock.


He’s up, forelimbs raised to take a shock,

the swung sling of his mad blood steered by that rolling eye!