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‘Three Postcards’ and a prose poem.


Three Postcards

(on the wall behind me)

1. ‘A Sign of the Times — Mended Stockings’, Dorothea Lange, 1934
               (From a gelatin silver enlargement print.)1

‘That photograph never ceases to amaze me . . .

From below the knee, above obscured by darkness: calves overlocked, ankles intertwined, stockings sheer  — 10, maybe 15 denier —  meshed,  ladders running,  stitches — partial,  indifferent — T-bars — a gap in the floorboards; shades of grey, nonchalance in the gloaming  . . . a woman holding it together with dignity during the harshest times . . .’ 2


2. ‘Six sea horses in the sea’, Artist Unknown, Wellcome Collection
               (Colour line block after Hashime Mariyama.)3

Sepulchred  sidling  sideways on
save for one  snake-like  upright
in its demeanour  embedded
in the whimpering  weeds  — seagrass
plankton   greys  & olives
the colours of  mould  — finned
&  crowned   &  static
faceted|upright| bony|captured
captive  amidst a rocky terrain  flat
packed  anchored  no waves  no wash
no spinning   a simper of sand  —
rarefied   remaindered


3. ‘Through the back door’
                (Silent comedy directed by Jack Pickford & Alfred E Green, USA, 1921)

It isn’t Dorothy but it reminds me of her and I don’t need colour. There’s something about a back view — following, behind those you love — potency, bewitchment. Here they sit paused on a dirt path — mud, twigs, branches, blurred undergrowth: girl-child (smallest), dog (a bit taller, droopy ears, face sideways on), horse (a head/hand  above). Faint lines of grey light radiate from the bolt of the horse’s reins (though I see no sun). Farm child (Mary Pickford) in a bonnet, white pinafore tied with a bow, ringlets reach her waist, ricrac and lace trim her sleeves. Absolute silence.


Loutro Diary

Large and somewhat eel-like it swam away. Finally the boy pinned it down, then the father slit its throat. Killing fish is commonplace. The would-be fisherman shows me a film on his phone of the octopus caught yesterday — an octopus with three hearts, nine brains and the capacity to mate for life. A long table clothed in white is set for the consumption. The boy shows me a white bucket,  at the bottom of which lies his dead fish.

half a portion  a wall
of geraniums

I shall carry what remains of my salad to my room and place it in the empty refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch.  Fresh green spikes protrude from a cactus  – bulge into being, pierce my peace of mind, trigger my Trypophobia, when I only need look to the boats and buoys, the scrub of the mountain.

mosaic floor
as much  water
as I  may need

A young man  jumps from the quay  to a rocking boat, and I wonder at his judgement. The girl moves from one side of the glass door to the other, inspects the smears  then stands on the window ledge, having first removed the cones and cherry sauce, to reach the highest pane. She wipes around the frame. Her cloth is dark to catch the dirt. Next, she takes a sponge and wipes again. Then comes the spray, and lastly a small white towel. The process repeated, I think her more patient than I.

weeping fuchsia
needing water

Sami brings to the table a small black case of tea bags — English black tea. On a chequered cloth, protected by a plastic cloth, he lays a paper cloth bordered with a frieze of olives and their leaves, the printed trademark being ENDLESS over the end of which sails a white swan.

dark hair
held back  I wear
no makeup

Jemma returns from her swim as her snorkel has broken. I have my thoughts — she has a sharp mind, which thought crossed mine earlier. This day, with her, I speak of process. My next task is imminent. I place my tea bag on the saucer — triangular herbs not quite spent.

in here  little self
by the sea  sighs
of complication

A namesake — Belinda from the ferry over; we converse about books, finding a mutual disliking of one in particular. A canopied motorboat sets off from the bay, crossing, a little way out, the path of an incoming boat — no canopy, its two riders facing the wind, one at the helm, one at the bow, like conquerors. The two books I have travelled with remain unopened.

lines  on the page
become unimportant

This is how it is: I have an island ahead of me, central to my view. Small squares are cut into the base of the wall that divides the terrace from the sea, in case of heavy rain as there was yesterday. We did not vacate our tables (as did others), sheltering under the awning. I thought of being safely indoors, a fire in the grate while a storm — I want to say blazed — outside, but you know what I mean.

water   incoming
pencil  bright lit
tracery  happenstance

LINDA BLACK is Editor of Long Poem Magazine. A poet and visual artist, her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, most recently Dreaming Awake, an anthology of New Contemporary Prose Poetry, 2023,  and  Alcatraz, an illustrated anthology of short prose and prose poetry 2022. She has published four collections with Shearsman, the latest being Then (2021). A fifth is forthcoming. The Son of a Shoemaker (Hearing Eye, 2012), collaged prose poems about the early life of Hans Andersen, plus the author’s illustrations, was the subject of a Poetry Society exhibition. The Beating of Wings was the PBS Pamphlet Choice for spring 2007. She won the 2006 New Writing Ventures Award for Poetry and received the 2004/5 Poetry School Scholarship.


  1. Produced by applying an emulsion of light-sensitive silver salts in gelatin to a sheet of paper coated with a layer of baryta, a white pigment mixed with gelatin.
  2. Susie Tompkins Buell.
  3. Hashime Murayama (1879–1954). A Japanese American  painter and scientific illustrator, he was best known for his exquisite paintings of birds, insects, fish, mammals, and other wildlife. He was employed by the National Geographic Society as an illustrator from 1921 to 1941.  As a Japanese national during World War II he ran afoul of the Alien Enemy Hearing Board, and was interned for five months. He worked with George Papanicolaou at Cornell University creating images of cancer cells — one of the most important collaborations in the history of cancer research.

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