Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Arum maculatum

by John Keenan

What a performance.
For one day only.
The stink catches you right in the throat
like a stale morning after kiss, tongue deep.
It beckons you away from the sunshine,
Into the shadows, under the hedge.
With a twist in the night,
the cuckoo’s purple spike
has burst the spathe’s green sheath,
releasing belches of
sulphur, methane, leather, rubber.
You check your boots for fox shit.
The scent excites dogs,
Attracts a crowd
Of flies pressing against the stem’s red knobs
Black as fingerprints.
On all fours with your magnifying glass,
You’re drunk on a bouquet like body odour.
You’d like to get up and shower -
Avoid awkward questions at home -
But you’re gripped by ankle, by arse, by wrist,
Soldered with fish glue.
You sigh, you gasp, you stay longer,
Fascinated by the flowers.

Added: 17.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


I got thoroughly drawn into this poem and could even smell the smells of it as I read. I felt the Arum was some kind of svengali figure.


Loved use of bodily/sexual in this. Entirely appropriate. As a dyed-in-the-wool urbanite, I learned something botanical too. Great!


Really clever and inventive - if a little more graphic than I can cope with in the morning! Great poem.