Featured Poem

The Blacktip Ragwort


In London, toward the middle of the Second World War, around St. Paul’s Cathedral, the pink-berried willow and the yellow ragwort began to proliferate in the craters made by bombs. 

Some even claimed to have numbered the blacktip ragwort there. But nothing precise allows us to support such a claim. 

It’s exactly because that particular variety – naïve and as if mournful symbol of disaster – was born of a collective imaginary that it emblazons this collection. For doesn’t it link spontaneous storytelling to poetic expression, the defiled place to photographic properties, the dangers that lie in wait for us to our impulse to escape? Oh, so many echoes of a north where the light hasn’t been able to lose its love of darkness.

Paternoster Row

The blacktip ragwort and the pink-berried willow
Besieged this place,
After the blitz and its echo of soot.

From the dome turned pyx flows out
A lake wherein to mirror the world.

Let my words be a creel.

Southwick Street

Before colours and curves
Was the straight line that nature ignores,
The white unworthily reflected by snow.

Before the Creation and its great churning
Only the sketch prevailed.

If I pondered the lesson of your design,
House in Southwick Street,
I would have the conceptual rigour
To put being and beings in their places,
I would weigh no more than a shadow
Or than my breath fused with yours
Beneath windows denying the world exists.


On these upright chessboards
Jamaican ladies,
A king takes your rook,
Loses you a Black Angel.

There’s no further opening,
Mischievous guardian of chess.
Beneath your closed eyelids
The street lets loose its bulldogs.

» Comment on this translation 0 comment(s)

About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Guy Vaes
Philip Mosley
Original language:
2017 Number 1 - Songs of the Shattered Throat

About the author

Original poet

Guy Vaes

GUY VAES (1927–2012) was a Belgian author whose magic realist fiction also drew on modernist psychological investigation and o...

» Read more


Philip Mosley

PHILIP MOSLEY is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, USA. He h...

» Read more


No Comments


Browse poems

By original language »

By issue of MPT »

Go Digital

Subscribe to the digital edition of MPT for access to all back issues and to the Exactly app.» View free trial issue

Back to top
Supported by Arts Council England

Copyright © Modern Poetry in Translation and contributors
Website design ashbydesign
Developed by Code Frontiers
Powered by Storemill