Self-Portrait at 38 BY JENNIFER TONGE

There are lots of ways in which I can relate to the speaker of this poem who thinks that Courbet ‘might capture’ her. I’d like to think he’d paint me as ‘L’origine du Monde’:A scandalous gift for someone important to keep hidden behind a green curtain.


An unused portion of ‘L’origine du Monde’ by Gustav Courbet

Hair still Titian,
but Botticelli’s grip has loosened—

not now Rubenesque,
and probably never;

Ingres approaches,
but Courbet might capture me.

Could I be surreal?
It seems almost likely—

bells in my ears
and fortresses under;

cones have been set on my eyes.
My spring is gone

and summer’s upon me,
rude in its ripening.

I’m espaliered, strung wide and tied,
pinioned, and thus can I fly.





The heavy lightness of sunshine
Opens dark eyes that cannot see. You
Are not here
And my heart is caught up in the gauzy ghost of a summer breeze,
Then scattered like petals
To fall where you might tread.

Things I Wrote Today

I am oddly pleased with the oh so ‘creative’ titles for today and yesterday’s poetic offerings. Hopefully the poems are marginally better…There was only going to be one poem for today but then I ended up writing  two, as you do, and couldn’t decide which one I liked best…


I gave the most transparent hints all week:
This is what I need.
You gave them right back again:
This is not what I need.


Sometimes, the struggle isn’t only yours,
It’s mine too.
Sometimes, behind the smiles you see,
There are tears.
Sometimes, all I need is to know,
Is that you still love me.
Sometimes, perhaps I explain this all wrong;
Upset you.
Sometimes, I should probably just give up,
Accept defeat.

The Things I Wrote Yesterday

It was one of those days that meant poetry…


The blind is almost closed
But you find your way in
As streamers of sunshine
That have arrived late
To a celebration that only you and I will attend.
Outside, clouds float, far off voices shout and life happens
To this room, this moment,


How I wish I was that workman
Sitting in his corrugated shed
On a cheap plastic chair drinking tea
And laughing with his mate,
No care,
Just waiting to build.

How I wish I was that workman
Sitting with you,
As we waited to build.


By the end of the day I’d given up listening,
What was the point if it wasn’t your voice I could hear?
Faces dissolved in front of me until it was only you I could see
And when I thought, all thoughts became you:
Where were you?
How were you?
Were you thinking of me?

Later, on the train ride home,
The rhythm of train on track
Became your heart,
And the window, where I leant my head,
Became your shoulder.
And when I dozed, my day dreams were of you,
My only dream was you.


This is totally what I would do if I was only allowed 167 words a day…


In an effort to get people to look

into each other’s eyes more,

and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.
Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.
When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Lonely Drinker

The gentle man with musician’s hands
Sits alone and stares at his lonely pint
Half empty, half full.
He sinks the beer, bitter,
And watches as oblivious drinkers drift through the door
All idle chatter and careless faces,
Light not lost,
Whilst he dreams and longs for her,
And looks for answers at the bottom of his glass
That are not there,
Like her,
He’s empty.




Put it on Mute

The foolish optimist wakes each morning
Stupidly hopeful,
Still drunk on love and dreams from yesterday.
The sun is shining and the World laughs:
“Wipe that smile from your face,
Put the volume of the day on mute,
Stay stalled in that line of traffic going nowhere,
Wait if you want…
No will come.”