Fleur Adcock is a New Zealand poet and editor, of English and Northern Irish ancestry, who has lived much of her life in England.
If you’re searching for famous poems ever that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of best known Walter Dean Myers poems, most famous Adam Lindsay Gordon poems and selected Eve Merriam poems.
Famous Fleur Adcock poems
After they had not made love
she pulled the sheet up over her eyes
until he was buttoning his shirt:
not shyness for their bodies- those
they had willingly displayed- but a frail
endeavour to apologise.
Later, though, drawn together by
a distaste for such ‘untidy ends’
they agreed to meet again; whereupon
they giggled, reminisced, held hands
as though what they had made was love-
and not that happier outcome- friends.
Leaving the Tate
Coming out with your clutch of postcards
in a Tate gallery bag and another clutch
of images packed into your head you pause
on the steps to look across the river
and there’s a new one: light bright buildings,
a streak of brown water, and such a sky
you wonder who painted it – Constable? No:
too brilliant. Crome? No: too ecstatic –
a madly pure Pre-Raphaelite sky,
perhaps, sheer blue apart from the white plumes
rushing up it (today, that is,
April. Another day would be different
but it wouldn’t matter. All skies work.)
Cut to the lower right for a detail:
seagulls pecking on mud, below
two office blocks and a Georgian terrace.
Now swing to the left, and take in plane-trees
bobbled with seeds, and that brick building,
and a red bus…Cut it off just there,
by the lamp-post. Leave the scaffolding in.
That’s your next one. Curious how
these outdoor pictures didn’t exist
before you’d looked at the indoor pictures,
the ones on the walls. But here they are now,
marching out of their panorama
and queuing up for the viewfinder
your eye’s become. You can isolate them
by holding your optic muscles still.
You can zoom in on figure studies
(that boy with the rucksack), or still lives,
abstracts, townscapes. No one made them.
The light painted them. You’re in charge
of the hanging committee. Put what space
you like around the ones you fix on,
and gloat. Art multiplies itself.
Art’s whatever you choose to frame.
The Man Who X-Rayed An Orange
Viewed from the top, he said, it was like a wheel,
the paper-thin spokes raying out from the hub
to the half-transparent circumference of rind,
with small dark ellipses suspended between.
He could see the wood of the table-top through it.
Then he knelt, and with his eye at orange-level
saw it as the globe, its pithy core
upright from pole to flattened pole. Next,
its levitation: sustained (or so he told us)
by a week’s diet of nothing but rice-water
he had developed powers, drawing upon which
he raised it to a height of about two feet
above the table, with never a finger near it.
That was all. It descended, gradually opaque,
to rest; while he sat giddy and shivering.
(He shivered telling it.) But surely, we asked,
(and still none of us mentioned self-hypnosis
or hallucinations caused by lack of food) ,
surely triumphant too? Not quite, he said,
with his little crooked smile. It was not enough:
he should have been able to summon up,
created out of what he had newly learnt,
a perfectly imaginary orange, complete
in every detail; whereupon the real orange
would have vanished. Then came explanations
and his talk of mysticism, occult physics,
alchemy, the Qabalah – all his hobby-horses.
If there was failure, it was only here
in the talking. For surely he had lacked nothing,
neither power nor insight nor imagination,
when he knelt alone in his room, seeing before him
suspended in the air that golden globe,
visible and transparent, light-filled:
his only fruit from the Tree of Life.
Get you, with your almain rivetts (latest
fad from Germany), and your corselet,
and your two coats of plate! How much harness
does a man need? None, when he’s in his grave.
Your sons may have it, together with your
damask and satin gowns to show off in;
while you go to lie down in Witham church,
and the most armour I’ve seen in a will
rusts or turns ridiculous in this world.
But it’s diluted with sky, not water,
the aerial plankton on which they sup.
Our solitary pipistrelle flickers
over her chosen suburban quarter,
echo-locating, to siphon it up.
It nourishes birds as well as bats –
high-flyers that feed on the wing,
swifts, house-martins – this floating gruel
of hymenoptera, midges and gnats,
thunderbugs, beetles, aphids, flies,
moths, mosquitoes, and flying dots
almost too small to be worth naming.
Some of it swirls at a lower level –
a broth of midges over a pool
at dusk or a simultaneous hatch
of mayflies boiling up from Lough Neagh:
swallow-fodder, and also a splotch
to plaster on any passing windscreen,
though even at speed there’s never so much
as of yore; bad news for the food-chain,
but somehow ‘où sont les neiges d’antan’
sounds too noble a note of dole
for a sullying mash of blood and chitin.
(And we can’t hear what the bats are screaming.)
And then there’s the one about the old woman
who very apologetically asks the way
to Church Lane, adding ‘I ought to know:
I’ve lived there since the war’. So you go with her.
This comes with variations, usually leading
(via a list of demented ancestors)
to calculations of how much time you’ve got
before you’re asking the way to your own house.
But it’s not so often that you find the one
about how, whenever you hear of someone
diagnosed with cancer, you have to hide
that muffled pang that clutched you, at fifteen,
when you saw Pauline Edwards holding hands
with the boy from the Social Club you’d always
The spuggies are back –
a word I lifted from Basil Bunting
and was never entirely sure how to pronounce,
having only seen it in print, in Briggflatts,
and at the time had little cause to adopt
with the London sparrow in extinction;
but now three are cheeping in my lilacs.
The other word I learned from Basil Bunting
he spoke aloud, the last time I met him:
‘bleb’, meaning condom – as used, he said
(to his severe disapprobation)
by 12-year-old girls on the Tyne & Wear
housing estate where we were calling on him.
I think they asked him if he had any.
The Belly Dancer
Across the road the decorators have finished;
your flat has net curtains again
after all these weeks, and a ‘To Let’ sign.
I can only think of it as a tomb,
excavated, in the end, by
explorers in facemasks and protective spacesuits.
No papers, no bank account, no next of kin;
only a barricade against the landlord,
and the police at our doors, early, with questions.
What did we know? Not much: a Lebanese name,
a soft English voice; chats in the street
in your confiding phase; the dancing.
You sat behind me once at midnight Mass.
You were Orthodox, really; church
made you think of your mother, and cry.
From belly dancer to recluse, the years
and the stealthy ballooning of your outline,
kilo by kilo, abducted you.
Poor girl, I keep saying; poor girl –
no girl, but young enough to be my daughter.
I called at your building once, canvassing;
your face loomed in the hallway and, forgetting
whether or not we were social kissers,
I bounced my lips on it. It seemed we were not.
They’ve even replaced your window frames. I still
imagine a midden of flesh, and that smell
you read about in reports of earthquakes.
They say there was a heart beside your doorbell
upstairs. They say all sorts. They would –
who’s to argue? I don’t regret the kiss.
If you liked them, how your heart might have lifted
to see their neat trapezium shapes studding
the wall like a newly landed flight of jet
ornaments, the intensity of their black
gloss, with secret blues and greens half-glinting through,
and the glass wings, not so unlike those of bees –
if you could bring yourself; if they occupied
a niche in creation nudged fractionally
because it’s not their present forms, it’s
their larval incarnations that you can’t stop
heaving into view, white nests moistly seething
in a dead pigeon or a newspaper-wrapped
package leaking beside a path (but enough –
the others will kindly absent themselves, please!)
And wondering what, where – under the floorboards
or behind the freezer – suddenly hatched these.
At The Crossing
The tall guy in a green T-shirt,
vanishing past me as I cross
in the opposite direction,
has fairy wings on his shoulders:
toy ones, children’s fancy-dress wings,
cartoonish butterfly cut-outs.
Do they say gay? No time for that.
He flickers past the traffic lights –
whoosh! gone! – outside categories.
Do they say foreign? They say young.
They say London. Grab it, they say.
Kiss the winged joy as it flies.
Traffic swings around the corner;
gusts of drizzle sweep us along
the Strand in the glittering dark,
threading to and fro among skeins
of never-quite-colliding blurs.
All this whirling’s why we came out.
Those fragile flaps could lift no one.
Perhaps they were ironic wings,
tongue-in-cheek look-at-me tokens
to make it clear he had no need
of hydraulics, being himself
Wings, though; definite wings.