Tall Yellow Poem

(after Tall Yellow Man, 2003, Stephen Bird, Wollongong Art Gallery)

(Dear reader, the layout of this poem is important — I did my best with wordpress, but if words go a wandering on your screen, it’s available here as a pdf).

in the long blue 
from the mud of southern Iraq
he made prototypes to test

though glazed & fired, he never 
so propped by the Dulux tins & rakes
they never wondered  


put the Ma pot atop the Da pot
a ruined cup for great great gran-da
-station, now lies abed in Acacia Creek 

I touch earth 
the shimmer of water
iron oxide sludge
Imperial yellows of China 

coathanger shoulders 
of woman-bowls
rich as rice pudding. 

before god made adam 
[take clay in hands, cup]
scapular, anvil, flexor.

said the necessary words, 
what it was to be made.  

firm feet to the cloudplate
stack ancestor urns accordingly.
glazed in Queensland dust, sheep-
a bullet shaped to a forehead.

creek-bed of memory 
the glitter of zirconium 
tin-glazed majolica
Staffordshire slipware.
bobble-heads. Lustre
frowns & brows

 for a lovely bowl / let’s arrange these flowers…for there is no rice. [1]

fit finches in a gravy boat
sons learn the songs of their fathers 

rollicking chorus: beepmeepoi! a-ha!
with little variation; daughters don’t.

Bird muses
his eyes — 
see: a hardwood floor
a blue sink (disconnected)

take whatever’s to hand
newspaper slogans 

creation won’t wait 
squalling & rolling 

the street is a surprise
construction sites,

in green whorls
a jade cup
changing frames
that Duchamp may have

kitchen stuff 
a sweater from the floor.

it leans to life
onto the page 

traffic, brilliance
men cursing 

a butter dish
a fire extinguisher 

from the Men’s room.


cutting through cawl
in a bloody rush.

the afternoon build-up
the heat of La Nina.

the city, as if we’ve taken whatever’s to hand — 
bricks                   eucalypts         a yellow fascia          a fountain       a teapot
                                                      — & left it there for someone else to read. 

[1]Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) –
Here’s Stephen Bird’s sculpture – Tall Yellow Man – which is currently on exhibition at the Wollongong Art Gallery You can read more about Stephen at his official website. I’ve also linked this to Dverse, where Grace is hosting the bar and asks us to use imagery or personification in our writing.

And for because it’s wonderful here’s Orphan Girl by Gillian Welch from her album Revival .

20 thoughts on “Tall Yellow Poem

  1. I checked out the PDF, and actually the formatting seems to have worked on WP. I bet that took ages, though. The formatting drives me mad.

    Such a great cascade of images – the clay running through it – such a rich seam. I love this poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your Tall Yellow Poem is stunning, Peter, as is the artwork that inspired it. I love the exploration of colour, the traces of history, the layout and the different ways it can be read. It is indeed a poem to return to.

    Strangely enough, I’ve been listening to a programme on Radio 4 about colour, pigments and elements, and last week it was about blue, specifically lapis lazuli, and this week it was about yellow.

    Some of my favourite lines:
    ‘coathanger shoulders
    of woman-bowls
    rich as rice pudding’
    ‘creek-bed of memory
    the glitter of zirconium
    tin-glazed majolica
    Staffordshire slipware’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My goodness this is absolutely breathtaking, Peter! I admire the hard work behind this poem 😍 and especially love; “take whatever’s to hand newspaper slogans, kitchen stuff
    a sweater from the floor, nouns, creation won’t wait squalling & rolling, it leans to life
    onto the page, cutting through cawl in a bloody rush.” 👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I did read this in pdf and this is an amazing poetry. I admire how I can read this is snippets but my eyes wander towards the end of the line, and it comes to me with such vivid colors and images. This is a gem to read tonight Peter.

    Liked by 1 person

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