In praise of poisoned things




The wilted rose, lips curled in agonies,

Fragments. There’s beauty in that, too,

As much as a newborn blossom, to my eyes.

The ornamental sickness in its droop,

The bruise-dark petals, ruptured as a heart

Sick to death of beating; a ripe, red hurt.

And other deathly stimuli delight me:

The spider’s waiting, its horrors intricate;

That salt, rich scent of froth fresh from the sea;

The first savouring, sweetest, unwholesome bite

Into overripe fruit, sugars broken down,

And spoilt; the heady tang of gasoline.

Such noxious things, I fear, are fond to me,

Part of life’s disregarded chemistry.



I was never considered a very healthy child. When I was very young, I wanted to become a botanist specialising in nightshades; then I longed to be a mycologist and study poisonous fungi. As I grew up, toxicology became less an aspiration, and more of a lifestyle. Tobacco, by the way, is a nightshade: as are a great deal of vegetables you eat, every single week. Wine ultimately is squeezed from fouled grapes. The soil on which we grow our crops is layer upon layer, decades, centuries, of things breeding and struggling and dying on top of each other, leaving rich nitrates and other unwholesome goodies in the loam.

I have quit smoking now, incidentally – but I cannot deny that I miss it.


2 thoughts on “In praise of poisoned things

  1. Dear James Shakespeare would have appreciated your poem. Fascinating ideas and images. I am too frightened to think of my list of poisoned things. Maybe one night when I can’t sleep. Congratulations on quitting smoking. G and I have stopped drinking. We don’t miss it as much as we thought we would. But we have a small select cellar for visitors.

    Up to the Dales next Saturday for a week with Hugh, Chloe, Yinka, Edward and Gaynor and Gerald!

    Love from us both,Gran

    Sent from my iPad


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