Author Archives: Martin



Don’t let the legends mislead you;
we’re keen on personal hygiene.
I shower every day, sometimes twice.
I can tell you a thing or two about showers.

I have eaten the flesh of millions,
rejoiced in the sweet taste of blood,
following orders from above,
a mere instrument without guilt.

Look, I am moving towards you
arms outstretched, goose-stepping
in welcome as you step from the train.
This is the law; I am not responsible.

Each dawn, I am reanimated
ready to draw up another list of numbers.
So many zeroes; I am bloated with them.
You call me a bureaucrat, desk murderer

but when the order comes, tendons twitch,
watery eyes open wide in response.
Someone must move. Someone must act.
There is so much joy in this banality.

How it all began, I can’t remember.
There was a time when it was easy
to tell the living from the undead.
After Wansee, everything changed.

Look at my neck; no sign of a bolt
and the stitches have begun to heal.
I walk the streets of Buenos Aires,
innocent as the day I was created.

Martin Zarrop


Streaks across a porcelain sink;
my father swears at the blade
in the bleeding towel.
He stands before a mirror,
face silvered with soap
while I blanch at carnage
in the small kitchen.

The Ascot roars in my head,
fragments of voices, images.
Mum tuts in her pinafore,
comforts me with toast and tea.
Alone, dad curses the shaving mug,
nurses his thimble finger,
scrapes at a half-stubbled jaw.

It’s his fault, of course.
As always.

Not Rocket Science

In another universe there may be answers
to every awkward question she can ask
but, closer to home, How do you really feel?
Where were you when I rang? Why are you lying?
are merely minor asteroids, conspiring
to ambush the hormone-fuelled astronaut.

Like a Flying Dutchman, he roams the cosmos
looking for that soft landing on Venus,
not knowing his direction of travel,
a chaotic victim of many-body interactions.
What have you to say for yourself? Words?
A black hole radiates meaningful words

and a distant cluster begins to form
at the tangled intersection of a billion
narrow unnavigable wormholes.
He prefers to launch an unmanned robot
to avoid exposure to lethal flares.
Do you still love me? is beyond his reach.

Mother Goose Flies to the Moon

After years of grubby underpants
her menopausal yearnings turn to
escargots. She wanders across France,
drinks absinthe in the poshest bistros,
squandering the kids’ inheritance.

Father sullen in his garden shed
meditates on worms and broccoli
while Mother and her dodgy knees dance
on table-tops to tarantellas
twice a night in downtown Napoli.

Partnered by a cockney gigolo
she travels eastwards for a flavour
of the orient, flies north to snow,
then Botswana for the game, savours
pungent redolence of beast. Untamed

at seventy, Mother’s done it all;
gravity tugs at sagging breasts,
glossy brochures fall and lie unread.
The cellar’s almost dry. And yet …

She reaches out for her distance specs
and looks up into the moonlit sky.

Slow Down the Years

Slow down the years. They fly as fast
as arrows. Four score gone. And ten
more winters swallowed by a past

infertile with unanswered prayer.
Savour those shining seconds when
we share a breath. They fade so fast

as age succumbs to death’s cold stare.
Red-eyed with watching News at 10
we checklist errors from the past

recataloguing pain and care,
old tears and sorrows (yet again).
Enjoy the years. They fly as fast

as wind-blown clouds and thinning hair.
Pick up your notebook and a pen.
Refuse to wallow in a past

imperfect. I will dare to dare.
The future may be short and then…?
No time to grovel in the past.
Slow down the years. They fly too fast.


The Russian trundles a wooden barrow
through East End streets. I sit astride
a hundred watches as down the narrow

alley ways to Petticoat Lane, we ride
the jarring cobbles. I remember
my zada’s look of quiet pride.

He lives with booba Sarah’s temper,
their house a brick link on a bend
opposite the church and air raid shelter;

a terrace, flush to the pavement
from Mrs Finkel’s corner sweet-
shop to the stone wall at the end

of the street. The women sit
in a row, speak in Yiddish,
nod their heads as they knit and knit.

We cross the scrubbed step, smell fried fish
wafting from the tiny kitchen
where we laugh and drink our borscht.

Zada brandishes his cap at the kittens
that appear and disappear into a cupboard;
another unwanted litter

he can’t bring himself to smother.
It’s fifty years since he sailed for England
to escape the pogroms, he and his brothers,

three immigrants in a foreign land
and still he has to show his papers
although he’s known as Honest Sam.

Near the toilet door, I waver,
fearful of that vigilant circle
of spiders, waiting for invaders

to cross the border.
Uncle Herschel
shabby and alone upstairs, gives no hint
of the secret box on his bedroom shelf

until senility lifts the lid,
opens my door to university,
a foreign country.

The women still sit.
They chat in Bangla, shake their heads slowly.

Almost Extinct

Trotsky is living in my garden shed,
a long trip from Mexico to Altrincham,
a refuge from ice picks, machine guns,
the persecution of Stalinists.

Trotsky is pleased that Stalin is dead.
The Miraculous Georgian was a pygmy, he says,
the murderer of Bolshevism and World Revolution.
Putin’s learnt a lot from him, he says.

Trotsky is living in my garden shed,
a prophet whose time has not yet come.
He harangues the snails and worker slugs
and tell them to prepare, prepare, prepare.

Trotsky is pleased that I talk to him;
we’re a politburo of two on plastic chairs,
discussing enemies that still exist
in our hearts and heads and somewhere.

Trotsky is living in my garden shed,
the last of the prophets, too old to breed.
He won’t yet reveal that he’s alive.
I lock the door, hold on to the key.

Larkin About

Even so distant, I can taste the grief,
a box of teak, a box of sandalwood,
the eye can hardly pick them out
down stucco sidestreets.

What are days for?
Like the train’s beat,
the horns of morning,
to wake and hear the cock.

Within the dream you said
They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
words as plain as hen-birds’ wings
those long uneven lines

beyond all this; the wish to be alone
groping back to bed after a piss
her hands intend no harm
hurrying to catch my Comet.

All I remember is
a woman has ten claws.
Who called love conquering?

(A cento using Larkin first lines)

Beyond Here

Occasionally, dragons appear in the west
blood red on flags as a symbol of defiance
but, if only we could find just one bone,
it might contain enough DNA to revive
the entire species and claim independence.

Of course, dragons do have a bad reputation,
eating English maidens and such, deserving
their gory dispatching by brave English knights
or the Quidditch skills of Harry Potter.
Wherever they are, you don’t want to go there

and you usually can’t, since they remain unseen
off the edge of the OS sheet, with strong warnings
and inaccurate drawings to deter the foolhardy
although, nowadays, you can buy maps
with a dragon right in the centre

provided you know the Welsh postcode.

Travel Brochure

I flick the pages, wonder
if a tour of Hell with Virgil
as a guide would go down well.
A circle every day, full board,
surprise old friends and chat;
there’s nothing wrong with that.
And all that suffering and shit!
Better than a thousand sermons.
Yes, a trip into the depths
might do us sinners good, provide
some warmth on February days
before we reconnect with our en suites
and follow earthly ways.