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Prior to Christ



Selected poems


Prior to Christ

He wandered through wilderness,

dined on locust thorax and cuticle,

slurped from jugs of honey and preached;

to his following he said, 'The end is nigh.'

He dunked their heads in rivers.

At broods of vipers he screamed.

Inspired he sang of another man

prophesied to shine His light,

guide and act as lamb.


Herod, a tetrarch, ordered his arrest;

fearful of zealots and Tiberius' boot.


Upon baptising a carpenter, king,

a dove descended from the sky.




Wednesday evenings in Zhangjiagang

About ten minutes from our apartment

our Chinese opponents wait for our weekly

game of soccer, played on astro-turf,

on the top of a multi-storey car-park.

We play with the intensity of men

who engage with cardio just once a week.

Our team is multi-national; there's a skilful lad

from Hamburg who glides like a swan,

who scores many goals, another from Dublin

who jokes that he's running from the law.

The yank on our team is a scientist

who plays in goal; he answers my questions

on the Big Bang, on the many species

of fish, while we catch our breath on the side.

After the game we shake hands, and go

in taxis to the pub in the city — famed

for its fat burgers and cheap lager.

We toast to our win, question our visas,

exaggerate our sexual prowess, discuss

nothing and everything. We sign up

for next week's match, same time, same place

the top of the multi-storey car-park

where we each giving meaning to our week.




Don Juan takes a lover to a lake

Romantic walks in the wood have us hand

                   in hand pointing at the sycamore trees,

                                     the grey-squirrels searching for nuts;


we comment on their vermin like shell

                   and their beady black eyes, on the white

                                     priest-like collar of the fat wood pigeons


performing their sermons.

                   We go deeper, find a cool lake, rest

                                     and recite anecdotes of selling juniper


and sage by the gram.

                   A twisted stick becomes my instrument;

                                     I write erotic vignettes


in the clear water; you watch the ripples

                   play out and fade.

                                     Sitting on a thick fallen trunk


you ponder the foreshadow of these temporal lines.

                   We undress and indulge:

                                     I pull off my shorts and fling them


to the side, where they catch

                   on a welcoming branch as I shake

                                     the pants from my ankle.


I marvel at the image of you

                   stepping out of your polka-dot dress;

                                     time slows as you pull the straps


of your bra from your tanned shoulders;

                   mesmerised I unbutton my shirt.

                                     Our red lips are hot and wet.


We each take turns rolling

                   on the rough bracken;

                                     the one on top gyrates or pumps,


views the natural setting

                   and contemplates;

                                     'How many others are doing this?'


The one who lies beneath

                   feels insects crawling

                                     on shins, anus, hair.


Afterwards our bellies rise and fall,

                   a woodpecker, clinging to an oak,

                                     stops his day's graft


to look at our strange forms,

                   chirps and flies off.

                                     Much like I must do.




Failing relationship

Like a bird in a cage

remembering blue skies.



Aaron LemboAaron Lembo is an English teacher living in Salamanca, Spain. He has had poems published online and in print journals in the UK. In 2017 he was the winning librettist of the Rosamond Prize.

Topic tags: Aaron Lembo, poetry



submit a comment

Existing comments

This is beautiful. Of course it is, Perfect little account of the weekly soccer game, for example. BUT WHY IS IT POETRY? I am not being cheeky or smartarse here. I want to know. Please tell me where I can find an answer.

Frank | 16 October 2018  

Frank. I'd suggest the closely observed, realistic imagery more than compensates for the non-lyrical quality (e.g., a lack of rhyme expected of traditional verse) exhibited in Aaron Lembo's offerings here, assuredly qualifying his four pieces as poetry.

John | 16 October 2018  

Frank, there is an interesting and well regarded critical essay, among many others, on Modern Poetry and its characteristic features and qualities by David Davie, a well known modern poet, critic, academic and writer, that is available to be read on the internet. And despite John's remark, Aaron Lembo is a published poet, who has a poem on 'Teleology' that I have recently encountered on the following website: https://www.headstuff.org/culture/literature/poetry/poem-of-the-week-teleology-aaron-lembo/ It may not boast the kind of iambic pentameters that would meet some persons' poetic standards, but it won Aaron a prize.

Dr Michael Furtado | 19 October 2018  

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