Three Poems by Mark Vanner

These three poems by Mark Vanner explore the absurdity of life told through a series of humorous, subversive, and often unsettling narratives. Mark Vanner’s poems peel back the layers of everyday existence to reveal the small joys that can be discovered in the mundane… 

by: Mark Vanner


For my fortieth birthday
I had a loaf of bread 
tattooed above my left bicep 
to honour the Natufian tribe
who were the first to harvest 
grains for bread.

Next, I had the tattooist 
carve the image 
of a beef and tomato flavoured 
Pot Noodle
across my collar bone
to represent consumerism 
in the modern age.

Finally, she etched
a blue beard on my face -
one I could be buried in
and that wouldn’t shave off
or grow grey with age.

In the next chair
I could hear a woman
requesting the names and birthdates
of all four members of Bauhaus stamped 
across her breasts.

Goths, I said to the tattooist, 
What are they like, eh?

The barber held up a mirror 
and showed me the back of my head.
I hate it, I said, What about his? 
Nodding towards the twenty-something-
year-old skin-head 
slouched in the next chair.  
The barber shuffled towards him 
and held up the mirror.
It’s not bad…a little aggressive, but not bad. 
What about his? I said, 
pointing towards the middle-aged man 
with the pink Mohican.
The barber shrugged; lurched towards him, 
raised the mirror.
I like it, I said, I’ll take that one.
An excellent choice, said the barber,
wrapping the mirror in green gift paper
then placing it gently inside a plastic bag.
You won’t be disappointed, he said.
At home, I carefully unwrapped the mirror
then hung it above the fireplace.
When I stepped back,
the Mohawk-man’s head 
was gone.
Amazing, I thought, it’s like magicLike REAL magic…
I poured myself a glass of wine 
and reclined on the sofa, not feeling
disappointed at all.

What language will they speak in heaven?
Is a question I’m contemplating this morning 
as the daytime moon lurches high 
above the heads of the living.

Because there are so many languages in the world.
And what if everyone speaks Latin 
or Greek or worse, Welsh? 

How will I make them understand 
that the words I have spoken
weren’t always the thoughts I was thinking?

How will I convey 
that even in the late Jurassic epoch of my thirties, 
I was still growing. Learning 
not to be an arsehole?

How will I say that for most of my life
I have kept myself away from others
not through selfishness 
or arrogance

but through fear of causing harm to others
or of others causing harm to me?

Will I need to mime in that awkward 
English-man-abroad way
to explain my reasons for not having children of my own?
Cheeks puffed out, 
lips pursed
hands expanding

as I make the sound of the atom bomb.

Mark Vanner currently lives in Gloucestershire, UK. His poetry has appeared in publications including, Neon Literary Magazine, 3AM, Outlaw Poetry, Punk Noir and many more. In 2004 his poem ‘It Only Hurts When You Walk Away’ was Forward shortlisted. For more information please visit: or find him on Twitter: @VannerMark.

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