Tuesday Poem: three from “Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku” by Bill Yarrow


Comes as a hand­shake, a pat
on the back, fin­gers through
your hair, a nib­ble at your neck,
a kiss on the lips, a tongue
down your throat, a hand
in your pants. In other words,
an offer you choose not to refuse.
Well, decline the prof­fered hand,
turn from the puck­ered kiss,
refuse the cosmic fon­dle. It’s a
noir life? That’s what you’ve been
taught? Lis­ten: doesn’t have to be.
You needn’t return every sin­gle serve

that comes like a bullet across your net.

“the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks”
Moby Dick

The savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathéd beaks.
“Sheathéd beaks”? Ridiculous, but I love the iambic
ring of Herman Melville’s prose. The line with its three
long “e” sounds and six “s”es explains why Ishmael
in the sea was not eaten by the birds. And the sharks?
Melville has that covered too: “The unharming sharks
[n.b. the short “a” in “unharming” + “sharks”], they glided by
as if with padlocks on their mouths.” Only because Melville
needs Ishmael to survive. Needs Queequeg’s coffin to pop up
out of the vortex. Needs Ishmael “for almost one whole day
and night” to cling to it until he is rescued by the Rachel.
Otherwise, who would tell this first-person tale? Who would
write this book? Literature, you see, without plausible
justification, without a narrative anchor, is just foundering.



a perfect number is a number
the sum of whose factors excluding itself
adds up to that same number

holding a bowl of broccoli and onions
he fell backwards off the chair
into the fireplace

a perfect number is a number
the sum of whose factors excluding itself
adds up to that same number

on the bottom of a porcelain cup
were found bright stains
of honey in the shape of a bee

a perfect number is a number
the sum of whose factors excluding itself
adds up to that same number

months after the accident
she carried the impression
of her dead boyfriend’s head on her chest

Posted with permission from the author.


Bill AWP 8I’m glad to share Bill Yarrow’s poetry again in my Tuesday Poem series, because Bill’s poetry always delights for containing erudition and strong language in a way that is never ever arrogant. Hard to pull off, if you ask me.  Obscure literary references live alongside rusted caulk guns and broken hammers. In an interview at Poets & Artists, Bill said, “I don’t think of myself as a poet. I just think of myself as a person who writes poems. Seems like I’ve always written poems.” (Go here for more of this interview). 

IncompetentTranslations157This month, I’ve been reading from Bill’s book,  Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) — which arrived in a package sent from home, along with a few other books. It’s a wonderful read and, as always, the more Yarrow I read, the more Yarrow I want to read. The three gems I posted today come from this collection. 

Next on my reading list is his 2014 collection, The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press) — which sounds alternately provocative, sincere and hilarious. He says he’s not a poet or a philosopher, but I think Yarrow is both. 

Thank you, Bill Yarrow, for sharing your work this week!


Bill Yarrow is the author of The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) and Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry InternationalRHINOContraryDIAGRAMBlue Fifth ReviewPoetsArtistsThrush, and PANK.

More here. And you can hear him read here



Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. At the TP hub this week, you’ll find Seán Lysaght: A Jay Feather, posted by Hub Editor T. CLear, plus poems by the various TP collective members.  Look down the left-hand sidebar and click on each one to see their weekly contributions.

Tuesday Poem For more Tuesday Poems, go here.


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1 Response to Tuesday Poem: three from “Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku” by Bill Yarrow

  1. For some reason reading Bill’s poems is like sifting through a white elephant stall and coming up with some real finds. My impression is that he finds it all a great deal of fun. Thanks for introducing him to us Michelle.

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