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Picture of James Bell

a gift each time we visit

and tread again this city’s memories

its engagement with love and death


takes life like the next word – how

it arrives in the next moment – how

nothing is ever quite what you expect

             from Imagine in Parris by James Bell  






the ennui video game

you become sharper with a pencil in your hand

Yo Sushi, Paddington

Kinryusan Temple at Asakusa

a state of being

telling it slant

Imagine in Paris

since seeing you last


they do not move




1 – BIOGRAPHY – James Bell


James Bell is originally from Scotland and now lives in France where he contributes non-fiction and photography to an English language journal. Before leaving the UK he spent ten years as co-presenter of the long running poetry series Uncut Poets in Exeter. He has published two poetry collections the just vanished place (2008) and fishing for beginners (2010). He continues to publish poetry widely both in print and online and in many anthologies and in eBooks during a long publishing history with Poetry Kit. He further compliments his writing by publishing short stories. 'His third poetry collection, Here at the End of the World, is forthcoming from Lapwing.'







the ennui video game


he is easy in his virtual you just can’t see it

as easy as patterns made by the sun

there is no conversational tone amongst the words

it’s a case of what you see is what you get


as easy as patterns made by the sun

a found entity that may never mature

it’s a case of what you see is what you get

and what you get is very little in daylight


a found entity that may never mature

for as the cliché says it’s another coin in the slot

and what is left is very little in daylight

if the sun doesn’t shine it makes no difference


for as the cliché says it’s another coin in the slot

clocked up by the years as they amble on

if the sun doesn’t shine it makes no difference

a crust is bread enough as is a roof overhead


clocked up by years as they amble on

there is no conversational tone amongst the words

a crust is bread enough as is a roof overhead

he is easy in his virtual you just can't see it



you become sharper with a pencil in your hand


a pencil is more reliable in a storm

it never runs out, just becomes smaller

in your fingers until you can write


no more, no thoughts left among these

shavings and used up lead when six-

sided wood is difficult to find


to hone and sharpen almost like a stake

you stake your life upon sometimes

like a twig to clutch in rough sea


though you are no sailor, the moment

always comes in a meeting of minds

in some big hotel, a conference of bird-


like chatter from species known well –

a pencil held hard but rarely broken where

the race memory returns like a horror film


you did not want to see in the first place

and then could not believe as real as

the tactile movement of pencil over paper


the appearance of a sketch to fill

your synapses with a creative intent

so old now you can nearly see the cave




Yo Sushi, Paddington


no literary association as such –

it is a bar and this has resonance

Philip Marlowe as Humphrey Bogart

walks into a bar and orders miso soup

John Wayne swaggers into a saloon

in early Technicolor and the furniture

is broken to smithereens – nothing changes

it doesn’t look like you now use these

as chopsticks to pick out tofu

from the bottom of the bowl along

with the sodden green vegetables –

you order another miso soup because

well because it’s on the house this time

is so energising and helps screen out

the sound of constant transit – for

to stop too long is to stand out –

the conveyer belt of suchi in bowls

with clear dome covers helps fashion

the sense that you have not really stopped

have only paused to eat – take a mid-priced

dish off the belt and begin to fascinate

once again on how Japanese rice

sticks together for lifting with sticks

even when loosened from the seaweed wrapper -

remember how JG Ballard liked weevils

as protein from rice during his internment –

this could be one of his science fiction stories

and the businessmen in long black coats

with laptop bags could be speaking alien –

your ticket is not letters of transit

it is the 17.33 to Exeter St Davids –

this is not Rick’s Bar it is Yo Sushi

you never meet anybody you know

and could be back in three months

reading yet another Elmore Leonard

and still not meet anybody you know

except writers you read to travel by



Kinryusan Temple in Asakusa


After Hiroshige


begin with a word for snow


happenstance says the turn of a page

      will reveal somewhere familiar

              forgotten until returned to now


takes the word away

       and settles for snow as it falls

              beyond the paper lantern held

                     up with rope from below


although large it cannot dominate

       in the asymmetric shift to the left

to bring in the red and green of the entrance gate


both croppings are the frame we look through

        as if this is a film still and will

               unfreeze then move to show me more

and this is really a temple we visited


snow is only frozen water


there are no footprints though people walk

         either side beside snow filled trees

                 and buildings across a vast expanse

of white that recedes in a reversed V

          to display an early use of perspective


people as pins of colour under parasols

              walk towards the flat red

              of the temple’s shapes

                   walk as if the ground is white paper


far from cicada song in summer

       when parasols are for shelter from the sun


when people seem still to walk towards

       instead of from the temple


though the scene has a silence associated with winter

             angles fixed and nothing moves


end with a word for snow




a state of being


today we were introduced to

the small black Breton bee –

it was of course informal

where there was the usual buzz

that to us was indistinguishable

from any other bee we have met

one of those casual visits you get

with an open door in summer policy

when it’s hot – it’s danger was to be

mistaken for a wasp but a visitor

said it was not and we hope still is

a small black Breton bee whose sort

we have seen before in the remaining

walls of a ruined abbaye settled

in a gap where an oak rafter once sat

and then there it was milled black

with bees – though there could be

no conversation about the previous meeting

as the visit was merely exploratory –

fleeting – but it could not fly out

our closed window – the concept irritated

the bee and we maybe not its favourites

even when the window was opened –

it persisted in trying to fly through glass

until a draught from a newspaper

took it round the frame to fresh air

again as a free small black Breton bee



telling it slant


The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or everyman be blind –

                                      Emily Dickinson


so there is Michelangelo up the ladder

on the platform

laid on his back

wishing he looked at a piece of sculpture instead

inevitable that

some paint falls on the stone floor



drips from between the planks

in a mere second

hits the ground

to describe another kind of art

that will not be seen for centuries yet

where another artist

is more deliberate rather than his attention

being elsewhere


and each day a novice cleans the floor

knowing heaven and angels only appear from




Imagine in Paris




even all those years ago on original vinyl

it brought a lump to the throat

you let go only in private


the lump returns as you see and hear it played

on a mobile piano on a cold Paris street

by fingers dressed in fingerless gloves


even with the slight honky-tonk time you feel

the surge of the words as the tune

lingers outside Bataclan – tinkles


through a crowded and silent street

except for the strange percussion

of camera shutters that don’t quite fit


nobody tries to sing – know the lyrics –

its composer would have approved

down to how blood stuck to the piano wheels




so much is hidden in maps

like those from five hundred years before us

and Paris a shadow of its present self


a gift each time we visit

and tread again this city’s memories

its engagement with love and death


takes life like the next word – how

it arrives in the next moment – how

nothing is ever quite what you expect


not easy to acknowledge – to chart

blood on piano wheels as if it was yesterday

every cartographer knows you cannot map futures



since seeing you last


I have been to Africa

watched as a young lion strolled by our

                    open sided Land Cruiser

intent along with others of the pride

on taking down an impala for food –

hungry – their plans were a five point

                     pincer movement -

know their prey can outrun them

know it would never come near man


the sly glimpse up to where we sat

was part conspiratorial part disgust at using us

as cover while it moved into position


light was beginning to fail

so we did not see if there was a kill –

I’ll tell you some of the other things

                                 I’ve done sometime

since seeing you last





a small movement

in red silk is an option

that would cross into sinuousness

or just old fashioned sin

even if this is a brush with death

the ultimate imaginary friend

who has seen it all

has performed in most dramas

usually marks the end

for there has to be one

even if gainsay or hearsay

have a place in folk tales

when you are nothing to begin with

give favours for money

a mask is an improvement

so runs the story

where one forward step shows so much

in its speed or coyness –

though now you are frozen

your tableau a statement of intention

where silk is no longer an option

a slipstream in stasis

an idea where the first step has been taken

to an adventure in progress

that cannot now end


*Kata are used in many Japanese arts such as theatre forms like kabuki and schools of tea ceremony but are most commonly known in the martial arts. (Wikipedia)



they do not move


and for all we know or care

they stand there still

frozen to the applause of their audience



that time can slow down for infinity

then move into reverse


their agreement was to go through

with this turning point

the wait ended


their reluctance to move


they have already gone


though not have realised

carried out the debate in retrospect

in a play


where Godot had already arrived and left





the ennui video game – Butchers Dog 3 – Spring 2014

you become sharper with a pencil in your hand – Elbow Room 4 – Winter 2013

Yo Sushi, Paddington – Tears In The Fence 57 Summer 2013

Kinryusan  Temple At Asakusa – Shearsman 103 & 104 Summer 2015

a state of being – The Stony Thursday Book 14, Limerick, Autumn 2015

telling it slant – Lunar Poetry 10 – July 2016

Imagine in Paris – Nine Muses Poetry – Special Challenge - November 2018

since seeing you last – Scrittura 6 – Winter 2016

kata – Visual Verse Vol 6 – Chapter 2

they do not move – The Projectionist’s Playground #8 – December 2018


4 - Afterword

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