Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tuesday Poem - False Alarm


While I was up in Wellington last week, I had the great pleasure of meeting Mary McCallum - capable, exuberant curator of the Tuesday Poem initiative. The fact Friday was NZ National Poetry Day meant poetry was being celebrated in various shapes and forms around the city; we arranged to meet at Unity Books where two new collections (Dear Sweet Harry by Lynn Jenner & Lives of the Poets by John Newton) were being launched.

Mary and I had a moment's shyness once we'd put our plan in place; each of us felt a need to say we hoped we'd be recognizable in the flesh since we probably don't entirely resemble our blog photos these days. But, hey presto - there we were, like 'pop-up characters materializing from the pages of a children's book' (Mary's expression) - and we had zero difficulty identifying each other. It was a treat to also meet Tim Jones, Helen Heath, Helen Lehndorf, Helen Rickerby, Maria McMillan and Sarah Jane Barnett. Tuesday poets, all.

Yesterday I mentioned that I had a few quirky photographs to show you... Tondo is one of them. I was walking down Cuba Street in the city centre with my camera, looking for unusual shop window displays when I noticed a plaster detail several metres above street level on one of the old facades. Someone had glued a set of false teeth into the centre of this architectural feature, then painted them this rather splendid 'decay' yellow. The teeth had me laughing out loud. . . they introduced an element of humour and charm to an otherwise unexceptional, plain-faced old building.

I couldn't decide on a poem for today, so I thought it might be fun to do something a little different. Rather than leave my Tuesday Poem space blank, I'd like to suggest we compose a poem together today. If you're game to join in, please post a one-line response to these teeth/this Tondo in the comments box? Or you could write a line in response to the line - or lines - that precede it... Any random association that occurs while you're visiting would be welcome? I'll collect the lines up in the order they appear and post our combined composition at the bottom of this post.

To get things going, I'd like to suggest the word TONDO as a title for the poem.

Thanks for joining in this little lark! Have fun...

For more Tuesday Poems, click here.

* tondo |ˈtändō|
noun ( pl. -di |-dē|)
a circular painting or relief.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from Italian, literally round object,’ from rotondo round,’ from Latin rotundus.


A crazy image of false teeth is bound to give rise to a quirky poem -

Here's our creation so far. . .


Oh gaping maw of yellow decay
too far beyond cold to chatter,
that jaw had a tongue in it
and could sing once. Heart
in my mouth, teeth on a platter;
operas, arias, whispers and roars
pressed now in cold silence.
Mandibular gymnast, expectant
that I so longed to chew
the fat, the lean - and you?
I've eaten through your absence
(oh, the gnawing pain
of an abscess). Draw close.
Listen. I whisper, I groan
alone with cigar smoke, a bucket
fountain, feed on the rain
rust down. "A serious case
of tondo-itis", the doc said.
"It's been a while since
I've done this. It's good lubrication
for my pen!" said he, slipping
the thin tool from the kid-skin
case, "not to mention the lump
of cash in my pocket. . ."
Do not stop, tondo. Go round.
Begin again. Do not, Tondo
gaze too long into the mirror
of your name. Easier dead
than said in the lipless
jawless, disembodied scream
of myself; but is not death
a phrase of life? Let the scream
become a song. From such a maw
did Delphic wisdom issue? Perhaps
Tondo, you are our new oracle?

A surprise by

and those of you who might yet like to contribute (take your time; there's plenty of it!) -


  1. O gaping maw of yellow decay....

  2. that jaw had a tongue in it
    and could sing once

  3. maggie@at-the-bay.comAugust 3, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    heart in my mouth
    my teeth on a plate (apologies for the levity)

  4. opera and arias, whispers and roars

  5. maggie@at-the-bay.comAugust 3, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Oh well done Claire - my plate to platter - I was being mischievous and you rescued me with rhyme. :)

  6. Oh, Maggie... oops! Sorry, that was a mistake... I didn't realize I'd done that! (Do you mind? I can put it back to your original?) L, C

  7. maggie@at-the-bay.comAugust 3, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    Oh no, I love platter, and chatter - perfect. thank you.

  8. My first participation in a group poem, what a great experience and result.

  9. (oh, the gnawing pain of an abscess)

  10. Draw close, listen: I whisper, I groan

  11. alone with cigar smoke, a bucket fountain

  12. A serious case of tondo-itis, the doc said...

  13. It's been a while since I've done this. It's good lubrication for my pen!

  14. , slipping the thin tool from the kid-skin case:

  15. oh claire, i'm a ninny--i didnt see dinahmow's addition. i'd like to revise mine! please put after "... for my pen!"

    (Not to mention, he said, the lump of cash in my pocket...)

  16. Hi Susan! You are no ninny! I loved the lines about the fine tool slipping and the kid-skin case, and hope you won't mind my fiddling around with things a bit so as to be able to accommodate both those ones and the new one you suggest?

    Please let me know if you'd like them arranged differently... just jot your ideas down here and I'll make any changes! Thanks ; ).

    I LOVE the way you're setting up your new blog - the title is fantastic!

    L, C

  17. Do not stop, tondo. Go round.
    Begin again. Do not, Tondo,
    too long into the mirror of your name.

  18. Easier dead than said in the lipless, jawless, disembodied scream of myself...

  19. Thanks, Everyone, for your terrific contributions!

    To borrow the lines of a friend,
    "The poem's a hoot - everyone trying to tip the steering way a little left, right or round about!"

    Keep your lines coming. And don't worry if you've already penned, one... pen another!

    We're having fun and creating something original, even if it's not what we might call "mother's most beautiful!"

    L, C xx

  20. but is not death a phrase
    of life? Let the scream become a song

  21. from such a maw did Delphic wisdom issue? Perhaps Tondo, you are our new oracle?

  22. Oh, bravo everyone! The places we go... ! (This is a cheer, not a line for la poem) xx

  23. If I wasn't about to turn fifty, I'd have to consider naming my child Tondo...