behind the lines

– just as you might never
find some white-worn
tongue of soap

long fluffed
beneath basin – or
fine marks of particular

weight penned in their
margin near skip-
bottom or

one flake
falling deep in a
cwm between sheer-set

neighbours of pine – or
with morning still
dark that

barely spoken
to your sleeping ear

by Mario Petrucci

© Mario Petrucci, 2010

i tulips (Enitharmon, 2010), from which this week’s poem is taken, is the new collection from Mario Petrucci, a prize-winning poet who draws upon his knowledge of science and ecology to craft arresting, modernistic verse. i tulips is an adventurous suite of spare, fractal lyrics that reveal hidden depths and complexities under the reader’s microscopic gaze. The poem ‘behind the lines’ is an example of Petrucci’s intense and inventive renovation of closely observed human experience. You can find out more about the book here, and more about Petrucci here and here.

Please note that this poem was originally posted incorrectly formatted – that error has now been corrected, and the poem appears above in its correct form.

Enitharmon Press takes its name from a William Blake character who represents spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration. Founded in 1967 with an emphasis on independence and quality, Enitharmon has been associated with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Kathleen Raine. Enitharmon also commissions internationally renowned collaborations between artists, including Gilbert & George, and poets, including Seamus Heaney, under the Enitharmon Editions imprint. Discover more about Enitharmon here.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.


Toadstool tops.  Two.  Cracked as nana’s old
knee sore.  And you launched one: thumb-spun
higher than a dollar – your mouth – that catpink
ridge-beam waiting; barely budged your chin to
grind it like a roof tile; offered the other, pathetic
as a button on your outstretched palm.  And I
snatched it quick as a whisker, bit, felt my tongue
melt caverns deep inside, release its acrid-sweet
almond adultness –
                                  which I dribbled out in spite
of the almost-shake of your loaf, the high arches
of your brows.  Then you tunnelled the wrapper
between fingers to roll a joke, a giant’s
cigarillo from air’s tobacco; stood it
end first on ma’s stainless tea tray, flicked
your flint lighter to chase the tip with flame
which seeped downwards, filled my head
with burning –
                                  until, at the last,
it wobbled, transfigured, a ganglion
of desire there, rose up into our cathedralled
Italian stairwell: willed wisp of your making
who stood, an edifice of father frowning
his gargoyled wonder into mine, our wish
held up by ash, all trembling, climbing
into hallowed space.

by Mario Petrucci

from Flowers of Sulphur (2007)

Flowers of Sulphur crackles with metaphorical energy.  Over a decade in the making, this remarkable new book confirms Petrucci’s reputation for exploring the gamut of human experience.  It demonstrates, once again, his rare capacity to bridge the gap between science and poetry with power and authenticity. ‘As with the best poets, thinking and feeling are, for Petrucci, a single act’ (George Szirtes). Indeed, just as we now know that light is both corpuscular and wave-like in nature, so Flowers of Sulphur is able to embody many, often seemingly paradoxical, qualities.  These poems ring with complexity and clarity: like our quantum world, this award-winning collection reinvents itself moment to moment so as to unsettle, move and inspire us.

Mario Petrucci is an ecologist, physicist and war poet. He is also the only poet to have been in residence at the Imperial War Museum. His book-length sequence on Chernobyl won the Daily Telegraph / Arvon International Poetry Competition in 2002. A Natural Sciences graduate, Mario works as an educator and a radio/TV broadcaster. Poems from Heavy Water are featured in Poetry Review, The London Magazine, Acumen, Agenda, on BBC Radio and at The Royal Festival Hall. Flowers of Sulphur has won an Arts Council of England Writers’ Award and the London Arts New London Writers Award, but also collects together many individual prize-winning poems, including successes in the Bridport, the London Writers Competition, and Frogmore and the National Poetry Competition.

Founded in 1967, Enitharmon Press publishes fine quality literary editions. While specialising in poetry, we also publish fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, and an extensive list of