Mario Petrucci


sample of work

Mario’s poetry and prose has been published in the UK, in Canada, Australia, USA and Italy (in translation). He has numerous critical, environmental and philosophical articles to his name (eg, in Resurgence, Environmental Values and The Environmentalist) as well as short stories, social analysis, satire, science fiction and prose/poetry for children.

Below is a sample of his poetry for adults.



With you here, I had a zoological time.
At the sink I slobbered your nape

with bloodhound kisses, paw on each shoulder.
Was all meerkat for your key in the door.

In the shower I'd be robin, cheeping
my heart out from a steam-basted chest.

Under dawn duvets I was squirrel-whiskered –
fossicked and dug you, all scratchy-toed.

Cold evenings, iguana, I'd slow-lick
lips, all-foured around your trunk.

And when you said I was your man
I brayed so they heard it in Bosotoland.

Now you're gone, they cower under lock and key.
Come back. Bring out the animals in me.


(A Spellcheck Poem)

I have eaten
the plumes
hats were on
the vice box

and which
you de reprobate
for breast fast

Cor give me
Hey we’re delicious
so old
and so sweaty


Startle-eyed, me and she, in the bun-shop
where fourth-formers tried on cool

like over-sized blazers, lipsticked
with doughnut sugar and jam, and girls

gave little swivels in checked skirts,
dipping liquorice in lemon sherbet.

I peered into the deep-pile of her mop,
saw white crumbs of scalp. Smelt sulphur.

First detention ever, for using perchlorate
to singe her initials in benchwood.

Mr Grant: pissy lab-coat, jaundiced
coot, grimace in a dough of face, thread

of custard forever stranded between
dummy lips – Use your loaf boy.

Too late. Hovering behind the homework
each night: her marooned complexion, those

small white teeth. That sulphurous perfume.
End of term. Her hand in my pocket

my éclair in the other, I blew it.
Three stupid words. I'm a Catholic.

The shop – a delicatessen now. The school
long since converted. Yet, hanging round

the drains, something still of Mr Grant
and her – that whiff of coconut mat

in her blouse, his nicotined lard of finger
and thumb, the spatula pinched between

dipped in the tart yellow of that test-tube:
Make a note boys. Sulphur. Flowers of.


Easy for me, your son,
youthful lungs trawling in one sweep –

cigar smoke, omelette,
the girl next door.

One day I told you
how in physics we'd calculated a cough holds

billions of atoms Galileo
inhaled. It took a full

week for your retort –
as always, off the nail. Must be I've used it

all then. From Siberia
to Antarctica – from slack-

pit to spire. That's
why each draw's so, so bloody hard.

Your drenched face was me,
silenced. Had to catch you

last thing, at the foot
of your Jacob's Ladder, ascending to the one

bulb of the landing
toilet, to tell you

I'd checked with sir.
You can't use it all, I piped, not in a hundred

million years. You'll get
better. Just wait and see.

Mouth bluish, a slur
suspended over your chest. Fist white

on the rail. You said –
Don't hold your breath.


Afternoons in his study I squat
at the mahogany cabinet, fix eyes

on its rows of plump bodies – one
like a bruised grape, another

a spotted sultana engorged in brandy
– or those that are a meeting of legs

and little else. Bristled tarantulas
light as bird-bone, diamond-backs,

the Widow's orange hourglass.
Once, I caught him. Late with a woman –

eight limbs akimbo. Two upturned faces.
Otherwise days just spiral out

from each morning's brown-paper packets:
India, Indonesia, Australia, Tasmania.

I run scissors round their edges,
plop the drowsy knots into glass.

Then the muff of asphyxiant.
Chloroform. Formaldehyde. Sulfide

of hydrogen. The choice is vital –
how he winces if the legs claw, snap.

He can't bear to touch. Gawped
ashen-faced when one slipped up my skirt

bit a leech of milk into his lips
at my giggle. I kept it alive a week.

But he's going. Only takes liquids,
semi-solids – like those sots of hair

that toboggan the bathtub yet tickle
for air between my palms.

Each day his lips are laid
with more purple eggs. Bloat fat.

Tonight his jaws dribble
and botch at what I bring him. Whey,

soft balls of curd. But he can't
eat – says the pain, the pain

is sucking him out. I put the glass
to his lips. Patience, he whispers.

It is time. I take the largest
wad of cotton, step up

to the bottle. Twist the stopper
from its slender brown neck.

In the water of his eyes my hair
is a clot of spiders.


(Leicester Square, London)

All afternoon that methylated blue
pulled into tight loops about her –

a trenchcoat of effort she sweats in.
Each gasoline skittle is a rotor

constrained by her law: there
in her mouth, under each pit, between

the legs, the slap slop of metal
against palm, wrists peppered with soot, eyes

returning the flicker like tossed coins:
those pewter and copper moons drawn

to her sun – that hat on the ground,
its crushed rim stinking of gas.

A life of parabolas where nothing
must collide, countless childhoods lost

in the spin of a baton. She drops
only once, trying the impossible –

all four abandoned to the air, hands poised
in utter trust of trajectories.

I wish she'd come home. I'd bathe off
the stink, watch her slick spread into suds,

froth annihilated to deep dark water.
I'd ointment her wrists, forearms, those

liquid hands – but she's still
on a roll. And all at one with herself.


I razored the tip off the tube of glue
like a zit, that first spurt of goo
whitening in air across my fingers.

Those millimetre men came in boxes,
sprouted in rows from plastic stems.
Had to be twisted off at the heel,

attached to their bases using pegs.
Horses at full stretch – stuck down
by one thermoplastic hoof, their riders

anally inserted by a stud at the saddle.
Thought nothing of it, the heavy-sweet
perfume of glue galloping through my brain.

Looking at my men I knew something wasn't
right, but couldn't make anything stick
for good, except the cap to its tube

though I rewrote history each morning –
Cherokee scalping the 1st Panzer Division,
cowpokes stampeding Boer English. Once

I repelled a Roman Empire from the shores
of our pond, with a single Spitfire.
I left snipers overnight in the throats

of nasturtiums, secreted grenade-throwers
in petalled explosions of zinnia
just to keep the garden on edge.

It took ages to array them, seconds to
annihilate. But glue was all I needed then
after a double-handed mine, and broken men

were dabbed together, stood between
two books by the fire until morning
returned them, upright and true.


(after Bertolt Brecht, ‘Spring 1938’)

There’d been dew. Maybe light rain.
And a blot drew my eye to that plot of light
through my kitchen window. Closer. I saw

pincer legs measure out each wire. That
pause of the abdomen before it dipped
to spot-weld each link. I took a chair outside

to stand on. Craned. I wanted to live.
It let me brush a fingertip across the velvet
brown of its back, against the nap, and again

till it froze mid-air, eight legs outstretched,
still as a child roused from a trance of play.
There – the same creature I’d raise my slipper to,

hunt across carpet to end in a smudge.
I wouldn’t have it in my hand. In my hair.
Yet it – she – went to all that length to snare

mosquito and bluebottle, those who’d ruin
a soup, or blood. Hours. For once I took
the time. Saw the target complete, her radii

strung high between window and washing line.
I thought of the twist of cells that can work
such wonder. I thought of poets whose words

don’t reach. Spider just does. Reads angles –
but not this freak thunder, its blown-up tongues
of birds. Everywhere. Birds swooping for spiders.

I feared something might skim, unknowing,
through that hard-earned web. A swift perhaps,
impossibly late. I saw spider prey. Hung there

in her patch of unsafe sky.


There was that time, two women were in a field.
One was taken, the other left.

That moment in midday heat, when your hoe hooked
a grenade, froze a clan of faces mid-air.

In the woods, the white soap-bars you skirted:
the trip-wire beneath them, fine as your eye.

The bayonet through the haystack, that threaded
your mother's earring, clipped your ear;

the copper saucepan punctured, head-height;
your aunt's leg clean off as you sat together –

the brass shells stowed in the ditch you ducked
into as the earth erupted all around.

Forty years on, as he whispered you away
from your station by father's bed,

it was the young doctor finally ran you through
when he would not meet your eyes.


I'd stand at the door like one bereaved:
Aghast and breathless,
With silence stretched between us
For a second
Before it snapped -
And my heart burst its banks
In belief.

Then I'd draw you in by both hands
I'd kiss you on the mouth, on the face
Wear out your name
                   with soft saying
I'd kiss you more than you would want
Until you'd have to draw back, breathless
As one wounded
To try to speak, to tell me
Why it was you came.

(© Mario Petrucci)


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