Sailing to Indo-China: To Paul Éluard by A. C. Clarke

‘Surrealism arrived, suitcase in hand’ - Robert McNab

What poet worth his salt wouldn’t hanker
after Cambodian temples, the ‘fever hues’

of a Saigon quayside, to liberate him
from maman and papa? Their tentacles

squeezed your heart amid the gaslit ennui
of post-war Paris - a cramped cabin

sweltering through Oceania more seductive
than the daily desk where you chased contracts.

Goodbye the comfortable narrows.
Goodbye wife, daughter, friend.

You weren’t the first to forsake boulevards
for the siren call of a departing steamer,

its funnel waving farewell pennants
across a northern sky. Flâneur of sea-roads

you had your voyage idiot. Your trip.
Back home papa grumbling softly
totted takings, paperknifed your letters.


A. C. Clarke lives in Glasgow and has won a number of prizes over the years and been widely published in anthologies and magazines. Her fifth collection, A Troubling Woman (Oversteps Books), centred on the Medieval visionary Margery Kempe, came out in 2017. It is a companion book to Fr Meslier’s Confession, which is centred on the atheist priest Jean Meslier. She was one of four joint winners in the Cinnamon Press 2017 poetry pamphlet competition with War Baby, which was published in January 2018. You can read more about her and samples of her work at

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