Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel’s new collection, The Mara Crossing, was published in January.

Poem: ‘Revelation’

Ruth Padel, 5 January 2012

‘A ladder’, the master whispered, ‘of nucleic acid.’ This was the first we’d heard of it. Rain nosed the glass; wind lashed the trees outside. ‘Four hydrogen-bonded nucleotides locking on like mating damselflies, but each a different size, pulling the ladder’s sides into a twist, like serpents on the sign outside a chemist who for old time’s...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 28 April 2011

The Two-Handled Jug

A low-flying stork. Two acres of graves, guarded and layered in rose-pink. Walls, city, dust.

We have been here for ever. Anonymous pinchpenny plague tombs from medieval centuries.

Bronze epitaphs in French, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic. Fathers and children, fathers and wives.

The Jewish Cemetery, Marrakesh. A visitor, wearing the guard’s black velvet kippah,


Like Matisse, bending over ink and watercolour on a shut-in terrace

to sketch the only wineglass on his table. Its coiled, thick stem. The row

of blobs below its bowl a choker of pearls for a bony throat.

The candyfloss smudge of thinning pink within. Its need to know the worst

but hope for more. He’s writing, small and black beside the pale-rose tint

he’s given to particles of...

Two Poems

Ruth Padel, 12 March 2009

Giant Sable Antelope Would Like a Word with History

At night the savannah comes to claim me. Thirty females and their calves in search of a leader. Shaggy manes

down each nape. White cheeks and that dagger of kohl down the nose. Vibrissae, strands of black glass

under a pure white chin. Nefertiti eyelashes, each aching hair standing proud from each whiffy pelt. That ready-to-flee gaze


‘Annie listless.’ They take her to Ramsgate    to try what seawater can do. On the beachhe picks up shells. He is still a collector. Emma    watches a bathing-woman in baggy bluecoax Annie to the caravan-machine    drawn by two horses out to sea; and thinks throughin her head a Beethoven sonata and cadenza.

In autumn 1850...


Mary Lefkowitz, 4 November 1993

In Euripides’ drama Hippolytus (428 BC), when the women of Troezen learn that Phaedra, their queen, is ill, they wonder if she has been possessed by a god or whether her ‘soul’...

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