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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 20: 15 Sept. 2023
Poem: 173 words
By John Wheway

A Folio of Vermeer’s Paintings

It was a careless child perhaps, who left the book 
open, but at which page we can’t tell—
the colour plates, released, have fanned, 
the way grass, relieved of a sitter’s weight, rises up. 

The window is open too, but there’s no breeze, 
and the pages would be perfectly still without this beetle, 
no bigger than the pearl on a hatpin, its lapis lazuli 
carapace playing with the light, that clambers 

from page to page, finding its feet on edges, 
causing slight flurries of the stiff, shiny sheets, 
and by its cranky action gives the scene to time, 
thus heightening, beyond the drama it creates, 

the stillness contained by the room, silent, 
except for spaced-out, tiny creaks that I detect, 
I think, as the insect sidles across 
a deep chasm. So distant from its universe, 

I shadow each of its rickety steps, its feelers 
probing in space. I don’t know if the beetle strives 
to any purpose, but I want to celebrate 
its solitary quest, its glittering progress. 

John Wheway
Issue 20 (September 2023)

is the author of a full-length collection of poetry, A Bluebottle in Late October (V.Press, 2020); a chapbook of flash fragments, The Green Table of Infinity (Anvil Press, 1972); and a flash novella, Poborden (Faber & Faber).

His poems have appeared in Magma Poetry, New Measure, Poetry Quarterly, Southword, Stand Magazine, Templar Poetry, The High Window, The Poetry Review, The Warwick Review, and The Yellow Nib, as well as in three Templar anthologies and The Echoing Gallery: Bristol Poets and Art in the City (Redcliffe Press, 2013). His flash fiction appears in two Flash Flood anthologies (2017 and 2018) and in Flash Fiction Festival One (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2017). Wheway has a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Female Nude, a poem from A Bluebottle in Late October read by Wheway, YouTube (May 2020)

Making Up, a poem from Wheway’s book A Bluebottle in Late October (2020)

“Writing Flash Feels New Again”: John Wheway on Surrendering to the Muse in Flash Fiction Retreats (29 October 2018)

Four Poems in The High Window (Issue 8, Winter 2017)

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