Literary Yard

Search for meaning

‘Heinrich Böll, Group Portrait with Lady’ and other poems

By: Stephen Bett

Heinrich Böll, Group Portrait with Lady (opening line; trans, Leila Vennewitz)

The female protagonist… is a woman of forty-eight, German: she is five foot six inches tall, weighs 133 pounds (in indoor clothing), i.e., only twelve to fourteen ounces below standard weight…

By the numbers, please

Five six or fifty-six?

Coming up elevenses full squaddie

(youthful clap test in T.O.

— cheering section, ho)

Böll you over Clover, outdoor whites

Say “Duck” unluck Ms Royal

Or by the pound, one-three-three

standard freight 7-UP

La Septième Fonction du Langage

(Dominium omnium, Rover)

Like a 45 word salad

in your face


Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac (opening sentence)

From the window all that could be seen was a receding area of grey. It was to be supposed that beyond the grey garden… lay the vast grey lake, spreading like an anaesthetic towards the invisible further shore…

Okay, so seventy-one percent of Earth is water-cover

otherwise it’s just kenophobic void, smoking

forest, angel-dust, whatever…

Some singular sky then…    garden, lake

grey- gray- grayest grapheme

By the letters because six & one

greyer then grayer than        

(yours ever, lovelorn E

Earth would feel heart broken,

wept over

& you already knew One

is the loneliest number you’ll ever do

Nothing near as affecting as ‘doing’ a Brookner (ahh…)

May trees outside her window put forth

their spinny, bitty leaves

Though the poet says

Honest to God my heart aches

When I see them trying

More like choking themselves

in greyscale


William Seward Burroughs, Naked Lunch (from his introduction)

I have used junk in many forms… I have smoked junk, eaten it, sniffed it, injected it in vein-skin-muscle, inserted it in rectal suppositories. The needle is not important. Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.

Bit of a cheap leap from Babbling Brook, huh?

How these alpha’bits flow, one

phoneme at a time

No pussyshit nonsense here!

(jes’ dat ol’ Billy Sewar’d ooze)

Been UP so long it feels like

old school to me & zee

Vote Libertarian Bill…  fer a holler

fun refun’ on the dollar

Thet nā’ kid hunch the end uv

ev’ry dork’s fork

We was Nex’ Gen coming boomer sage

entitle’ boyz snuff speed line

razor-file on a hand mirror

… roll two-dollar bill

* adjust for inflation, pls *

Good nuff hit for ’dis slow-boy twit

ever’ privilege yrs, ya lil’ sh*t


Stephen Bett is a widely and internationally published Canadian poet with 25 books in print (from BlazeVOX, Chax, Spuyten Duyvil, & others). His personal papers are archived in the “Contemporary Literature Collection” at Simon Fraser University. His website is

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