Ivan Head: ‘Bishop Berkeley’s Jack Russell Explains Colour Theory to Him’, ‘Floor Exercises for a Phenomenologist’ and ‘Victim’

Bishop Berkeley’s Jack Russell Explains Colour Theory to Him

I assume that your dog eyes
see the skies as blue
and that to be is to bark.
Is it as if I were to see radio waves,
hear colours and sniff ultra-sound?
When you leap and bound
I know that you drink in joy,
though not quite as humans do.
I conclude that esse est percipi
also applies to you.

Ivan Head


Floor Exercises for a Phenomenologist

To slow the engine of my brain,
quiet the ticking cogito,
I put my thinking-self in neutral
by some subtle carburettor.

Disconnect the selfie-switch,
close the matrix of embedded grammar,
lie on the floor and listen to
Ravi Shankar, or Thomas Tallis’ Spem in Alium.

Frankincense burns before a crucifix.
Am I aware of der Heilige Geist
or just another new-age therapy of rest?
Other music has the same effect

as did a field lark I once heard sing
outside an evening village.
Much mimics the company of the blessed.
My soul, invisible hippopotamus in the room: manifest.

Ivan Head



Hello, is this the Italian Embassy?
I’d like to make a complaint.
I’m seeking compensation
for distress caused
by the Roman administration.

Their soldiery’s treatment of Jesus
was so unfair, so degrading.
Compensation will fix it.
Allowing for inflation compounded annually
thirty million pieces of silver is just.
You are accountable.

At the same time under the Boudica Convention
I add a claim for Norfolk on behalf of my forebears.
When the Roman legions came
they possessed the land—
the scars are in my DNA,

awakened by close haruspication
of entrails and other dreams
along the inter-generational trail of pain.
Another thirty million please.
And don’t mention the Saxons.

As for Jesus himself. What a blot.
Compensation for him will be
a legacy of perpetual funds
a stream of living cash.
The forebears of the Italian nation
made him the victim of victims max.
That must be worth the lot.

Ivan Head

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