top of page

David Harsent: two poems

Two from Animals Silent in Darkness


Dancing like this, they might wrong-foot each other. And have.

They dip and rise and turn and dip and rise. His smile

falls just short of her. The music is in their heads, slow and particular.


The waxed floor and the unlit chandelier. There are flowers

in cut-glass bowls. There are fault-lines

that widen as they dance. The flowers are closed, as if against the night.


Cut glass. She sings the only note that goes to weakness,

sweet-spot of fracture, the way

a finger might touch a wound and worsen it.


Sixteen windows here that wait on nightfall

and the soft cascade of lamplight. No change in that.

What was broken then is broken now.


The city boils up round them. Rim-glow of neon,

of sodium, of tower blocks, street signs, billboards, trucks...

Window-bars throw shadows where they sit.


They keep each other close: the only way

to still their demons. First light, dead light, cold rain

on rooftops, smokestacks, that clockwork diorama.

David Harsent is a British poet and librettist. He has published twelve volumes of poetry. Legion won the Forward Prize for best collection; Night was triple short-listed in the UK and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Fire Songs won the T.S. Eliot Prize. His 2018 collection, Salt, was described by John Burnside, choosing it for his Book of the Year in the New Statesman, as "a masterpiece". His latest collection, Loss, appeared in January 2020. He has collaborated with several composers, though most often with Harrison Birtwistle. The New York Times described Birtwistle and Harsent as "a team creating alchemy". Birtwistle/Harsent collaborations have been performed at venues worldwide, including the Royal Opera House, BBC Proms, the Aldeburgh Festival, the Holland Festival, The Concertgebouw, The London South Bank Centre, The Salzburg Festival and Carnegie Hall. Harsent holds several fellowships, including Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Fellow of the Hellenic Authors Society.

1 comment

1 Comment

Sep 05, 2020

Both poems are fantastic. I love his style, the way he makes words come alive.


bottom of page