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Jo Shapcott: a poem

© Madeleine Waller

Of Mutability

Too many of the best cells in my body are itching, feeling jagged, turning raw in this spring chill. It's two thousand and four and I don't know a soul who doesn't feel small among the numbers. Razor small.

Look down these days to see your feet mistrust the pavement and your blood tests turn the doctor's expression grave. Look up to catch eclipses, gold leaf, comets, angels, chandeliers, out of the corner of your eye, join them if you like, learn astrophysics, or learn folksong, human sacrifice, mortality, flying, fishing, sex without touching much. Don't trouble, though, to head anywhere but the sky.

Jo Shapcott is an English poet, editor and lecturer who has won the National Poetry Competition, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Costa Book of the Year Award, a Forward Poetry Prize and the Cholmondeley Award. This poem is from Of Mutability, published by Faber & Faber in 2010.

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