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John Burnside: a poem


How cold the gown is, after years

of camphor, moonshine

tangled in the sleeves, the bodice

brittle, like the ghost

of puppetry.

No one will wear it

now, it can't be sold;

and no-one but

the mailman still believes

in happy ever after,

walking from door to door

at Christmas, with no guarantee

of snow, the last post

slender in his hands, the windows


and green against

the night, a local

Saxony of glint

and afterthought,

its byelaws

groundless and Medieval,

like the heart.

John Burnside's collections include The Hoop (1988); The Light Trap (2002); The Good Neighbour (2005); Gift Songs (2007); and Black Cat Bone (2011), which won both the Forward Prize for Poetry and the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2008, Burnside received the Cholmondeley Award. His prose works include the collection of short stories Burning Elvis (2000), as well as several novels and memoirs. The Devil’s Footprints (2007) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and A Summer of Drowning (2011) was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. A former writer-in-residence at Dundee University, he currently teaches at the University of St. Andrews.


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