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John Burnside: a poem

On Ageing

Now that the heart

is shapeless, dove-meat

seraphed by a history

of flame,

a shadow on the blood

begins to form,


in the finest instruments

and inadmissible

as evidence, though

what there ought to be

sings daylong

on the cusp

of audible,

a stopped bell in the well

of morning, swallows

ceasing in the eaves,

the new snow

falling nightlong

on a lamp-lit

schoolyard, scarcely


by the music

of the spheres.

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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