John Burnside: a poem



Out-take from The Gospel of Narcissus


Another skin has come

to nothing, like the snow that fell all day


and melted

in the space between the trees.


Another shadow, cousin to the one

I wanted, when I came in from the cold,


an old Believer, skilled

in saddle-stitch,


proficient in the art of common prayer

but still to be


decided, blithe

descendant of the age


of mercy, fathers

gathered round the bonfire with their dogs


and shotguns, patient, ready to begin,

and every man alone beneath the stars.



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.