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John Burnside: a poem


A snow fell on the Northwest

Passage of this morning's


3 a.m. and nothing to stand guard

against nostalgia, half a century

of sugarcraft and birdcage flooding back,

the summers clad

in soap flakes and velour.

There should have been a secret,

or a bride,

a line of footprints

out across the lawn

to something more precise

than I remembered,

but nothing came to mind, no holy land

of one last leaf-fall, pocked and starred with frost,

only the gist

of ink and celluloid

and stillness, like the muting of a bell,

along the fence line, where the known world fails.

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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