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John Burnside: a poem

Man and Wife

On days like this,

her sorrows seem

elective: purest

gesture, like

the fur trim on the stole

a queen wears

for her sister's


while somewhere

in the back-room of the year,

the Cathar in me

dreams of honeydew,

a Boy's Own tale

of how things might have been

before the cold set in: a last


laid bare

to catch the sun.

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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