Mike Barlow: a poem



The hum


comes from all angles.

Wherever you turn it's there

outside, inside

an undercurrent to the incidental clatter

of washing up, the creak of floorboards

as we pace around upstairs

a perfectionist's absent-minded drone

(I recall my father in the cellar

french-polishing a coffee table)

or maybe Mason down the road

in his milking parlour, milking

the world's cow day in day out.

It might announce itself as silence

but it's not, more a queue-jumper

barging in there first so silence

has to wait its turn.

The world's machinery tuning in

the sea's answer to whalesong

planetary throat music

some of us hear it, some of us don't

bassline in a two-tone chant

monks might perform putting their souls

at the mercy of the ineffable.

Frequency from space, round the void

and back, a wavelength dynamo

or an echo from the pleistocene, glaciers

scouring rock, continents shifting

or evolution's nerve, suggesting

what might be outside us

might be inside. Hear it?



Mike Barlow has won a number of competitions including the 2006 National Poetry Competition. His first full collection, Living on the Difference (Smith|Doorstop), won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition and was shortlisted for the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize for Best First Collection. He has since published two more full collections, the latest being Charmed Lives (Smith|Doorstop). A fourth collection is due from Pindrop Press in autumn 2021. He runs Wayleave Press (www.wayleavepress.co.uk), a small pamphlet-publishing venture, and is also a visual artist. You can find him here: www.mikebarlow.org.uk.