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Scar: a new poem by Philip Gross

The NS Poem.

A deer amid bracken in a London park. Photo: Getty
A deer amid bracken in a London park. Photo: Getty

                                                 : a heart-

                                shaped scorch-

                patch in the bracken.

Today a spat of Valleys rain has stopped it there

 

but each Easter makes tinder of this hillside,

a swathe of crisp brown question-marks,

fire in them itching to run where it will

 

and how could you resist it, being fourteen

and full of the slack of the day, of the nothing

to go home to, with a lighter in your jeans,

 

the others looking on? A fair wind, luck,

and there’ll be sirens this evening, smoke-

signalling We were (are still) here

 

where they’ll already be too late,

those flatfoots in vizors and fire suits,

cartoon spacemen in the wrong film. Watch

 

them chasing the last of the flame-snakes,

wriggling here, there. Different greynesses

into the night sky: smoke and steam.

 

That’s a good day, when everyone wakes

to sodden rakings-over, world restored

to black-and-white, shoots shrivelled

 

to wisps, bared rocks and birch trunks

scorched, a stink as alkaline as birdlime,

valley like a morning-after ashtray

 

(yes, you in the dinky estate by the station,

we’ll rub your noses in it), like a riddled grate

of clinker, where coal was. Not far

 

beneath the skin of new-turfed green,

                                dug under but still

                                                smouldering, the

                                                                heart. The scar.

 

 

Philip Gross’s collections include The Water Table (2009), which won the T S Eliot Prize, and Later (2013). “Scar” will appear next year in A Fold in the River, a collection set around the River Taff in South Wales.

Tags:poetry
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