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15 September 2021

The NS Poem: Hymn to the Subjunctive

A new poem by John Burnside.

By John Burnside

Even where nothing exists, it still occurs:
a bird I remember from childhood, maybe a wren,
or a sedge warbler perched on a reed
at the edge of the meadows.
Close to invisible now, my shadow wakes
to juniper and new snow in an empty
garden, fox-prints
trailing off to what might be
infinity, across the blank of lawn:           
and there I am, or would be, if I were,
a lost boy, raised on figs and simnel cake,
bright as a penny, perfect in Latin grammar,
the one who lives to tell another tale
entirely, something pure, like hieroglyphics.

John Burnside is a Scottish author and the New Statesman’s nature columnist. His latest poetry collection is “Learning to Sleep” (Jonathan Cape)

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This article appears in the 15 Sep 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The Fateful Chancellor