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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

Select and enter your email address The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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