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