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6 April 2022

The NS Poem: A reply to Wallace Stevens, with a line from John Donne

A new poem by John Burnside.

By John Burnside

Cold in the shade, and yet, by afternoon
the snow is burning off along
the fence-line, where it lay in drifts for weeks,
a chill white, warming slowly to a blur
of slush and haze.
                                     I don’t have a mind

of winter. Only the timeworn saltlick of a heart
which can by no way be express’d
but negatives;
             yet nothing is more erotic than the way
the snowmelt spills and spends into the ditch,
still cold as ice, but mesmerised with green,

and though there’s nothing here that I could
     name,
I feel it, mesozoic, intimate,
one moment on the cusp of something else,
not one thing or the other: something else.

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

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This article appears in the 06 Apr 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Easter Special