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8 May 2024

The NS Poem: October 2023

A new poem by John Burnside.

By John Burnside

First hard frost. The old gods gone to ground
in dry-stane walls and silted
ditchworks, sleet
in squalls along the ridge,
then nothing: silence;
grey on grey on grey.
I walk out to the far edge of the yard
and stare into the distance, almost
sure that I am seen
by all I know is there
but cannot see:
echoed, in a line of stunted gorse
along the roadside; noticed, then dismissed
as not quite animal enough
to hunt, or fear.
No gods to speak of
here, but there are
phantoms from an early travelogue
who visit now and then; laying no claim
to worship, they are
kindred to the birds
in field guides: tender, indisputable,
and apparitions all, though they are blessed
as I am, when the first sun filters through
the windbreaks, and, in spite of all I know,
the light comes clear
and everything is true.

John Burnside is a Scottish poet, novelist and critic who won the David Cohen Prize for Literature in 2023. His new poetry collection, “Ruin, Blossom”, is published by Jonathan Cape

[See also: The NS Poem: Fast Music]

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This article appears in the 08 May 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Doom Scroll