Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Poetry & Stories
17 April 2017updated 04 Aug 2021 2:03pm

A new John Burnside poem: To the younger man

By John Burnside

I see you know
    the world’s way, all that

slop and carrion
    of having, but not

being;
    ludic and cavalier, you’re almost

viable
    in someone else’s hell,

answering dog
    with shark, aristocrat

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

with nunc dimittis.
    So rest assured,

you’re welcome in this place,
    there’s no one, here, would

Ides of March
    your party;

Content from our partners
You’re fired: The new law that threatens to hinder automated recruitment
The Timeline of Next
Solving problems before they begin

but listen:
    can you hear it in the floor

the ring that rings
    against the ring

of footsteps
    when you stumble out of luck?

no need to tell the truth:
    just don’t pretend

you walked into a fate
    you knew would happen;

there’s falcon still
    to come, the noontide

swing of it, before the claws
   dig in

– and later, when it dives
    to drain the heart

and daybreak finds you
    with a run of blood,

like grease, between the collar
    and the chin,

step out into the sun
    for all to see:

your friends, your dead,
    your team of publicans

who kept you sweet
    so they could gut you now.

John Burnside’s most recent poetry collection is Still Life with Feeding Snake (Jonathan Cape

This article appears in the 05 Apr 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Spring Double Issue