Poem for December


At the back of my mind, there is always
the freight-line that no longer runs
in a powder of snow

and footprints
from that story we would tell
of the girl from the next house but one

who should have been tucked up in bed
when she went astray,
a huddle of wool in the grass, or a silver bracelet

falling for days
through an inch and a half
of ice.

Nothing I know matters more
than what never happened:
the white at the back of my mind and the legends we made

of passing cars, or switchyards in the rain,
or someone we saw by the wire,
on an acre of ragweed,

acting suspicious, or lost, where the arc-lights decayed
and the souls of the dead went to dust
in a burrow of clinker.

John Burnside (1955 – ) from Black Cat Bone (Jonathan Cape:2011)

A poem of traces: the real in the imagined, the imagined in the real.


Featured image from www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poet/john-burnside/