Poem of the week this week comes from John Burnside’s All One Breath, published by Cape Poetry. All One Breath was shortlisted for the 2014 T. S. Eliot Prize. You can hear John reading from this collection here.


If only something else had been so real
we might have left them in the Fitty Burn,
the males electric blue
and crimson, females
silver in the flank
and wall-eyed, when they slithered through out fingers;

but summers were always for hunting, a garland of bees
trapped in a Kilner jar, the hum of it
gorgeous to the hand, all life and rage
made abstract; redpolls
lured into a homemade
box-trap for my cousin’s backyard
aviary, their throats and crowns

the rose-red of the Zephirine Drouhin
in our grandmother’s pit-town garden
at Crosshill.
When fair days came, we stood
like herons, knee deep in the silt
and slither of the rockpools, dip-nets
poised to gather in the shining wisps

of wrasse and weever, distant, nameless lives
that paled to nothing
in the noonday sun,
just as the lunties died in their chicken-wire frames
and the sticklebacks dimmed in their jars till we grew dismayed
and would surely have given them back
if we’d only known how,

come to a stop in an acre
of willow herb, dusk on the way
and the colours of everything, grassweed and Himalayan
balsam, butterflies
and lily beetles failing in the grey
that came to find us, calling us by name,
anchor and limit, singling us out for the dark.