Though the hunter returns
at first light, bearing a heart
in which all warmth
has ceased, the gut hook
sticky in his hand, his misdeed
visible to everyone he sees
– the horseman on the road,
the miller’s girl,
the foreign delegation with its
gold and furs, old
the oast-house, their garments
bloody and pockmarked
with wax, the fact remains
that no one but the Queen
can ever know
the half of it:
how something in the glass
has stopped forever, setting her aside
so gently, she could reinvent herself
as Rose-Red, while the hunter
leaving the heart, like a bud
that has still to break,
and rinsing the glit from his knife
in a fluster of ice.
Issue Eight of The Lonely Crowd features five new poems from John Burnside, including ‘Learning to Sleep’.
John Burnside is the author of eleven collections of poetry and five works of fiction. Burnside has achieved wide critical acclaim, winning the Whitbread Poetry Award in 2000 for The Asylum Dance which was also shortlisted for the Forward and T. S. Eliot prizes, and winning the 2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for Black Cat Bone. Born in Scotland, he moved away in 1965, returning to settle there in 1995. In the intervening period he worked as a factory hand, a labourer, a gardener and, for ten years, as a computer systems designer. He now lives in Fife with his wife and children and teaches Creative Writing, Literature and Ecology courses at the University of St Andrews.
© John Burnside, 2017. Image © Jo Mazelis, 2017.