Decree

At five a.m. don't worry, sleep
and dream the un-negotiated deep
while the moon falls back to her day-blue keep
and her mercenary stars retreat.
The waking slope's too steep, too steep
to climb alone on naked feet
floorboard by cold tile by carpet by concrete
by kerbstone by iron rung to meet, to meet
whoever you must at the memorial seat
or under the sign for Eden Street
or outside the baker's, its light like heat
when you breathe on the window and write
in the mist with one finger: wheat.
At five are you more or less complete?
Your shadow's still held where shadows seep
when they resign our shapes and accumulate
in dismal, odourless, underground lakes;
and the face you wear is the face that fits
not the mask you assume when you wake;
and your body's no shame as it operates
softly, on standby, its sluices and gates;
and you lie where the imperial clock can't reach,
beyond all early, beyond all late –
and what might be finished, what never begun,
whatever you might claim or counterclaim,
decline, forgive, forgo or concede
must wait.


from Little Gods (Picador, 2006), © Jacob Polley 2006, used by permission of the author, c/o Rogers Coleridge & White Ltd, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN.

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Jacob Polley

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1Smoke

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2The Owls

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3The Kingdom of Sediment

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4You

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5The North-South Divide

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6Economics

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7Man

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8The Weasel

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9A Jar of Honey

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10Declaration

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11Leaf

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12October

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13Night-doll

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14Moving House

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15The Crow

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16Saturday Matinée

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17Rain

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18Elder

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19Sally Somewhere

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20Attic

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21The Remedy

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22Dandelions

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23Salmonary

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24Friday

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25Decree

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26A Crow's Skull

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27The Distance

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28The Cheapjack

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29At Home

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30The Prescription

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31Snow

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32The Byre

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33Wild Hyacinths

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Books by Jacob Polley