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Poem introduction

This poem, from 'Legion', is called 'Sniper'.


I am tucked up here out of sight. I am tucked up here
in the bell-tower of Our Lady of Retribution: my own space
well-stocked and arranged just so. This tower was raised in the year
blank-blank, the year of the crow, the year of our disgrace.
I am tucked up here in the shadow of the cross
with my ear-muffs, with my quilt and palliasse,
kneeling up but looking down, like a man at prayer.

A woman carrying water crosses the square.
She is running slowly, running not to spill. Then a child, out into clear
view, going a long diagonal and running like a hare,
jink-jink. I am tucked up here, a sure thing, with my sausage and beer
and a field-stove to keep my fingers supple. Days pass.
I'm more than content in my snuggery, my lair;
I have somewhere to lay my head and somewhere to piss
and, for comic disputation, the birds of the air.

With the scope pulled up to my eye, the world is close
and particular: this grandad, hugging the shade, each hair
on his head, the wet of his eye, the pre-war
coin on his fob-chain, the weave of his coat . . . Over there
by my friend the Marlboro Man is where
I would sit with my morning coffee: Arno's place,
its pinball machine, its jukebox, the girl with Madonna's face
until she showed her teeth; I would tilt my chair
to the wall and take the sun. They go in fear. They go in fear
of me. And where they go they go by my good grace.

I am tucked up here with plenty left in store.
The night-sky floods then clears, flagging a single star,
and the city settles to silence under my peace.
The woman, the child, the grandad, are nothing ... or nothing more
than what history can ignore, or love erase.

from Legion (Faber and Faber, 2005), copyright © David Harsent 2005, used by permission of the author


David Harsent

David Harsent Reading from his Poems

1Old Photographs






7Punch's Day Book - an extract

8Punch's Day Book - an extract

9Mother and Child


11The Sorrow of Sarajevo

12A Common Story


14Marriage - an extract

15Marriage - an extract

16Marriage - an extract

17The hare as witch animal

18The hare as bad omen

19The hare used as a hieroglyph



22Ghost Archaeology

23Harp Strings



26Goodwife's Tale


28Notes from Exile

29At the Riverside

30The Player

Books by David Harsent