Fatwa on Intimacy

There is no other love like surrogate. 

Vertigo after you left, in the ruined 

 

hive of what I used to think  

was Thou.  

 

Which I foresaw 

and yet I waited years 

 

through snow, then snowdrops,  

crocuses, then sweet  

 

viburnum.  

Now, I assume, 

 

you are working all night  

at the lab, 

 

the one light burning in that third-floor 

window, clouds 

 

of noctuids at the glass, while you extract 

the venom, or the stunted embryo,  

 

from something still alive, but scarcely 

conscious in the cradle of your hand, 

 

the weight of it, the pulse,  

the veins of heat 

 

a pleasure that must go without a name 

for now, at least, the lacing in a wing 

 

extended to its fullest and held still 

for minutes, while you make the next incision.  


from Still Life with Feeding Snake (Cape, 2017) © John Burnside 2017, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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1Abiding Memories of Christian Zeal

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2An essay in sangfroid

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3Approaching Sixty

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4Crane Watching in Ostprigitz-Ruppin November 2014

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5Fatwa on Intimacy

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6Hendrick Avercamp A Standing Man Watching a Skating Boy

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7Memories of a Non-existent Childhood

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8Mother as a Script and Ideal

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9On the vanishing of my sister, aged 3, 1965

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11Still Life

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14The Lazarus Taxa

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