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  



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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John Burnside

John Burnside Downloads

1Abiding Memories of Christian Zeal


2An essay in sangfroid


3Approaching Sixty


4Crane Watching in Ostprigitz-Ruppin November 2014


5Fatwa on Intimacy


6Hendrick Avercamp A Standing Man Watching a Skating Boy


7Memories of a Non-existent Childhood


8Mother as a Script and Ideal


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


10Still Life with Feeding Snake


11Still Life




13The Beauties of Nature and The Wonders of the World We Live In


14The Lazarus Taxa