Mother as Script and Ideal

Always, I am coming home 

from hunting frogs or standing in the swim 

of wind between the last dyke 

 

and the sea; 

       and, always, she is there,  

in lanternglow, 

a light that makes this world believable.  

 

My eyes turned from the snuff 

of paraffin and darkness in that house 

so long ago, I barely know it’s there: 

 

washrooms wrapped in frost, a skewed moon 

picking out the paths from then to now, 

where someone, not myself,  

 

goes missing, while I lie down in the warm 

and wait for her to come, her hands  

a labyrinth of mint and cinnamon, her book 

 

the only book we have, the pages 

thumbstained, now, with daisychain and lilac,  

and such detail in the pictures, I could find 

 

The Snow Queen, or the Lady of the Lake 

so easily, it seems we must be kin.  


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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