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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John Burnside

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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


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