Stay in the loop and register for email updates about events, competitions and all things poetry.
sign up now
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
I’ve laid my coat on your bed as if you were my friend,
as if, overlapped with quiet sea light, I could sit here
and rest a moment from the future, with Nessie
next to me under her blanket, still listening to you
when sleep rolls over her like a fog. Thank you for letting me
plunge into your books, your crags and gardens,
those drifts of language in your cold seas—for not minding
how I eavesdrop at the table where your head is bent.
Today you’re angling for stars. It must be hard to hook them
in the misty afternoon, but you manage. Even lines you cut
hang round the sky like ghosts. I breathe their absence,
the shapes they leave. When I put my coat on, fumbling
for tickets to the place I’ve come from, keys to homes
that began me, I find my pockets deeper than I imagined. I will
dig in their corners for a coastline of my own. Attend to the roar
of breakers. Stay all day. Let words make their alteration.
In his nest of dry leaves the hedgehog has woken
his mind so suddenly filled with all the words he knows.
Counting the verbs, more or less, they come to twenty-seven.
Later he thinks: The winter is over,
I am a hedgehog, Up fly two eagles, high up,
Snail, Worm, Insect, Spider, Frog,
which ponds or holes are you hiding in?
There is the river, This is my kingdom, I am hungry.
And he repeats: This is my kingdom, I am hungry,
However he remains still like a dry leaf, too,
because it is but midday and an old law
forbids him sun, sky and eagles.
But night comes, gone are the eagles; and the hedgehog,
disregards the river and undertakes the steepness of the mountain,
as sure of his spines as a warrior
in Sparta or Corinth could have been of his shield;
and suddenly, he crosses the boundary
between the meadow and the new road
with a single step that takes him right into my and your time.
And given that his universal vocabulary has not been renewed
in the last seven thousand years,
he neither understands our car lights,
nor realises his forthcoming death.