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Two PoemsJohn Burnside


Like something out
of Brueghel, maned in white
and hungry
like the dark, the bat
ears pricked, the face
a grey

velour, more cat
than dog, less
than fanalouc
or civet –

here is the patron beast
of all
who love the night:
waking at dusk
to anatomy’s
blunt hosanna,

the carrion daylight
then picked to the bone
while the radio dance band fades
to a slow alleluia,

and far at the back
of the mind, the perpetual
frenzy: eye teeth
and muzzle
coated with blood
with matter,

as every mouth
digs in,
for fair, or foul,
a giggle in the bushes,
then a shudder.

Late Show

I only watch reruns now,
or films about geese,

and yet I’m waiting for the miracle
I used to find in early black and white

where everyone looks like us and ends up
happy, in a place they’re learning

never to take
for granted.

In Northern Canada,
it’s summer now

and birds that look like friends I had in school
are dancing in a field of moss and thaw

and, as I watch, the darkness gathers round me
slowly, warmth and quiet in its gift

for as long as the birds
take flight, or Lucille Ball

lights up the screen
like someone who’s been there forever.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

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Vol. 33 No. 15 · 28 July 2011

Much as I enjoyed John Burnside’s poem ‘Hyena’, I must point out that he has his hyenas crossed (LRB, 30 June). The ‘giggle’ and pack behaviour referred to in the final stanza suggests the spotted (or ‘laughing’) hyena, but the first stanza (white mane, grey face, bat ears) describes the striped hyena, a solitary animal which does not ‘laugh’.

Mikita Brottman
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

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