Two Poems

John Burnside

Beholding

As dawn moves in from the firth
I’m sitting up awake, a mug of tea
fogging the window, the bones of my hands and face
shot with insomnia’s
delicate, lukewarm needles.
You’re still asleep. Your hair is the colour of whey
and your hand on the pillow is clenched, like a baby’s fist
on a figment of heat, or whatever you’ve clutched
in a dream,
and I suddenly want to ask
your forgiveness for something deliberately
cruel in the way I see, in the way
all seeing could become: too hard, too clear,
refusing to find something more
than the cool light of morning.

Félicité et Perpétué

Now that we have found
our dwelling-place,

a patio, a shed,
a patch of green,

the gardens I intended to create
still haunt me, on those winter afternoons

when new frost powders the walls
and the empty beds:

climbing roses, snowdrops, apple trees,
the conifers and herbs I know by heart,

ghostings of Gloire de Versailles
on the summer air,

the soft fall of Worcester Pearmain
on fretted grass;

mornings I would wander through the wild
enclosure, where the night had slithered in,

blue stains under the lime trees, feathered kills,
the orchard sprouting mistletoe and faint

traces of angel, hanging in the boughs
like lantern-light;

the pond I would have edged
with irises, then filled with mirrored fish,

to go out, year on year,
and watch them spawn:

the butt and glide of carp
amongst the weeds,

muscles of koi
suspended in the dawn.