Two Poems

John Burnside

Orange

The heaven of childhood had something to do with citrus:
back in the coal towns, deep in a season of rain,
or out on the farm roads, away from the dangerous world,
where children came down from their attics, with sleep in their mouths,

light on the kitchen walls on a Christmas morning
and, under the tree, in their scarlet and matt-black wrappers,
the newborn clementines that flaked and scaled
like moths’ or angels’ wings between our fingers,

then melted to pulp and a liquor that darkened our palms
with the colour and scent of Jesus, raised from the dead
and walking alone in the garden, untouched by the future,

the light of the world returned, as he raises his hand
to gather a fruit from the darkness and taste, once again,
the blood-orange sap, the sweet at the heart of the bitter.

Fiat Nox

Because I came to love the rule of snow,
the back door open on a winter’s night

where someone had gone out to fetch the coal,
my mother’s wireless talking to the dark

in Fifties language: everything
considered, guileless, unimpeachable;

because I would have looked up at the sky
to see the patterns other people saw,

kin with the dead and gone
and the not yet living,

I go out in the small hours with a pair
of old binoculars, to find the stars,

and walk away to where the streetlight ends,
dark at the edge of the sea and the land behind me

quiet, like a sleeping animal
and, overhead, no different from thought:

Cassiopeia; Pisces, Canes Venati;
the Bear, the Plough, the Serpent’s Tail, the Swan.