Abiding Memories of Christian Zeal

John Burnside

The body as the sum of all nostalgias.
Empire of footfalls; Mother as Script and Ideal

– and love no chance event, no accidental
stir of wings, or blueprint spiked with hospice.

What hymn tunes come to mind
at Candlemas, the fence wires rimmed with ice,

our plum trees medieval in the first
blue gloaming?

What carol for the kill-site, sodden plumage
scattered in the grass, and beautiful?

Always, the meadow is now: the chill after dusk,
hunter and hunted pausing in the fog

to listen, summer
barbering the skin.

Above us, souls are wandering in space;
we know them all by name: the cosmonauts,

the puzzled dogs unspooling into depths
we’ve talked about for months, the quiet-spoken

airmen from Ohio, voices trained
to sound, on updates home, like bottled rain.

Such comfort in their dying far from earth,
entry, for those who dare, to Everafter,

its backroom of bottled tumours inch-deep in must,
its bus routes through the windy seaside towns

setting us down where death lives like a long-lost
cousin, spinsterish

and hungry, though those hands we thought would burn
like ice, or venom, when they reached to touch,

are smooth and cool, not feverish at all:
Ice Queen as Rescue; Far Cry as Seventh Son.