“Villanelle to Cold Psalms” and other poems by Jane Burn

Villanelle to Cold Psalms

Here among the gloam owls, their cry of cold psalms
I am treetops, bearing a crown of night. The dark is born.
I imagine the death I would make in the strange of your arms,

shiver beneath the void of stars, sing the charm
of moths. Wish them against my neck. My skin mourns,
here among the gloam owls, their cry of cold psalms.

Dusk is a lie. This is crushed light, visions of curious calm.
I am prey, twitching in uneasy sleep, a distant spire’s thorn.
I imagine the death I would make in the strange of your arms.

Here are the tendons of my neck. Here is the throb of harm.
I am lost as one drop of rain is lost to a storm,
here among the gloam owls, their cry of cold psalms.

I bear a ghost of gloom in the curl of my palm.
I am the moonlight’s gash where the sky is torn.
I imagine the death I would make in the strange of your arms,

shiver of mist upon my mouth. I drink its balm,
damp upon the tip of thirst. Leave me to mourn,
here among the gloam owls, their cry of cold psalms.
I imagine the death I would make in the strange of your arms.


Are Vaginas a Deal-Breaker Thing?

Let’s face it. I
are discomfited by my own, unsure
of the marsh,
unsettled by its sodden pocket.
Use a mirror and get to know yourself, I once read and I never
got round to doing that.

I can imagine a world of moulded dolls, imagine
the simple acts like
brushing each other’s hair,
shopping for mushrooms,
reading a column out loud,
swinging bags and holding hands.

We could build our chaste cairns upon the grass –
I’ll tell you that your laugh is like a castle’s wall
and you might say, today is all about discovering.
Might knock upon the bathroom door,
wince at my archipelago. See how I am the Orkneys,
how my tits are Egilsay and Wyre, how my belly is Eynhallow –

its stilling womb,
its natural abandon,
its offer to birds.
Or you might say scooch, so we can spire
at opposite ends of the bath and I would use
my best Joyce Grenfell voice to tell you, straight-faced

that there really is a place there called Twatt.
I can think about lips,
wrists, arms, eyes. Here is an offer of terrified flesh.
I will be undelivered.
I could have put a bow on a broken soul.
Gifted the screams I swallowed and kept.


I gave/my shame/to water/it told me/nothing about/myself

a kill of un-done bones/heron’s moveless stain/quiet worlds of moss/tilt
of riverbank/kingdom of frogs/vein of silverfish/weak baste of sun’s eye/
remember the/language of my mother’s hands/feral squat to piss on roots/
oh I wanted/thin rake of dusk/I saw a woman/wear a crown of dull sky/
here is a gift of throats/the water wears a skin of ghosts/you will not/
meet/the craving of cold palms/oh I saw a woman/reflections of trees/
are a desire of knives/fecund splay of spawn/wound of coming night/
I hear/your breath/your heart/a claim of fallen moons/a trick of wet


The Un-Flight of Porcelain Birds

My pretty flock, my throng of bisque,
brittle murmuration, flinty perched.
Silent wards of song, dawn finds you unyielding –
no rising in your tinted eyes.
If you drop, you fail to fly.
Your breasts crack. Your little heads shatter,
make the floor a nest of spelks,
a splint of muted beaks.
Spillikins of feather,
your wings are kept by clay.
Roost in my palm, echo of wild things.
You have never trembled evening from your throat.
You have never known
the blue sail of sky.


November’s Spoil of Rain and Plague

I am the daughter of stopped clocks – a plastic moon
where moments have stuck. Too late for elevenses,
much too soon for lunch. I am the passage of time,
its meaningless tether of hands.
I am the slicing of dials, have guessed at the hour
of my birth. I am Sunday’s child though I am not
blithe, or bonny. Wise nor good. My stars
are not aligned, I am not cusped. I am a mother’s
failed prediction. How massive my love can be, how
my tongue lolls like a dog, how I wear my heart
like a pelt of brindle screams! Come to the crush
of my great arms – I am Kraken, the page
you wrote in the Burn Book. I am Edward’s fingered knives.
I am cupboards on uncertain afternoons,
their content of chipped cups.
Allow me to offer my stains. I have held you in my brain
and failed to shift your face.
Fur and carcass – something ate the heart of me
and wasted the rest. There must have been a tunnel
and I slithered from it, wet and blind. I came
from a length of ferrous wire between us,
belly to blood. It fed me on ash and blades,
on something I can still taste.


Things Today To Do

Fumble on an octopus of keys
Wind the time from a crypt of dead wheels
Slam a drawer upon a bud of spoons

Sing into a citadel of tea
Cross your heart against a hex of bread
Mop the crackled tale of willow plates

Search the skim of glass for hints of rain
Find the altered ripples of a man
Ask the square of window for your face

Jane Burn’s poems have appeared in many magazines, such as Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Obsessed With Pipework, The Curlew, The Fenland Reed, Strix, Under the Radar, Bare Fiction, The Rialto, Prole, Long Poem Magazine, Elsewhere, Crannog, Domestic Cherry, Iota Poetry, The Poet’s Republic, Eye Flash Poetry, Finished Creatures and the Oxford English Journal. Her poems have also been published in anthologies from The Emma Press and Seren. Her poems are regularly placed in competitions and she has been nominated for both The Pushcart and Forward Prize.

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