John-Paul Burns 72
after George Herbert
A second look in the fruit bowl always tells you something;
the grapefruit twisting its heart into dryness again,
the unwrapped presents that become things, then not things.
It’s one of those days that never quite wakes up,
sat in the week with cold knees and a drooping parlour palm.
Every car carries away a reluctant trace of home;
a deflating dolphin-balloon from the zoo in the boot,
and as the bikes go by the window reciting their lines
and Bowie sings Heroes one more time, it’s in the lustre
of the same old books, the retaking-down of them,
that you find yourself sat there serenely frowning
and capable of being small in a big room.
You run your fingers along the shelf
and the faint coming-back-home of each book
strikes a note. You grab The Temple and step into it
for the twenty-fourth time. You wonder if the Love
that George talks about visits him much;
if you too often slip between feeling
and what you want to feel. You inspect the sunflower
and its sunflower-lessness, the time-chewed ballot-paper,
the dust-bunnies that hop out from their funny names
and boredom tells you it’s the awkward hours that count;
the succulents that never grow, the magpies’ daily argument,
the wine-stained lips, the eczema, the dishevelled drawer, & more.
John-Paul Burns is a graduate of the Manchester Writing School. His debut pamphlet The Minute & The Train (Poetry Salzburg) was published this year, and his poems have appeared in various journals including The North, Brittle Star and the Smith|Doorstop anthology Introduction X: the Poetry Business Book of New Poets. He works at the Whitworth Art Gallery and runs creative writing workshops.
Acknowledgements are due to the Westminster Library’s project ‘Poets in the Library’ for whom ‘Re-reading’ was originally commissioned.