I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they were all seated,
A Service, like a Drum
Kept beating – beating – till I though
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

And all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence – some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank of Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
and hit a World, at every plunge,
and Finished knowing – then –

Emily Dickinson


Heu Quantus Est Dolor Noster

Purple fireweed
burns in the verge
all down the lane,
a parish of sun
and shade.

A crozier holds the glow
from lights strung high
in the chancel roof.
Christ, what is the use
of all this grief?

Fiona Sampson
(from Coleshill, Chatto and Windus)

A Morning

I have carried it with me each day: that morning I took
my uncle’s boat from the brown water cove
and headed for Mosher Island.
Small waves splashed against the hull
and the hollow creak of oarlock and oar
rose into the woods of black pine crusted with lichen.
I moved like a dark star, drifting over the drowned
other half of the world until, by a distant prompting,
I looked over the gunwale and saw beneath the surface
a luminous room, a light-filled grave, saw for the first time
the one clear place given to us when we are alone.

Mark Strand


after Seathrun Ceitinn
Dear one, with your wiles,
You’d best remove your hand,
Though burning with love’s fires,
I’m no more an active man.

Look at the grey on my head,
See how my body droops,
Think of my sluggish blood –
What would you have me do?

It’s not desire I lack.
Don’t bend low like that again.
But love without the act
May live, slender minz.

Withdraw your lips from mine,
Strong as the inclination is,
Don’t brush against my skin,
That could lead to wantonness.

The intricacy of curls,
Soft eyes clear as dew,
The pale sight of your curves,
Gives pleasure to me now.

Bar what the body craves,
and lying with you requires,
I’ll do for our love’s sake,
Dear one, with your wiles.

Maurice Riordan
(from The Water Stealer, faber and faber)