March 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Nick Scammell contrasts W.N. Herbert’s poem, Breakfrost, with one of his own, which owes its genesis to it. The former proposes the idea of medieval photographs while the latter meditates on carrier bags as contemporary presiding spirits of place.


The frost is touching everything before the sun:
each blade has a pencil nudity that makes
the yolk-like orange seem already old,
each flatness reached, brick-like,
as though all cold was urban.
Sheep crunch its windscreen splinters,
horses’ heads are glued to it down the blue
flanks of shade. Each leaf is a sucrose flake.
Its intimacy is more exhausting than light.

Morning’s sepia, like medieval photographs,
has to fight its way through each scattered grain.
And hollows will persist, like patches left
by the Dark Age bulks of giant sleeping saints,
since Christianity was like a glacier.

Each shadow stuck to it like a tongue
is long and brittle. Everything is biscuit,
feather, spit, viscous, barded, as though
the land was bait for light, hooking it
and holding it close, gutting the photons
for their kernels of warmth.



Here’s a crisp orange flake
glued large to the grass
and another,
a ragged throwaway sun
hitched to a treetop,
the future concealed
in its twitches and shifts,
lord high protector
and ground-bound guardian of locality –
twin presidents,
And the quiet breathing
of those lost souls
on silent roads:
Nameless travellers,
unbranded spirits,
jellyfish, dancers,
spirits borne high,
chasing their tails,
and spun low,
Placid, Taciturn drifters,
anonymous breeze-riders, gulping,
Trying to contain and keep
The wind that is the city,
Being ceaselessly filled and emptied,
Blown inside out and right side in,
Spinning over and over,
Skating, skuttering, skipping,
Chasing then chased,
Never landing for long
never still when watched.
A ducking and diving
Dallying, twirling
Symbol of freedom
Grubby, white, fishy,
Idling at the crossroads
Defiant of red lights
And waiting cars
Then driven to full sail as wheels roll
barrelling up the road
In the swish between 2 lanes
Before ducking suddenly
Behind a high white wall.
Later found stuck to a wet pavement,
shivering, glistening, only
a dead leaf for a friend
as the sky darkens.



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