The Word for Wood 

All winter I have pursued the flat voice  

of my reading. Simple words  

have charged themselves against me,  

or filled themselves up while I was looking elsewhere.  

There is a double sense that things are just  

wrong. Or wrongly labelled.  

I cannot, for instance, figure out  

how the light has thrown my shadow  

upside down on the wall  

across the river as I walk beneath the bridge.  


The fertility symbols of other, older cultures  

harass me through the cold wood.  

The sounds of jackdaws going berserk  

(though the sound is not their name…).  

I might as well come clean –  

all this is to impress somebody else  

though they have long given up interest.  

First I read they had left the conversation,  

then I watched them leave the house,  

finally I heard they left town.  


Sometimes this place is barely an eco-system,  

and I am just another walker  

in the landscape. A golfer who has got lost  

and is wearing the wrong jacket.  

Of course there is a section in darkness.  

Let’s call it the late-middle.  

Your dogs have wandered off the path –  

followed their innate memories of the pack  

into the wood. The howls are maddening. 

from 'Country Music' (Offord Road Books, 2020), © Will Burns 2020, used by permission of the author.

Will Burns is a poet and novelist. He first came to prominence in 2014 as a Faber New Poet and has since authored poetry collections ...

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