Paul Burns – three poems

the little ships

returned each day to the blackened beach
and pulled oil- and blood-soaked men
away to the island where the sound of the guns
faded, and the country so green it hurt the eyes

and still hundreds of thousands thronged
in chest deep lines, desperate men
looking for the ships’ faint smoke
on a slate horizon

blankets and tea, and rum
and matter of fact voices
led them to mansions and village halls
ignoring their skin and language

because, they were told, you are home
now, we are all in this
together, we must all defend
our freedoms

looking to that greyness now
the same shelterless waves,
the edge of everything, thousands wait
and no ships come.

previously published on I am not a silent poet

An Education

until I walked through Bodnick Wood again
and saw where snow had drifted through the fence
three years or so ago, stilled white confection
a world of marzipan piled to chest height

and where bluebells thread the fallen branches
come the spring; and see now beech leaves spread
a copper blanket, feel the mist drops settle
on my face beneath the streaming trees,

until I stopped and watched the hills blur over
in November dripping dusk, and set this down
I might have missed some very simple point
I could have thought I’ve never learned a thing.

banks of the Humber; unlocked land

I passed a sawmill looking for the river
and found a brackish inlet choked with boats
a spinney of masts brushing the clouds

My eyes swam in the squalls
staring at the muddy waves, as a wild sky
worked its passage over me

I imagined breathing silt
flailing in the deep opacity; easy here
to be dragged out of the world

downstream, skeletal cranes
hunched over empty docks
the Humber’s cities murmured

as trucks crossed the long bridge,
ants over a bone. The river opened
to drowned church bells tolling in the current

and my feet sucked into the mud, welling streams
from what had been firm ground.

Paul Burns lives in rural south Cheshire where he runs a flower farm with his wife. He plays and teaches guitar and has recently returned to poetry, thanks to Jo Bell and her 52 group, after a 15 year break. His work has appeared in Staple, Tears In the Fence, Obsessed with Pipework and Ink Sweat and Tears.


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