Paul Burns – two poems


just before your eyes open
when the dream has an intensity
that makes it real
but at the same time magic

because it is before spring
or in the last of winter when spring is sensed
and before the trees ran out
too fast to bud, leaf and fall
before the process is revealed

inked in and stamped
that is the time when your finger feel
they can clutch something
out of the air, diamonds from the light
on the sea, gold seamed among the trees

and you open your eyes

call box

in red kiosks
at the corner of a Bloomsbury square
and in the Isle of Barra,
in a Cotswold village, the cold

concrete bases with flattened butts
piss stink and a view onto
another slow twilight
the black receivers wait

each light a yellow signal
to blackness, in starfields
of other boxes, shelters for one
or huddled couples, waiting

the enemy is not recording them.
He is sheltering from a storm of shellfire
somewhere in the future and we
are futureproofed with vanity, past victories

quiet countryside and stolid boxes
our pale lights flickering now
through summer beech trees,
ignored by London traffic, and
the frozen billions of suns

Paul Burns lives in rural South Cheshire, working with his wife on their flower farm. He plays and teaches guitar and writes when not too tired from carting compost.


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.