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Best Famous John Burnside Poems


Here is a collection of the all-time best famous John Burnside poems. This is a select list of the best famous John Burnside poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous John Burnside poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of John Burnside poems.

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by John Burnside |

Snake

 I saw a young snake glide
Out of the mottled shade
And hang, limp on a stone:
A thin mouth, and a tongue
Stayed, in the still air.

It turned; it drew away;
Its shadow bent in half;
It quickened and was gone

I felt my slow blood warm.
I longed to be that thing.
The pure, sensuous form.

And I may be, some time.


by John Burnside |

Snake

 As cats bring their smiling
mouse-kills and hypnotised birds, 
slinking home under the light 
of a summer's morning
to offer the gift of a corpse,

you carry home the snake you thought 
was sunning itself on a rock
at the river's edge: 
sun-fretted, gracile,
it shimmies and sways in your hands 
like a muscle of light,
and you gather it up like a braid 
for my admiration. 

I can't shake the old wife's tale 
that snakes never die,
they hang in a seamless dream 
of frogskin and water,
preserving a ribbon of heat 
in a bone or a vein,
a cold-blooded creature's 
promise of resurrection, 

and I'm amazed to see you shuffle off
the woman I've know for years,
tracing the lithe, hard body, the hinge of the jaw, 
the tension where sex might be, that I always assume 
is neuter, when I walk our muffled house
at nightfall, throwing switches, locking doors.


by John Burnside |

Landscapes

 Behind faces and gestures 
We remain mute 
And spoken words heavy 
With what we ignore or keep silent 
Betray us 

I dare not speak for mankind 
I know so little of myself 

But the Landscape 

I see as a reflection 
Is also a lie stealing into 
My words I speak without remorse 
Of this image of myself 
And mankind my unequaled torment 

I speak of Desert without repose 
Carved by relentless winds 
Torn up from its bowels 

Blinded by sands 
Unsheltered solitary 
Yellow as death 
Wrinkled like parchment 
Face turned to the sun. 

I speak 
Of men's passing 
So rare in this arid land 
That it is cherished like a refrain 
Until the return 
Of the jealous wind 

And of the bird, so rare, 
Whose fleeting shadow 
Soothes the wounds made by the sun 

And of the tree and the water 
Named Oasis 
For a woman's love 

I speak of the voracious Sea 
Reclaiming shells from beaches 
Waves from children 

The faceless Sea 
Its hundreds of drowned faces 
Wrapped in seaweed 
Slippery and green 
Like creatures of the deep 

The reckless Sea, unfinished story, 
Removed from anquish 
Full of death tales 

I speak of open valleys 
Fertile at men's feet 
Overgrown with flowers 

Of captive summits 

Of mountains, of clear skies 
Devoured by untamed evergreens 

And of trees that know 
The welcome of lakes 
Black earth 
Errant pathways 

Echoes of the faces 
Haunting our days.


by John Burnside |

Agoraphobia

 My whole world is all you refuse:
a black light, angelic and cold
on the path to the orchard,
fox-runs and clouded lanes and the glitter of webbing,
little owls snagged in the fruit nets
out by the wire
and the sense of another life, that persists
when I go out into the yard
and the cattle stand round me, obstinate and dumb.
All afternoon, I've worked at the edge of your vision,
mending fences, marking out our bounds.
Now it is dusk, I turn back to the house
and catch you, like the pale Eurydice
of children's classics, venturing a glance
at nothing, at this washed infinity 
of birchwoods and sky and the wet streets leading away
to all you forget: the otherworld, lucid and cold
with floodlights and passing trains and the noise of traffic
and nothing like the map you sometimes
study for its empty bridlepaths,
its hill-tracks and lanes and roads winding down to a coast
of narrow harbors, lit against the sea.


by John Burnside |

Septuagesima

 I dream of the silence
the day before Adam came
to name the animals,

The gold skins newly dropped
from God's bright fingers, still 
implicit with the light.

A day like this, perhaps:
a winter whiteness
haunting the creation,

as we are sometimes
haunted by the space
we fill, or by the forms

we might have known
before the names,
beyond the gloss of things.


by John Burnside |

Landscapes

 Behind faces and gestures
We remain mute
And spoken words heavy
With what we ignore or keep silent
Betray us

I dare not speak for mankind
I know so little of myself

But the Landscape

I see as a reflection
Is also a lie stealing into
My words I speak without remorse
Of this image of myself
And mankind my unequaled torment

I speak of Desert without repose
Carved by relentless winds
Torn up from its bowels

Blinded by sands
Unsheltered solitary
Yellow as death
Wrinkled like parchment
Face turned to the sun.

I speak
Of men's passing
So rare in this arid land
That it is cherished like a refrain
Until the return
Of the jealous wind

And of the bird, so rare,
Whose fleeting shadow
Soothes the wounds made by the sun

And of the tree and the water
Named Oasis
For a woman's love

I speak of the voracious Sea 
Reclaiming shells from beaches
Waves from children

The faceless Sea
Its hundreds of drowned faces
Wrapped in seaweed
Slippery and green
Like creatures of the deep

The reckless Sea, unfinished story,
Removed from anquish
Full of death tales

I speak of open valleys
Fertile at men's feet
Overgrown with flowers

Of captive summits

Of mountains, of clear skies
Devoured by untamed evergreens

And of trees that know
The welcome of lakes
Black earth
Errant pathways

Echoes of the faces
Haunting our days.