Just There: More poems through uncertain times

Another rough time. More poems. Mostly written in the gorgeous Trent Park in Enfield. I hope you like them.

My new collection ‘Elephants (Fragile) is out now, published by Cinnamon Books. It has just been longlisted in the Saboteurs Award for Best New Pamphlet.


I am unsure whether I am well or ill
the morning is suspenseful
with mind having slipped its mooring.
We look together for signs

but ignore
the tree out-wintering its leaves
puffed up sparrows in the sparse branches
or yesterday’s spotlit blossom

and cannot gather in
the touch of friends. Here instead

is a dead fox
by the side of the main road
struck, lifted across the traffic and laid down
by a killer’s gentle hand.


A thrush, I think, sings from its thicket
and I step out from the path
through churned mud and grass

closing in, now with my glasses on.
It is a thrush. Definitely.
I make out the speckles on its breast.

Probably a song thrush, perhaps
a mistle thrush. Nevertheless
it sings. Not one

melody, but a weave
of clear-throatedness

gathering the disentangling sky
while nearby a silent blackbird looks up
at the hovering sparrow hawk.

The Stone Cat

Yesterday the stone cat was a door stop
and we walked in from the sun

without noticing her. Today
she is inside with the rest of us

who won’t leave for a while.
Miserable weather says one.

Marmalade and tan and lifelike,
white chest and pricked up ears

looking up at the heater.
I try for what she hears:

mutterings of passers by,
curtaining rain on the roof.

I ride out the morning
with tea and milk in a plastic cup

reading the wallcharts about animals:
A squirrel’s nest is a drey.

I now know the difference
between redwing, thrush and fieldfare.

Heaving for definition, certainty
sanctuary, but learning more I hope

from creatures real or otherwise
that don’t say much.


“Unless you’re wearing really good waterproof boots
the paths can be a bit tricky
but the sun is coming out soon
and that will be nice

I’ve got daffodils coming out this year
and that will be nice

We went to see Paddington last week
and that was really nice.

I have to say
my daughter is coming over from the States in June
and that will be nice too”

Another Small Bird

It is a surprise to feel the feathery weight
of another small bird
landed on my narrowed shoulder.

It has come a long way
but from where?

I am unused to a chirrup.
A pathetic little sound
in the scheme of what is happening.

It takes a while to attune. Longer even
than the curved spine to straighten

or shoulder to fill out
so that it can settle to its song. Longer
than an overture to intuit, write
then orchestrate, let alone to air

and how to discern
a note within the bedlam?

Yet this small bird waits – being
the smallest of its kind, hardly
distinguishable from the rest.

This Morning Forever

The gap-toothed girl in red shoes and pink helmet
pumps her scooter down the long path
swerving through dogs and oncoming joggers
ponytail flying loosed from its ribbons
tongue sticking out like a lollipop

then way way off she stops and laughs
out loud for nobody but herself
this morning forever the universe
bright stars blazing on her blue jacket
and a Yorkshire Terrier rolls in the grass


I have grown tired of thought
and with eyes lowered
do not look ahead.

I have no choice but to fall
in love with the ground
more than with what

may be above. And the path here
is no longer a path
but mere stone after stone

and it is hard
to fall in love with stone.

Just There

the carp hangs in the balance of its water
allowing itself to rise

the flautist – a Poulenc sonata –
careful not to force the breath beyond its register
as if the instrument was whispering in return
hold back hold back a little
and the music will come

between presence and intention

the faltering foal
a leaf about to fall
feather in the palm

thought drifting and untethered

noticing the mist for the first time
layering the dawn field
if I could

hold myself just there
for hope to arrive of itself

A child reaches out for the rain

collecting all the droplets
in his cupped palms

brimful of hope by this dismal path,
work that takes all afternoon

and when blackbirds announce the dusk
he would pour these tears
into his little purple bag

then shake them up.

He will be
my night’s magician
carrying carrying while I sleep.

The Strings

These bouts seem always to end in a room
with a slide of rain down windows
surrounded by grey and someone
close to being me again
struck by violin. This time
the G Major Sonata by Brahms
(last time Haydn) and being able – small things –
to listen. To hear
then a
curled up cat on this evening’s bed
a book, a breath, the radio
this same warm fall of tears and –
dear god or whatever, never again – the strings:
their twisting, near ache and rest.

If you liked these poems, there are more at http://www.futurepatientblog.com

All poems © 2018 David Gilbert



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