Lytton Smith

New British

Aboard, at home
again, and now a little wind but little wind
and stone and green. Dead of winter, and
this beech wood’s mind next to my own skin.
November: what was it you said again
there by the river—
The King and Queen of Dumfriesshire.
The Long Man of Wilmington winces.

The drone of a saw exactly as the setting
sun jolts on, the houses petered out.
A cairn of rain. The way I learned the year
began with baleful auguries. I loved the rain.
I loved the light, of course, next to my own skin.
Herring-bone and fern, my friends hunted
beasts four-fathoms long, but perfectly gentle.
The sea is made of ponds. I’m fond, nereids
and nymphs. I have in my possession
the Kentish Independent. Let there be braziers.
This could be the mind’s antechamber.
Clara, your house at childhood’s end,
the wind in a field of corn. If I remember,
his first letter: “the first rule is to pacify
the wives.” One day, no one sees me.
In the sleeping ward, in the centre
of the sheep-field, lemurs somehow
at the lilt of the road. This Roman road.
Brethren, I know that many of you have come here today
after the full-day’s westward drive:
anything can be forgotten. Someone explained once that
the past is the antithesis of burglary
and you ask whether I am ever coming back.

Lytton Smith
“New British” is from The All-Purpose Magical Tent (Nightboat Books, 2009).