'Nocturnal', a poem from QUICKSILVER (Lapwing, 2022)

'Nocturnal', a poem from my collection Quicksilver (Lapwing, Belfast 2022)

'Nocturnal', a poem from QUICKSILVER (Lapwing, 2022)
Photo by KT / Unsplash


There’s light enough from our kitchen window
to crisp the pear-tree’s long black shadow
and enough clarity in the sky for me to see
the crescent moon above her skirt of stars.
My cigarette is a small glow in the darkness
that is everything else, and illumines
only itself – not the apple tree, which is
larger than I remember it; nor the thick clump
of Michaelmas daisies, which are still,
and even blacker than surrounding night.
I sense the cats moving furtively about
in neighbouring gardens. I prowl like them
in silence – inhaling smoke, tasting on my tongue
the secret solitude of transgression.

My tread leaves footprints in the frosted lawn.
When I give up and go indoors, they will be
invisible to human eyes till dawn.
The sun will come up behind the church
to melt them and conceal. It is 3.00 a.m.
No-one moves inside. The quiet presses in.
If I could unsay what I have said I would
unsay it; if I could undo what I have done
I would undo it. The sodden leaves
of the Japanese anemones are dead,
and lit up under the window. They cannot
green and unfurl; their lovely white flowers
will never return. I stub out my cigarette.
It is too late now. It has always been too late.

QUICKSILVER can be purchased direct from me, at 10£ per copy, plus postage and packing. Please email me at lucy.newlyn@seh.ox.ac.uk to order a copy.