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Three poems by Stephen Milne

First volume of poems, Moorings, due this year

Stephen Milne
Stephen Milne

Bouzincourt

  • The woods are full of the sound of birds
  • and the doors of every village shuttered to the sun.
  • In lingering fields of wheat, white crosses burn:
  • the names of all our dead are silent words.
  • Trees once cracked and broken bloom again.
  • Poppies are accents of accidental blood.
  • Each tomb has an epitaph: unknown, beloved,
  • regretted. Marks of valour are their own sign.
  • On every martyred lane a rumour grows.
  • Death — whose brothers, uncles, husbands, friends
  • have left their agony amongst the green —
  • has sown itself a resurrection from the soil.
  • Not once each year, but every day they sing,
  • the nightingales of Bouzincourt, Ancre and La Boiselle.

The Somme, France 2012

Stealing Gooseberries

  • Over the red wall in the dust the low drills
  • drew us to their strung wires, electric with light.
  • The first wire spooked us like bird shadows,
  • lifted as easily as crumbling roots.
  • Then, without thought, that sweet-sour bitterness
  • of the green forbidden fruit, its fuzzy
  • roundness marble-hard, a taste of breaking waves
  • emerald-white under creaking, ancient trees.
  • Our tongues tied, tangled with summer seed,
  • we ate among the thousand silver leaves
  • that fluttered in the solar darkness like flares.
  • Aldebaran brought with it frost, our first taste
  • of winter’s hoary ice, flooding from our senses
  • the age-old drama of guilt and innocence.

Poacher

  • Wheat crackles under the beams of his arc-lights,
  • their great eyes blind to the presence of strangers.
  • From the edge of an old car, he hunts by stealth,
  • reaches through darkness for each small death,
  • gropes under starlight for the taut limbs of the hare.
  • My arrival disturbs him, sends him back
  • into the blindness of fear and betrayal,
  • of wings whirring in the panic of flight.
  • He knows, with the practice of years, how blood
  • gives off its own unconscious sound and scent.
  • Alone with the morning, he counts his catch,
  • the dripping fields twitching into life.
  • He admits, if you ask him, that tradition is wrong.
  • Dawn’s carcass hangs in his shed,
  • its sudden trophies half-lit and bled.

Stephen Milne lives and works in Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom. He has been previously published in a number of small magazines and journals and is married with six children. He is planning to release his first volume of poems, entitled Moorings, later this year.

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Stephen Milne
Stephen Milne

Bouzincourt

  • The woods are full of the sound of birds
  • and the doors of every village shuttered to the sun.
  • In lingering fields of wheat, white crosses burn:
  • the names of all our dead are silent words.
  • Trees once cracked and broken bloom again.
  • Poppies are accents of accidental blood.
  • Each tomb has an epitaph: unknown, beloved,
  • regretted. Marks of valour are their own sign.
  • On every martyred lane a rumour grows.
  • Death — whose brothers, uncles, husbands, friends
  • have left their agony amongst the green —
  • has sown itself a resurrection from the soil.
  • Not once each year, but every day they sing,
  • the nightingales of Bouzincourt, Ancre and La Boiselle.

The Somme, France 2012

Stealing Gooseberries

  • Over the red wall in the dust the low drills
  • drew us to their strung wires, electric with light.
  • The first wire spooked us like bird shadows,
  • lifted as easily as crumbling roots.
  • Then, without thought, that sweet-sour bitterness
  • of the green forbidden fruit, its fuzzy
  • roundness marble-hard, a taste of breaking waves
  • emerald-white under creaking, ancient trees.
  • Our tongues tied, tangled with summer seed,
  • we ate among the thousand silver leaves
  • that fluttered in the solar darkness like flares.
  • Aldebaran brought with it frost, our first taste
  • of winter’s hoary ice, flooding from our senses
  • the age-old drama of guilt and innocence.

Poacher

  • Wheat crackles under the beams of his arc-lights,
  • their great eyes blind to the presence of strangers.
  • From the edge of an old car, he hunts by stealth,
  • reaches through darkness for each small death,
  • gropes under starlight for the taut limbs of the hare.
  • My arrival disturbs him, sends him back
  • into the blindness of fear and betrayal,
  • of wings whirring in the panic of flight.
  • He knows, with the practice of years, how blood
  • gives off its own unconscious sound and scent.
  • Alone with the morning, he counts his catch,
  • the dripping fields twitching into life.
  • He admits, if you ask him, that tradition is wrong.
  • Dawn’s carcass hangs in his shed,
  • its sudden trophies half-lit and bled.

Stephen Milne lives and works in Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom. He has been previously published in a number of small magazines and journals and is married with six children. He is planning to release his first volume of poems, entitled Moorings, later this year.

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