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Treatise on light

Vessels shaped by the light they hold

are given a name

gazelle             kidneys            Titian             

to hold the light, to keep it still long enough

to give us what we have to hold to

carburettor      geranium         quartz


then Thomas Young opens a window

onto a London morning two centuries ago

and things haven’t been the same since.  He catches

the light that enters his room and splits it in two

revealing waves that spread out into the invisible

that cross one another forming a disturbance we call

sorrow             history             desire


now we know those rustling packets we call

God                 love                 time    

are simply waves playing further out into what

we no longer have a name for

bringing what we have no name for

into the shallows of this world

breaking onto the platform

rolling along the street


waves eddy and collide

interfering with particles that constitute our life

growing stronger as they approach

fate                  despair            memory

light bent in different ways


their tug draws us out and down

leaving us, if we’re lucky, no more than

perplexed, sensing that something

that lies outside names has passed

still draws us in its wake


but when a wave lifts us

the good days can be so simple:

a pizza shop empty

but for me, my wife, her mother and her friend

in knitted hats, unwinding scarves

and at another table, a group of joshing pensioners

glass sugar shakers on the plastic menus

catching pewter light

and the pier opposite, extending a runway

for rain announcing itself over the bay.

Shortlisted, Bridport Poetry Prize 2022

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