Two poems from Bernard O’Donoghue’s Farmers Cross

Bernard O’Donoghue’s new collection is a characteristically unassuming masterpiece and of the many wonderful poems in it I’m thrilled to be able to post my two favourites today. Without question it’s been one of the highlights of my poetry year – read a recent review from the Guardian by Paul Batchelor here and more on Bernard here.


for Yousif Qasmiyeh

Unhappy the man that keeps to the home place
and never finds time to escape to the city
where he can listen to the rain on the ceiling,
secure in the knowledge that it’s causing no damage
to roof-thatch or haystack or anything of his.

Unhappy the man that never got up
on a tragic May morning, to go to the station
dressed out for America, where he might have stood
by the Statue of Liberty, or drunk in the light
that floods all the streets that converge on Times Square.

Unhappy the man that has lacked the occasion
to return to the village on a sun-struck May morning,
to shake the hands of the neighbours he’d left
a lifetime ago and tell the world’s wonders,
before settling down by his hearth once again.

Clegs at Totleigh Barton

Plenty of gates to lean on around here,
and plenty of time to watch the horse-flies
on the dung, to see if they are really
generated from it. There is more chill
than blessing in this gentle breeze off Dartmoor,
more edge than you’d expect in September.
So: winter soon, after no summer.

Yes, this is the place: ‘Road liable to flooding’.
This is where Grace Ingoldby did handstands
on the frosty tarmac. Where Mick Imlah stayed,
when we nearly ran over the cliff
at Morwenstow, looking for Hawker’s hut
in which the old man composed, or didn’t.

Before Grace’s son died in the fire, and Grace died too.
Before Mick got ill. Today I am back on my own
to stare at these insects at their dreadful trade.

‘Now try your brakes’, it still says on the sign.

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