Transparent Words - Poetry


5 Poems by Lesley Burt



Cover Story



Everyman volumes lined my Grandad’s shelves.

Their frayed cloth covers, faded grey and brown,

disguised the words of Austen, Dickens, Graves,

the Brontës, Shakespeare, Shelley, Dickens, Donne.

Open pages liberated magic,

like genies from lamps, news from Pandora’s Box.

Conscience tries to insist: don’t judge a book

by its cover. But Bookends’ paperbacks

(Buy One Get One ˝ Price) offer tactile,

visual –  not just textual – temptations:

eggshell, gloss, satin; saffron, pink, purple;

prints of Old Masters, photographs, patterns.

They enchant me before I search authors:

Duffy, Dunmore, Grant, Heaney, Shreve, Amis.





Delhi in January



We watch the particular slant

of dawn light

flaunt the red-and-whiteness

of a sandstone and marble temple.


Inside, sanctums are dedicated

to Lakshmi, Durga, Shiva;

Ganesh, adorned with marigolds.


And scattered among

shrines, statues, flowers:

dozens of swastikas. 


The guide reassures: 

note the difference –

fascists commandeered

ancient holy symbols;

slanted shape and meaning.


My mind unreels

black-and-white images of Nazi ranks

goose-stepping, saluting flags

that flourish the defiled shape.


By the time we emerge,

streets teem with snake charmers,

peddlers, beggars;

air brown with fumes;

tour bus sauna-hot.



Miners’ Strike 1984-85


Charlie was in the British Battalion,

seventeen when they fought at Córdoba.

A battle on home ground here:

collecting for Aberpergwm families

outside Sainsburys.


This is Bournemouth,

not The Valleys.

No locals cheer or form a choir.


Most hurry for tabloids

emblazoned with headlines

extolling the Iron Lady.

A few dig into purses;

we are not licensed for cash,

so Charlie guards

the bin of tinned food

while I run inside to shop

for soup and beans.


Every Saturday

the same short, portly gent

struts by, gasps, glares, hurries

into the Conservative Club;

ten minutes later a constable

stops by.


This is no Orgreave so

no dark uniforms on horseback;

no riot shields. 


He wears a stern expression;

circles us to check for signs

of an illegal stash, and whether

we are obstructing the highway.


We move the bin a few inches.

I maintain a polite smile while

Charlie intones a couple of lines

from the Internationale,

although only we

recognise the melody.



Snow …


… muffles night noises,

casts light, unmistakeable

even before you open curtains;


… creaks underfoot,

etches soles-and-heels

and pronged patterns where birds

scout for food;


… freezes tyre furrows,

skids traffic

and slides people into damp heaps

on pavements;


… then collapses

as grey slush mixed with grit;

street litter revealed;

gardens back to dirt.



we hope for another fall

to make fairytales of forests

and Disney villages

of terraced houses; 

pristine cover.




Start of Spring



On February 19th, you notice

dark feathers have begun to speckle

black-headed gulls’ white winter caps…


… and around the same time,

flimsy petals decorate bare twigs

like ikebana.


Everyone says: Start of spring.


But while you were still ‘on hold’,

huddled close to radiators,

talking of brighter days to come,


corms were already

sending shoots skywards

through midwinter earth.



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