Transparent Words - Poetry


6 Poems by Stuart Nunn





Flicker and twitch.

Spring breeze applies the jump-leads

and I’m awake again.

Neurotic as new lambs,

shake and shudder.


I can’t help it,

the way my eyebrows jerk.

Oh, the inconvenience of life


Sunlight through branches

gives me the shakes.

Too much is expected.

I can’t live up to this.




Pulmonaria longifolia




After seasons of struggle his lungs

fill with early spring.


Blotches are evidence

of a youth

of illegal substances,

being paid for now.


Hear him wheeze

as he shoulders cold aside.

Promiscuous, tubercular,

his sex-life is unexplained,

lurks on dodgy websites.

But he keeps on coming.




Cwm Du


Prodigious, the effort of getting here

an unsuspected valley, dark and streaming

in the rain. In spite of all our care

the path had disappeared, leaving us scrambling

down an unmarked slope. And there,


behind a half-sunk boulder in the beck,

of all things, a half-deflated red balloon.

A carefully printed postcard in a plastic bag

told the story. If you find this, please return

to Thomas Clark (and then the address) aged six.


He’d held this straining thing, and let it go,

and watched it rise, wagging the hanging card,

turn north, diminish in the air. Then did he sigh,

go on to something else, forget it, lose the thread,

leaving his red balloon to find its own way?


And this is where it ended up at last,

a refugee of the air, far beyond Tom’s guess.

Hills gashed by cataracts, trees almost lost

in the cliff’s blackness. Our card will take back news

and whisper of the years he’s still to cross.




An April morning

from the Spanish of Antonio Machado


There was a morning and April was smiling.

Facing the golden horizon, the moon

was dying, white as pearl and cryptic;

crossed by a cloud, so thin, a daydream,

not enough to disturb a star.


For the smiling of the pink morning

I opened my window to the eastern sun;

and into my sad bedroom flowed the orient

in a song of skylarks, in the laugh of a fountain

and in the sweet perfume of early flowers.


There was a clear evening of melancholy.

April was smiling. I opened the windows

of my house to the wind … The wind brought

the scent of roses, a bell tolling …


A distant bell tolling, sorrowful,

sweet with the sugared breath of roses …

Where are the baroque orchards of roses?

What do the sweet bells say to the wind?


I asked the April evening that was dying:

In the end will happiness come to my house?

The April evening smiled: Joy

passed by your door – and then was sad:

Passed by your door. It doesn’t come twice.




On First Looking Into A Pornographic Website


Here are no realms of gold, no peak in Panama.

See the Formica coffee table, washing left to dry

on radiators, fluffy toys, glass ornaments

that give the lie to what all this is meant to be.


The nubile Asian babe, whose eyes are thirty-eight,

the naughty boy, whose briefcase holds the tools of his trade,

hands that knead and spread, pump, grope and penetrate:

flesh that displays what imagination might have tried.


Flesh is all it comes to. Breasts that have suckled silicon;

haunches astride an emptiness; heads shielded by the frame,

or eyes that challenge us to games of strip-jack-naked –

flesh that’s the same: everywhere and all the time.


These screens have ambitions to be a mirror.

Don’t look away. O mon semblable, mon frere.






The Lady and the Unicorn


She has nothing to say to him,

keeps her own counsel, as the temptations

pass her by. Her fingers touch the keys

but no sound emerges, dally with the offered pearls

of sweetness, but has eyes only

for the kestrel on her fist.


He looks at us, self-satisfied,

knows he has no lasting place anywhere,

is half a myth already.

He’d like us to admire his horn,

but knows there’d be no future in it.


Only the maid is looking what she’s doing.

Paid to care, she manages the thing

beautifully, is just in the right place.

Thinks: ‘That’s the upper classes for you.

Nothing in their heads but failing species,

and spoiling left-overs that I might have had.’









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