Friday poem: 'Burning Eyes' by John Kinsella

This week's poem is 'Burning Eyes' by John Kinsella. I find the intensity of this encounter with nature, and the mystery of it, compelling: the sense of a vivid presence, the consciousness behind...

10/07/2014
2 minutes to read


This week's poem is 'Burning Eyes' by John Kinsella. I find the intensity of this encounter with nature, and the mystery of it, compelling: the sense of a vivid presence, the consciousness behind the glint. The personal way in which this experience is related seems to point to an almost political ideal of attentiveness to the world and responsible stewardship of it.

Happy reading,
Sarah, Picador poetry editor

Burning Eyes

Burning eyes that peer out of a dry crop at night,
shape the seasons and our response –
twin sparks that light the driest stalks
fail to flame, won’t combust where you pass.

I see them each night driving home, lit up
by headlights – fox, cat, a rare marsupial
frozen between rows, magnetised by the car’s approach.
So frequent over the last fortnight that a pall

of doubt has gripped me: an afterimage I carry
from that first encounter, reigniting in time,
same point every night. I can’t bring myself to vary
the plan, to alter the variables; the scheme

of sight, of shine and glint, has trapped
us both. The dry is drying out towards harvest.
Not a vestige of moisture in the stalks – either way,
burning eyes will pass out, lack fuel to conflagrate.

Something must break. I will go away before night
comes to pass as day, or day eats far into night
with burning eyes that peer out of a dry crop.
It’s the eclipse of content where compulsion stops.


Armour

by John Kinsella

Book cover for 9780330511841

With Armour, the great Australian poet John Kinsella has written his most spiritual work to date – and his most politically engaged. The world in which these poems unfold is strangely poised between the material and the immaterial, and everything which enters it – kestrel and fox, moth and almond – does so illuminated by its own vivid presence: the impression is less a poet honouring his subjects than uncannily inhabiting them. Elsewhere we find a poetry of lyric protest, as Kinsella scrutinizes the equivocal place of the human within this natural landscape, both as tenant and self-appointed steward. Armour is a beautifully various work, one of sharp ecological and social critique – but also one of meticulous invocation and quiet astonishment, whose atmosphere will haunt the reader long after they close the book.