By Gillian Clarke

What tows it back tonight?
A bead of silver rolling among the stars,
and a jet’s growl trailing behind its light.

One distant afternoon, the house in a drowse
between Hoovers and teatime, I creep in,
open his desk, slide out the drawers.

Caught from the broken barometer, harm
caged in a tobacco tin, humming, glamorous,
loose and luminous as a swarm.

The thought of it still shivers in the bone,
how it breaks into beads then shoals at the tilt of the tin.
Dangerous quicksilver. I’m alone,

while the grown-ups nap in their rooms.
Nothing to do but open things, touch the forbidden,
the whole, slow, summer afternoon.

It could get under your skin, electricity
running your veins, nerves, bones.
It could light you up like a city.

A trick of the night sky and I’m there again, taking
a tiger out of a drawer, my promise, the law,
silence, his trust, my heart, all of it breaking.


From the Gillian Clarke’s Selected Poems.

National Poet of Wales, winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and the Wilfred Owen Association Poetry award, Clarke is one of the best-known names in UK poetry today, as well as one of the most popular poets on the school curriculum.

Over the past four decades her work has examined nature, womanhood, art, music, Welsh history -  and always with the lyric and imagistic precision by which her poetry is instantly recognisable. 

Gillian Clarke will be visiting bookshops across the UK as part of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s Shore To Shore poetry tour. For tour dates and tickets visit

Gillian Clarke’s Selected Poems is out on 19th May. Read 'Blaen Cwrt' poem from the collection here

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