Friday poem: 'Burning Eyes' by John Kinsella

11 July 2014

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.

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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

'Burning Eyes' is published in Armour by John Kinsella.

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