An olive-wood fire and the local
pre-phylloxera survival red against
the cold wind outside, which is enough
of being, as if it were so grand.

Night folds its corners down
the terraced hillsides and
walks upright on the
wandering streams, but

No sound, of stream or wind, reaches here
or almost, and the fire darkens. Breathe words
across my ear, breathe a fear, second by
second, jar by jar, fear of war and world, be explicit.

Let a resistance grow here, far
from world but close to mind, how
close it lies, to hear its breath
against the inner ear,

A breath to banish fear.
Then the streams flow on
and the air follow,
down the valley towards the world.


Thought that distils
against my ear a tear
for the time and
a silent belief in peace. Our cargoes

Were sunk in the seas and now
lie calm under tumult. Our dead
recede behind the night clouds.
Remind me of what I once knew,

Breathe the truth back faintly across
my ear in this walled shelter and hear
the plants shake, the earth tumble.
There is only one peace, a lot further out.

by Peter Riley

‘Milia’ is copyright © Peter Riley, 2014. It was published by Two Rivers Press in the anthology The Arts of Peace in 2014, and is reprinted here by permission.

This is the second of two poems from The Arts of Peace: An Anthology of Poems, edited by Adrian Blamires and Peter Robinson. There will be a special event at the upcoming Reading Poetry Festival on Sunday 9 November featuring a number of poets whose work is included in the anthology. You can find out more about it and the rest of the events on the festival’s website.

If you are a student or member of staff at Oxford Brookes, enter our poetry competition on the themes of mental health and well-being. The deadline is Friday 13 February 2015, and poems should be submitted via email to: Find out more on the Poetry Centre website.

Peter Riley was born into an environment of working people in the Manchester area in 1940 and now lives in retirement in Hebden Bridge, having previously lived in Cambridge for many years. He has been a teacher, bookseller, and a few other things and is the author of some fifteen books of poetry, and two of prose concerning travel and music. His most recent book is The Glacial Stairway (Carcanet 2011). He contributes reviews of new poetry to the website The Fortnightly Review regularly. Peter Riley’s own website is April Eye, where you can find out more about his work, and you can also read an interview with him by Keith Tuma in an issue of Jacket magazine from April 2000.

This poem is taken from The Arts of Peace: An Anthology of Poems, edited by Adrian Blamires and Peter Robinson, and published by Two Rivers Press. The first of August 1914 saw the beginning of the war that was to end all wars and which, instead, ushered in a century of armed conflicts, two of them described as global. This anthology’s title is borrowed from Andrew Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’, in which he deprecates ‘the inglorious arts of peace’. With this gathering of newly composed poems, and against that grain, this anthology looks to celebrate all that is left behind in times of conflict and which conflict is so often evoked to defend. The more than fifty contributors include Fleur Adcock, Fred D’Aguiar, Gerald Dawe, Jane Draycott, Elaine Feinstein, Roy Fisher, Philip Gross, Allison McVety, Bill Manhire, John Matthias, and Carol Rumens.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.