Lesser Whitethroat

                                  Something disappears
Is it knowledge?
                                   Or is it something more precious?
           Pressed grass where weight should have been,
                                              a tree limb uncontrollably shaking,
leaves on their way down,
                                              the mind rattling under a hat-brim
                       a cat, blank off the ground –


Make this the opening that you prayed for.

                                               You can change sides,
                        scale the wall, distill every one of your wishes
                    into the bandit’s bliss. Lift yourself,

                                   and you will flow through a thousand airs –
                       with each adjustment you might lose strength,
                                 climb and take height
                      climb and take one story at a time.

                      Land light above a window, a busy kitchen
                                  is best,
                      the room with the burning hearth will also do.
          Take in the fragrance of daily life,
but do not take part. Your feet might walk rooftops,
                                    but your head graces heaven
shoulder to shoulder with the incense and the graspless.

Wherever you find doorways slip in as if indigenous,
                       or a hole –
            keep your breathing pressed,
less, lesser, less…

                                   You are the size of a mouse
the introverted house guest,
           whether you are dressed in monk’s grey,
           the dusty cloak of an old mountain hag…

           if you are seen
           to be a man, not a man –
                                  your feathers remain the same.
If anyone should ask, your Western name
                                                                is Sylvia.
Do you understand?

Remember, if you are caught, you are neither
                                                           our son nor our daughter.
             You are an orphan,
             but you also have many kin –
                         in the Sahara, Arabia, India, Mongolia…
                                    even Siberia, such ideas are comforting.

Remember everything you have accomplished
           everybody you love… then drop them over the edge.
                                  Now you are lesser,
                                                                     more enlightened,
            If you should be mistaken for a common
            thief, if you are about to lose your hand –
                                               make your heart stay red,
seal your mouth and freeze your throat.
                                    At your centre you shall hurt
                                    until you glow
                                                          and become so beautiful.
                                                                                              Silence is so…
I am afraid
            you will find there is nowhere else to go,
There are so many thorns in the hedgerow – the land fruitless.

                        The mountain pass?               Impossible
                                                                                   under this new snow.

by Eileen Pun

The Poetry Centre has some very exciting news to announce this week, as we begin a wonderful new chapter (or stanza) in our work. Tune into our social media or check our website for details this Friday…

The programme for the Woodstock Poetry Festival (10-12 November) has been announced, and features readings by a host of celebrated writers, such as Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, George Szirtes, and David Harsent. For more information and to book your tickets, visit the Woodstock Bookshop website.

‘Lesser Whitethroat’ is copyright © Eileen Pun, 2015. It is reprinted from Birdbook III: Farmland, Heathland, Mountain, Moorland (Sidekick Books, 2015) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Eileen Pun was born in New York, US and now lives in Grasmere, Cumbria where she works as a freelance writer, poet and artist. Her work has recently been published in several young poets anthologies, including a showcase of new Black and Asian writing in the UK: Ten, The New Wave published by Bloodaxe (2014). In 2015, Eileen was a recipient of the UK Northern Writer’s Award (England). She also received a Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship (LUTSF) to China in support of her interdisciplinary work in movement and poetry. In March 2016 Eileen was invited as a guest reader for a residential to the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre, Lumb Bank for Creative Writing. Read more about Eileen’s work on her website.

With this poem we continue our selection of poems from Sidekick Books’ four volumes of Birdbooks. In 2009, with two micro-compendiums under their belt, Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, the editors at Sidekick, discussed the idea of a book of bird poetry – but one in which less well known species were on equal terms with the popular ones. There are dozens of poems about herons, eagles, ravens and nightingales, not so many about the whimbrel, the ruff, the widgeon or the hobby. Paper-cut artist Lois Cordelia was recruited to give the series its distinctive covers, and over 150 artists and illustrators were commissioned over six years to complete the series. The first volume is now in its second printing. Find out more about the Birdbook series on the Sidekick website.

Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via Twitter.

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.