that night, I saw god under a traffic light

he told me how he’d had to leave his wife and son that week.
dreams that drop him in a ditch of cold sweat in the night.
how they’re better off without him: without him, a better life.
I offered him a rollie. he said they made him think of burnt hair

and we are there: shrapnel and mist, dead friends fizzing
around him like leaves; a body twisting against his camo vest
but he can’t get close enough, he’s using his bare hands
to put out the little girl on fire – and I remember him

reaching with raw eyes underneath a traffic light: guilt
for the part he played, hunger and hatred for himself; grief
is a heavy thing that’s difficult to put down, even now
he’s handing me this story, as if to say: hold her.

by Shaun Hill

he Poetry Centre is delighted to announce two new ignitionpoets! Pamphlets by Michaela Coplen and Jacob Ramírez will be published in June and you can find out more about the poets on our website.

‘that night, I saw god under a traffic light’ is copyright © Shaun Hill, 2021 and is reprinted from warm blooded things (Nine Arches Press, 2021) by permission of Nine Arches Press.

Notes from Nine Arches Press:

Shaun Hill’s debut poetry collection, warm blooded things, is a radical and intimate encounter with boyhood, sexuality, and violence, love, desire and solitude. Wandering the nocturnal city streets, through random encounters, co-opting space and capturing conversations in a multitude of voices, this collection evokes alienation whilst longing for tenderness.

Hill’s agile poems are alive to fear, loss, danger – and to the possibility of other ways of being, other, better stories that we can write. The poems also explore a uniquely queer archive of time and place, the legacy of AIDS, and draw strength from giving voice to unheard histories. Seeking sanctuary and alternatives to a capitalist reality, these precise, humane poems gesture towards hope, survival and the necessity to be responsible for one another.

Read more about the book on the Nine Arches website.

Shaun Hill is a queer writer exploring post-capitalist ways of being. He is a recipient of an Apple and Snakes | Jerwood Arts Poetry in Performance Award for 2020. Shaun has shared his words widely at festivals across the UK and has facilitated for a range of organisations including: Birmingham Buddhist Centre, City of Culture, and Out on the Page. He has completed commissions for Overhear, Verve Poetry Festival, and appeared on BBC Radio 4. Thirty of his poems have been published, in anthologies such as Eighty-Four: Poems on Male Suicide, and magazines like Magma and StreetCakewarm blooded things is his first collection.

You can find out more about Shaun and his work on his website and follow him on Instagram.

Since its founding in 2008, Nine Arches Press has published poetry and short story collections (under the Hotwire imprint), as well as Under the Radar magazine. In 2010, two of our pamphlets were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet prize and Mark Goodwin’s book Shod won the 2011 East Midlands Book Award. In 2017, All My Mad Mothers by Jacqueline Saphra was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. Our titles have also been shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Prize, and in 2016 David Clarke’s debut poems, Arc, was longlisted for the Polari Prize. To date we have published over one hundred poetry publications. Read more about the press  here and follow Nine Arches on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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.