Lark & Merlin

By Tom Pickard b. 1946 Tom Pickard Read the Q & A

a wren,
perched on a hawthorn
low enough to skip
the scalping winds,
sang a scalpel song

seafrets drift
sheer along shorelines

listening to hail spray glass
and wind
and a waitress laugh
in a cafe without customers
I fell to fell thinking

                         * * *

a sullen light through vapor
thins a line of hills

the edge of everything is nothing
whipped by wind

watched on a webcam
bound to a bedpost
gag on my shaft

rose blush of road-kill rabbit
insides out on tarmacadam

                         * * *

cumulus in a tarn
its fast shadow
flees far hills

a wave of sleek grass
skiffs mist

my hand thought of her
a photograph
waiting to happen

                         * * *

this come-to-kill wind
rips at the root

here she comes
and there she goes
rushes bow to rime

I should shut down
close off
if I could

how quick the mist
how quick


my lover, the assassin,
is beautiful

she has come to kill me
and I concur

just now she sleeps
but when she wakes I’m dead

her eyelids flitter
as I prepare her potions,
her delicious poisons

                         * * *

as she flew past a lick
of her melodic nectar
stuck to my wing,
making flight, for an instant,

but nothing preening couldn’t fix

                         * * *

she asked about my heart,
its evasive flight;
but can I trust her with its secrets?

and does the merlin, in fast pursuit of its prey,
tell the fleeing lark
it is enamored of its song?

or the singing lark turn tail
and fly into the falcon’s talons?

                         * * *

my heart, the cartographer, charts
to the waterline,
is swept back as the tide turns
wiping the map blank, wave
after moon-drawn wave

but it beats, my heart,
of its own volition

a lark sings winds rush reeds
walking home I stride these tracks
with her tread

the blurred thumbprint
of a smudged moon


it has gone on for days

strumming rushes
taking up tales,
taking them on

the fall of my foot,
on tufts

a stroke of light along a law lain in under a long cloud

I accrete—lichen to limestone
sphagnum to peat

                         * * *

late shadows gather in the dark

words unwrite
as they are written
as they are spoken

songs sprung
from heart and lung
to tongue


                         * * *

drunk winds stumble over shuffling roofs
shake his sleep who dreams
a lost love
will not

recurring swirls
of old gold
blown light

you can’t help
but be in it

as it opens
and falls back on itself
unfolds and unsays

I do not want to die
without writing the unwritten

pleasure of water

Source: Poetry (December 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

December 2010


In impoverished northeastern England, Tom Pickard co-founded and for several years managed Morden Tower, a poetry center situated on a medieval city wall in the industrial sector of Newcastle upon Tyne. As Eric Mottram commented in Primary Sources, there "the finest British and American poets read at a time when they were unheard elsewhere in [England]." Pickard related that in 1984, "Morden Tower celebrated its twentieth year . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Men & Women, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Love, Heartache & Loss


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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