The Dead

By Don Paterson b. 1963 Don Paterson
Our business is with fruit and leaf and bloom;   
though they speak with more than just the season's tongue—   
the colours that they blaze from the dark loam   
all have something of the jealous tang   
of the dead about them. What do we know of their part   
in this, those secret brothers of the harrow,   
invigorators of the soil—oiling the dirt   
so liberally with their essence, their black marrow?   
But here's the question. Are the flower and fruit   
held out to us in love, or merely thrust   
up at us, their masters, like a fist?   
Or are they the lords, asleep amongst the roots,   
granting to us in their great largesse   
this hybrid thing—part brute force, part mute kiss?

Source: Poetry (June 2004).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Poetry magazine

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June 2004
 Don  Paterson


Originally from Dundee, Scotland, Don Paterson left school at 16 and moved to London to pursue music and join a band. He found success with the jazz-folk ensemble Lammas, but was captivated by poetry upon encountering poet Tony Harrison. A self-taught poet influenced by Coleridge, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, and Michael Longley, Paterson devoted a year to reading before he began to write and publish in earnest.
Paterson’s first . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Social Commentaries, Nature, Class, Trees & Flowers, Death


Poetic Terms Sonnet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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