John McKeown

The Wild Sea

The sea heaving up

all along the seafront,

seaweed marinated


fired across the grass

made wetland.

Further down it rears


tearing it’s white shirt

sharply against

the piled rocks.

Salt flying everywhere

like a fine rain of blood

when bombs go off.

And how fine

this violence,

pure as a leopard’s

at the kill.

A vast innocence

that would snap the neck,

sweep that small boy away.

Not Working

Odd that we couldn’t make it work

all those years ago.

But not odd in that

I didn’t believe in work then,

and don’t believe in it now.

It isn’t work that turned you,

so antithetical to me,

into this ageless presence, waiting

at the edge of a remembered

rain-washed field,

that I can love now.


Out of the blue

you nudge me

like a faraway twin.

The perfect complement,

so perfect

you’re folded

out of reach.

But thinking of you

my beating heart

draws you in;

until we’re pressed close,

exactly opposite

against the night’s dark screen.

I feel your blood knock,

and all of me,


answers you.

John McKeown © 2010

Silver Birch

Spring is slow in coming

to the silver birch.

As if it’s fighting off

the imposition of leaves.

Winter becomes it,

seems it’s natural state;

the long, thin white branchings

reaching upward nakedly

like the limbs of a prisoner

so long incarcerated

nothing can clothe.

Our silver birch knows

winter’s long appeal,

no spring ever quite answers.

The Straits

You asleep,

Or half asleep;

Me awake,

Or drugged;

The fire unpoked


Going out;

The fog horn echoing


In the distance,

Half in, half out

Of hearing;

And rocks

Of treachery

Here, somewhere.


I should go mad

Over one flower;

Put it in a glass

And watch it open,

Water it with rapture.

I should let one flower

Ignite in me a passion

That can never fade.

I should let them

Lock me away,

Arms wrapped at my back.

I should, with my one bloom,

Become uncontainable.

John McKeown © 2010