Bed. Sheets without sleep, and the first birds.
Dawn at the pace of a yacht.
The first bus, empty, carries its cargo of light
from the depot, like a block of ice.
Dawn when the mind looks out of its nest,
dawn with gold in its teeth.
In the street, a milk-float moves
by throw of the dice,
the mast to the east raises itself
to its full height. Elsewhere
someone’s husband is touching someone’s wife.
One day older the planet weeps.
This is the room
where I found you one night,
bent double, poring over
the Universal Home Doctor,
that bible of death, atlas of ill-health:
hand-drawn, colour-coded diagrams of pain,
chromosomal abnormalities explained,
Susan, for God’s sake.
I had to edge towards it,
close the cover with my bare foot.
Dawn when the mind looks out of its nest.
Dawn with gold in its teeth.
From the window I watch
Anubis, upright in black gloves
making a sweep of the earth
under the nameless tree,
pushing through shrubs,
checking the bin for bones and meat
then leaving with a backward glance, in his own time,
crossing the lawn and closing the gate.
Have been thinking about posting some Armitage on the site for a while, so I decided it was finally time we featured him. What won me to this poem were the first ten lines – the image of the bus with its burden of melting light, “Dawn at the pace of a yacht”. After that, everything else in the poem is suffused with this tender, almost heartbreaking glow.