John Glenday



Field Collection, South Atlantic Ocean 1949
Big as a dead man’s foot, but closer
to tripes or dough than meat.

Just to be sure, they folded her around herself
head-down in formalin. Her one brief sea.

Note that fluke-stump nicked by her mother’s
flenser’s blade; the flipper’s hopeless grace.

Day after day, she grows the milk bloom of a thing
that never moved in the cold, green, deepening light;

like most of us. The eye-slit weary, delicate,
beyond insult. Closed against our looking.


after Eadweard Muybridge
Far from the sea, you still feel part of it – all those dull
impatient lights, that reckless hush. But the way

the morning breaks against itself marks progress
of a sort; like a prow digging under, ploughing the hours white.

Even on land, even right here at home, you find yourself
stalled by the sense of something you cannot see

dividing and falling away behind. And you wish it could be real
that wake, trailing back beyond ocean or purpose;

something to prove to anyone who cared notice
that for a time, if only a moment, you were going somewhere.
JOHN GLENDAY’s first collection, The Apple Ghost won a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and his second, Undark, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. His most recent collection, Grain (Picador, 2009) is also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for both the Ted Hughes Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. He was a judge for the 2011 National Poetry Competition.

Read more by John Glenday:

Saturday poem in The Guardian
Video: John Glenday reads from his book Grain
Bio and three poems at The Scottish Poetry Library