Category Archives: Archived poems

Archived Poetry by Sam Burnside

Between One Day and Another

Cray knot image by Leslie NichollFrom A Crazy Knot


We are just on that verge
Between Autumn and Winter
We are just within that balance
When day is not yet night.
The air hangs over our heads
And shoulders; it is heavy
Still with smells, sounds and warmth
Here, between hill and lough.
From an early-ploughed field
Trailing wisps of smoke finger
Up through this patch-worked air
Then down again, reeking
Into the farmer’s hair and beard.
He piles more branches on
Then kicks white wood-ash
Across the naked, rippling earth.
A whisper of wind takes it.
Dove-calls issue from far trees.
Patiently, night eases down.
Sparks fan, flash, gasp and die.
A horse plunges his muzzle
Deep into the water trough.
He rises up, shocked and alert,
Diamonds radiating off pagan whiskers.
For an instant, car horns
And the sounds of engines
Marry with chanting voices,
With creakings of long-boat oars:
Holy men and warriors,
Harpers and poets, and old women
With cures for bodies and hearts
And souls, congregate all about
The flames
Paying witness to this one man
Tending his shivering ground,
Alone, intent, attendant to
The creeping fire, the crumbling flame.

From A Crazy Knot, a collection representing collaborations between writers and artists. Commissioned and published by Seacourt Print Workshop, in a limited edition of 100 handmade and hand bound portifolios and with an introduction by Maurice Hayes, who wrote, “The title itself (A Crazy Knot) is both word and image. John Hewitt’s ‘Crazy Knot’ is a metaphor for the rich mixture of culture and traditions on the island, for disorder, lack of neatness, tangle and confusion, and yet of closeness too and tightness, togetherness and through-otherness…

Kelt, Briton, Roman, Saxon Dane and Scot, Time and this island tied a craze knot.’ From John Hewitt’s ‘Ulsterman’

‘Between One Day and Another’, Sam Burnside, illustrated by Leslie Nichol, in A Crazy Knot, Seacourt Print Workshop, (Catalogue, 1996, pp. 1-2); catalogue and Arts Council of Northern Ireland touring exhibition of words and images. 1996-1997.

Nightingales and Crows

Sam Burnside
1 January, 2007
(from a suggestion made by Bronagh)

A comfortable gathering on this first day
Of this new New Year that has fallen upon us:
An unusual coitus of friends and relations, gathered
At the big table, dining off Granny’s duck soup,
Off the cheese and bread, off her home-baked mince pies;
The wine bottle, waved seductively (yet discreetly)
By Grandpapa, now disrobed down to black tee-shirt.
(Dishabille, as he might have it…)

The ebbs and flows of conversations become
Tangled and mellow and emollient, dissolving into
A Finnegan’s Wake
Of lyrically painted pools and pots of piss and shit,
Of caked dunghills and rutted green middens.
Casual talk of Sligo, comparing schools in Dublin,
Throw-away remarks about eating-houses
In London, in San Francisco in Cape Town; then,
Talk of the black townships, of Archbishop Tu Tu; and then,
The Doherty tribes and their nickname; then, Scalp Mountain
And a painting of Burnfoot, given as a gift.
This brings us back home. Then coffee. Then, more talk,
This time
To how a dead friend’s fence was cut and mended in the night,
Of Raython inhibitors, and such things, Ireland’s change
Of railways and roads
In the 60’s and Ulster Buses, and cases loaded
Step by step
Up ladders
And then,
It is over,
We scatter,
Like leaves on the wind.

There are no horses loose among the apple trees
On this black winter evening,
Only shadows on the walls of the tigeen, as we pass
(A murder of Crows, a watch of Nightingales
in Ballyshaskey)
So, we leave, well-set-up
For the long haul,
For the unfolding,
For the mystery,
Of another year.