Two Poems by Stuart Nunn


Freighted with medication
and walking aids, we are carried north.
Ranging from spry-for-her-age
to not-long-for-this-world,
we carry our prejudices
and eccentricities.

We are travelling north
towards a conclusion.

A ship going north through darkness
has purpose and means.
We, its cargo, watch
the black landscape drifting past.
Cold mountains where snow
marks out improbable roads
that signify other lives.

An armillary on an undistinguished rock
marks the boundary we crossed this morning.
So we took photos in the freezing cold,
and felt no different.

Except, for one day each year,
right here,
the sun never sets.
And on another single day,
darkness fills all twenty-four hours.
Thus this line is defined.

And we have crossed it.

Ahead, the end of something,
Europe or landscape.
This is where the imperceptibly moving ship
is taking us. The trick
will be to recognise it
when we get there,
not tomorrow, but sometime soon.

Foyles – 1964

There is a madness lurking
in the second-hand stacks.
Read all about it in Sociology.
Plenty of explanations everywhere
if only we could understand.

Our floor, ruled by Jos the Dutchman,
sells Law and Principles of Business:
how to shaft your customers,
send crooks to jail, then read
about them in Criminology.

Reg the office boy, is a mod
at weekends, fights rockers on the beach.
On Monday he delivers books
to the basement to be sent off
to bed-bound old ladies out of town.

Miss Bastable in the basement
values volumes that will find
a final resting place in Second Hand.
Watch her paw the pages, and see
the cruelty of the book trade.

Answers will be on the fourth floor
in the other building. Anyone who seeks
enlightenment must be directed there,
but we know, don’t we, it isn’t anywhere
in this hard-backed asylum.


Stuart Nunn is a retired college lecturer and newly a grandfather. A long time ago he won a minor prize in the Bridport International and has been published in various magazines – none of which are available in W H Smith.

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