David Morley

I completed the sequence of poems about the friendship between John Clare and Wisdom Smith in 2012, now published as The Gypsy and the Poet (Carcanet, 2013). I had written these poems in a state of possession.  So natural was this possession that when it ended I felt bereft – as though I had lost not only one soul-mate, but two.  I wrote a number of poems afterwards but one day in 2013 Wisdom Smith and John Clare burst back into my writing shed and demanded another turn on the stage of the page. This appears to be their final outing, but you never know.

David Morley

‘I wandered the heath in raptures among the rabbit burrows & golden blossomd furze
I dropt down on the thymy molehill’ – John Clare

‘Conies’, whispers Wisdom Smith, ‘require calm,
dawn craft and a down-wind’. ‘While my riming’,
murmurs John Clare, ‘obliges a simpler psalm.
I cannot sing for my breakfast when ravening’.

Both men flex their full shanks before kneeling.
They paw the grass aside, then slide askew
like stoats slinking sidelong toward their prey
before the wide mouths of the warren’s holes.

Rabbits rebound from a moor russet with molehills.
Bucks bite, dash, stamp, scrabble and scuffle.
Kittens suckle under dozing, sun-stunned does.

‘As if Heaven fell and Hell surfaced on the same acre’,
whistles the Gypsy, raising the rifle sight to his gaze
while chewing softly on the stalk of a wildflower.