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Photograph from 'The British at Leisure' series of 310 colour photos, originally intended to be shown repeating across five screens. The series was commissioned by the architect Theo Crosby for the Milan Triennale in 1964 and was originally accompanied by a jazz piece by Johnny Scott.



It’s true: there is a light at the centre of my body.

If I could, I would lift aside a curtain of this flesh

and demonstrate, but for now it is my private neon.

It is closest to the air at certain moments,

like when buttercups repair a morning’s jagged edge.

Other times, a flock of days descends

and my soul flickers, goes to ground.

Without light, I’m all membrane; each part

becomes a gate. I pour across each margin

and nothing has enough hands to catch me,

my teeth knocking so fast I daren’t hold any piece

of myself near in case I start a banquet.

I’m only eased by accident. On the drenched path,

I pick up snails and transport them to safer earth

then feel a stirring. I watch as rain streams

from lopped-back elms, my face teeming with water

and―hello stranger―my soul glides to my surface

like it, too, belongs there; like a bright fish rising to feed.



© John McCullough

Picture 11937589, photograph by Roger Mayne, 1964, image copyright Mary Evans / Roger Mayne



John McCullough lives in Brighton and Hove. His first collection of poems, The Frost Fairs, won the Polari First Book Prize in 2012 and was a Book of the Year for The Independent as well as a summer read in The Observer. His second, Spacecraft (Penned in the Margins, 2016), was named one of The Guardian‘s Best Books for Summer and was shortlisted for the Ledbury-Forte prize. His new collection, Reckless Paper Birds, explores vulnerability and the human body. It has been shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award.