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
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.