Wake: Up to Poetry
Poem of the Week: “Heatwave” by Michael Longley
In The Slain Birds, Michael Longley doesn’t shy away from images and words of the pandemic and isolation. Infused with the minutiae of daily life and epistemological musings, this poem “Heatwave” brings to light bloody war scenes and clean, cool water—an acceptance of the elasticity when the mind and body seemingly move in opposite directions. Flowers, heritage, poetry, and, of course, birds are Longley’s instruments of craft and precision almost belied by his easy manner of short form poetry.
Feet on fire, a bath filled with cold water,
I sit on the edge to cool my ankles
And insomnia, and in the small hours
I read Ivor Gurney, and I understand
His obscurity and muddle, poems
That know more than he knows, more than I know:
A Severnside hedge-pool’s cloud-reflections,
Face-dissolving blood-ponds of Passchendaele.
He washes my feet the way Jesus would.
– Michael Longley, from The Slain Birds (2022)