Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

From ‘the garden sonnets’: three poems by Andrew McMillan


it’s hard at first to comprehend the sleeping man
so horizontal     all through the day     so sleepy
despite the hours spent seemingly at rest
but like a meadow glimpsed from speeding train     of course
there are permanent convulsions
beneath the topsoil of your matted hair     love     what horses
are at work on you     saddled with the twin desires
to get better and be dead     how loud they are
how heavy     how patient as they sit at either end
of your repose    body stretching to its limits
and your head     and feet     tied up to them
as they toss their flyscabbed manes towards the ceiling
that whinnying that always sounds like laughter
as you put your hands to your ears     someone shouts out


how many evenings have I thought the garden done
walked out and seen fresh clumps of weed mithering
the dirt     some people cannot tell the difference
between what should be there and not     I’m one of them
ignorant ’til one thing overgrows another
or gets choked     there is always something needing
to be tended     a small salvage down in the muck
I’ve grown to think if I go out at night
I might catch them at it     but the soil lays still
beneath a harvest moon that is the size
of your sadness     and growing     waxing     until
its whole face peers over at our house     pockmarked skin
like a ploughed field picked clean of all its crops
still     you will not come outside


love     forgive me     most of the time     I can’t see
the borders of the garden for the trees
can’t tell plant from weed     I didn’t know how best
to save you from yourself     how to lead your mind back
up the path to the house of itself     I was gone
too much     and didn’t know whether it was best
to let you sleep or take you for a walk     or let
you sit in silence     or encourage you to talk
those years     love     were like trying to sift armfuls of soil
for the tiniest of seeds     and yes     sometimes
I wanted to split and scatter     sometimes
I couldn’t stand the screaming anymore     more things
survive in the garden now     the more weeds come down
the more the roses open up their clenched faces