“Responsibility” – “By The Rivers Of Babylon” – “Onwards”


I thought I would live forever under
the hill where the knights lie gathered and armed
but I was mistaken. I heard you call

and it was an old memory I fought,
not knowing where to turn. My aimless love
is something I often decline in light

where men and women move, and in darkness
talking to those who are dead and saying
their answers, which I hold in my ear.

I go to the window and see the cat
below, still, staring up, prepared to spring.
If I let you in, however, what then?

So you wait at this aperture of night
for one long, live moment while gods decide.

By The Rivers Of Babylon

Little by little, we got a toehold
in this place and when you spoke of leaving
once or twice, I said where to and why. Back,

you said, back to our roots. We are old
and soon it’ll be too late. You’re grieving
for I don’t know what. Look, we have to suck

it up. I have a job. You have a job.
Maybe it’s different for the children but
they could leave and find a new place or fight

for something better here. Don’t make me fob
you off. I’m staying. End of. In a rut
or not. Whatever, I’d be travelling light.

Here it is evening and too far to go.
They have a morning that’s not mine to know.


She’s gone and what word was said and what thing
was done in the blind days, passed in a blur?
and no tears were shed but an unseen hand
pressed the throat from time to time. Her shadow

stands as large as life, outside in the street,
angry, expecting to be let in: now,
forever, never. I count the hours
backwards and forwards until I am sure

of nothing. Getting on is a movement
that can be repeated. There are habits
that are practiced unthinkingly with ease.
In several small ways, I am looking for

a replacement when there really is no need
and yet I cry against the clock this night.

Alan Dunnett has worked as a theatre director, and as an acting tutor at several drama schools. ‘Shot in the Head’, informed by Narratives from Columbians Displaced by Violence, is in The Very Edge, Flying Ketchup Press, 2020. He wrote/voiced Interrogation, Best Experimental Film at the Verona International Film Festival 2019. Other poems have appeared in The Crank, Ink Sweat and Tears, The New European, Skylight 47, Stand, The Recusant, The Rialto. A collection, A Third Colour, was published by Culture Matters in 2018.

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