Litter Home Page

 Header image
  John Mingay

from 'A Lizard in the Shadows'



but earth is deaf

it hears nothing
of the clamorous decay
continuing above ground

it is blind

it sees nothing
of the tangled finale played out
as though by anyone but us

shallow actors one and all



I am a lizard
in the shadows

spitting ruminations
as though red hot coals

as though ever spat at all

but you know it's just
a whole pack of lies

delicately interlaced
between further fabrications

simply can't break the habit



just like this

without warning

fossil fuels and fish scales
become the order
of the day

every day

weeks on end

with me swaddled
in sterile white tight cotton
from neck to toe

able only
to ungraciously waddle

swollen and flaking

and rashly humming
in my own unknown scales
and arpeggios

until a road is laid across me

tarry and flaring
going nowhere

but worth a try



going away


taking the snows of summer
with me
to where the swathing fells
swell as a landscape
pregnant with peace

its pace
somnambulantly slow



deeper south
still steel underfoot
to revisit the past

too soon

as if finding
I can't
I won't forgive the earth
or anything

can't or won't or won't or can't

your ego bloated
by the adulation
of the blind
who pretend to see

the importance of it all


each daub an illusory nail
in laying our past to rest

our ties superficially in ruins



but how far to go

how far before
a line is reached
that signals no further

a boundary
of many boundaries

how far until
I no longer know
the back of my hand

lost in the hours
and days
taken to come to
to reach this point
in a pointless progression

a passage found
to be never enough
to breach the bounds

always safety first



and you

down to earth you flee
from a tale told backward

for now
is always
the beginning
with what has been
yet to happen

threatening in its retelling

all sense
of constraint
of boundary
of barrier
late lifted

left broken

no longer
its purpose




  1. 'but earth is deaf' : Luis Cernuda, Remordimiento en traje do noche from Un río, un amor (1929).
  2. 'down to earth you flee / from a tale told backward' : Miguel Hernandez, Elegia, first published in the periodical La Revista de Occidente (1935).
  3. 'I won't forgive the earth / or anything' : Federico Garcia Lorca, from the suite Poema de la feria, first published in 1997 (1921).



Copyright © John Mingay, 2014.