It’s January. A swan’s wing overhead
reminds you of his fifth
but also of his death, that skein
breaking away to circle him
as if to announce what year it was.

At this age, every instinct shouts
behind you – as it did at the panto
for the ghost – and there’s an old man
at a lake still counting wild birds
who hasn’t even noticed the time.

January is Janus’s month. We should look
both ways. The geese have put their diversion
signs in the sky, but the sun holds up
its lollipop as if a young hero might
cross, find an egg, tie a knot in it.

John Greening has published more than a dozen collections (notably To the War Poets, Carcanet, 2013), and several studies of poetry and poets. His edition of Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War (OUP) appeared in 2015, along with a classical music anthology, Accompanied Voices. Following the pamphlet Nebamun’s Tomb (Rack Press, 2016), he has this year published a major collaboration with Penelope Shuttle, Heath (Nine Arches) and is now working on a long poem about Sibelius. TLS reviewer and Eric Gregory judge, John Greening’s awards include the Bridport Prize and a Cholmondeley. He is RLF Writing Fellow at Newnham College.

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