Gill Learner’s poetry has been published in numerous anthologies and magazines such as Agenda, Acumen, ARTEMISpoetry, The North; it has also won a number of prizes and commendations. She lives in Reading, is a keen gardener and fan of Radio 3.
He tries to dream cool – of ponds he dared to step on
till he heard the gun-shot crack, stilled waterfalls
in Cumbria, of sleeping in an igloo or an ice hotel.
Sangin dust grits between his teeth, chafes
his shoulder blades, sticks to his sweat no matter
how much care he takes undressing, shaking out.
His final tour. It’s 48 degrees: he must think cool –
frost fairs on the Thames, blue light of glacier caves,
Shackleton’s Endurance trapped and crushed.
Heat beats at his helmet like a welder’s torch,
his nape’s on fire, eyes sear with watching
as the search team makes its slow way back.
His last long walk. The escort’s guns are poised.
Without his body armour he steps light
along the track. Tomorrow – home, to stars
in their proper places, Cathy’s frown, the garden
gossipy with birds, the children’s bikes to fix.
Soft-fingered sun. Rain. He lies flat, tools
to hand. The silence grows. Now he believes
cool – in Saturn’s rings, the Skaters’ Waltz,
a white bear on its lonely floe. He wipes his mind,
strokes away sand and earth, starts to unpick
a knotted mass of metal, batteries and wires.
The desert holds its breath.
Poem published in collection: Chill Factor;
and in ARTEMISpoetry 11 and anthology Songs for the Unsung (Grey Hen Press, 2017)
collection, Chill Factor, Two Rivers Press, 2016;
collection, The Agister’s Experiment, Two Rivers Press, 2011;
Anthologies include Fanfare, Second Light Publications, 2015; The Emma Press Anthology of Love, 2018; Vaster than Empires, Grey Hen Press, 2018
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