by Alan Kissane


The dead live among us like roots.

They grow in the loose

fabric of our skin causing us to itch and scratch,

prickle the backs of our necks, hands

and wrists, like spiritual Braille,

rustle in our willing ears

about the sadness and torment

of not being here anymore.


In moments when we forget ourselves,

this symbiosis fails,

temporarily severing the ties that bind us.

Clarity of thought, of purpose, is no curse.

It is continuance

of them and us, overlapping, a blissful

flutter of knowledge of

the before through and in us. To yield

to the yellow leaf is to suffer

in more ways than one.


My favourite time is the drowsiness

of morning, heaving

muscle and bone out of bed—

it is the dead’s way of being here with us,

root and branch.

It is hard, takes real effort. But is a sore joy.

We carry them in those half-sleepless flashes,

share a bosom,

a pulse, red blood cells.


These are the moments I live for.

To cradle the heart of my

grandmother in my own nest of tissue

for a time.

I never knew her

voice, her touch, her fragrance,

though she knew me.

In this chasm of dislocated seasons,

it seems the only way

before this withering disease severs her

roots from me for the final time.



Alan Kissane is a teacher of English in the East Midlands, UK. He has a doctorate in History and has published books and articles on the Middle Ages. His poem, ‘The Working Men’s Club’, is due to be published in Allegro this September.




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