Read a Poem

The Anchorite & the Solid Sky

after Flammarion

He journeyed overland, past midnight
as he had, for many midnights.
He walked his shoes to paper, walked
to where Earth’s curvature bent low
to meet the solid sky, where headroom
shrank & brought him down on hands

& knees, powdering his robe with dust.
He bowed beneath the blue-black firmament.
He looked through dark-adapting eyes
& made out Night. His lungs still sucked
the metal, thinning air. He reached
& touched rough miracles
of closest crystal stars. He braved
the God-hemmed seam of Heaven.


My poem was inspired by the rich, strange Flammarion engraving, by an unknown artist, but first published in Camille Flammarion’s 1888 book ‘L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire’. I wrote the poem some six years ago, and it was shortlisted for the Keats-Shelley prize in 2015, but remained unpublished. So I feel happy for it that it won 2nd prize in the WoLF Poetry Competition this winter, judged by the brilliant Roy McFarlane.