James Sutherland-Smith – Scotland

James Sutherland-Smith – Scotland


JAMES SUTHERLAND-SMITH was born in Scotland, but lives in Slovakia. He has published seven collections of his own poetry, the most recent being “The River and the Black Cat” published by Shearsman Books in 2018. He also translates poetry from Slovak and Serbian for which he has received the Slovak Hviezdoslav Prize and the Serbian Zlatko Krasni Prize.
His most recent translation is from the poetry of Mila Haugová, Eternal Traffic, published in Britain by Arc Publications.


The ultimate poem on snow
should stop twittering right now
as the noise drains from the town
and the cars and lorries slow.
All you can hear is the light
at the pedestrian crossing
clicking too loud to be the slight
alarms of a redstart fussing
that you’re dangerous or too soft
on the magpie harassing
blue tits away from your gift
of bacon, leaving them bereft.

The ultimate poem on snow
should stop as traffic clears its throat
to swish and grunt through a show
of entropy although
the snowfall outlines poplar,
cherry, fir and ash bough by bough
as if it could denature
colour from the trees until they’re
two-dimensional, an unsure
grey, black and white like a graveyard
where nothing moves anymore
so you glance upwards to stare

at gravity’s remorseless
tug on the almost weightless
fragmented flakes whose feckless
eddying to and fro
confuses and you can’t know
if what you see is almost dance
or almost not dance
as you follow the footprints
in the ultimate poem on snow
blurred by the continuance
of white on white whose radiance
pricks when the wind begins to blow.