Gregory Leadbetter was born in Stourbridge in 1975. His poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry London, The North, Magma, The Rialto, on BBC Radio 4, and in CAST: The Poetry Business Book of New Contemporary Poets (Smith/Doorstop, 2014), as well as other journals and anthologies. His pamphlet The Body in the Well was published by HappenStance Press in 2007. His book of literary criticism, Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) won the University English (formerly CCUE) Book Prize 2012, and he has written on Wordsworth, Keats, Charles Lamb and Ted Hughes. He has written radio drama for the BBC, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013. He currently teaches at Birmingham City University, where he is Reader in Literature and Creative Writing. His debut full collection of poetry, The Fetch, is now published by Nine Arches Press.
but didn’t break the film of sleep
to tell the time, or give me more
than broken promises to keep
to phantoms that were never there,
woke me just enough to know
that something was: the restless air,
the waveform of a note too low
to hear, a song to raise the dead.
I listened, and began to speak
as I am speaking now. My breath
condensed. I saw it slowly take
the outline of a child, afraid
of the dark of which it was made.
Come to this clipping from my hair.
Make a ring of a curl I wore.
I’ve told you all the truth I know
from the quietus of my pillow.
When I speak your words I feel you
like a wish blown through a candle.
Come to this – my bottled breath
warm enough for you to live.
I take up a feather, air-write to you
in magpie black and iridescent blue.
I swallow the pips of an apple core
to grow the godwise food you are.
Come to this papercut bleb of my blood
while it is here on my finger to suck.
You know what you have taken from me
better than I have senses to see.
I lay you a trail from a tomb to my door
in photographs, one for each living year.
Come to this seed in the palm of my hand.
I’ve held out my arm as long as I can.
I dry out my sweat, leave you the salt
of my fervid body, torrid or cold.
I set a fire to bring the dawn
and the far imago trying to be born.
Come – I’ve given all you need of me.
Spell out in silence my other name.
I hold my tongue like a flame.