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John Wilkinson

Crown of Nettles

for Maud Ellmann


Rust applied to dim
the alacrity of rails, dulling
box girders, damped
down the exception

grit-bedded, fresh-painted,
casting off the sun
in a thousand spots,
each madly jiggled,

snare-that-it-is, highlight
playing whimsically
enlivened lumber,
any such exception

rusts absorbed in time:
unreality calls, hyper-
highlight cubed & floating,
dreaming its sur-

passing forest, flirted,
feinted, drew its invention
through ductwork,
trapped a glance

in a barless jail,
cutting thin canals
from their process stream.
Acid, your bright bead

carves too quickly! para-
bolic autumn
strews rays with a free
exilic abandon,

local multiplicity
makes each over, choosing
from among feeders, or
to cast its bow,

engineered from one
dangled loop, a lock-gate,
a dam. This watery
circus will figure

primarily as forest, forest
boxed for use. The false
side will bulwark
in its wet gravel,

steadfast strip the faint
cars rumble over,
heading towards the depot,
pursuing real ends.


Tamper with the skylarks’
traffic ceiling: counting
larks a pastoral
demands must wake. Frail

pagodas bob in deep space
relentlessly, re-
stocking brought them
no more mass. Lark

figments rise to implicate
living memory,
their pocket temple
still high-gloss, persists

unaffected. Weather
cannot apply, these evade
the eye’s catch: is
that a bird? a comet? —

an inappropriate net,
intersecting curves,
shake out their pittering
song husks, points of

uplift, multiplied for
round reply, trill ignored
above prodigious mud.
Grub up the nettles,

ridge their stings’ scatter.
While unpre-
meditated song adapts
weakly to the hydro-

carbon harvest,
& winter gets compiled,
swathes of nettles
flourish, shiver, seed,

in hotbeds wouldn’t
succumb, still flowering,
why, their thronging
knots, exceeding both

decay or clean-edged mask
picked out digitally:
Such assertiveness!
Such crude strength! —

crown with their coarse
chaplet this last summer,
low mound
knotted firmly, grows.


The charge carriers
mindless of this petalled
grass, relishing
a brush with detonation,

browning off colleagues
anaphylactic through
electric stings,
sodden with antibodies,

indulged in their universe-
shuddering pokes,
excite recombinants
to their doom,

nor shall moth wings
graze inner parts,
autonomous lips’ position
can’t complete one kiss,

to rub & shine as it
were distractedly
ahead of the single-minded
national zoomed ray

summoning up green,
tangled with bleached roots:
kiss the only knot,
suppress the options

fluttering in the stingers
Best stay wary
of their buzzing, wet
company seeking truth:

another raffia doll or
penitent failsafe, will
coax their variable force
comprehensively out,

kind to the inevitable,
matching stroke for stroke
stump hours. Toc.
Thrives engrossingly

behind their missile shield
full of itself & what
not itself gathers
rusting at its beck,

detaining the last light
in ground cover,
kissing the dark’s
rollcalling till dawn blurts.


Included with the number
whittling number,
some rough patch,
teasel of hermeneutic

decode, patch that weeps
at any contact,
breaks out in a rash
lithography, intensest

analogue, or scary probable
image coming close,
hooked to eye
in a rough fit, caught

too slowly! too retentively!
finicking one stimulus
through long-distance
hum, dismissing

won’t let go but clumps
round tiny seeds,
massing the universal class
reports at terminus,

hits down at this anvil.
Early ties had shaken loose,
dodgy track adhesion,
oil-spillage, clogged

leaf-filter, what becomes
of the misdirected?
Too well-starred
their destinies collide,

snap-clean, snap-tied,
unmildewed, sharp to grab
children flexed
down their fabricator’s

slippery walls, too blurred!
A halt becomes a slip &
skids to an own goal,
a cringe, a smirk

a stobe self defaced
in face of a stock image,
most likely, more than not,
eyeing the hook alongside —

Yes I’d bank on that Yes
I’d lean towards that
Yes I’d alternate
the rough with the smooth.


Accept a moon must be
roughed-up to be dragged
over the black shine:
but impulse-driven

flinging its various shoots,
umbilical but
whizzing buttoned
down, the puck scars ice,

re-inscribed as volume
slips the leash: accept
a disk of hesitancy
absconds & plashing not

lies glittering & value-free,
burrows with inertness
down ice layers,
shamed before a clip

running its heyday
polylingual like a fir cone,
shed its influences. Still,
imagine what we use

we still conduct
like water’s hardware,
pulled across the murrain
with a harsh screech

shan’t touch base ever
Layers though take
their time, play the lump
sum for what they can

cop, a bloody shoebox,
a refrigerated mammoth
radiate, drilling out
bee messengers

Imagine they’d fall silent,
nectar sipped by a line
run from the grave,

indexed pollen in cross-
segment cuts, sinuses
re-input, flared,
floated a dispirited tongue

to this stiff paddle by rote.
Rust & dead nettles
ramify, swing-gates
beat at the lunar curd.


Phalanstery. Ordinate soup.
Carousel. Brocade.
Welter the figures surf,
hooded & in brackets,

so that a synapse looses
undecodable bursts, trips
from this to that
hairline decision,

validating heard or budding
impulses, anxiety steers
hop-skippery, stop,
mark how a loved face

stretched across spurs
in a deep beyond —
surface re-write
sectoring a field of flares —

precedes lark integers,
appropriates a glint,
scrabbles towards
recognition, verges on near

future’s touch-topography,
releases a hair-
trigger device. Soak back,

Shush my memory. Love
cup my eye, cup my
optic, to be verified
in that cluster,

tested on each bench,
larks net the air,
the selfsame going forward
on your nod, its bright

exceptional trill
composed on a day. Steam
shifts on the chill plate,
the low-life spectre

shadows similarly as water
changes guise,
the atmospheric state in
speckle bursts hangs —

speed slows, rust commits
its antibodies.
Soil espoused. Grille
reservoir. Alacrity limbo.


Let me readjust their hang.
Let me check if your
earring’s caught,
its eye-catching snag

glitters by design
through the entanglement:
& who can stick the
down-home, hooting

ambulances chase for
fresh hearts, nettle
rhizomes outdo the squalid
diagram, these radiate,

these intrude, pockmark
with their frost & green
shoots, the just-so —
see their glints throng like

misembodied insects
mash up on fixed routines,
stripping the terroir.
Weed shallows thicken

next to race & flurry,
coots rush, willows dangle,
long muscles wrench
in flaky bark. Surface

tremor, twig that drifts,
a snag, the ripple outwash
of a bag or keys lost —
all this fluke diffusion

pokes, insinuates
needles through the bank-
side receptor sites,
prods dullard beasts,

weaves together furling
selfsames & contraries.
Soft facets reassign
the digital keys,

strewn over water
chirrup, chirrup, chirrup.
Figured treble,
skylarks entertain your ear,

midges reassemble.
Did you spot their like fre-
quent the open, un-
furling, unfurling,

paling into perplexity.

John Wilkinson, New York, 2004

John Wilkinson, New York, 2004

After a career in mental health services in the UK, John Wilkinson was appointed writer in residence at the Keough Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2005. His most recent publications are the book Contrivances (Salt, 2003) and the pamphlet Iphigenia (Barque, 2004). Salt will reissue his 1986 book Proud Flesh in late 2005.

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