Colour-Blind Romance and other poems



Colour-Blind Romance
after Lorca’s Romance Sonámbulo

How can I love what I cannot see?
Green, green, I love you green.
Sun on a woodland canopy,
how can I see what can’t be seen?
Green bird on an olive-branch,
how can I love what I cannot see?
Green waves on the meadow grass,
how can I say what it is to me?
Green, green, I love you green.
Green light in a purple sky,
how can I love what I cannot see?
Fishing barque in the aquamarine,
scarlet buds on the rowan tree,
how can I see what can’t be seen?
Chestnut horse in a snort of steam,
how can I love what I’ve never seen?


is born without a tongue
schooled by our boots
learns to croak
like frogs in amplexus
in mid-life
comes by a siege mentality
grows prudish
utters nothing but shush
turns morose when old
hangs its sheepskin
on the hedgerows
and leaves us weeping.


Larus Argentatus

An unpalatable truth,
the herring gull’s success
derives from an ability
to eat almost anything,
even young of its own kind.
Have you seen silver-back
always looking over his shoulder?
Watch him find a rotting sandwich,
a dead fish, a piece of rope,
a newborn seal pup’s placenta,
approach like a bomb disposal expert—
one snip of the yellow wire cutters
and he’s up with the wind.


Cradle Song
for my granddaughter, Mia

Sleep, child, your arms raised in surrender,
sleep as a warm wind sleeps, as an oasis
in the sand. Sleep as a willow sleeps,
like a gliding bird. Sleep as a ship
sleeps on water, as the anchor sinks.
Sleep as indigo in the evening sea;
like a star cradled in the moon.
Sleep, child, like a white cloud;
sleep as a seed sleeps, as the billow
of lungs, as an unsung song.
Sleep as language sleeps, as history sleeps –
sleep today, as your mother slept in my arms.


Lifting Anchor

On such a morning I’d rise with the sun,
swim to shore and loose the stern line
from its tree trunk, as you fastened hatches
and gathered in the slack,
then watch the plough-flukes come up,
glinting like fish-silver.
On such a morning the barometer read high,
we’d breakfast on yoghurt and honey,
examine the horizon for a caravan of tents,
pitched in the haze. We’d cleat off the halliard
and set course to the wind,
where the sea prepared a festival of scrolls.
On such a morning we’d winch
the mainsail tight, sheet in the genoa
till the tell-tales settled their nerves,
and we could taste weather
over the starboard gunwale,
and the day was seasoned with hope.

“Colour-Blind Romance”, “Snow” and “Larus Argentatus” are from Fluttering Hands, “Cradle song” and “Lifting Anchor” are from Things hard for Thought.


Stephen Wilson is a psychiatrist turned critic and writer, who has lived and worked in Oxford, UK, for many years. He has published two collections of poems, Fluttering Hands and Things Hard for Thought. He is also the author of brief biographical studies of the First World War poet Isaac Rosenberg, and of Sigmund Freud. In addition he has written The Bloomsbury Book of the Mind, Introducing the Freud Wars, The Cradle of Violence: Essays on Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Literature and a major study of modern Anglo-Jewish poetry, Poetics of the Diaspora. He has contributed numerous reviews and articles to academic journals and newspapers including Encounter, TLS, The Guardian, The Independent and New York Times. He translated Irène Némirovsky’s The Pawn on the Chessboard and The Child Prodigy from French. His most recent publication is “Study on the Szaszophone: Theme and variations” in Thomas Szasz: An Appraisal of his Legacy, Ed. C.V. Haldipur et al (2019) Oxford University Press.