‘Edge States’ from Philip Gross

Edge States

Mänttä /Jyväskylä, Finland, October




Sunlight, late

 in the year, the edge

of winter. Light like stainless steel.

Just out of hearing,

the ring

of its thin blades fencing with itself.

Light like glass

that, let fall

on water growing harder at the edge

of freezing,

could break.

Its splinters on your retina. And the wind

like a slap to the skin,

the wind

stretched low to the lake, to the bare shore

where you wait

for light and for it

bringing tears that may be purer without

tincture of emotion,

tears to clean

the eyes, for no sake but the sake of clarity,

which should sting.

This wind,

then, cutting through the dry reeds,


its edges

on the water, shick-shick like the slap

of ripples,

as if on a stone.




Closer now. At the edge,

at your feet, a small undercut lip

of first ice ripples seem to slow to


then duck under…

The edge going milky, glaucous,

agate-like. In the splash zone, droplets still


to frosting on the first

grass blade they touch. But the ripples

don’t cease. Under the held breath of the ice crust,


something like a pulse…

In melt pools, a shuddering up, each

different inflection of the under-rhythm. Lake-breath.


And quieter now (if you

crouch) hear the creak of the ice-skin. A squeal,

like a wince. A click and shift of pressure like a sigh,


the crackling never

where you look. Here’s how a fish

might know it, rising from the silt. The way ice speaks.





Or say it slow, in small

words. (Friends, this is

for you; at the edge


where the differences

touch, you and me,

state and state,


where Siberian wind

comes down to lap

near-tideless Baltic,


it’s all a vowel-shift:

too numb-lipped

for consonants,


the words take shape).


I went


to the lake. Sat

on the stone. Met


wind. And sunlight,

too loud. Finally


it was the least,

the quiet thing, the ice


that spoke to me.



Philip Gross is a poet, and a keen collaborator across artforms. The Water Table won the T.S.Eliot Prize 2009, and Love Songs of Carbon the Roland Mathias Award (Wales Book of The Year) 2016. His latest collaborative publication, with artist Valerie Coffin Price, is A Fold In The River (Seren, 2015). His libretto for The King in the Car Park, a cantata about the discovery of the bones of Richard III, was performed in Leicester Cathedral. A new collection, A Bright Acoustic, is due from Bloodaxe in June 2017.  Philip is Professor of Creative Writing at University of South Wales. www.philipgross.co.uk

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.