– I was a charming and respected teacher,

an influential man with everything

to lose by speaking out. I spoke. Now, who’s

for Astro-Psychics class, Messiah Theory,

or Further Myth? This crock of frankincense

was my sardonic way (I’m famous for

those wry asides) of saying: well, yes, frankly

it’s all nonsense.

– In dreams…

– And may I add

(as world authority on processes

of mummification from the earliest

Dynastic to the Ptolemies) it’s good

to have escaped the lab, to sleep beneath

the stars – one hangs there so seductively

impelling us as if she’s telling us

through wink and hint and dark suggestiveness

our necessary route – and see a way

that promises to bypass bodily

decay without the need for what I’ve brought

the child (wrapped here): embalming oils, the best

and purest treatment for mortality

humanity has yet –

– For miles and miles

my only podium has been this hump.

And in it – all a beast requires. My friends,

we wanted more. Yet, far from your arcane

retorts and flasks, your glazed fork lightning, minds

made fit by study to confront the cosmos,

like me, do you begin to feel that you

have found some secret in this gentler sway,

that cloud-free sky, a sandscape of repeating

nursery dunes?

– Let’s rest.

– In dreams, I reach

a shining building where the gold’s not stacked

but scattered, so much of it that it’s left

for goats or stuffed in scarecrows, valueless,

and all that’s rare and longed for in that place

is wood, rough cross-beams, all their dreaming hung

with iron nails.

– Can you feel this too, friends?

A wholeness, wholly blinding you to all

but one star, one clear scent out of the west?

It’s growing dark. The desert ends beyond

that ridge, I’m sure of it. And if these moths

are not archangels, I’m… But I’m afraid

I have no dazzle left. An early class

tomorrow then, you magi, so good night.



John Greening has won the Bridport and TLS Prizes and received a Cholmondeley Award. He is a judge for the Eric Gregory Awards.   His 2013 collections are To the War Poets ( and Knot ( Poetry Masterclass (2011) is published by