Jean Sprackland

Jean Sprackland’s Sleeping Keys was published in 2013.

Poem: ‘CCTV’

Jean Sprackland, 2 June 2016

Exalted on towers and posts and fitted with articulated necks that tilt, cock and swivel like the necks of owls, silent and absolute.

Like owls, they have a zealous gaze that does not falter, through no matter how long a night. Unlike owls they sometimes hunt in pairs or threes,

perched at the corner of a flat roof, protected in cages or bulletproof housing, some with a mohican of spikes....

Poem: ‘April’

Jean Sprackland, 21 April 2016

machine of spring with all your levers thrown to max clouds in ripped clothes and sheep trailing afterbirth where last week’s buds sucked blue juice from the dusk now the branch is swollen     priapic cherry bling and hawthorn sex-bed smell motorway hedgerows on thrust      electric rapefields

your levers are jammed and nothing can...

Three Poems

Jean Sprackland, 22 October 2015


Seeing the grey abbreviated bodies of military aircraft at the edge of a field, I remember at once the dismantled flies in the corner of the playground. I would sneak back when the committee had gone, to see if the engines had stopped and to inspect the exhausted machinery. I didn’t dare touch, but when I held my finger close I could feel the molecules of air still stirring...

Two Poems

Jean Sprackland, 4 June 2015


Stumbling under the kapok tree, fevering between its cathedral buttresses, I am loster than lost in a place where every known sound has its counterpart:

tap dripping into a metal bucket, fluorescent tube about to blow, the flicking of switches, the tuning of radios, a tent unzipped – the jungle crawls with spies –

and I’m looking for the kind of nest you can find...

Poem: ‘Sleeping Keys’

Jean Sprackland, 20 June 2013

Printed with old roses or tartans and thistles, there’s a biscuit tin like this in every house. Prise off the lid and catch the flinty scent of old keys, decommissioned and sleeping.

Like unspent francs, Deutschmarks and drachmas they accumulate here, inert and futureless, though each in its time was powerful: precision-cut on a wheel of sparks.

Tip them out on the table in the empty...

Poem: ‘Last Resort’

Jean Sprackland, 9 May 2013

I Borneo, 1951. Deep in the interior, on the deep jungle floor, a young missionary is kneeling

not in prayer, but in the equally experimental service of edging a spatula into the earth and collecting a few rich crumbs for the vial.

He has gone, as the letter said he should, far from the beaten track. He has left the village and walked for four hours to this small clearing

where the forest...

Diary: In the Mud

Jean Sprackland, 6 October 2011

Nine o’clock on a winter morning. I crunched my way through sand-dunes hardened and sheened with frost, then slithered over a sheet of ice. Under the ice, pale bubbles swelled and skittered away from my tread. The tideline was a sparkling white ribbon of frozen froth, curling away into the distance. I stopped to watch oystercatchers pecking at a frozen pool. I visited a shipwreck, its...

Poem: ‘The Source’

Jean Sprackland, 19 June 2008

Want to learn the source, the cool under the surface fire? Watch the heron:

he snatches the silver voice from the throat of the river and swallows it live.

How quick the water heals and speaks again, how many darting notes among the reeds.

Follow with your rod and line, tear a wound and drag out an echo.

Take home your hoard of silver. Run a blade along the seam of the belly,

spill the...

Poem: ‘Three Lakes’

Jean Sprackland, 2 August 2007


The lake had been drained that night and filled with sky instead.

We stood on the jetty as if on a summit, looking down on a fathomless depth of cloud.

Sky overhead, sky at our feet

like deep past and deep future

and we stood halfway between.

It was one ten in the morning. I can’t remember who stood there with me.


Its green complacency makes him cruel. He tramps the shoreline,...

Poem: ‘Tilt’

Jean Sprackland, 24 May 2007


When the wind collapses at last the sand glitters with oil like the fine mist of blood a dying man would breathe onto his friend’s face and shirt.

It’s this freak weather. For five days and five nights the storm hacked the steel legs, mauled the derricks. The pipes flailed and shuddered. Nothing the men could do but play blackjack and drink the rig dry.

He has his friend by the...

Three Poems

Jean Sprackland, 6 February 2003

No Man’s Land: I

Every day I walk this tightrope of tarmac, blown toppling in the wake of juggernauts. I walk it to learn the line of the road, to keep my place on it. When I was a lad my dad took me to a strange part of town, left me to find the five miles home – a stiff task that taught me to trust my feet. In a car, it’s all distortion, one landmark smudging the next:...

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