Wednesday 13 May 2020

Previously unpublished poem: 'Leaving Basel'

As I've failed to blog more frequently even in the midst of more-time-than-usual-on-my-hands-quarantine (I'm sure many of you can relate), I thought something I could do would be to share one or two (or maybe a few) of my unpublished poems. These are poems which I have faith in, and have probably sent out several times, but which have failed to find a home in journal-world.

I wrote the following poem 'Leaving Basel' while travelling in Switzerland several years ago. I had been staying with a friend in Basel in December and then took the train to Geneva for a quick visit before returning to London. The same trip, which began in Luxembourg, also yielded my poem 'Carousel', which was published in Strange Horizons and which you can read here:

While I say this is a poem I have faith in, it's also fair to say that I never felt as though I got the ending quite right, and that is perhaps the poem's weakness. On the other hand, I don't feel as though I will ever get any farther with it. And maybe that's ok.


I was trying to explain the snow in terms of the light
as we drove to the station. The border houses slept,
the embassies sang softly and a breath of crystals rose
from their balconies. But I stopped trying
and just looked, because the muted shatter of snow
over the quiet city was not the long slow note of light
on water, and the wild ringing of sailboats
in the wind on Lake Geneva was another way of seeing.

What I learned was this:
we cannot even explain snow in terms of snow,
nor light in terms of light. Then this:
snow stops being here, and light fades. But love goes on,
and elsewhere snow clouds gather, and elsewhere the sun rises.

Photo by Clarissa Aykroyd: Sailboats on Lake Geneva, 2014.


  1. I rather like this. I am partial to that part of the world anyway, having lived in Geneva and travelled to Basel several times.
    The ending works for me, but if you want to play around with changes, how about:
    But love goes on.
    Elsewhere, snow clouds gather.
    Elsewhere, the sun rises.

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you like it. It's interesting that a few people have also said they really like the ending! I think my doubts about it were more due to wording than to structure...but I'll probably leave it unless inspiration truly strikes hard at some point.

  2. I like this poem a lot. It is subtle, evocative, and deeply artistic. I don’t like the ending. It strikes me as unsubtle and out of artistic character with the rest of the poem. So a bit jarring to me. I would excise

    “But love goes on,

    Then capitalizing “elsewhere” for the denouement.

    In my peculiar headspace, I prefer that the personal sentiment be implicit, like how certain pulses of meaning or significance never quite reach the surface in dreams.