Two poems by John McCullough


It prefers untended places, drab corners
where it arrives like a boon.
Kerbs, slag heaps, skewed gravestones—
the roofs of council estates it spots
with yellow coins dropped from the sky.

Soundless and rootless, it ventures
small claims, its chintzy blooms
opening on concrete as though
it were love itself, giddy and bountiful,
living on rain and dust.

Both fungus and alga yet neither,
it can survive desiccation,
being whirled for hundreds of miles,
pausing for decades as a rumour
in cold, infertile soil.

Scraped off ledges with a butter knife,
the paradox of its filaments returns
on the nearest wall. It is merely
a question of continuous
adjustment, of improvising a life.

When I’m far from friends
or the easing of a wind
against my back, I think of lichen—
never and always true to its essence,
never and always at home.
Heart of Brighton
It’s off-centre, where the ocean slinks―a drag queen’s
slate-blue evening glove, absurdly long, unmatched for sequins.
John McCullough’s first collection of poems The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011) was a summer read in The Observer and was named a Book of the Year by The Independent and The Poetry School. The Guardian described it as ‘sharp yet compassionate, formal yet nimble’. He teaches creative writing at Sussex University and the Open University and lives in Hove.