Two poems by Stephen Payne


A hard thing to explain to an eight year old.
How to lift from everything we know
a clutch of truths by which he’ll be consoled.
I keep to what it doesn’t mean, name
the famous cases. Hard to answer no
when he asks quietly, Are you the same?
(from The Probabilities of Balance Smiths Knoll, 2010)
Sun Dogs

When a low sun shines through cirrus cloud
in a milk sky of late afternoon,
then you may see the Sun Dogs.

One either side,
they guard our bank of light
from night’s villains.

As dark falls, the star gangs gather.
Call off your dogs, they glower,
We are all the light you need —
enough for love.

Turn your back and wait for day.
Be grateful for the Sun Dogs
on their tireless watch,
how they growl and snarl through the night.
(from Domestic Cherry 3, 2013)
Stephen Payne is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath. He was awarded the 2010 Smiths Knoll mentorship by Joanna Cutts and Michael Laskey, and Smiths Knoll published his pamphlet, The Probabilities of Balance, in December of that year. He has a full collection forthcoming from HappenStance.