Extract from a sequence by Greg Gilbert

Perfection B.C. (Before Cancer):


Graceful necks of wilting gold,
Dry grass sleeps upon the breeze;
My daughters fine white hair,
Like cotton thread, lifts,
A cube of hissing morning
Bleeding through us.
In this field I invented summer
When I was cotton like her,
And from here all ensuing summers broke,
Perfected in her warmth.


Mortality A.D. (After Diagnosis)

Love makes a mess of dying,
Requires a division of healing
Between what you can afford yourself
And what you can afford others;

It holds you the centre of
A tolerant universe; such
A simple thing for one, now splintered
Into prismatic, unruly consequence.

Love makes a mess of dying,
Rarefies what you’ve got left and
Draws close those for whom you’ve
Been essential architecture, each seeking
A totem.

Whatever tricks I tell myself to deaden before dying –
That I’m alone, that alone is the essential state – comes
Undone at the sight of love and I’m afraid, not of dying,
But of leaving a mess for love.


On Your Thinking I Didn’t Have Long

In my bones and gown, you
Didn’t think I’d make Christmas, a
Murmuration of doubt
Scattered at the surgeons words

And I’m grateful you never said,
Let me bob with words devoid
Of knowing but light with care;
Yet I must’ve known at the point
Where our daughters met,

Where I know you utterly.
That your first thought was
David Lynch, that I might see
Twin Peaks before the end speaks

Of years and breath and simple,
Essential learning.


Reflection On Being The Singer In A Moderately Successful
Indie Band Whilst Lying In Hospital

Was once a singer on a mountainside,
My voice filling the air between flanks
And the sound of my shadow amplified,
Remade as a mountain.

Knowing my voice rang through
Villages like spring meant renewal
Of faith in a bigger thing, happy
To not comprehend. But this

Betrayal, the narrative upended
And suddenly wilting against
The grain of velocity we’d built
Across continents and stages;

It’s all the contrast I can take, mountain
Lungs to melting lungs on these
Elevated pillows and the singer
High and silenced.


On Resignation

In lieu of a cure I choose abstinence
From feeling, from tender,
From signature, from footfall,
From astronomy, from tenses.
I choose to identify as non:
Non has no living so non has
No dying.
Poverty of expression means I
Can only express as someone’s I.
Non has no I.


On Living In The Wake Of Trauma & Not Trauma Itself

No need to agonize over the
Details, just know the place:
Woe is no disclaimer against
Tragedy, it only acts as canticle
Of perishing. Regard no sorry
Sounds and pin the directive
To your tail. Here, as in,
Catastrophe has been and gone
And you now exist in aftermath,
Not catastrophe in perpetuity.
How to navigate shards and
Old roses? A celebrant full
Of evidence —–
Take the loose leaves
And press yourself to their mess,
Inure yourself against
Neat explanations.
Only occasional sense
Is necessary to survive.



And then alive, a shock
To all, we headed out;
The fields in their wrack
Listed underfoot, blasted
In triggered light, but we
Only imagined our lead
And broke cover —

Fast colour applied
Itself to our lips, to
Your eyes and, alive, we
Listened for the only

Spring of spring, knock
The breast and it happens
This was the way needed
And the breast flowered
With applause.


The following image by Greg Gilbert was completed while he was undergoing chemotherapy and will be included in a solo exhibition at Southampton City of Art Gallery in 2019.

Image by Greg Gilbert 2017


In late 2017, Greg Gilbert was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. Through poetry and prose he is documenting this journey and the impact it is having on his creativity. As lead singer of the band Delays he has released 4 albums and toured internationally. As an artist his work has been exhibited at The Royal Academy Summer exhibition, winning Best in the South of England at The National Open Art Competition. 2019 will see a solo exhibition at Southampton City Art Gallery of drawings made whilst undergoing chemotherapy that will run alongside that of Leonardo da Vinci.  Greg Gilbert on Twitter @GregDelays Instagram @greggilbert_artist