Read a Poem

Return to this page each month for a different poem by D.S. Martin.

Cædmon

a poem for the first poet of English

There are certain times you're as comfortable
as the babe settling down in the sweet hay of the manger
& others----when you see the harp being passed-hand
to hand----getting closer to you----song
by song----& as the music continues to swell
the hands that are sure upon the hay fork-become
wet & tingly----so you wipe them on your breeches
& swallow a little of the monks' warm ale
but it doesn't steady you----or do anything for your swollen
languid tongue----& still the harp moves closer
so you slip out to the stable to be sure everything's
right with the horses----though why wouldn't it be-seeing
you've already rubbed them down----& picked their -hooves
clean----although fresh clumps steam in the stalls
as a large shape shivers in the darkness
recognizing the way you move----As his tail swishes---& hooves
clomp on the clay floor----you reassure the beast
& tell yourself----as you settle in the straw
you'll return to the glaring lamplit clamour of the feast
as soon as you find your breathing
But that's when the angel appears----lifting
you from a sleep you've fallen into----like from a dark well
& he calls you to sing
You stammer a protest as Moses did
but he calls you to sing
a song of the creation of all things
& that----is the beginning

— D.S. Martin


This poem is the first poem in my award-winning poetry collection Poiema. It is about the earliest poet, whose name we know, who wrote in the Anglo-Saxon that eventually evolved into English. I have written about Cædmon on my Kingdom Poets blog here