Mervyn Linford: Shepherd’s Warning


Mervyn Linford is a widely published writer of poetry and prose. He is also the founder and editor of  Littoral Press,  a small not-for-profit poetry press. The High Window will be publishing Mervyn’s latest collection, Shepherd’s Warning, to coincide with the publication of its summer issue.


This is  what people have been saying about his work:

‘Linford is in tune with the Earth’s own lingua franca, the quanta of the sun, the inside of the seed. Whether he is writing about bees that ‘lumber through the airwaves,’ goldfinches sounding their ‘vernal music’, or the wren’s ‘loud reel and rattle’ these closely observed poems about the natural world serve as meditations on the landscape of the Suffolk and Essex countryside that Linford has come to know and love so well.

In Shepherd’s Warning, Linford asks ‘Do we ever grow old, or is winter where we find what we have lost?’  Abounding in both Christian and pagan imagery, Linford scans the measure of the Earth, the unspoken language of animals and flowers, insects and birds, rivers and woods. These seasonal poems with their references to the phases of the moon, fair weather clouds and the constellated seed heads of dandelion clocks surprise and confound the way we think of time.’

Neil Leadbeater

‘With his strong sense of place, Mervyn Linford celebrates the Essex and the Suffolk countryside with the rich and sensual language of nature. He charts the seasons and the weather with words that draw the reader inexorably into his countryside and his memories of a lifetime spent by the rivers and marshlands of East Anglia. This is a poet who can talk to the bees and whose work transcends the limitations of paper and ink. Defying the classification of literary critics, he portrays a world we are in danger of forgetting.’

 Adrian Green


Mervyn Linford: Four Poems from Shepherd’s Warning

mervyn front cover cropped


I do not write the weather it writes me:
this grey is my dull mood not just the sky
as my internal moisture and the clouds
combine as if our dew points were allied

xxxxxx– were synchronised –

It seems the slanted rays of this slow sun
that skims the tide with sheens of silver light
inclines towards the rhythms of my heart
and all the stars that shimmer as they gleam
xxxxxxand iridesce.

And when the midnight moment comes to pass
and seagulls like the sap in every plant
sink into the silence and the dark of my cold blood

then I like winter’s reason thus defined
become the frosted thermocline of hope
that touches ice as well as summer’s fire –
both phoenix and the frozen reams of bone
xxxxxxthat is our text.

Remember as the rainbow arcs and towers
its spectral incandescence will not last –
like us it lives its own prismatic hour
like lark song or the ghosts as breath aspires

and when our autumn corpuscles are grasped
between the mists of memory
xxxxxx –and moments –
that hang their silks and glitter
when we ask and no-one answers

my inner sense of barometric pressure
responds to all the moods and millibars
that nature with its metre and its measures
condenses and precipitates like art
xxxxxxin every stanza.




They’re only flowers some would say
these nenuphars floating on the lake
xxxxxx– exotically –

Far from being English one might think, but they are
these white and enigmatic floral stars
xxxxxxin the summer haze.

I’m like a Buddhist, not just Gautama’s shape
as I sit here after sunrise in a state of meditation
watching my Zen-like float in a mindful way
xxxxxxas I wait communion.

That message as the float just slides away
into the deep connection of a fish
when the line between what’s said and understood
is as wordless and as sentient as grace
xxxxxxand an open lily.




I spend much time remembering the past
because it’s who I am when who I’m not is called amnesia.

We are the past accrued
and then configured
at points in time.

Without the child’s stance, the teenage vision
the middle aged last chance
the indecision

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxwe be?

If every living second was brand new
without an archived reference or clue to take us back
how could we chart the labyrinthine text –
the lexicon of meanings and remarks
that made the maps we follow and digest
xxxxlike months and minutes.

And as I write this apex of a thought
xxxxxx–this formed idea –

that’s climbed so many steps from dark to dark
into the blue and self-reflective light of a true September

I watch the skylark hover as it sings
without a past, a future, or those things
xxxxxxwe call sublime.



Do we ever grow old?
I’m sitting here in my car in the dark
xxlooking for snow.

Do I care about the cold?
The freezing air, the clouds,
xxxxnot really.

I’m looking for snow – or am I?

Is it snow or childhood I’m after?

How many words are there for innocence?

At two degrees Celsius it’s debatable –
it’s mostly rain but in the heavier bursts
sleet and the occasional flake
spiralling down half-heartedly.

I’m looking for snow in the dark –
in the headlight’s beams or the lamplight
nothing will escape my glance –

no sly six-sided frozen apparition
will leave the sky to melt like the weather’s ghost
xxxxwhen I’m on watch.

xxxxI’m looking for snow
and even though it’s raining
my cold prayer is for something colder.

Do we ever grow old
or is winter where we find what we have lost –
where the flesh, though pale and icy to the touch
detects a hint of fire in the frost?

xxxxxxxxI’m looking
xxxxxxxxfor snow
xxxxxxxxin the dark.




I know I’m old but if I climb this tree
forgetting if I can the thought of weight and gravity

when I get to the top, beyond the bole, the boughs,
the twigs and branches, even the topmost leaves
and the songs of birds

will I reach the sheer blue heights where angels speak
of heaven and the sight of the great unseen
and the end of darkness

or will the branches break as I fall to earth
with a thud that wakes the underworld from sleep
and its Orphic dreams

and will the songs sing on and never cease
because I turned and looked at the face of spring
when my love was dying?

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