Lifesaving Poems: Andy Brown’s ‘Prayer/Why I am Happy to be in the City this Spring’

I absolutely love this poem by Andy Brown. I am not sure when I read or heard it first. Possibly at one of Andy’s readings in Exeter. Possibly in draft form at the writers’ group we used to belong to.

To paraphrase what Kenneth Koch said on hearing Frank O’Hara’s poems for the first time, there is nothing in it I do not like. Plus, I am a sucker for a good list poem.

There is so much pleasure in this poem. It makes me glad to be alive and to want to continue being so. I think I am secretly jealous of the line ‘birch trees/like Elizabethan ladies/painted white’. I see pallid skin, fragility, the effort of keeping up appearances. Most of all it makes me see both objects in a fresh way. Brilliant.

It conjures for me perfect these liminal not-quite-here days of sunshine, warmth, sudden cold and increasing daylight.

If you do not know Goose Music (Salt, 2008), from which this poem comes, you should get your hands on it now.

There is nothing here which does not read completely freshly. Nothing that does not feel minutely observed, felt and processed from a core of complete respect for the world.


Prayer/Why I am Happy to be in the City this Spring


for creepers etched

across a wall

like the marble veins

on David’s hands;


for the lichen, moss

and granite blocks

of the city’s ancient



for the empty paint pots,

loose blue string

and slightly sparkling

bottled water

discarded in the bushes,

its dregs -quite still-

reminding us

we’re only passing through;


for a builder’s skip

of silver crucifixes;

for sunlight on

the golden rooster

of a weathervane;


for a metal dragon


to tingling cash

outside the new cafe;


for students drinking coffee –

their notes taking off

in the wind;


for bird song

when a door slams;


for birch trees

like Elizabethan ladies

painted white;


for the burgeoning stems

of Aloe Vera

in municipal gardens

like chubby children

playing Stuck-in-the-mud;


for water in a concrete pond;

for reflections,


and ripples

over grey;


for buttercups emerging

through drain holes;


for garden planters

standing bare all winter,

now filled;


for distant hills;


for the balm of a snail’s track

on galvanised railings

at midnight;


for this ongoing twilight

over our new home

and through it

the relief of seeing

individual stars.


from Goose Music (Salt, 2008)

Lifesaving Poems

Image courtesy of Spacex Gallery


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