The Heart and Other Poems

A selection of Dark Mountain poems by Mat Osmond
is a writer and artist based in Falmouth, Cornwall where he teaches at the University. He is co-director of the Dartington-based eco-arts collective with whom he convened a 2021 online summit on ecological grief and death cultures, Borrowed Time: On Death, Dying and Change. Mat has been a Dark Mountain contributor since 2009.

Hare, Stealing Below 


Turning her back to the light  

hare sits in the dark and waits,  

inhaling dry earth.  


One month elapses, then another.  


Hare’s thoughts compress,  

thicken, adjusting to depth.  

The memory of air  


still lingering in her nose,  

in her mouth, her eyes  

become opaque.  


A clod of dirt  

with only her hands to see by,  

hare steals the long way down.  


Swimming through coiled  

and folded rock, hare slips beneath  

the teeming skin of the hill, 


eyes swallowing darkness,  

hands lighting the way. 




Deadman and Hare  


Hare smelt deadman long before she saw him.  

Lately drowned, he sulked grey and waterlogged 

while all around him light scattered, light shoaled,  

patterning the sand.  


Deadman was something out of place, 

the only still spot in all that movement.  


Hare used her nose, she swam down  

and got beneath him, raised him to the air.  

Deadman drifted slack and listless, he kept  

sliding offreturning to the bottom.  


So hare went and got him.  

Each time deadman sank, she kept coming back.  

Getting underneath him hare nudged deadman up,  

dumbly reminding him to breathe.  


Again and again hare brought deadman back.  

Again and again deadman drifted away,  

dying over and over. 





Something was poisoning the air.  

Hare smelt trouble, and she had a hunch  

who was behind it.  


The land was stripped and broken, hills gaping  

like drowned fish. Hare couldn’t fathom it yet,  

but she knew that deadman was close. 


Hare found deadman cowering, down in the guts  

of a mountain. He was looking queasy.  


Around him the ground was riddled  

with digging, the opened rock  

dumb-mouthing what he’d done.  


Hare saw deadman’s strained grin,  

and she understood. Deadman was glowing,  

getting brighter – hare could see his face crawl  


as the light corroded his skin.  

If deadman so much as blinked 

he’d fly apart in one searing flash.  


Seeing deadman ready to blow  

hare did the only thing she could. She dug.  


Scraping up the shattered rock,  

hare piled it over deadman. Tamping it down,  

she smoothed the mountain back together.  


Deep inside the ground  

hare could still hear deadman humming 

the poisonous light seething within him.  


Hare shut deadman inside the mountain,  

as the trouble leeched away. That was a long cooling.  

Worlds came and went  


and hare stayed put, her irresistible silence  

pressing down on deadman while he mended. 

While he gave back what he took. 


(published in Issue 3)





Night slides in  

behind the wet glass door  


when its song beginspouring  

through our thin routine  


And yes, we were just asking –  

the warmth in the rock 


first bright day    

air like silk in our mouths  


Now the answer rings 

with the sudden flare  


of an unseen yellow eye 

it’s coming    it’s coming    it’s coming  


Glass blacks back 

our running faces  


gathering in the day 

It’s coming  



the heart 


a mile from the house  

we stopped walking       

lay down in the damp evening grass  


we’d thought the open field 

would let us breathe  

we were wrong about that  


even out here  

over the mud-flat sweep  

and curlewed folds of the creek  


all we could taste was iron  

the smell still clinging  

to the back of our mouths 


since it drew us out  

from separate rooms   

down to a closed front door  


to what waited there 

leaking on the horsehair mat 

hastily wrapped  


but unmistakable 

already blackening  

in the stale air 


then all at once    

we moved   

climbed heavily to our feet  


and walked    

until the house    

its quiet rooms                


fell far behind 

and we reached this sloping field  

to drop into the grass 


opening our mouths 

in vain 


(published in Issue 7)


Black Madonna,

Casa Alamosa Shrine


Living and speaking water is within me, 

saying deep inside me, Home to the Father 


         Origen, 6th Century C.E. 



I’m that lizard-like thing    

under Meinrad’s feet  

lifting its face to drink 


as she bends her head 

to an empty page      

dreaming a flood of eels      


and I’m all the world’s reptiles 

sipping her dark red words 


  God Is Not     

  God Is Not  


  God Is Not     

  A Boy’s Name  


which we already knew      

but still  


the eels slide off the page  

they sing to the dry river bed 


yes eels pour down from her page 

writhe on the desert floor 


where the world is dogs  

at mid-day rest  

a quiet girl on a stool 


Serious spectacled girl 

playing Artemis     

playing Crow  


we’ll swallow your rose-red words 

until we learn the rules  


Rules are simple enough     

she says  


  Rules Are Flowers    

  Rules Are Song  


Simple enough to forget     

she says  


which is how we get them wrong 

But the world is three old dogs at rest  

Meinrad, on a stool 


and us 

in the liquid carmine glow 

of the Black Madonna’s song 


 (published in Issue 16)


Dark Mountain: Issue 15

The Spring 2019 issue is a collection of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork that responds to the ‘age of fire’.


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