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Lay for the Day
27th December

The feast of St John the Evangelist. The author of the fourth Gospel is, according to tradition, the “beloved disciple” who leant on Jesus’s breast at the Last Supper, and the author of the Revelation that ends the Christian Bible.
The final incident in his Gospel provides the poem’s title.

Fish for Breakfast

It’s been going slowly wrong now for a long time,
Spiked with sudden disasters.
Remember the flood? Remember the wind?
Remember the ship and the drunken master?

It’s been twisting round somebody’s little pinky
Till every word’s bent out of sense.
Find me one with a decent point left
To hang a house together, let alone fix the rent.

The meadow’s black and yellow like last year’s paper.
Cluck, clack – the bell’s been rung.
Everybody’s talking about the weather
And the leaves all summer like unwell tongues.

If God were alive he’d be turning in his grave now
To hear the captains praise him.
The saints are sleeping quiet in the light.
We’ll never blow our horns enough to raise them.

Mocked and saluted and run up a pole,
He’s been hounded from pillar to post,
Hung out to dry and crammed back in the hole again –
No ghost, eating fish for breakfast on the shore.


John Gibbens
from Makings ’89-’91


The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar