Elizabeth Barton

The Quiet Ones

God bless the quiet ones
who sense the fury of a storm
before a leaf begins to tremble;
the ones who make their teachers roll their eyes
because they will not raise their hands,
are always late, forgetful;

the ones the bully knows will crack
like beetles’ wings beneath his boots,
who swell the waiting rooms
of doctors’ surgeries because they will not fit
in neat boxes, who trouble us
because they will not look away

as gulls are washed ashore, their feathers
slicked and globbed; the awkward ones
who question why we’re bent
on purging paradise of song and softness;
the doves we sacrifice because we’d rather drown
the voice of conscience out.

But when the blackened stumps of trees,
the brackish lakes, carcasses
of fish and birds bleed a cry so raw
it deafens us, we’ll turn to those
whose weakness is their greatest strength,
watch as they unfold their wings and soar.

Elizabeth Barton read English at Christ’s College, Cambridge, after which she worked as a teacher and freelance writer. She has lived in Spain and the U.S. and now lives in Surrey where she is Stanza Rep for Mole Valley Poets. Her poems have appeared or are upcoming in Acumen, Agenda, Orbis, The Dawntreader, The Curlew and The Frogmore Papers.