Photo of Ian Heffernan

Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at UCL and SOAS and works with the homeless. His poetry has been published in the High Window, the Raintown Review, Morphrog, London Grip, Acumen, Ink Sweat & Tears, South Bank Poetry and elsewhere.




At dawn we reached the martyry
They built for us five decades in advance,

Where we watched the fragments of a sunrise
And our priests performed their dull outmoded rites.

Now we wait without knowing
For what exactly, or how long.

We are the defeated, forbidden
To work or marry, forbidden to create.

We have lived long, unusable lives
Under debased laws, and own nothing

Except our fatalism
And the discord in our blood.

This is why we chose to escape
Our survival, leaving behind

The dust on undrunk coffee, half-written books,
And beggars’ shadows thrown against a wall.

We headed south on foot until we saw
The last few hamlets scatter in the heat,

A little thin smoke rise from nowhere,
Then unbroken plain, horizon.

The final night we took no rest, but walked
Under the bright silent planets, listening

For an echo of a unicorn’s hooves,
Or its fart, chewing on unicorn bones.

Which was when, nearing our goal,
We decided to disguise ourselves

As ourselves.

© Ian Heffernan





Li Bai

I’m told that Can Cong’s roads are steep
And that the journey will be hard.
The mountains rise into one’s face
And clouds grow round a horse’s head.
But bushes cloak the zhandao now,
Spring waters skirt the walls of Shu.
Your fate is fixed, for good or bad,
No need to seek diviners’ help.

© Ian Heffernan




Li Bai

This northern mountain pass, the wind, the sand,
A desolation stretching back in time.
The fallen leaves, the yellow autumn grass,
I climb the tower, take my turn on guard.
A ruined fort, beyond it endless dunes,
A border village left without its walls.
White bones that have withstood a thousand frosts,
High heaps concealed by brambles, grass and trees.
So who has brought about this tyranny?
The ‘arrogant of heaven’, cruel and wild.
They drew the anger of our emperor,
The troops began to beat their horse-borne drums.
Then harmony gave way to killing rage
And turmoil spread throughout the borderlands.
An army several hundred thousand strong
And sorrow, sorrow like the frontier rain.
Not only this, but sorrow that men leave
And farms and gardens fall into disuse.
Too few of us to mount a long defence,
How could you understand the hardship here?
There’s no Li Mu to lead our troops today,
We’ll soon be food for tigers and wild dogs.

© Ian Heffernan