Phot 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 recently in the High Window, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Cha, Antiphon, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Under the Radar, FourXFour, the Moth, Acumen and elsewhere.




Poems by Ian Heffernan for morphrog23

Two Tang Poems

Falling Again


Chinese Haiku



  1. Li He – On the Frontier

    A Tartar war horn startles the north wind,
    Ji Gate is whiter than a mountain stream.
    The sky receives the road to Qinghai Lake,
    One thousand li of moonlight on the Wall.
    A dew has formed, a mist obscures the flags,
    Cold metal measures out a sentry’s watch.
    The nomads’ armour interlocks like scales,
    Their horses neigh, the green grave mound is bare.
    An autumn calm but see the Pleiades,
    Out on the distant sands the nomads wait.
    Just north of where they camp the sky must end,
    The river flows beside a frontier post.

  2. Li He – A Meditation on Time

    The western mountains have reclaimed the light,
    And jade-blue clouds appear above their peaks.
    Do neither past nor present have an end?
    A thousand years are drifting on the wind.
    The sand of the seabed has changed to rock,
    Small fish blow bubbles where the Qin bridge fell.
    A hollow brightness moves across the world,
    The gods’ bronze pillars vanished long ago.

© Ian Heffernan




They told you to fall, so you fell.
It wasn’t difficult, you’d tired
Of running, tired of hiding too.
You fell by day, you fell by night,
You fell head first, feet first, face down
Or on your back; you found it wise
To make a friend of gravity
And fell for nearly thirty years.

You fell towards a host of things
And, falling through them, fell again.
You fell towards the sullen ponds,
The red-tiled roofs, the white-roofed vans.
You fell like money, urine, spit,
You fell towards dream-splintered stone,
Kept falling through your own descent.
Your fall bore witness to itself.

You fell towards a forest edge,
A track that crossed a winter field,
An empty Russian monastery,
A Doric temple on a plain.
You fell through horsemen’s heartbeats, fell
Through the hearts of their horses too.
You fell through fog that dragged itself
Out of the dark, you fell through air

That closed around you like a curse.
You fell towards belief and doubt,
You fell towards defended lies
And almost-undefended truths,
Till falling through albescent dawns
And through the blinking of an eye
You learned the reticence of birth
And the relentlessness of death.

© Ian Heffernan





Definition –

    • made up of a complex mix of elements
    • having complex patterns of colours

I. The Last Victory

This will be the last victory;
No other will follow, just
A little hesitant resistance.
Still giddy on its residue, we’ll crouch
In the quiet of lanes, watch
Our startled children, hear
The ill-defined ticking of their hearts,
The uncertain rasp of their breath.

II. Post-religion

We live in the aftermath of faith –
Its almost-unintended heirs.

Its immaculate counterpunch
Is gone, the abrupt miracles too.
Its weightless diction has grown secular.

Doubt circles us, stark as a blueprint.

We serve a few foul-mouthed penitents,
Some sour and aimless pilgrims
With a chrematistic itch.

We see the sacred texts rewrite themselves.

III. Post-love

Is it mnemophobia?
All I remember is:
The delicate angle of a smile,
Two short blank scars, a mole,
The outline of a lobe.

I carved her absence in stone.

IV. The Miracle of Solitude

Those who failed to protect you
From the onslaught of the state
Have forced you to endure
The miracle of solitude.

They stand in squares and courtyards now,
Shifting their weight from foot to foot.
They watch the flags shuffle up the poles.
They bark their vacant oaths.

V. The Placid Stranger

I scan a distant road, I see
The placid stranger on his way
To nowhere.
                       I know his kind –
The high-minded and meek – are abused
And that this is a natural thing.

They’re the victims of the tantrums, quirks
And wild guesses of history.

I imagine his naked corpse
Thawing in winter twilight
Or spiralling down in seawater.

I acknowledge also
The certainty of his return.

VI. Drunk on Lost Causes Again

I sit in a chair listening
To the soft early evening rain.
I’ve been accused of self-defence.
Is that the cause of everything?
Forgive my guilt and innocence.
I’m drunk on lost causes again.

© Ian Heffernan




Snow and ice have tamed
The aimlessness of water –
The winter stones crack.


A single bell chimes,
A plover calls into fog –
Here I’ve found shelter.


Two children alone
With a snoring prostitute –
A monk by the gate.


That unswept courtyard –
The tiny mea culpa
Of another drink.


My shadow runs rings
Around me like a wild man –
Autumn afternoon.


A drinking party –
Only the wind complains now
In its empty voice.

© Ian Heffernan