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The Centre of Zero


A selection of poems by Warwick McFadyen



The Centre of Zero


He walked along the faint-lit hall

pondering each slow footfall:

was there meaning in the day,

in these soft steps, in this sway?


He paused then for a moment brief

(the length of a dropping leaf)

to ask if shadow and flame

were both halves of the one frame


that shaped as it played upon the air.

It was the match and flare

came the soul’s reply, the spark

and the glint, the folding dark.


He stopped, and then closed his eyes,

saw zero as sea and skies,

held close time’s flickering chains

felt the heart beat in his veins.




The October Poem


You open the atlas and run your fingers

along the edges of continents,

climb mountains, trace valleys,

pause at coastlines of sand and wave.


This is where you have been and this,

fingers arched, is where you want to go.

Death is too faint to be seen. Though

you know it’s there, the undiscovered country,


but it is not yet borne in ink or a mark in your bones.

It is a gesture in the wings, a whisper

in your ear: I exist, and one day

we will meet. I will enter your house.


Death has passed by of course at one, two

three remove and you have watched it

through the windows or while  at the door,

half in light or shade from the garden,


Or you have heard it brushing against

the roof, rustling in the trees.

But it never sat with you at the kitchen table,

offered to make a cup of tea, said you shouldn’t feel


So unfamiliar with it, take heart with this if you can,

“I visit all houses, sit at all tables, will greet

your friends, neighbours, colleagues. It’s no big deal to me.

And then I leave a bit of me with all of you.


“Say what you will, but I’m fair to a fault.

Emily the poet wrote of me and I was flattered:

Because I could not stop for Death —

He kindly stopped for me…”


And then, one day, death stopped at your house.

It didn’t knock, but came in and sat at your table,

rubbed against your heart and then left but for

a part of itself now etched within you.


And as death left, it nodded towards

your atlas, and pointed to the contours and

shades of your world, and in the silence

of its parting, in the howling gales,


In the untouchable void you felt its wake

behind your eyes – the white-capped sea.

and you held onto this: love once lived

has no frontiers.  This is your atlas.


It is October. This is the October poem.




True North


The compass is a useful metaphor

in the directions that one takes.

Its needle is true to self when

push and pull of life forsakes


all points on the circumference rim

known by touch of hands and eyes.

Though it spins and trembles its

centre holds to light of sea and skies


that pours in day and night upon the skin

and shapes the words upon the tongue

that speak of paths and shadows cast,

of journeys false and hope still sung.


Says then the needle to the heart,

in each storm that rises to crease the air

I am you and you are me, true north

transcending, this is our whispering prayer.







Warwick McFadyen is an award-winning journalist. He has won two Walkley Awards and four Quill Awards. He has published several books of poetry. The latest is 21+4 Poems. His prose and poems have also appeared in Quadrant, Overland and Dissent.

Topic tags: Warwick McFadyen, poetry



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