Psalter – William Thompson



A podcast has me listening to Leigh Chislett,
HIV nurse at St Mary’s in the mid-Eighties.

I think of Gunn, who trained both barrels
at men like me in ’92. Then try imagining Wilfred,

still writing ‘I with who another ghost am lain’,
but then surviving late into his nineties.

Just long enough to see yet another cause
of ‘vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues’

or to summon the will that saw him fighting
‘like an angel’ at the moment he ‘came out

to help these boys […] to speak of them as well
as a pleader can.’ And then, of course,


Housman – whose ‘fear contended with desire’
– who leant across his lectern in ’33 to say,

‘as for a verse in in the forty-ninth Psalm:
But no man may deliver his brother, nor make

agreement unto God for him; that is to me
poetry so moving that I can hardly keep my voice

steady in reading it.’ And so I try imagining
the three of them watching over Leigh, just as

he worries for a patient, who’s signed up
for a dodgy drug on an experimental trial,

only to receive reply: ‘I’m going to die anyway.
This is for those who will come after me.’

William Thompson is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. Born in Cambridgeshire in 1991, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wild CourtThe Honest Ulsterman, LighthouseInk Sweat & TearsQuince and The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-21 (Eyewear).
Twitter: @willthompson237

Phone Call – William Thompson

Phone Call

The news of how you’d stepped out of the pub’s
milky puddle of light on New Year’s Eve
to meet the swerve of a car’s headlamps
arrived with the same muffled shock
I imagine in your face just before impact.
So, natural teacher I’ve been told you were,
writer of long letters, pedaller through downpours,
this was the final lesson that you gave,
unsettling, life affirming: leaving my dad
gripping the kitchen worktop, the hand
that holds the phone gone almost limp
as my mum, in tears herself, props him up,
his shoulders slackening against her weight
his lovely head against her collarbone.


William Thompson is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol. His work has been published in Lighthouse, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Cannon’s Mouth and is forthcoming in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2020. Twitter: @willthompson237