The Listening Post

“The Listening Post” was commissioned by 14-18 NOW: World War One centenerary art commissions

and performed at the National Commemoration of the Centenerary of the Battle of the Somme in Heaton Park on July 1st 2016 at 9.45pm. Here are video recordings, audio recordings and the written poem.


The Listening Post

The past messages of the first born
The last words of the front
The first waves of spring tides
Where night bathes the sun

The words of letters unwritten
The tongue tied and unread
The hymns of the un-congregated
The unheard song unsaid

Tears weighed down for 100 years
Rise up from fallen eyes
Hear. The swallows are returning
The crops are lifting the sky

Here comes the blood dread sun
She climbs the edge of plight
All light has the power to stun
All darkness stilled in the night

Shadows slant and stretch
Seeds split beneath earth
Roots of light seek the eye
The opening iris at birth

Here is the child born
The harvest in bloom
Hands hold her to light
To dawn and the falling moon

Light paves the way
Night waves reveal
The breaking new day
Above dew soaked fields

We cannot be defined by war
Not by fields sown with sorrow
Not by the death that befell you
But by the peace that followed

Look what has risen from the fallen
Above long shadows cast
The light shines from open minds
The torch held in our past

If you could hear at the listening post
One hundred years ahead
And be, as you are, the missing host
Where light and darkness wed…

Look what was sown by the stars
At night across the fields
We are not defined by scars
But by the incredible ability to heal

Here are the past messages of the first born
The lost words of the front
The first waves of spring tides
Where night bathes in sun


Here is the poem filmed a day earlier in a studio in Lancashire by Huckleberry films and then broadcast on BBC North West Tonight on July 1st.

And here it is live at Heaton Park.

Two verses were recorded on Breakfast Television at 8.40am. Three people I would like to thank: Maria Balshaw, Alan Lane and Sir Mark Elder.


“The Listening Post” will be in  Gold From The Stone . I can’t tell you how sad it is that the only people to edit my poem are North West Tonight. They took out four whole verses. It was good enough for the government. Good enough for ten thousand people and to end the some celebrations.

I am posting this blog from The  Malmaison in Piccadilly.  They  framed “The Listening Post” and placed it on the Reception desk.


11 thoughts on “The Listening Post

  1. Our ability to heal makes me cry every time.
    Beautifully written and magically spoken.
    You have a calming, yet powerful voice.
    I’m looking forward to giving your new book to my son for his 13th birthday.
    I can only see them 4 times a year because of lies abot my mental health but when I do see my sons, I fill them in with all the news.
    You’re an inspiration to those who are suffering and a shining example of how to rise above the frustrations that happen throughout our life.
    Take care and stay strong.

  2. Very moving. Well written Lemn, steadily spoken. I saw you on tv last night, watching with my granddaughters; told them that we had met years ago in Manchester and re-met on Fb. Proud to know you and how you turned your life round. Never stop believing! X

    • Do you think so. That’s very… no.. that’s extremely perceptive of you. I wouldn’t insult Owen by saying that you are wrong.

      • Lemn
        I referenced help from Owen in my use of ‘poetry and pity’ from his famous quote
        ” My subject is war and the pity of war, the poetry is in the pity”
        Just to be clear and I have re read your work and shared it with others.

  3. Dear Dr Sissay,

    Thank for giving us these timeless and beautiful gifts. I am touched by your poem Molasses and Long Shadows, is there any I can help in understanding it more?

    I appreciate if you can direct me.

    Best wishes


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