Stay in the loop and register for email updates about events, competitions and all things poetry.
sign up now
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
It wasn’t snowing, but it should have been.
You were an old man, nine months from the grave.
Your hand was very dry and very hot
And large, as I recall (I was a boy,
Fourteen years at most, I led you round
Part of the school, your guide; you seemed to listen)
That night you read in a slow, dismissive voice
That left the words like notes on staves hung in the air,
No longer yours, but part of memory -
You talked about Miss Dickinson of Amherst
And said aloud the eight lines of her poem
‘The heart asks pleasure first’. And from that night
I’ve known the poem word-perfect, part of me.
I think you let more lines free into language
And memory with your rusty, lonely voice
Than any other poet of our age.
It must have been like freeing doves
And watching them go off to neighbouring cotes
Or into the low clouds of your New Hampshire
Knowing they’ll meet no harm, that they’ll survive
Long after the hand that freed them has decayed.
Those lines are wise in rhythm and they lead
Into a clapboard dwelling, or a field,
Or lives that prey upon the land and one another,
Or the big country where we both were children.
(after Kate Clanchy)
We thought you’d like to know:
that the colour of my eyes, which is also yours,
smells of the sea, pungent
with bladder wrack, flecked with an approaching storm,
that your father’s hair, which is also yours,
is the sound of a stone lobbed into the deepest well,
splashing, then stilled,
that you’re likely to inherit our height,
which tastes of the cool, peat-laden spring
at the furthest reaches of Loch Maree,
that the shade of your skin
is smooth as the finest sand of Ullapool,
kissed repeatedly by a loving tide,
that you live in a tall, white building,
high above the ocean,
where one day, you will own the brightest eye.
gray winter morning
the oranges in the fruit bowl
scent the room