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Imagine a Forest

W. S. Graham

Imagine a forest

A real forest.


You are walking in it and it sighs

Round you where you go in a deep

Ballad on the border of a time

You have seemed to walk in before.

It is nightfall and you go through

Trying to find between the twittering

Shades the early starlight edge

Of the open moor land you know.

I have set you here and it is not a dream

I put you through. Go on between

The elephant bark of those beeches

Into that lightening, almost glade.


And he has taken

My word and gone


Through his own Ettrick darkening

Upon himself and he’s come across

A glinted knight lying dying

On needles under a high tree.

Ease his visor open gently

To reveal whatever white, encased

Face will ask out at you who

It is you are or if you will

Finish him off. His eyes are open.

Imagine he does not speak. Only

His beard moving against the metal

Signs that he would like to speak.


Imagine a room

Where you are home


Taking your boots off from the wood

In that deep ballad very not

A dream and the fire noisily

Kindling up and breaking its sticks.

Do not imagine I put you there

For nothing. I put you through it

There in that holt of words between

The bearded liveoaks and the beeches

For you to meet a man alone


Slipping out of whatever cause

He thought he lay there dying for.


Hang up the ballad

Behind the door.


You are come home but you are about

To not fight hard enough and die

In a no less desolate dark wood

Where a stranger shall never enter.


Imagine a forest

A real forest.


From Poetry Nation No 3 (1974)

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