from Approaches to How They Behave

from Approaches to How They Behave
1

What does it matter if the words
I choose, in the order I choose them in,
Go out into a silence I know
Nothing about, there to be let
In and entertained and charmed
Out of their master’s orders?  And yet
I would like to see where they go
And how without me they behave.

2

Speaking is difficult and one tries
To be exact and yet not to
Exact the prime intention to death.
On the other hand the appearance of things
Must not be made to mean another
Thing.  It is a kind of triumph
To see them and to put them down
As what they are.  The inadequacy
Of the living, animal language drives
Us all to metaphor and an attempt
To organize the spaces we think
We have made occur between the words.

3

The bad word and the bad word and
The word which glamours me with some
Quick face it pulls to make me let
It leave me to go across
In roughly your direction, hates
To go out maybe so completely
On another silence not its own.

4

Before I know it they are out
Afloat in the head which freezes them.
Then I suppose I take the best
Away and leave the others arranged
Like floating bergs to sink a convoy.

5

One word says to its mate O
I do not think we go together
Are we doing any good here
Why do we find ourselves put down?
The mate pleased to be spoken to
Looks up from the line below
And says well that doubtful god
Who has us here is far from sure
How we on our own tickle the chin
Of the prince or the dame that lets us in.

6

The dark companion is a star
Very present like a dark poem
Far and unreadable just out
At the edge of this poem floating.
It is not more or less a dark
Companion poem to the poem.
W. S. Graham

New Collected Poems, edited by Matthew Francis (Faber, 2004)

Reproduced by permission of the Estate of W.S. Graham
W. S. Graham

William Sydney Graham was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, and spent most of his adult life in Cornwall, where he scraped together a living as a writer. His poetry pays close attention to the structure and possibilities of language; he invites readers to explore with him the means to authentic communication in poems of great energy, wit and humanity.

 

Read more about this poet