Somehow I wish I could say
it was indifference not love
that found the co-ordinates
for cormorants among the blue
the blue-white gulls
tell you that we have lived once
and will not come this way again
say to you that as long as art
teaches language of recovery
eternal reminders of morning
will grow on our sweat, spume,
tick softly on our lips, on our lips.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2008. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editors in 2008 were Rosemary Goring and Alan Taylor.
Has Gerry McGrath been listening to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks? On that album, in ‘If You See Her Say, Hello’, Dylan has a line that begins: “Say for me…” Similarly, McGrath has a line that starts: “Say to you…” That may seem tenuous, preposterous even, but that’s what happens sometimes when you read a poem. McGrath’s poem, like Dylan’s poem/song, is concerned with love and lovemaking. To which McGrath adds an ornithological twist. The result, which in less accomplished hands could have been risible, is a beautifully observed, deeply felt, multi-layered poem.
In his Oxford Lectures Paul Muldoon talks about poetry existing at the end of language. This is something that has exercised me for some time; the extent of a poem, its reach into itself and out. I think that poetry is basically a conversation. If you can write it down you have a poem. That’s it in a nutshell. No mystery, just hard work and some good fortune.