Dear Hannah, Time no less than space
would keep us, firmly, in our place.
I being old and sluggish, here
and you, so bright and recent, there.
A here and there how far apart,
Centuries, oceans; but take hearts:
that by one miracle we are
alone together on a star
and by another, that the two
I dearly love, love fondly, you.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2004. 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 editor in 2004 was Hamish Whyte.
A neglected writer, most of whose work appeared after his death. This is just a lovely, almost perfect lyric, saved from soppiness by its slight mysteriousness.
Note on the poem:
With just a little bit of help from my daughter-in-law Ann, Hannah arrived exactly fifty years to the day after I did. ‘Dear Hannah’ was as far as I know Seán Rafferty’s last poem, written in 1990 after the birth of his first (step) great grandchild in Sydney Australia, about as far away from deepest darkest central Devon as you can possibly go, discounting New Zealand. All first borns are of course heralded by portents and shooting stars, covens of good fairies rushing to endow health, wealth, Einsteinian intelligence, beauty and undiluted happiness, but few are lucky enough to have a sonnet to commemorate the event as well.
It’s an amazingly literal poem when one comes to think about it, though in fact they did both manage to be born in the same century, if at the very farthest ends of it. The oceans though are all too real, and those whom he so dearly loved, (myself his daughter, & my husband John) do indeed love Hannah.
The poem arrived in an ordinary blue foldover airmail letter, and I have found no working notes to chart its course, indeed it seems it was the manuscript. It came complete into the world, a final grace note, a flourish, a flick of wrist to show just how it can be done.