Waking in the small hours the night
before you go into hospital, you press
the palm of my hand to your cheek
so that my wrist, following the line
of your neck, detects its pulse-beat,
making me aware as though we were
on the sandy foreshore of some vast
estuary of the tide’s tug, and precious
grains slipping through my fingers.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2014. 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 2014 was Roderick Watson.
This poem was one of several, written around the same time, recording the tug of tides, literal and metaphorical, in our lives – and what we hope, in the face of these, to protect and treasure. Clearly springing from a specific occurrence it demanded less revision and trimming than is my custom ... partly through trying to retain a sense of urgency, but with the minimum of fuss. And maybe, too, through being able to set its sights on the closing image which, though it had been in my head for some time, still hadn't found a home. It is, of course, first and foremost a love poem.