Waxy sporadic grass knitting the sand…
A loudspeaker on a car proceeds slowly up the far quay
and a wedge of sandpipers lifts in fright from the shore:
The circus king is back for one last stand!
Last performance of the season – tonight!
His old gardening jacket hangs like a phantom behind the door
I have a febrile energy for undoing endings
tying the old twine to new twine, so when he came to me in a dream
and asked to come back I was surprised
to find myself rejecting him one last time
pouring myself a solitary drink of seawater
and reminding him of how we saw the old vessel of his body
and it was no longer fit-for-purpose
could not be recycled or rewound
like string, or green glass or driftwood.
The whole place reeks of him, who in life smelt of railways
sugar soap and the commuter tang. Sand, salt,
thrift and rotting wrack, and stubbornness:
a vast firewood stack, a few elderly tools revived
with rags and oily fingers to massage working parts,
string tied into rolls of barbed wire.
I am walking today on the hollow old dune
September chill, the children are off buying shoals
of pencils and the circus cut-outs on the sand bank
are blanketed up for the year.
What are years? They last no longer than the tide.
I read the tables, I pore over them and seem to find relief
in the mathematical appearance of water
and how by degrees it creeps upon us,
another ten metres to swill around the back gate.
Last performance of nostalgia out here, where it burns
with an acrid smell. Throw on an armful of regret, it fires up
odd-flamed like rubber or plastic flotsam
or household chemicals glugging themselves empty.
My fingers smell like his.
About this poem
This poem was written as part of ‘The Blue Crevasse’ project, which marks the centenary of W.S. Graham in 2018. The image of a blue crevasse famously appears in W.S. Graham’s poem ‘Malcolm Mooney’s Land’, and the author’s estate welcomed the idea of creating a similar metaphorical space where admirers of the poet might, in a sense, be lowered for a month’s solitary ‘residency’.