Nothing in sight but water’s deferrals,
deflections, its million-galloned grief;
though sometimes, when the light is angled so
as to prism inside the waves’ tips,
it seems we’re actually anchored in fields:
that we could drop off and land on our feet
in a rich plough-land confected with frost,
in mud flats, or sand dunes. We could forget
dry land is a dream in the dream of it.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2007. 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 2007 was Alan Spence.
Another poet whose work is new to me, Frances Leviston is another remarkable talent. 'Lookout' has all the quality of a great sonnet, packed into even fewer lines. It's formally elegant, line-lengths controlled but fluid, the line-endings and flow-through just right, never obvious. There's a real sense of being in the midst of actual seas, the shift and movement, the flux all around. Then there's the last, arresting, line-and-a-half, the change of perspective, opening out, expanding your consciousness so you see things new.
When I began to write 'Lookout', I wanted to capture something about water – about the endless variety of its movements and appearances. I was also thinking about the possibility of saying something, anything, true. Watching water and listening to water always makes me think about speech: it sounds like a debate, a dissent, a vast crowd talking amongst its selves. In the end, however, I think the poem became more general.
It seems to me that it says something about uncertainty: how sometimes in order to act, or to be, we have to make ourselves believe things that are dubious, and in this sense we live by dreaming. It's a strange poem, but one which goes almost to the heart of the collection, Public Dream, in which it appears.