Here’s his signature, W.S. Graham,
in tidy pencil inside a first edition
of Alanna Autumnal by George Barker.
And he’s written the date, August
1944. And the place, Cornwall.
Back then he was twenty-five, at war
with the war, living in a caravan
near Sydney Cove. Picture him there,
sprawled on a cramped bench bed,
feet up against the caravan window
as he pulls this book back on its hinges
and reads, lifting his eyes only occasionally
to the scraps of cloud above Pengersick Lane,
until the clouds become stars,
until he moves into that next world,
beyond Cornwall and beyond books,
of dreams. Did it have, the caravan,
man-made light? Don’t tell me
it wasn’t the sun and then the moon
that lit his way from word to word
down Barker’s trail of young sentences.
Maybe I buy the book in the brief belief
that thoughts can be reciprocal
and travel back and forth through time.
Maybe I want to feel his hand under
my own hand as I turn the old pages and read
We have nothing left for us to do but sicken
at the magnificence of our predecessors.
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’.