It was six years after the fact
that I became I
perhaps again, perhaps for the first time.
There was the suggestion
that I should mark each passage
with a commemoration
to what had been lost,
words like redemption
but that was never I,
for I have nothing to apologise for
and I’ll take my time.
the days followed the days
and the weeks followed the weeks
and the months the months
and the years the years
until I became I
until I became I.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2019. 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 2019 was Roseanne Watt.
Let Me Tell You This is a vibrant and powerful collection, encompassing a lyrical movement of sharply-observed political pieces on misogyny and racism, to tender meditations on heritage, memory, and the bonds between women. I found myself returning again and again to the spellbinding lines of ‘The Years’. The theme of identity, of forging it and of reclaiming it as one’s own, runs like a river through the pages of Let Me Tell You This, and I loved the way the word ‘I’ comes to visually do the same here, building to the resolute affirmation of those final lines.
I originally wrote ‘The Years’ as part of a journey shared through a series of four poems in Let Me Tell You This: ‘Inbetween Tales’, ‘Established 1978’, ‘The Years’ and, finally, the title poem ‘Let Me Tell You’. From the moment I decided to publish ‘The Years’, it was less about how it stood as a poem, and more about what it meant to me, in that journey, and the importance of articulating what the poem does – the lines: ‘I have nothing to apologise for, and I’ll take my time.’ The straight forward honesty and direct speech of the poem, for me, was part of conveying that which my work often tries to: the emotion of an experience, the strength of the ‘I’ undertaking that journey, and ultimately, the story of it all, too. Consequently, ‘The Years’ was first published because of the story it told, and how important it was to have those words said as a marker of that story and journey. This makes it all the more delightful to have it recognised for its power as a stand-alone poem now.