Nearing eighty, I shall discuss the world
with a few friends. There is a meeting-place
I go to, set up for this very thing,
and each time to be found again. To hear
their voices is the sweetest thing I know,
my friends across the staging-posts of time
and place, beyond the hurdles of the stars,
and closer to me than my own voice is.
But at the outset I must find a pathway,
and go to where I can be near myself.
This time, for some strange reason of the world
and my breath in it, I am by the sea:
where all the deaf and knowledgeable stones
admit me to their brotherhood. But I
must find a way towards myself again.
A time will come later for conversation
with all the elements in the book: but I
must first unwrite myself again, again …
to start off clear, and find a new leaf to write.
I listen to the breathing of the sea
and wonder at the alien susurration
that has so much to tell. What wealth is here,
what cinematic glimpses on the wind,
what artistry of life … Let it be gone.
I wish to hear beyond the whisper, see
below the density and depth of colour,
to catch its breath, my breath, to duck beneath
the vivid shallow rasp … until I hold,
beyond the harsh and even exhalation
of pebbly sound, the silences within.
Nearing eighty, I can note the silence.
Ahead, always ahead … and yet I can
begin to let the whisper of the past
fade into nothing. Scene on scene is played out
idly, flickering into the distance, gone.
Not for my benefit are these wisps, these glimpses
loitering at the edges of the mind,
these shreds of riches uncontainable,
the glorious raw material itself
of life, left hanging in the slipstream waste …
There is a breathing underneath the breath
of the loud tide. Past the required exertion
of moving on, the rasp of sea-on-stone,
there is a meeting-place. I turn my face
to future time. And there are voices, different,
out of nowhere, talking, each one singly,
and in a link with mine. Within a hall
of further hearing there is such relation
of mind to mind, of mine to theirs, of theirs,
within the richest silences, to me.
How do I know my poems will be read?
The precious little vantage they have found
apart from me, in this drear life, speaks only
to the mad nor-nor-west, to the shredding gale,
to the laughing teeth of Time, when I am gone.
How loud the sea sounds as I walk the shore,
as deafening, almost, as my own wastrel breath.
And still, at times, the opening of a door
between the sound-waves takes me in and on:
and I am linked in a light song of words
to an array of friends. No more is needed
than this: that I can see a new mind reading,
and hear the word-shapes separately sounding;
and by this mere companionable means
a personhood is shared and re-invented.
Not mine, not theirs, but that of knowing the other;
for it can seem, to one beside the sea,
when all the thunderous finery of the self
has died away, and the bright name is dulled,
a personhood resides at last in sharing.
And so I give what I can give. The stones
I do not walk on now, but am close-pieced with,
the sea I do not hear, now I am gone,
but am englobed in, still throw out an echo,
still let the words be heard. On a new shore
my words still tumble on in a new beauty
to a new mind. This time by the sea
I am unwritten. And because I know
to write, in part, is like a death, I know
I shall discuss the world with a few friends.