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wee song for Sydney Graham

The real poem never ends.
The blizzard beneath its last footprint
is where we search in its memory,
the blizzard that is also night
as fresh on your face as snow.

Night-snow the ultimate
a body must weather, body I say,
but I mean soul
out on the manhole sea
where the littoral-minded sail

beyond Cape Metaphor to be.
And Sydney Coastguard keeps his watch
ticking on course for Greenock,
with Alfred Wallis at the wheel
aboard the good wreck Alba.

For who but a blind one can’t see
Scotland from Cornwall? –
every small hour of the year
with the heart in the right direction
and a glass to his eye.


In 2008 the above poem appeared in the Scottish Review of Books. Ten years on it was anthologised in The Caught Habits of Language : An Entertainment for W. S. Graham for Him Having Reached One Hundred edited by Rachael Boast and company. As if all that weren’t honour enough for it, the other day I received the image below from Mike McDonnell, a retired medical man originally from Greenock, now living in the Shetlands, asking my permission to make some use of the poem in the artwork below.



This image is part of an extraordinary series, soon to form an exhibition, as advertised in the poster here. It is just the kind of occasion Archipelago readers are likely to enjoy. I hope to be able to make it to the opening night. See you there . . .