Two Poems

Ian Hamilton

Family Album
In this one you look miles away
And I’m wearing a tolerant half-smile
That seems to say I’ve fixed things rather well.
What things?

The turreted edifice behind us
I don’t recognise at all. Nor can I place
These avenues of trees, abundant
But municipal, well-kept.

It’s evidently summertime, and getting late,
A little before supper-bell, I’d guess,
Or prayers.
Another grainy, used-up afternoon.


But what about that speck
There, to the right, a figure on a bench
Perhaps, not looking and yet looking?
And who does that dark, motionless dog-shape belong to?
There, beside that tree.
And look at how those shadows,
So uneven, seem to corrugate the lawn.
We’re out at sea,
So you would say, or would have said.

Not all that many years ago,
I might have asked you to explain
Where, when and who,
And maybe why,
And you’d have wanted to. You’d have been
Able to. Not now, though,
Not today. Don’t even try.

Almost Nothing
It is an almost-nothing thing, I know
But it won’t let me go. It’s not a scent
Exactly, but on hot days or at night I do remember it
As slightly burnt, or over-ripe:
Black wheatfields, sulphur, skin.
It’s noiseless too
Although from time to time I think I’ve heard it
Murmuring: a prayer
Presumably, a promise or a plea. And no,
It’s not at all substantial; that’s to say
It’s substanceless, it’s not a thing
That you could touch or see.

It doesn’t hurt but it belongs to me.
What do we call it then,
This something in the air, this atmosphere,
This imminence?
Today, because you’ve turned away,
I’ll call it nothing much,
I’ll call it, since you’re frightened, here to stay.