Two Poems

Don Paterson

The Sea at Brighton

To move through your half-million furnished hours
as that gull sails through the derelict tea rooms
of the West Pier; to know its shadowed realm
as a blink, a second’s darkening of the course …

The bird heads for the Palace, then skites over
its blank flags, whitewashed domes and campaniles,
vanishes. Below, the shies and stalls
are locked, the gypsies off to bank the silver;

the ghosts have left the ghost train, and are gone
from every pebble, beach-hut, dog and kite
in the blanket absolution of the light
of a November forenoon. It is that long

instant, when all the vacant forms
are cast upon the ground, that hinge in the day
when the world and its black facsimile
lie open like the book of perfect names.

Old stone-grinder, sky-face, pachyderm,
I render them to you. Now let me walk along
those empty roads above your listening:
I write this on the first morning of term

back home from the country of no songs,
between the blue swell and the stony silence
right down where the one thing meets the millions
at the line of speech, the white assuaging tongues

Waking with Russell

Whatever the difference is, it all began
the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers
and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again,
possessed him, till it would not fall or waver;
and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin
but his own smile, or one I’d rediscovered.
Dear son, I was mezzo del’ cammin
and the true path was as lost to me as ever
when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.
See how the true gift never leaves the giver:
returned and redelivered, it rolled on
until the smile poured through us like a river.
How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!
I kissed your mouth and pledged myself for ever.