Two Poems

Ian Hamilton

Pretending not to Sleep

The waiting rooms are full of ‘characters’
Pretending not to sleep.
Your eyes are open
But you’re far away
At home, am Rhein, with mother and the cats.
Your hair grazes my wrist.
My cold hand surprises you.

The porters yawn against the slot-machines
And watch contentedly; they know I’ve lost.
The last train
is simmering outside, and overhead
Steam flowers in the station rafters.
Soft flecks of soot begin to settle
On your suddenly outstretched palms.
Your mouth is dry, excited, going home:

The velvet curtains,
Father dead, the road up to the village,
Your hands tightening in the thick fur
Of your mother’s Persian, your dreams
Moving through Belgium now, full of your trip.

From The Visit


Where do we find ourselves? What is this tale
With no beginning and no end?
We know not the extremes. Perhaps
There are none.
We are on a kind of stair. The world below
Will never be regained; was never there
Perhaps. And yet it seems
We’ve climbed to where we are
With diligence, as if told long ago
How high the highest rung.
Alas: this lethargy at noon,
This interfered-with air.