…is the first book of poetry I owned –
a breast pocket sized hardback, slightly foxing.
It was my father’s: his name neatly
in capitals on the inside cover
in indelible pencil – a Londoner,
the son of immigrants. When I was ten
my mother gave it me. I liked the first line
‘From Clee to heaven the beacon burns’,
imagining it set to music.
Following his death on active service, the book
was sent back with all his other things.
I never knew him. He never saw me.
He died, an ocean away, three months
after my birth. He could be my grandson now.
He touched this book. I touch it, sniff it.
Old paper smells almost aromatic
like incense, always comforting, always
intriguing. Into my forties, I
thought of him every single day.
The book falls open automatically
at poems 35 and 36:
…On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams…
…White in the moon the long road lies,
The moon stands blank above;
White in the moon the long road lies
That leads me from my love…
but this is the one I return to always:
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.