Another year spins round
and who knows what the next will bring?
And which of us have grieved
and which wept tears of joy?
Too many of one, and not enough
of the other, as in most years.
But this year had a whiff
of something new in it,
a shared struggle.
Some skateboarded through,
hurtled with kickflips and ollies.
Others took more gnarly routes,
finding Beckett’s cruel dictum,
‘Fail again, fail better,’ didn’t
cover the half of it – it was hard.
At times we look for finality,
like the closing of a book,
but it’s hard to accept that,
mostly, life just continues.
There’s a kind of jumpy balance
maintained in moving forward,
but it’s not neat; no, it’s never neat.
They say we move eight times
in our lives, but which of these
are homes, and which just postcodes?
I still visit my birth city, but it’s not comfy –
no city is – and I’m no longer connected
to the places where we lived
in our middling years, bringing up
the kids. The past
is a locked front door.
Some windy nights the waves roar,
and there’s the prickle of salt spray
in the noisy air; that still excites.
The sights and smells are different
every day, distinctive, sea-seasoned,
as the people are, and I know so many.
Here I’m acknowledged or ignored,
a hermit crab in a busy rockpool,
settled in a Goldilocks seashell.
We stood on the pink edge
of a footbridge, by the side
of a fast ford, under the trees
which overhung the variable river.
It was summer – remember that –
and the rain fell steadily
from a sky stubbornly grey,
and the spent flower parts
of the rowans dusted down,
wetted, and whirled away,
or swept into cream streaks
in the eddies at the sides.
Not, you said, the best place
and time to say goodbye,
but it had to be said,
just as we’d agreed.
Some other day, I wanted to say,
but your eyes were hidden,
downcast. So it was time,
and this autumn, far from here,
I won’t see birds in the trees.
What else will be missed?
You, a definite, no question;
me? I’m not so sure.
Colin Will is an Edinburgh-born poet with a background in botany and geology. His eighth book, The Book of Ways, a collection of poems in the Japanese haibun form, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2014. He chairs the Board of StAnza, Scotland’s international poetry festival. Colin’s website is at www.colinwill.co.uk