It’s the first day of my Another 21 Days/ 21 Poems to celebrate (US) National Poetry Month. Today, I feature a European poet of African descent.
We all have our favorite poets and poems; I’m no exception. There are poets whose poems have kept me company throughout the years. I keep going back to their work, sometimes to a specify poem. Invariably, when I have to put together a poetry rooster like the lineup for this month, I will refer to an unwritten list of favorite poets. Sometimes, I craft the themes so it allows me to revisit an old favorite! This year, though, there’ll be plenty of new-to-me poets whose poems are truly dazzling.
This intro is just to present another favorite, the award-winning Scottish poet Jackie Kay. Another delightful problem I have: choosing one poem from a poet’s body of work! I selected today’s poem because I really need a vacation. Those passages, that market and the harbour of Castletown speak to me of restful scenic towns far away from my life in Accra!
But, it’s the depiction of a relationship’s transition from love to friendship which haunts the visitor’s steps that won me over. Enjoy!
Castletown, Isle of Man
How strange the way old lovers move into the present,
tense, and catch you off guard; you tell me
when you were here last you’d taken the steam train to a place
whose name you’ve forgotten, and found a tapas bar.
Going to that island is like going back to the past.
Once we would have drunk a glass of red together
in the Garrison, or waved in unison at the mother
and child in that back garden waving at this steam train.
I see what you mean, I think to myself, I see what you mean,
waving on my own to the time before I was born.
These days we travel to the same places alone:
first you, then me, to this small, half-way island.
I pick up your scent round the narrow cobbled streets,
the medieval castle grounds, through the Market Square:
I stare at the dreamy boats coming into the harbour,
then conjure you, my ex-lover, in the Old House of Keys:
walking along the long and dimly-lit corridor,
across the stone floor – candle in hand – to friendship
carrying the low flame of the past, still flickering, just the same,
into the present, to the place that has no satisfactory name.
– By Jackie Kay
Source: Scottish Poetry Library from Fiere (London: Picador, 2011)
Wiki Page on Jackie Kay here
Bonus poem: The poem (theme was childhood) I featured in the 21 Days/ 21 Poems for the 2011 Celebration – Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About by Judith Viorst