Home life

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

Some poems are little more than an aperçu, an observation picked up as the writer goes about his or her business. Gazing out of the train window, for example, looking for foxes in the undergrowth, or counting the foxholes in the embankment in the approaches to Lewisham station from Blackheath: there are so many! To be alive and to be aware, inwardly and outwardly. It doesn’t take that many words to hit a small nail on the head, not in poetry at least. The devil is in the detail, be it ever so small. How we construct a picture of our external world, growing it and growing into it, piece by piece, and simultaneously building up our mind, the synapses, the memories and above all, the feelings, one thing related to another, one emotion connected to another, the instinct we all have to make maps, physical and emotional. And the maps had better be true or we are lost!

And so to the lines I wrote one afternoon, interrupting my reading of the third volume of Samuel Beckett’s Letters. Writing to Mary Hutchinson on 9 April 1958 from his country retreat in Ussy, Lower Normandy, Beckett included the following observation: “The lady birds have flown. It is so cold the sparrows have interrupted their nesting. There’s hardly a leaf in the trees.” His letters are full of tender observations of the natural world around him. Quite different from the bleak prose of Imagination Dead Imagine.

These words reminded me of my own observation as I travelled by train to Victoria earlier in the week, hence the words below.

Home life
Foul day 

incessant rain –
thought of

those tall leafless
trees alongside

the railway line
the abandoned nests

the shadowy clumps
in the highest branches

– no new build 
until the spring

Where are they
living now –

holidaying in
the warm south

or do they all have
second homes ?

John Lyons




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