Thursday, May 27, 2010

Me To You - Alastair Reid

Probably the best-known Scottish literary figure alive outside Scotland, Alastair Reid (1926 -  ) moves easily between essays, translations (Neruda, in particular), poetry, children's books, and articles for The New Yorker.  While he's lived outside Scotland for much of his adult life, there is something - to me - very Scottish in his writing: a sober yet wistful tone that never gets maudlin but acknowledges both the beauty and hardness of life there, a Gaelic version of stoicism.  (Or, I am just projecting from first-hand observations of the Scottish character over three decades of regular trips!)   This poem has those elements, coming close (on one level) to evoking that Brazilian sensation of "saudade", a word without an English equivalent, that I once described as ".... a longing, not just for one's own home and family, but for the vibrancy, the soul and heart of a place and culture....".
Me To You

Summer’s gone brown, and, with it,
our wanderings in the shires, our ways.
Look at us now.
A shuttered house drips in Moroccan rain.
A mill sits ghostly in the green of France.
Beaches are empty now of all but pebbles.
But still, at crossroads, in seignorial gardens,
we meet, sleep, wrangle, part, meet, part,
making  a lodging of the heart.

Now that the sea begins to dull with winter,
and I so far, and you so far
(and home farther than either),
write me a long letter,
as if from home.

                           Tell me about the snowfalls
at night, and tell me how we’d sit in firelight,
hearing dogs huff in sleep, hearing the geese
hiss in the barn, hearing the horse clop home.
Say how the waterfall sounds, and how the weeds
trail in the slithering river.
Write me about the weather.

a letter across water,
something like this, but better,
would almost takes us strangely
closer to home.

Write, and I’ll come.

                                                                    Alastair Reid -  Scottish

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