Alan Riach: ‘Tait’s MacDiarmid’


Piano notes, forthright, and chords, both bold and curious,
then song, a voice, a Scots voice, opening the air.
And in the air also, there is The Voice of the bbc
on radio waves, the information, official and approved –
(the books of poems, information, unofficial, the wedge) –
a radio, newspapers, poems and songs: What might you do, unorthodox,
against time and within it, measured and spontaneous, delicate and strong?

The vision moves along the clocks where they sit on the mantlepiece,
as their long and short hands move, around, then the vision moves
back along the other way, and it slows you down to see that:
time moving, the fire burning in the hearth, the grate,
the pot plants growing in their earth containments.

A man on the edge of a pavement,
on the rim of the squared slabs, balancing between
the raised stone platform by the road and
all its passing traffic, then stepping up and
walking on a wall, or down some stone steps,
down to the edge of the sea, by the rippling waves,
the dark encroaching waters of the sea, the man
throwing stones into the sea –

A glimmer of laughter, a ripple of his shoulders,
neck down, head dipped, a dodge, a piece of cheek
or mischief, disguising an accomplishment unspoken.

The door to the house opens.
He goes in. The door closes.
The thick carved wooden knocker is there
on the outside of the closed door.
The light goes on through the window,
the curtains are open – there is the unseen,
there is the invitation of the visible –
The multitude of books, inside!
The film by which we see them.

Originally published in Homecoming: New Poems 2001-2009 (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2009)