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Lay for the Day
30th November

The feast of St Andrew, the national saint of Scotland and patron of fishermen and sailors.


Forward from here, drawn
from one to another
as the fullness lapses into waste,
the waste heaps to new growth,
until the final sheer waste,
death that is utter and complete,
and a long drink from the shadow waters
like dead souls over the shadowy stones.

Forward from darkness entanglements,
the hollow ground where we woke,
to reach the threshold of the open field
and lie among our clothes beneath the oak.

Upward sprung from the thin green blade
to the white grass flower,
sun-burned and lordly among the first grape-crop,
squinting up the hill-slope at her.
And she a twist of hardy fire
still, like a rowan tree in sunlight.

Onward carrying a baggage of small verses,
of destiny and bright-painted wooden objects,
downhill along a solemn colonnade of books –
cool the stone
of the calm, broken faces –
to the harbour antiquity built,
to cross the great stream in a wooden boat.

To be at the last an old man on a bollard
among salt-stiffened fisher-tackle tangled along the cobbles
on the quay, on the qui-vive, mending the nets,
but doubly happy in the glare or shade,
whom I would listen to now
making light of my youthful obscurity.


John Gibbens
from Makings ’77-’83

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar