Waking with Russell
Whatever the difference is, it all began
the day we woke up face-to-face like lovers
and his four-day-old smile dawned on him again,
possessed him, till it would not fall or waver;
and I pitched back not my old hard-pressed grin
but his own smile, or one I’d rediscovered.
Dear son, I was mezzo del cammin
and the true path was as lost to me as ever
when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.
See how the true gift never leaves the giver:
returned and redelivered, it rolled on
until the smile poured through us like a river.
How fine, I thought, this waking amongst men!
I kissed your mouth and pledged myself forever.
Don Paterson, Poetry Archive
From 'Landing Light' Faber and Faber, 2003
Don Paterson is one of the UK's best poets. He's also a jazz musician and this gives him a facility with complex rhythms. His poems read well aloud.
I love this poem, partly because I like the way Don Paterson plays with the sonnet form, making it utterly contemporary, and partly because of the emotion he manages to convey. 'The first time my baby smiled at me' could be sickly sentimental - but this isn't. I also admire the way he manages the whole sonnet with only two rhymes - that could be repetitive, but you have to look twice to notice. The technique is subtle - the structure holds the words together, but it isn't obtrusive. Just how it should be!
I'm putting this up early because I'm going to be in the air on various aircraft between Christchurch and Heathrow from Monday evening until Wednesday. Ugh.......
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