Hamish Henderson’s Last Good Night
A body broke the clouds below me,
rising Tinteretto-like an arm and man
came up at me through space
– his left hand reaching for my right –
half the world was spread beneath us,
his grasp not worth the name.
I am become the Morning Star, he whispered,
my hour in the night-sky of life falls away,
the light of the morning of daybreak has found me,
this glisten of sweat is death having its way.
Life-long imprints the palm slipping from me,
in slow-motion a life is unlocking for ever:
the voice coming up is now thought more than whisper
– I loved you like a father and a son -
the secret is both one and all
as Cornishmen would say.
Hark Away! The Raven rolls his glossy wing – Hark Away!
A lady bird's alighted on my breeches by the bed – Hark Away!
Ben Vorlich’s there, and Dublin Toon
and Auld Reekie like a lang dried rose.
Look on me now, not as I am
but as I was – in song –
when I was young
and in the Apennines,
in Italy, in sun.
The darkest hour is moments now and long
– my strength light-years away –
back into the melting pot I go: I joke!
these rolling captions mark the end;
as when I sang John Berger out onto the Barra Strand,
Addio! Addio! It was in music those words came,
like beastings atop a milking pail.
‘The first and last of life is herding’
and that song older than all stories told.
Ah look – the sun is up –
easing its shadow down Glas Maol,
lighting the brig o’er the Glenshee Water.
look - there on the road the rain lights to the hill -
a piper leaning on his son:
The Siege of Delhi fills my ears.
The Siege of Delhi:
sounding across the sands
as it did when he went down, at Anzio.
The sound of oars, rested and dripping:
fluorescent the boys who dive the Blue Grotto,
amber the nectar in Keith and Kinross –
the Green Man and the Jew’s harp!
Listen – I hear it! –
The tin-whistle's out...
Euphoric – I see Schiehallion illumined –
Ask Margaret sing, The Cave of Gold.
Ask Janet come. It was for Life and Love I sang.
I see Him shining in her eyes – my Champion.
From THESE FACES - Photographs and Drawings (Polygon, 2013)