You think it will be about your childhood. It turns out to be about an onion.

Or a night in the rain, or, not so much night, as just: rain. Except it isn’t about rain either.

Somehow your daughter has crept in there.

She is smiling at you, when she was six. It is breaking your heart.

So the poem has all these things going on in it, on and underneath its surface.

Mixed in there are the friendships with other poets, as they look over your shoulder frowning at what you have written.

The thing your grandmother once said to you about hardly being Wordsworth, darling.

Your desk. Its hardness, for you, now, under these words, and then, for the man who owned it before you.

So it is back to your childhood. A blazing summer playtime. Grass in your face and down your shirt. Nettles, the sudden realisation.

But the poem is not interested. Not really.

It wants to be about something you saw from the corner of your eye last Wednesday, a man helping his elderly wife from a bus.

This too breaks your heart. What would Carver do, or Olds, you ask yourself. Go figure.

The poem is a curled up ball, where it joins (yes! in off the wall) the others.


A walk.


The poem arrives at the house before you do, knocking over furniture on its way to the scrap paper bin (there is no scrap paper, only balls).

An envelope will have to do. It is very provisional.

But it is the real thing because you don’t understand it. It seems to come from nothing you can name or remember.

It may disappear by next week. It may turn into something else.

But for now you go with what the poem wants, what it wants to be, where it is taking you.

The faintest of radio signals, a cobweb between two weeds.

There is only this.