[To Sheila Lanyon, on the Flyleaf of a Book]

Sheila, we speak here on the fly
Leaf of a book which was myself
     A good few graves ago.
Now I am maintained by other
Words for better or for worse
     To whisper my hello.

The seasons turn. Threshold on thresh
Hold forms continually and falls
     Under grief’s lonely hammer.
What did you say? I thought between
These fly leaf words I heard you speak
     Out of your Second Summer.

The summer chimes and turns its blue
Dragon-flying eyes to see
     We two are not afraid.
Hello, Sheila, I can hear
Your breath on the other side of the word
     And see you turn your head.


Inscribed by the author on the flyleaf of a copy of The White Threshold (Faber and Faber, 1949) belonging to Sheila Lanyon, widow of the late painter Peter Lanyon. The poem is dated June 18, 1966 and the “second summer” referred to is the second since Peter’s death, after a gliding accident, on August 31, 1964.

Poem copyright of the Estate of W.S. Graham, 2018.

Source: Poetry (January 2018)
More Poems by W. S. Graham