Saturday, 3 January 2015

She sang the song the Belgian refugees brought

Andrew Waterman (born 1940) is an English poet born in London. Waterman studied at the University of Leicester and Worcester College, University of Oxford. From 1968 to 1997 he lectured in English Literature at the University of Ulster and in 1998 retired to Norfolk. In 1986 Carcanet published Selected Poems, which included 'The Song'.

She sang the song the Belgian refugees
brought to the valley's mills in the Great War.
Straight in his narrow chair her husband sat,
blending a phrase. They were young then.

Their young have gone away. When her eyes went
he sold the weaver's-cottage, brought her down
to the terrace in the Bottom, fixed downstairs
for her wheelchair: bedroom, bath, no doors.

He does the women's work, and washes her.
When relatives call she talks of the old view
from home up on the Edge---moor, clough and sky.
But massive today in a darkening brown room

she sings the strange French words the Belgians taught her,
as if the mind's lens pours all summers since
back on one blot of light. She was young then,
the foreign music was the outside world.

Charged with its resonance the flowered teaset
on the Welsh dresser is set vibrating:
speckless teapot, milk-jug, rows of cups
she kept for best, and never filled or drank from.

Waterman is a recipient of the Cholmondeley Award to Poets

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