‘To Alexander Graham’ by W. S. Graham

Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak. I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock.
I smelt the tar and the ropes.

It seemed that I was standing
Beside the big iron cannon
The tugs used to tie up to
When I was a boy. I turned
To see Dad standing just
Across the causeway under
That one lamp they keep on.

He recognised me immediately.
I could see that. He was
The handsome, same age
With his good brows as when
He would take me on Sundays
Saying we’ll go for a walk.

Dad, what am I doing here?
What is it I am doing now?
Are you proud of me?
Going away, I knew
You wanted to tell me something.

You stopped and almost turned back
To say something. My father,
I try to be the best
In you you give me always.

Lying asleep turning
Round in the quay-lit dark
It was my father standing
As real as life. I smelt
The quay’s tar and the ropes.

I think he wanted to speak.
But the dream had no sound.
I think I must have loved him.

About Author

W. S. Graham
William Sydney Graham (1918-1986) was born in Greenock, Scotland, and trained as an engineer. He settled in west Cornwall where a growing colony of experimental artists came to respect the determination and acute self-criticism with which he pursued his poetry. He is now widely viewed as one of the key UK poets of the late twentieth century. His main collections are The Nightfishing (1955), Malcolm Mooney’s Land (1970) and Implements in their Places (1977), all of which can be found in New Collected Poems (2004).