The Ash Sessions: Cover of Love

For those of you who are in the mood for love, ahead of Valentine’s Day, The Ash Sessions event, Cover of Love, takes place this Sunday, 9th February, at Nick’s Coffee Company in Ranelagh, Dublin from 2 – 5pm. Various literary and musical types will be performing covers of their favourite pieces – poems, songs, flash and short fiction – all on the theme of love.

I’ll be there reading this, probably my favourite poem, The Unspoken by Scottish poet, Edwin Morgan, which name-checks my home-town of Glasgow and I first discovered in a poetry collection, in a castle library, deep in the Italian countryside.


The Unspoken
When the troopship was pitching round the Cape
in ’41, and there was a lull in the night uproar of
seas and winds, and a sudden full moon
swung huge out of the darkness like the world it is,
and we all crowded into the wet deck, leaning on
the rail, our arms on each other’s shoulders,
gazing at the savage outcrop of great Africa.
and Tommy Cosh started singing ‘Mandalay’ and
we joined in with our raucous chorus of the
unforgettable song,
and the dawn came up like thunder like that
moon drawing the water of our yearning
though we were going to war, and left us exalted,
that was happiness,
but it is not like that.
When the television newscaster said
the second sputnik was up, not empty,
but with a small dog on board,
a half-ton treasury of life orbiting a thousand
miles above the thin television masts and mists
of November,
in clear space, heard, observed,
the faint far heartbeat sending back its message
steady and delicate,
and I was stirred by a deep confusion of feelings,
got up, stood with my back to the wall and my
palms pressed hard against it, my arms held
as if I could spring from the earth —
not loath myself to go out that very day where
Laika had shown man, felt
my cheeks burning with old Promethean warmth
rekindled — ready —
covered my face with my hands, seeing only an
strapped in a doomed capsule, but the future
was still there, cool and whole like the moon,
waiting to be taken, smiling even
as the dog’s bones and the elaborate casket of
glow white and fuse in the arc of re-entry
and I knew what I felt was history,
its thrilling brilliance came down,
came down,
comes down on us all, bringing pride and pity,
but it is not like that.
But Glasgow days and grey weathers, when the
beat on the bus shelter and you leaned slightly
against me, and the back of your hand touched
my hand in the shadows, and nothing was
when your hair grazed mine accidentally as we
talked in a cafe, yet not quite accidentally,
when I stole a glance at your face as we stood in a
doorway and found I was afraid
of what might happen if I should never see it again,
when we met, and met, in spite of such differences
in our lives,
and did the common things that in our feeling
became extraordinary, so that our first kiss
was like the winter morning moon, and as you
shifted in my arms
it was the sea changing the shingle that changes
as if for ever (but we are bound by nothing, but
like smoke
to mist or light in water we move, and mix) —
O then it was a story as old as war or man
and although we have not said it we know it,
and although we have not claimed it we do it,
and although we have not vowed it we keep it,
without a name to the end
I do tend to tear up at points when reading this, so if it happens on Sunday, just shuffle your feet and look uncomfortable until I’m done. It’s those Glasgow bus shelters; they’ll get you every time.
Photo: Buchanan Street, Glasgow by Stephen Cosh.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s