I used to keep all my favourite poems written down in notebooks.
I did this for years, and then, for some reason, I stopped doing it.
There are lots of the poems that I wrote down that I recall perfectly, and I know where I can find them to read or listen to.
There are others where the odd line sticks in my mind and bugs me. Today has been one of those days. There was a poem about a hare that I had written down, and I loved the way the poet described the hare, and I loved the way he uses the word ‘diddering’, because it is a wonderful word. And I could not get it out of my head.
I could not remember who had written it. I flicked through volumes on my shelves. I trawled the internet. Eventually I decided that the name of the poet was Norman. This seemed very true to me. So I started playing with combinations of Hare and Norman in the Googleator.
I found this poem by Norman MacCaig, which is lovely, and I had never read before, and which deserves a place in a new notebook:
November night, Edinburgh
The night tinkles like ice in glasses.
Leaves are glued to the pavement with frost.
The brown air fumes at the shop windows,
Tries the doors, and sidles past.
I gulp down winter raw. The heady
Darkness swirls with tenements.
In a brown fuzz of cottonwool
Lamps fade up crags, die into pits.
Frost in my lungs is harsh as leaves
Scraped up on paths. – I look up, there,
A high roof sails, at the mast-head
Fluttering a grey and ragged star.
The world’s a bear shrugged in his den.
It’s snug and close in the snoring night.
And outside like chrysanthemums
The fog unfolds its bitter scent.
And then I hit paydirt with my search. The poet is Norman Nicholson.
Here is the poem:
The Tame Hare
She came to him in dreams — her ears
Diddering like antennae, and her eyes
Wide as dark flowers where the dew
Holds and dissolves a purple hoard of shadow.
The thunder clouds crouched back, and the world opened
Tiny and bright as celandine after rain.
A gentle light was on her, so that he
Who saw the talons in the vetch
Remembered now how buttercup and daisy
Would bounce like springs when a child’s foot stepped off them.
Oh, but never dared he touch —
Her fur was still electric to the fingers.
Yet of all the beasts blazoned in gilt and blood
In the black-bound scriptures of his mind,
Pentecostal dove and paschal lamb,
Eagle, lion, serpent, she alone
Lived also in the noon of ducks and sparrows;
And the cleft-mouthed kiss which plugged the night with fever
Was sweetened by a lunch of docks and lettuce.