One day nature will declare my work-in-progress a canon, and there will be an omega stamped, sealed, upon my work. It will be as final as a horseshoe-print on my skull, a line drawn underneath the last word on the last page. The moment before that line is drawn and the Omega is spoken I know that I will be praying to write just one more line, one more metaphor. Perhaps it would have been as apt a metaphor as – life imitating art – was drawn by those foresters who lately cut down some trees in a piece of Perthshire woodland. No doubt in an act of supposed ‘management’ they culled those on which, a couple of months previously, hand-written poems of mine had been pinned, but more than management it seemed like retribution exacted by the landowners for their having participated in an act of revolution. Cruel landowner! Cruel foresters! The trees were innocent bystanders, or at most unwitting insurrectionists!
Still, it made me think.
It knocked clean out of my head my project of hidden poetry, buried under the earth and leaf-mold of the forest floor. In its place was panic at the thought that a day would come when I produced no new poetry, not simply poetry that would remain unseen. How awful a glimpse of mortality!
I shall seed amongst old books some scraps and notes, lines in my hand on the backs of old envelopes, hints of manuscripts completed but undiscovered, so that there will always be speculation as to whether any ‘canon’ is complete, whether there are poems out there new to the reader’s eye. I shall redecorate my house, writing in felt marker upon a wall before I apply paste and paper, so that – perhaps – when they blue-plaque the building with a reverent Marie Marshall, author and poet, lived here it may be treasure-trove. I shall give my man-of-law a box and specify that it is never to be opened.
Such you may consider to be sleight of hand, deception, half-lies, total falsehoods, and finite even if secretly so. I shall bequeath to other poets a phrase each, an idea, some few words, a sentence, a rhythm, a rhyme – something. Along with each bequest will be a plea for them to run with it, weave it in-and-out of the pommiers of their poetic orchard or of the bollards and signposts of their city streets, to mortar it as a reclaimed brick into their own wall. I will release my works to the world and say: If you have a mind to poetry, then lift these, re-mould them, extract text from them, expand the images and metaphors, or simplify them, encapsulate them in seventeen syllables, do anything you wish… but please be sure to acknowledge them!
Perhaps there is an Edgeland between life and death, and this is why we believe in ghosts; perhaps my own dreams – the ones where I can fly, rather as one treads water – are intimations of this state seen through a crack in time and space. If this is so, I might be watching as it all unfolds. I might be the goose that walks over the grave of the reluctant poet – the one who doesn’t pitch in – and makes him shiver. You have been warned.