Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Halley's Comet", by Norman Nicholson

My father saw it back in 1910,
The year King Edward died.
Above dark telegraph poles, above the high
Spiked Steepled of the Liberal Club, the white
Gas-lit dials of the Market Clock,
Beyond the wide
Sunset-glow cirrus of black-furnace smoke,
My father saw it fly
Its thirty-seven-million-mile-long kite
Across Black Combe's black sky.

And what of me,
Born four years too late?
Will I have the breath to wait
Till the long circuiting commercial traveller
Turns up at his due?
In 1986, aged seventy two,
Watery in the eyes and phlegmy in the flue,
And a bit bad tempered at so delayed a date,
Will I look out above whatever is left of the town--
The Liberal Club long closed  and the clock stopped,
And the chimneys smokeless above damped-down
Furnace fires? And then will I
At last have the chance to see it
With my own as well as my father's eyes,
And share his long-ago Edwardian surprise
At that high, silent jet, laying its bright trail
Across Black Combe's black sky?

(From the Norton Anthology of Poetry, Fourth Edition)

-- posted by Sophie Quinton

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