‘A Dream of Cornwall’: a poem by Matthew Francis

IMG_20181102_132431823_HDR
Gurnard’s Head, west of Zennor

 

Monday 19th November is the late poet WS Graham’s 100th birthday. Below is a poem by Matthew Francis from The Caught Habits of Language, an anthology published by Donut Press to mark Graham’s centenary. WS Graham: New Selected Poems, edited by Matthew, was published by Faber in September.

 


 

    A Dream of Cornwall

 

i.m. W. S. Graham

 

1
Now only the sea is ahead of us,
a meniscus of blue, unscratched by waves.
I feel we are driving into an eye.
Sometimes a glassy blip slithering across
makes me wonder if the eye is my own.
 
2
In the snug under the cliff
where leaves shaped like the ears
of lynxes, elephants, donkeys,
grow in a Max Ernst profusion,
we sweat in the hothouse steam
that reeks of wild garlic.

 

3
West of Zennor, foxgloves and redhot pokers
incandesce in the rain. The land becomes pinched.
The fields are stone pens for a single cow.
A coach is winding round the lanes towards us.
We can see everywhere, as if we were flying.

 

4
I stand in the look-out hut
where men watched for the gleam
that meant the fish were returning,
and see the molten shoal
spit and leap on the surface.
There is no one to shout to.

 

5
A man is typing something in a cottage
by the pilchardy light of an oil lamp.
I am trying to read over his shoulder,
but the page is all consonants and obelisks,
and I am miles away in my childhood.

 

6
The sea is not yet dark,
a laundered cloth stretched over
the mahogany land,
as the candles of lighthouses
flutter their yellow. Tonight
we’ll dine in the ocean.

 

Matthew Francis

About Matthew Francis

Matthew Francis is the author of five Faber books of poetry, most recently 'The Mabinogi' (2017). He has twice been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and in 2004 was chosen as one of the Next Generation poets. He has also edited WS Graham's 'New Collected Poems', and published a collection of short stories and two novels, the second of which, 'The Book of the Needle' (Cinnamon Press) came out in 2014. He lives in West Wales and is Professor in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.