Personal Choice 25
I met Douglas Dunn on his trip to Australia in the 1980s and we spoke for over an hour and several cups of tea. I was somewhat surprised when he dismissed my enthusiasm and praise for his first collection of poems Terry Street. Continuing in his heavy Scottish dialect he said, ‘I don’t write poems like that anymore – I am working on a long serious book length poem about Napoleon’. And yet it is in the simple beauty of these poems that are not only so accessible but shine with the redemptive quality of that last line His trowel catches the light and becomes precious. They are in fact a wonderful reflection in poetry of what it means to be human, what it means to have grace for a neighbour and perhaps above all else to celebrate in the best words in the best order ‘ordinariness’ and make it divine.
On Roofs of Terry Street
Television aerials, Chinese characters
In the lower sky, wave gently in the smoke.
Nest-building sparrows peck at moss,
Urban flora and fauna, soft, unscrupulous.
Rain drying on the slates shines sometimes.
A builder is repairing someone’s leaking roof.
He kneels upright to rest his back.
His trowel catches the light and becomes precious.
A Removal from Terry Street
On a squeaking cart, they push the usual stuff,
A mattress, bed ends, cups, carpets, chairs,
Four paperback westerns. Two whistling youths
In surplus US Army battle-jackets
Remove their sister’s goods. Her husband
Follows, carrying on his shoulders the son
Whose mischief we are glad to see removed,
And pushing, of all things, a lawnmower.
There is no grass in Terry Street. The worms
Come up cracks in concrete yards in moonlight.
That man, I wish him well. I wish him grass.
Douglas Dunn (1942 - ) is a Scottish poet, academic, and critic.