Do you have a poet in your life? I’m lucky – I know at least three published poets and several published writers. Having a poet in your life stretches the conversation. There’s no such thing as a simple chat, they feel things deeply. They shout, and laugh, sometimes too loudly. They love words and when they email you will often attach a poem that has yet to be finished but that you would trumpet to the world in its current state if it were one of yours.
I sometimes fantasise about getting all the poets that I know together, but I fear I would fade into obscurity in their collective presence, or worse still they would hate each other and decry each other’s work. They are tough critics poets. There’s a lot they don’t like in the poetry of others. But they are brave and put their vulnerability out there. We know what scares them, who they love, how often they have met an angel, things that the rest of us might keep to ourselves. We know the dark realms of their minds more often than we are exposed to the light but in putting the dark on paper we hope that the light shines through more and more for them. They write about what troubles them more often than the first snowdrops or daffodils – although there are obvious exceptions.
After my mother died we found that she too had been a poet. Not a great literary poet, but a poet none the less. Her poems were of friendship, the beauty of the world, the love of a mother. I wished I had known that my mother was a poet while she was alive. We found her poetry, in her careful copperplate hand, in note books that were big enough to be the home to many more poems. But she was sparing in her writing. This is a poem that she wrote to her own mother, after her death.
You always used to watch us
Anxious if we were late
In winter by the window
In summer by the gate
And though we mocked you tenderly
Who took such loving care
The long road home would seem more safe
Because you waited there
Her thoughts were all for us
She never could forget
And so I think that where she is
She must be waiting yet
Waiting till we come to her
Anxious if we’re late
Watching from heaven’s window
Leaning on heaven’s gate
My mother would have never held her own with the other poets in my life if they had got together for a cup of tea to discuss their poetry. She didn’t have their education or way with words, but I hope wherever she is ‘leaning on heaven’s gate’ – she knows that we discovered something very dear about her after she had left us that we wish we had known sooner.