A poem that says what I can’t

Another day off, so another poem. When I was at school (in the centre of Edinburgh) Norman MacCaig came and spoke to us, and read us some of his poetry. I can’t remember which ones he read, but this was the first of his I read for myself. And learned by heart. It still resonates when I face certain situations; it gives voice to that desire to offer more than is asked, to long to break through into a world of real meeting, and deep encounter, and the hidden possibilities of even the most apparently banal moments.

Or something like that. I can’t say it. That’s why I need this poem.

Norman MacCaig

I look across the table and think
(fiery with love)
Ask me, go on, ask me
to do something impossible,
something freakishly useless,
something unimaginable and inimitable

Like making a finger break into blossom
or walking for half an hour in twenty minutes
or remembering tomorrow.

I will you to ask it.
But all you say is
Will you give me a cigarette?
And I smile and,
returning to the marvelous world
of possibility
I give you one
with a hand that trembles
with a human trembling.


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