So, the lovely Mark Halliday died. If you knew him and didn’t know that, then I am sorry you found out here. If you didn’t know him, let me tell you he was a wise, smart, dry, funny, gentle, brave, sharp and probing kind of man, a seeker after truth, a husband and father and teacher and poet. He will be sorely missed by people who really, really loved him.
We published a collection of things together three years ago, and a few months back he said he had another collection ready which he wanted me to read, if that was okay. He was a serious writer, a proper poet, with a deep concern for the craft and the potential of words, so it was more than okay, it was a privilege, and I’ve been reading them again since he died. Here’s one that hits home, in the circumstances. (For some reason I can’t get the line breaks to work, so there are asterisks where they should be. Please ignore them.) See you then, matey. I hope it was like you said.
A mother’s hand leads me down the new road,
only loosening to push the high gates.
Iron clatters behind us and her heels
begin the countdown on playground tarmac,
their steady rhythm accompanying
my lyric of nervous questions.
She tells me again, I will like this new place.
The teacher has heard the gate;
she meets me at the door.
Holding my gaze as mum leaves,
she guides me through laughing children
to the coat peg labelled with my name.
She waits as I choose the jigsaw,
slipping away when the first two pieces match.
When You hear the gate,
my slow, solitary step,
will You meet me at the door?
Copyright Mark Halliday 2010, from the collection ‘Eyes Shut On a Fast Train’ (available for now through Lulu)