Friday, February 22, 2019


The Stepping Stones

I have my yellow boots on to walk

Across the shires where I hide

Away from my true people and all

I can't put easily into my life.

So you will see I am stepping on

The stones between the runnels getting

Nowhere nowhere. It is almost

Embarrassing to be alive alone.

Take my hand and pull me over from

The last stone on to the moss and

The three celandines. Now my dear

Let us go home across the shires.

The Night City

Unmet at Euston in a dream

Of London under Turner's steam

Misting the iron gantries, I

Found myself running away

From Scotland into the golden city.

I ran down Gray's Inn Road and ran

Till I was under a black bridge

This was me at nineteen

Late at night arriving between

The buildings of the City of London/

And then I (O I have fallen down)

Fell in my dream beside the Bank

of England's wall to bed, me

With my money belt of Northern ice.

I found Eliot and he said yes

And sprang into a Holmes cab.

Boswell passe me in the fog

Going to visit Whistler who

Was with John Donne who had just seen

Paul Potts shouting on Soho Green.

Midnight. I lost the moon

Light chiming on St. Paul's.

The city is empty. Night

Watchmen are drinking their tea.

The Fire had burnt out.

The Plague's pits had closed

And gone into literature.

Between the big buildings

I sat like a flea crouched

In the stopped works of a watch.

[ From the Sleeping Hand ]

Look down from a height on the long

Oystercatching shore of Loch

Long at first light with the tide

Streaming out between the pools

And you will see. Don't breathe

Or frighten me waiting to meet

My dear from the sleeping house coming

Over the shingle with her bare feet.


W.S. Graham 
Selected by Michael Hofmann
New York Review of Books