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“Alderley: For Alan Garner”: a new poem by Rowan Williams

“Edges: where owls and snow drift / down, spill quietly and stifle”

By Rowan Williams

Edges: where we stop, guessing
the drop, the angle and the impact;
where a blade has driven down
with God knows what weight
of anger, longing or blind loss,
to carve letters too large to read.
Edges: where owls and snow drift
down, spill quietly and stifle
the long clefts where something once
was said (the little words
and their big letters), some hurt never
to be read, never to be levelled.
Edges: the clean, trimmed frame
where the blade flew through
the granite, where the longing
or the anger made a door
in the world’s wall, in the hard
screens of time, of forgetfulness.
Edges: the single black walker
between snow and pregnant sky,
between the caves here and the hollow
nightfall there, between the bone
and the star, a bladed foot falling
to cut the unlevelled path,
A story voiced from the long
letters in a stone book, here
but not now or then; the one
who sits down by the well’s lip,
watching for it to open, for the memory
forcing edge from edge.
Rowan Williams’s most recent volume of poetry is The Other Mountain (Carcanet)

“First Light: a Celebration of Alan Garner”, with contributions from Ali Smith, Rowan Williams, Stephen Fry and others, is edited by Erica Wagner and published by Unbound

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This article appears in the 04 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred