Written spring 2006.
INTRODUCTION to ‘This is Not yesterday’
No family is ordinary.
Herewith follows a collection of extraordinary tales taken from our family annals. The stories combine to form a narrative that passes through principally the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and will pull together a rich tapestry of lost family characters. The wish is to entertain, to involve and to emotionally embody. The tales are historically accurate and drawn from a mountain of scraps and artefacts collected by me over many years.
You should not expect an account of glowing grandiosity but should rather be prepared for stories reaching in their sadness or glowing in their humanity which are absolutely none the less so for their ordinariness. It must be said that our forebears lived through hard times and surely had resilience not often seen in this our ‘modern’ world.
If at the end of this account you are left with a list of names then I have failed. This you see is about the true fabric of our being. Understand the past and we are better placed to shape the future.
We must remember that we live on as the flesh and bones of our ancestors; not constrained by them but embodied by their diversity and richness, and forming within us, truly a kaleidoscope of beings.
Thanks go to my darling daughter for giving the title of the manuscript ‘This is not Yesterday!’
The poems are collected for my wife.
Tonight you are a hundred miles away
and I could read perhaps, or watch TV –
that serial of water, screen of fog.
I think I’d rather hold a dialogue
after the fading routine of day
in the midnight’s darkness, in the midnight’s mercy.
O’ what is love? philosophers have asked
and more than these, the poets, What is love?
Gather your roses while the weather’s good.
Love is perhaps a similar attitude
Struck by two people. Love is a gay mask.
Love is constructed from a coat or glove.
Love is a mirror lined by sweet bouquets.
It is the purest vanity we know.
It is a loss of self, as saints have taught.
Love is an article that can’t be bought
in a shop or supermarket. Love has days
that melt to rain after a trembling rainbow.
Love can move the sun and other stars
Absolves the golden serpent. Is the true
colour of being. Is the finest chain.
Love’s the most piercing and inventive pain.
For love we suffer profound ignorant scars.
For love we soldier, and love honour too.
…. The night is quiet. There’s light upon the ice.
I hear your step a hundred miles away.
Accidents can happen to the soul.
Wherever we are our hearts are both at school
and suffer and enjoy not once but twice
in the blue constant weather, in the grey.
If you are Taurus and I Capricorn
astrologers and horoscopes commend
each to the other in a thrifty marriage
by the sharp rays of prudence and courage
and by each present we can truly earn –
to us the stars don’t prodigally bend.
Love is incessant climbing to far peaks,
ambitious haunting. That is why I hear
your steps so clearly, miles and miles away
as if they moved in jealous or envy –
you hack steps out with an uncertain axe
in a harsh and vast breathless atmosphere
where all is lost that isn’t gained each hour.
I think, quiet Midnight, that sun will rise
but do not know it. Therefore let my sight
not fade tonight but seem to bring the light –
and her – to my warm house, for your black air
is part of morning’s and her shaking guise.
Ian Crichton Smith (born 1928)