Poem: Thoughts on a full stop

This isn’t about me, at least not in particular, and it isn’t gloomy, I hope. I fear it offers advice, which – it might be remembered – comes from a man with little courage and no pretensions to wisdom.


Thoughts on a full stop

Here it is –
a blackspot,
a full stop
at the end of a life sentence.
I put my finger on it
and imagine it detaching itself
from the whiteness of the page,
as a microdot might
with its secrets
rightly or wrongly.

Now I see it close-up:
the dot is a sphere;
it has grown
so I can cup it
in the creases of my palm,
and see it as a roulette ball
or a pigeon-stopping pellet.

I have seen and smelled
some of the best
and worst of our times,
as one rambling in a neighbourhood
might see the inviting fronts
and the greasy backs
of restaurants.

I see myself
as that wanderer,
as urchin or tramp,
more easily than boulevardier –
but bits of both
and sharply too.

It’s not quite time for a summation,
or for a valedictory,
but at 70 I sit as the September sun
welcomes the last of the bees
and warms away a heavy dew,
and I am more in this
or any moment
than I used to be.

I am, in fact, more alive.
And I do say this:-
I say, you,
if you are young,
should be very busy.

But if you have read this far,
and if my count is right,
you have passed six full stops
in this short poem
and can only guess
how many more will come.

No, don’t go back and count them –
that’s not the point,
and would just delay you.

But they are all around you,
and the one at the end of your sentence
needs to be cherished.

There need be no dread in it.

All the horror,
if such it be,
before, in life.

I say: imagine not the death
which you will have
unless it sharpens your life;
rather dwell on
what you want to have
in that sentence you are writing every day.

You cannot know how long it will be,
nor ordain or order all its words;
cannot marshal all its phrases and clauses.

There’s surely stuff you regret,
in commission or omission,
so if you’ll allow
a timid sinner to say a thing,
the thing needful,
in case you are very near the end –
which you cannot know –
it will be this
add no more tedium
than you must.

And there’s an end to it.

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Publication date

15 November 2016


RDN's poems