As Jackie Kay writes in her introduction to twenty poems by Edwin Morgan about love, ‘Edwin Morgan knew all about love: its mysteries, its silences, its absences, its passions. “Love is the most mysterious of the winds that blow.”‘ Like the rest of his poetry, his love poems explore life, the universe and everything. Here are two very different poems: the one looking at love in a universal, cosmic dimension that reaches from the human to the stars; the other, a poem that plays powerfully with the sensuality of absence.
Love and the Worlds Scary is this tremulous earth, flaring, shouting, killing and being killed. Is the universe rippling with life? What sign is there that space is filled With anything but gas and dust and fire and rock? Are we the tillers to have it tilled? I think so! And with these red hands, an act of love? Why not? We cry but we create, we kill but we build. Dante was sure the stars were all – even ours – rolled out by love. They gild A dark that would truly scare If there was nothing there The horror of there not being something, good or bad or neither, made or found, willed or self-willed. from Love and a Life
One Cigarette No smoke without you, my fire. After you left, your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal of so much love. One cigarette in the non-smoker’s tray. As the last spire trembles up, a sudden draught blows it winding into my face. Is it smell, is it taste? You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips. Out with the light. Let the smoke lie back in the dark. Till I hear the very ash sigh down among the flowers of brass I’ll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss. from The Second Life
This book is one of a series of five volumes of Morgan’s poetry published with new introductions to mark the centenary of his birth in 2020. Read more about the series in an interview with Edward Crossan, Polygon’s Poetry Editor.