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A Day in September by Alexander McCall Smith

  12 Sep '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

A Poem on Loss

‘A Day in September’ is a poem, written by Alexander McCall Smith, to mark the the occasion of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

This poem was carried on the front page of The Sunday Times, on 11 September 2022

Listen to Alexander read his poem here:

 A Day in September

When we lose from our accustomed world
 Something that had been part of the map
 By which we thought we might manage
 To find a way along what seems like
 An increasingly difficult path,
 We know there is little point
 In dwelling too long on the inevitability
 That dictates that everything ends;
 Yet knowing the way a story concludes
 Doesn’t make the actual ending
 Any easier, nor transform to any extent
 The way in which the playwright
 Writes the concluding act, the final lines.
 
 Our picture of the world we inhabit
 Is made up of the daily and the familiar,
 Of places that form the background
 Of our ordinary lives, always present,
 Like certain people we assume
 Will not really have to leave us,
 And then suddenly are no longer there,
 And we notice their loss, as if the lights
 Have been suddenly dimmed,
 Or a clock that was ticking
 Has fallen silent, its hands
 Stopping at an arbitrary
 And unremarkable time:
 A moment when most of us
 Were doing nothing special,
 Before we were told that something
 We knew must happen, has happened.

 It is at such times that reaching
 The end of the final act, the point
 At which the stage curtain must fall,
 We realise what it is that we miss
 In the normal way we lead our lives;
 And we look for things that are permanent,
 And not glibly imitated, nor for sale:
 Duty and kindness, old-fashioned virtues
 That we should never have dreamed
 We did not need, but without which
 The play in which we all are actors
 Will not end well; we see these qualities,
 And understand, with sudden shock,
 How much we need one another,
 How much we want to do better
 With our bruised and suffering world,
 How much we want love, not selfishness,
 To be the note to which the orchestra tunes,
 The note taken up by the chorus, and sung
 Loud enough to drown out all the other noise. 

'A Day in September' by Alexander McCall Smith, on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, September 2022

Read more of Alexander's poetry in, In a Time of Distance and at end of every volume of 44 Scotland Street, the world's longest running serial novel. 

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