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.