An evening with some old schoolfriends from the 1960s, and another evening listening to rock classics on Planet Rock, are responsible for this one. It was one of my favourite poems at that time, but I have not read it for years.

Looking at it again I can see that what attracted me to it particularly was the second half of the poem, which is very reminiscent of the ending of Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings, which of course at that time I had yet to experience. Patten’s version of Larkin’s “frail travelling coincidence” is his observation of how “lives so invisible link/touched by a common weather” – not surprising that those lines should jump out at a confused, introverted, adolescent boy to whom the poet’s ultimate incoherence spoke only too clearly. Not surprising either that the “long perspective” offered by the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix should in turn blow the dust off them now.

And I know that you can take the idea of random links too far, but doesn’t the line “Here I wonder …” remind one just a bit of Spender’s “Here you may wonder …”?

I’m also glad to be able to say that here, at last, is a poem that was not already on the internet – at least, not the small amount of it that I have the patience to search (which equates to about 3 Google pages). I think that shows that it hasn’t taken over quite everything yet.

Walking home late, watched by all manner of things but
by nothing human; tree bark’s glowing,
almost rain falling. My friends all in cities,
in Liverpool, in London, phoning
maybe loving, perhaps
wondering what to do this evening.
Rain that’s not reached me yet
might fall on their roofs now,
mist up the bus windows behind which they are dreaming.
Here I wonder at how lives so invisible link,
touched by a common weather,
at how the gap time makes between
hello and loneliness
memory teems; drenches.
Wandering home late
what I know of each separate person melts,
forms such feelings I can express no better than
the wind that moves across me will.

Brian Patten (1969)

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