Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
Poem Of The Week: 'Everything Is Going To Be All Right' By Derek Mahon
Everything Is Going to Be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.
‘Everything is going to be all right’. How easy would it be, as we leave the EU after almost half a century, to draw a lazy association between the hopeful sentiment here expressed, and the kind of abandoned optimism that might prevent ardent Europeans amongst us from jumping into the nearest canal?
The impetus for the circularity of Irish poet Derek Mahon’s outpouring – the line’s titular power begins and concludes this simple and beautiful poem – is both endogenous and reactive, as instinctive in its way as Siegfried Sassoon’s sigh of indescribable relief in ‘Everyone Sang’.
Mahon’s powers of observation are numinous: the flying clouds and tide reflections viewed recumbently, and in tranquility, give rise to words self-reflexively, as though the lexis and the vision were indivisible. Falling to the page ‘unbidden’, the words are as natural as Keats’, and they enjoin celebration of the pristine moment for its own sake.
Although the tide bears the whisper of death in its endless turning, Mahon closes down the counterpoint as interruptive of mood, before resuming an easy rhyming and rhythmical flow, and immersing himself in the disinterest of pure abstraction.
Maybe the canal will beckon tomorrow.