Introducing The November 2009 Readers – 1. Tessa Ransford

Tessa Ransford is past president and committee member of Scottish PEN. She is an established poet, translator, literary editor and cultural activist on many fronts over the last thirty years, having also worked as founder and director of the Scottish Poetry Library. Tessa initiated the annual Callum Macdonald Memorial Award for publishers of pamphlet poetry in Scotland, with the attendant fairs and the Scottish Pamphlet Poetry online sales website. She has had Royal Literary Fund fellowships at the Centre for Human Ecology and Queen Margaret University. Tessa’s New and Selected Poems, Not Just Moonshine, has recently been published by Luath Press, Edinburgh

The Last Armistice Day of the Century
for William Geoffrey Walford, killed 4th November 1918 aged 22, after four years in the war

Who shall be your rememberer now my mother is dead,
she who adored you so briefly and yet for so long?
In ninety-six years she never forgot you and kept
your photograph beside her and within her head.

You were someone we knew and yet we never knew,
the almost-haloed one, the hero who died,
whose beauty emerges here and there in us
and yet the one we sensed we lacked and missed somehow.

I feel my mother’s pain as I did when as a child
I heard her describe the things you used to say and
how peace brought the worst news in the world:
too late the eleventh hour for her, when you were killed.

Now I am left alone as guardian of your presence.
When I am gone there will be none to maintain
our loss. Yet as my mother’s love is absorbed
in me, her sorrow will form a lasting inheritance.

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