When I learn of Dominique’s death
I am reading books that are linked.
I realise that Wittgenstein
is like my husband, leave the novel
on a heap for him. I am trailing
the Highlands with two ponies and a journalist
In 1983. Here is Rosemary Sutcliff’s
supposedly children’s novel on the Ninth Legion,
the legion that disappeared in the mist.
From the mist the Staffordshire Hoard assails me,
better on the internet than in this booklet I was given,
and better still in the display case,
red enamel on gold.
Why were the Roman villas abandoned?
Why did life abandon Wittgenstein,
to his satisfaction after it had abused him,
never giving him the opportunity
to be worn down and partly tamed,
to look back with weakening powers
on the solutions that did not come,
the books that could never now be written?
But now I am interrupted.
My friend in Glasgow has gone,
and with him photographs he will never take,
and with us all, the landscapes,
empty or peopled, captured
with the mind of an émigré,
one who knew the hardnesses of life
and its peoples and politics,
who throve on portraits of writers
in France and Scotland, who wove
through new photographic practices
and yet could spend three days in the wild
collecting a half-dozen images of Glencoe,
seen as few Scots have ever seen it.
The book of Wittgenstein
and the book of the Ninth Legion
hover in previous moments
where eagles are real,
there are peoples we will never know
who hammered the Staffordshire Hoard,
scholars whose lives overlapped with mine
were dragged away by illness and history
and a great photographer I knew for a number of years
died quietly, alone.
I know what is great because I have identified
the greatness in a philosopher,
the greatness in a friend.