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Summer of ’61 by Roger Kirkpatrick

Arts Richmond

Online - 23 September 2020

Summer of ’61 by Roger Kirkpatrick

Heartbeat by heartbeat

I saw each spring

heard summer’s lazy hum

smelled woodsmoke in the autumn

and touched bleak winter’s snow never wondering

whether my senses guided me through time

or it was time that passed me by


Until the summer of ’61


That June red Arctic tulips bloomed

under a fixed bright polar sun

six hours’ flight

due north from Hudson’s Bay

where two gigantic dishes

watched for a Soviet attack and our secret Catalina overflew the pole

to spy and map


Few people there

no changing shadows no horizon

or setting sun

no nights

no passing days

no boundaries

no reference points

no time


In the polar vacuum

of time’s absence

clocks tick-tock

without consequence

and measure nothing


Freed from time’s irrelevant delusion

I lived in the eternal present

and saw the awful truth of endlessness


Sheltered again by rhythm, seasons

and the false facade of time

I wait

to wake into the infinity glimpsed in ’61

which I could not explain

and never found again


If I google back to Qikiqtaaluk

two huge gantried scanners

abandoned over fifty years ago

still stare across the pole

unaware their enemy and time have gone.


from ABOUT TIME, the 2019 anthology of shortlisted entries from The Roger McGough Poetry Prize. Copies of this Anthology can be purchased for £5 including P&P from Arts Richmond.

Summer of ’61 Roger by Kirkpatrick

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