father knew his place it was near the north gate of the auxiliary winter capital in the quarter of the middling sort
I climbed it for both of us the mountain of graduated merit to the thud of plummeting bodies I examined away my youth in the hall of indelible nightmares to the accompaniment of terminal sobbing then it was farewell happy father
my first posting was an assistantship in the region of windswept borders where I gave good calligraphy in the third war of pointless encroachment
later in the capital I enjoyed prestigious posts keeper of the library of unlearned lessons and later the first curator of the burnt library museum yes interesting times
when I was installed on the committee of unthinkable thoughts under the prince with the bees in his bonnet a new title seemed to beckon me till all that free-form thinking triggered the great autumn purge resulting in five uncomfortable days in the chamber of extruded truth before a ceremony-free award of the brown fan of early retirement second class
where I live now the locals will direct you to the famous mountain hut of the retired administrator but I’m always careful to point out it’s really just my dwelling that I’ve haven’t got round to calling anything fancy and my garden is not defined by willows or chrysanthemums or that big mountain it clings to
what I’ve learned I think is how everything under language slips and slides and bites and how in the end language makes its excuses and leaves for the beach where every wave is new and gone
and I sit late night rises from the valley and one by one the lights come on like memories and stay wavering like memories
and later one by one go out like names
by Alasdair Paterson
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Copyright © Alasdair Paterson, 2010. 'on nomenclature' is taken from the volume On the Governing of Empires by Alasdair Paterson, published by Shearsman Books, 2010. It is reprinted here by permission of Shearsman Books.
Notes courtesy of Shearsman Books:
Alasdair Paterson was born in Edinburgh and now lives in Exeter. He won an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry in 1976; On the Governing of Empires is his first collection for more than 20 years. The intervening time was spent directing the work of academic libraries in Britain and Ireland, and travelling to Samarkand, Salonika, Stamboul, Siberia, Swaziland, San Francisco, Sidmouth and many other places not beginning with an S. You can read more selections from his latest volume here and here, and keep up with him via his blog, 'return of the crane', here.
Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with an active translation list. You can learn more about the publisher here.
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