While the central figure tries to remember his acquaintances and workmates from the past, he is obliquely offering insights into himself.

The poem comes from Looking for the Line by Alan Young, a graduate of Aberdeen University (Rain Poetry Books, £7.99).


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Then it was as natural as breathing

To think that he would remember them all,

That he would never forget.


Forty years later

He can’t remember their names

Only the shadows cast by a few:

A beanpole ex-policeman with George Orwell moustache

Shoehorned into a cushy job,

A Yorkshireman in his tweed jacket (summer and winter)

The strong acrid smell from his pipe smoke,

A woman who having survived the war

Was on the cusp of something not quite prepared to change

But by 1963 on its last legs.


He remembered quite clearly

The shape and texture of the building,

The coldness of granite,

Old-fashioned handles on heavy squeaky doors,

The sharp smell rising

From coke he flung into the basement furnace at weekends,

But he had forgotten almost completely

Names and lives

He once felt he would remember for ever.