Photo of the artist Peter Hammill

A Headlong Stretch: v. Backwards Man

Peter Hammill


It's only looking backwards
that you retrace your hand
it's only in a moment of reversal
that you can see where you stand
ease out, come through the film and through the mirror
welcome the backwards man.

Oh yes, the beach still stirs the ocean,
and soon the tide will turn the moon round
all is forgiven and all was foreseen -
all's as it ever could be.

Ends forced motive out of meaning
means all even out in the end
retracing steps
in the process you learn to stand,
learn to walk again
so much gets forgotten, so much is forsworn
in retrospect.

Did I really do that?
Was I ever so young....?

It's here, looking backwards
that you confront your own face
it's only in such moments of reversal
that you're secure in place.
Through the fire backwards
again and again
return to base.

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