Safe Sounds by Carol Ann Duffy

I’ve been pondering the most suitable poem to open this year’s selection all month. January calls for inspiration, motivation to persevere with New Year’s Resolutions, hope and promise to see us through what is for many, the darkest month of the year. But I like January.

It’s a slow month, part of the reason why so many seem to dread it, but I love January for its peaceful tempo, its quiet wonder. The thing is, you know what you’re going to get with January – there will be grey skies and rainclouds, the evenings will be dark and frosty, the most you can hope for is snow, which many of us have woken up to today. There’s a comfort in knowing what to expect and preparing to make the best of it. That’s what mother nature does – other species hibernate or go dormant for the winter months – it might not be possible for us to shut down for a whole season but we can at least enjoy the slower pace of our morning month.

January is all about early bedtimes, curling up with a good book, comfort food, hot baths and pots of tea. So cancel those plans, run a bath and put the kettle on. Embrace your inner hedgehog.

And look for the magic! Savour the morning light that creeps in low to the ground, listen to the rain against your window at night and relish that first crunch of frost underfoot. Home after a day of birthday celebrations late on Saturday night, a little squiffy perhaps, I made an incredible discovery, so incredible did I consider it at the time that I went to fetch DH from brushing his teeth to witness it. After living here for five years I have discovered that in the crazy, heavy rain such as Saturday night’s downpour, the huge window in our living room turns the flat into a snowglobe. Standing in the darkened room, illuminated by the orange glow of the streetlights I watched the shadow of the rain trickle down the walls, over the framed pictures and fairy lights. It was magical.

With all that in mind, I couldn’t look any further than Carol Ann Duffy’s Safe Sounds in Chris Riddell’s collection Poems to Live Your Life By. Comfortable, familiar, safe sounds that feel like home, all wrapped up in a rather lovely poem.

Safe Sounds

You like safe sounds:
the dogs lapping at their bowls;
the pop of a cork on a bottle of plonk
as your mother cooks;
the Match of the Day theme tune
and Doctor Who-oo-oo.

Safe sounds:
your name called, two happy syllables
from the bottom to the top of the house;
your daft ring tone; the low gargle
of hot water in bubbles. Half asleep
in the drifting boat of your bed,
you like to hear the big trees
sound like the sea instead.

By Carol Ann Duffy

Published at Scottish Poetry Library.

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