David Perman


I’m puzzled by my loss of memory,
the sudden cull of my vocabulary.
Some words arrive unbidden –
like school friends you’d hoped you’d forgotten.
Others struggle to attach themselves
to what I can see or hear or think.
Things I know I’ve long valued and
long to name remain nameless, orphans.
Flowers mostly, more than people.
You can get away with not naming people:
their vanity will let the cat out of the bag
sooner or later –
but flowers are not vain: even the brightest
lack all boastfulness. I tour my garden,
struggling to put names to plants I’ve planted,
nursed through frost and draught, loved.
I stand before a bloom, willing it
to reveal its name, the common name that
friends know it by, let alone the Latin –
but there is no answer. Some do speak
or I imagine they do. The boastful rose is one,

David Perman spent most of his working life as a journalist, first in newspapers then in the BBC World Service. He interviewed Mrs.Thatcher and the Ayatollah Khomeini and, more congenially, finished up as the BBC’s head of Greek broadcasting. He has written two biographies of poets. Scott of Amwell: Dr Johnson’s Quaker Critic came out of research into the eighteenth-century poet and social reformer, John Scott, whose shell grotto was restored in 1990. More recently he has written the life of a German-born refugee from Hitler –Stranger in a borrowed land: the life and writing of Lotte Moos. Publication of his own poetry began in 1997 with The Buildings from Acumen,  an  A Wasp on the Stair, from Rockingham (2004). His latest publication is Scrap-iron Words from Acumen (2014). In 2018 David suffered a stroke and these poems were written during, and a help towards, his recovery.