Friday Poem: 'The Long Take'

An extract from the narrative poem by Robin Robertson.

An extract from the narrative poem by Robin Robertson.

An extract from the narrative poem by Robin Robertson.

And there it was: the swell
and glitter of it like a standing wave –
the fabled, smoking ruin, the new towers rising
through the blue,
the ranked array of ivory and gold, the glint,
the glamour of buried light
as the world turned round it
very slowly
this autumn morning, all amazed.

And it stayed there, watching,
as they made toward it,
the truck-driver and the young man,
under pylons, wires, utility poles,
past warehouses, container parks,
deserted lots, between the long
oily marshes, landfill sites and swamps,
before slipping down
under the Hudson, and coming up
on the other side
to find a black wetness
of streets trashed and empty
and the city gone.

The Long Take

by Robin Robertson

Book cover for The Long Take

noir narrative written with the intensity and power of poetry, The Long Take is one of the most remarkable – and unclassifiable – books of recent years.

Walker, a D-Day veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead moves to New York, to Los Angeles and San Francisco in search of freedom, anonymity and repair.

While Walker tries to piece his life together, America is beginning to come apart: deeply paranoid, doubting its own certainties, riven by social and racial division, spiralling corruption and the collapse of the inner cities . . . 

The Long Take is about a good man, brutalised by war, haunted by violence and apparently doomed to return to it – yet resolved to find kindness again, in the world and in himself.

The Long Take by Robin Robertson from Paul Martinovic on Vimeo.

Video credits: Voiceover by Andre le Brocquy, editing by Paul Martinovic. Features an excerpt from 'The Exiles' (1961) by Kent Mackenzie. Copyright Milestone Films.