And at once I knew, I was not magnificent

a poem by
ESTHER VINCENT | Teacher + Poet


“And at once I knew, I was not magnificent” is inspired by the lyrics of Bon Iver’s “Holocene”, and describes a moment last summer at Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. I had taken a photo of my fiancé when he had reached the peak from below, as I was too afraid to go up with him. Back then, I did not yet comprehend the significance of that moment, nor did it have any relation to “Holocene”. I also forgot about the photo once we got back to Singapore. It was only in retrospect, a few months later, that I started to make sense of it all, and wrote this poem to encapsulate a time and place where I saw quiet strength emanating from my better half. 

BUT when I saw you standing at the top 
of Arthur’s Seat with your camera 

slung around your neck like a noose
threatening to tighten and asphyxiate if not careful

I recall your smile, boyish and carefree
a strength of spirit, lone wolf or bear cosy in his skin

up there, untouchable 

not sunk by the straps of your backpack 
weighing you down like the weight 

of those megalithic tombs we visited 
yes, they possess a quiet solitude, like you

down below, I look up— 

I didn’t know then but I know now
that you are, magnificent 

Enjoy more of Esther’s work at her website,
Photograph by Esther Vincent
Esther Vincent
Esther Vincent is a poet from Singapore, who teaches Literary Arts and Literature at the School of the Arts, Singapore. She writes poetry that resonates on both the personal and political level, and believes that poetry should empower, not exclude, engage, not evade. She was co-editor of a poetry anthology, Little Things and the accompanying Teacher's Guide. Her poems have been published in Eastlit, Feminine Collective, Into the Void, Luminous Echoes, New Asian Writing, Unhomed, Sound of Mind, LIVEPress Pilot, Little Things, Ceriph #4 and in Editorial 13. Her poem, "Excuse me, what is your race?" was translated into Russian in To Go To S'pore by Kirill Cherbitski. She is currently an editorial board member of Eastlit.

"I'm passionate about the Arts, and usually personal encounters (articles I read, experiences I have, things that I think about, places I visit) inspire me to write if they evoke some sort of emotional response from me. Just about anything can get me thinking and inspire my creativity, though sometimes I don't immediately write about it, as I need time to mull over my thoughts and let them settle. I think art is a way of thinking about life and things in life, and I live and breathe art. It helps that I teach Literature and Literary Arts every working day, too! I write poetry whenever I can, and that is my preferred art form." -E. V.
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