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