A LIFETIME DEVOTED TO LITERATURE
In your twenties you knew with elegiac certainty
you would die young. Your father’s heart attack
tallied, a verification.
Thirty was your worst year: the thirties fatal to genius,
and genius undeclared by the would-be oracles.
You gave thought to publication;
then a news item – friend dropped dead in the street –
coeval, a get-up-and-go editorial
viceroy at thirty-four –
cheered you somehow. You planned aloud and in detail,
publishers ventured for you, reviews came your way
as you learned to joke and your hair thinned,
and several thromboses onward you inhabit unruffled
an active advisory presence: a sitter on Boards
preparing to live for ever.
IS IT POETRY?, THEY ASK
Is it really
poetry? Sometimes by the fireplace
(and there’d been a fire, no mistake)
Ellen asked, is it still a light?
We’d peer at the whitening flakes
and chunks paled round a black stump.
It helped if you switched off the lamp.
Outside would be clearer, grass
and scrub and fences and tree-tops
roaring and blazing miles-wide
and fire-fighters awed in witness.
On the widening scale, sun and stars
are the only proven poets.
But their language deserts them, the warmth
of this and the light of that.
So many that have been,
known by these we see – light-years back!
And alas, the contemporaries our children
will reproach us for not deducing.
Back to the impatient questioner,
the poet, this warmable hand,
painted shutters and doorbells of the skull
swelling or clacking in weather,
and our strange inhabitant puzzling
warm or cold? Is there anything out there?
Driving tonight in freezing air
to cram the Comedy’s windy foyer
we go to see a red bitch raise
eleven dead nobles from the grave
eleven ladies they had a ball
and a century to their funeral
oh they sang good and they lived hard
it was one-night stands on a dead-end road
and it’s cold the gusts and black in the street
and hail comes across and peppers it white
and through the Comedy’s blue and dark
we’ll be those nobles screwed and starred
and raped and hurt and drunk and broke
and jailed and dead and young that ache
those ladies high in the wind and the rain
that lights them up and batters them down
one red-haired bitch talks down the years
eleven dead whores dress up their blues
the witch heart sings from a bloodless face
and lives the triumph of that distress
and the living and loving are women the more
all that festivity and power
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