3A Hyde Park Terrace
LONDON W2 5PH
September 25 2000
We don’t seem to have written for an aeon? I hope all is well? I have been to see someone who has been a very good friend. And, somehow, this visit has made me want to write a poem. I have not felt impelled to write a poem for quite some time, so I feel it is quite an important sort of poem, at least to me.
Other than that Mum, the only slight event of note has been the recent interest taken in me by a rather posh-sounding male resident nearby. Every so often he passes my front door when I am engaged in unloading my shopping from the car, and yesterday he said, ‘What a nice car.’ Well I gave him a bit of a look Mum as it is the Ford Fiesta loaned to me from the local garage while mine is having its hand brake adjusted.
‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘It is short and cheap.’
‘Just the ticket,’ he replied.
This dialogue then went on to a rather fulsome praise – on his part – of the plants (including the average sort of pelargoniums) adorning my window boxes and similarly fulsome praise – on my part – of his all-chestnut, harmonizing, outfit. At least no sign of beige and grey and a loosely-knotted paisley tie!
On to the poem now:
“When you said that you thought your life
was ending, and that you wanted to give all your books
away, I was puzzled.
But then you had a small heart attack, which made
me think, ‘Perhaps that was it.’ And when later
you stopped phoning and seemed more abrupt
than was usual – even for you –
it took me a long time to recognize your view
of the future. For, somehow, you had seen
that the death you expected was the death
of your memory and not the death we all come to.
Eccentric, ever, you grew more so
which I still took to be, disarmingly, you.
When I knocked at the door one day, and you had
only one front tooth, you said, “I have bitten
into a blood orange. I do hope you will still think me
a lady worthy of the bosom of friendship, with you.”
So I laughed and assured you that, yes, this was certainly
And then I watched you, increasingly, scatter yourself
across roads and roundabouts, on foot, and heading
I think towards love, when – before –
there had also been meaning. Where you used
to be terse on the phone, you took to saying “goodbye”
and the phone would go down suddenly: clunk.
This I took to be rudeness.
It is only since you have stopped phoning at all
and hardly speaking a word when we meet on the street
that I have realized how huge is the loss of a self
and how the process of losing it seems so tiny at first.
Now, when I see you, you may utter a few words
along the lines of, “I am thinking. I am thinking
very hard.” And then you sometimes
rest your forehead on my shoulder, like you always did
and blaze your blue eyes at me with the penetration
of five years’ before. When I say something frank, or even
profound, you still seem to hear it – because that’s how you
were – hearing the crux of the matter and weighing its
For that’s who you are. You are the Christian who does
a good deed, says a good thing, strives to think it
and, overall, has become someone decent, honest, and true.
I think the one they call Christ would have recognized you.”
Well I must be off now Mum.