Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
Recorded at 'Citizens of the Archive' at the National Poetry Library, July 2017.
I’d call you Judas, but it’s a cliche,
And not even appropriate -
I was always the disciple,
Flesh-weak, forgiven and following,
And to hear you sneer at me was like...
Finding a maggot squirming,
A discovered liar,
At the core of my wet amber fruit;
Or the time I discovered that at Versailles,
In the fondant rooms,
Beside the taut marble and unnecessary gold,
Aristocrats would squat on the staircases
It was like finding out that your lover
Is taking Imodium.
Don’t you know that since the day you laughed at me,
I haven’t been able to so much as look
At a nectarine, fig biscuits or anything French?
Tasting that is like kissing you.
Your postcard came: a snap of Mediterranean blue
and bright chatter ending: How are you?
How am I? How are you is what I want to know -
last month checked over, stitched up, blasted with chemo
and now adrift, floating through days of slow sun
with one part of life finished, the next not yet begun.
And something else. I want to know too why the hell
last time you came to visit me at home I couldn’t tell
how much better I might have made you feel
(no, ‘loved’, not “better”; “better” is too genteel)
if, instead of slipping out into the garden quietly
to pick apples from our wet-leaved, sagging tree
- you said you felt like sleeping - I had just stayed close
and kept you talking. What came over me? Did I suppose
we’ll always have enough time left for that?
The second I had propped
my ladder gingerly against the tree and crept
inside its brittle globe - hold tight! a child again! -
and started rattling down the apple-rain,
I looked aside and found your watchful face
inside the window like a silhouette of ice
and melting - skin becoming water and then air
before I stretched to pull the apples near,
the apples swelling air and water in their new-made skin.
How am I? I shall tell you then.
I’m wishing you were here and, well, that’s all.
Not thinking how I climbed while you were waiting for the fall.
What’s more final than divorce?
being forever without you,
no hope of reconciliation,
closing me into the alone of myself,
into the evening of everything,
kings no longer robed in flamingo silks,
the long voyage of dusk into more dusk,
darkness and its very small secrets,
fixing me forever on the outskirts of tears.
Once I had the lion’s share of you,
I’m like a village fiddler,
my tune a ragged green curtain
on which deer leap through foliage,
and where you are the darkest tree
in a forest not of this world.