Lucas, my friend, on/ among those three or four who stay unchanged/ like a separate self,/ a stone in the bed of the river/ under every change, became your friend./ I heard of it, alerted. I was sitting/ youth away in an office near Slough,/ morning and evening between Slough and Holborn,/ hoarding wage to fund a leap to freedom/ and the other side of the earth —a free-fall/ to strip my chrysalis off me in the slipstream./ Weekends I recidived/ into Alma Mater. Girl-friend/ shared a supervisor and weekly session/ with your American rival and you./ She detested you. She fed snapshots/ of you and she did not know what/ inflammable celluloid into my silent/ insatiable future, my blind-man’s buff/ internal torch of search. With my friend,/ after midnight, I stood in a garden/ lobbing soil-clods up at a dark window.
Drunk, he was certain it was yours./ Half as drunk, I did not know he was wrong./ Nor did I know I was being auditioned/ for the male lead in your drama,/ miming through the first easy movements/ as if with eyes closed, feeling for the role./ As if a puppet were being tried on its strings,/ or a dead frog’s legs touched by electrodes./ I jigged through those gestures —watched and judged/ only by starry darkness and a shadow./ Unknown to you and not knowing you./ Aiming to find you, and missing, and again missing./ Flinging earth at a glass that could not protect you/ because you were not there.
Ten years after your death/ I meet on a page of your journal, as never before,/ the shock of your joy/ when you heard of that. Then the shock/ of your prayers. And under those prayers your panic/ that prayers might not create the miracle,/ then, under the panic, the nightmare/ that came rolling to crush you:/ your alternative —the unthinkable/ old despair and the new agony/ melting into one familiar bell.
Suddenly I read all this —/ your actual words, as they floated/ out through your throat and tongue and onto your page —/ just as when your daughter, years ago now,/ drifting in, gazing up into my face,/ mystified,/ where I worked alone/ in the silent house, asked, suddenly:/ ‘Daddy, where’s Mummy?’ The freezing soil/ of the garden as I clawed it./ All round me that midnight’s/ giant clock of frost. And somewhere/ inside it, wanting to feel nothing,/ a pulse of fever. Somewhere/ inside the numbness of the earth/ our future trying to happen./ I look up —as if to meet your voice/ with all its urgent future/ that has burst in on me. Then look back/ at the book of the printed words./ You are ten years dead. It is only a story./ Your story. My story.