The JUDY Poems

More than forty years passed between the writing of the first and last of these four poems (the first in the early 60s, thelast in the early 2000s . . . and as I tend to collect my poems chronologically, it has never occurred to me to put them together before. But here they are, the Judy poems.


To J.A.

Do you ever remember
Those long hot summer days
That lay on us like a welcome
To the world of adult ways,

That lay on us like a blessing
Lest that world and our own fear
Obstruct initiation into
Mysteries drawn near?

Do you ever remember
Those last two stolen days
When autumn came and ‘grown-up’
We had gone our separate ways?

Autumn comes, and falling
Each leaf for summer pays,
And the naked tree in winter
Survives, but cannot praise,

Survives in aching silence
The birth of the new year:
But if the tree itself is felled
And left to rot, my dear?

(The last two stanzas were added some years later. JM)

To J.A.

The trees do not change
the whispering limes
though they rearrange
all else we knew

The times
we walked along
this avenue
and kicked that stone
and I turned to smile
at you

how for a while
at times we dream
and even time
seems rearranged

I turn alone
back down the aisle
of limes

To J.A.  (Bosnia, August, 1983)

Then we lay together in the grass
murmuring Ifs and One days and I’d likes,
long English meadow grass
and buttercups
(You would not let me test your taste for butter,
Said yellow did not suit you). Now
I lie alone gazing through the pines
at blue sky
and wonder drenched in my own sweat
where the years
where you
went, where I.
Twenty-seven years ago this month
I saw you last, in Maldon.
In Maldon, we kissed goodbye and
you rode off upon your bike.

The people on the camp site here beside the beach
are from all parts of the Eastern Bloc and wear
nothing at all, or occasionally tiny briefs that only serve
to emphasise the perfect bodies,
the body beautiful
but glum.
They gaze incuriously like
children deprived,
repressed, like
puritans, thighs, breasts and chests
all gleaming, eyes

Clouds rumble round the barren hills.

They sunbathe carefully, they wade and wash,
and lick their little ones.
They have not been told that they can swim.

We were not puritans, could not be communists,
nor were we libertines.
We laughed and loved and played
and did our thing
in anarchy and innocence.

I am let back in now sometimes on parole
but all in all
prefer Siberia, my attempts at
have all been Chaplin/Hitler in performance,
Sydney Carton/Van Gogh in prognosis:
the spectators wooden, inured,
the spectacle me
performing live for a canned audience.

I don’t think India will make
a Good Communist State:
in fact I think India
is in Siberia.
I shall go there, and I shall stay.

Do you remember Laurence Applegate?
I wet myself on stage in the last long monologue,
Camouflaged it down my tights with wine (i.e. water).
It’s always been the same.
I want to die alone upon the sea
or high up on the hill
or in a forest, like this. Pass away
sans camouflage, in peace.

The sun is setting now. The pines above
my face are pale green, moving
a little. Time to go.
Time to eat again. Time. And you?
On holiday? About to give
Supper to your children? Show
Your suntan off?
Go to confession? Laugh?
Have another secret drink?
Lie down and cry again
for someone you have loved?
Or in the village churchyard evening
weep? Or lie forgotten?

To J.A.

I have had no news of you
for more than forty years.

If things were different I would come
in search of you before it was too late …

It is too late.

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