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FOR JAMES SIMMONS

Written by: Barry Tebb | Biography
 Sitting in outpatients

With my own minor ills

Dawn’s depression lifts

To the lilt of amitryptilene,

A double dose for a day’s journey

To a distant ward.



The word was out that Simmons

Had died eighteen months after

An aneurism at sixty seven.



The meeting he proposed in his second letter

Could never happen: a few days later

A Christmas card in Gaelic - Nollaig Shona -

Then silence, an unbearable chasm

Of wondering if I’d inadvertently offended.



A year later a second card explained the silence:

I joined the queue of mourners:

It was August when I saw the Guardian obituary

Behind glass in the Poetry Library.



How astonishing the colour photo,

The mane of white hair,

The proud mien, the wry smile,

Perfect for a bust by Epstein

Or Gaudier Brjeska a century earlier.



I stood by the shelves

Leafing through your books

With their worn covers,

Remarking the paucity

Of recent borrowings

And the ommisions

From the anthologies.

“I’m a bit out of fashion

But still bringing out books

Armitage didn’t put me in at all

The egregarious Silkin

Tried to get off with my wife -

May he rest in peace.





I can’t remember what angered me

About Geoffrey Hill, quite funny

In a nervous, melancholic way,

A mask you wouldn’t get behind.



Harrison and I were close for years

But it sort of faded when he wrote

He wanted to hear no more

Of my personal life.

I went to his reading in Galway

Where he walked in his cosy regalia

Crossed the length of the bar

To embrace me, manic about the necessity

Of doing big shows in the Balkans.

I taught him all he knows, says aging poet!

And he’s forgotten the best bits,

He knows my work, how quickly

vanity will undo a man.



Tom Blackburn was Gregory Fellow

In my day, a bit mad

But a good and kind poet.”



I read your last book

The Company of Children,

You sent me to review -

Your best by so far

It seemed an angel

Had stolen your pen -

The solitary aging singer

Whispering his last song.



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