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FOR JAMES SIMMONS

by
 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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