I found an old poem the other day, ‘ It Wasn’t’ written in the eighties, so long buried, like looking down an old well at a reflection of myself I’m no longer familiar with. I had almost forgotten that poetry was my first and most important muse in those days. It was only later I started to write stories and essays. It is strange reading this again, like something that needs dusting off, before it fades away permanently. The person about whom it was written died in 2001 of AIDS related illnesses. I even remember designing this little Logo for the Oscars.
It wasn’t the fact that you were wearing
soaked plimsolls in a muddy patch, and split
blades of grass were sticking to your turnups,
that made me grin; no, it just wasn’t that.
My head had already turned with fever
at your smile; so Cheshire cat-like, giddy
with those allusions to my damp presence,
eliciting from the saturated,
rained-off past, the present tense response that
showers in summer are just what I need.
No, it wasn’t that the waitress put two
sugars in my tea, when I distinctly
asked for coffee anyway, that made me
gulp it down. It was the count-to-ten,
instant adrenalin rush, seeing you
follow, when I paused, stalling, just to watch
you, detaching from your group of friends and
me, finding the grass so so interesting,
miles away from the old conversations
we had left behind, to say our hellos.
It wasn’t even that our umbrellas
formed a rainbow canopy, a beam that
pierced through plum clouds and stopped me in my tracks,
which rendered clean the message: at all costs,
we must meet up, no matter when or where.
Some other lesson, barely remembered,
circle of events, careless matching, came
back in the crowd of men crushing in the
marquee, escaping the rain, drinking to
oblivion, with no trace of smile fever.
It was more a coincidence of past
doubt and present impulse that clinched it all,
counselling restraint; a hell of a bore
against well-aimed lips, targeting romance
at a loveless inner vacuum. We said,
“Hello”, and the game was fast in motion.
What next? Not avoiding, not plunging on,
no safe solutions. Let’s arrange a day,
and see what happens. Arousal began
already when you asked,
“What’s your number?”
From ‘Take Any Train’.
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the poet: please do not download or republish