Poetry: This Coming Winter | clivejames.com
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This Coming Winter

This coming winter I will say goodbye —
In case I do not live to see the spring —
To all my loved ones one by one. That way,
Taking my time each time, I need not be
Besieged at the last hour, with the fine thing
Eluding me that I wished to convey
To each face, always granted I could tell
Which one was which as they, around my bed,
Vied not to notice that my mouth no more
Could shape the easy phrase. Nothing said well
To suit the occasion: mutterings instead,
And then not even those. No, long before
That night I’ll call them separately aside
And speak my heart so as to save my pride

From injury when I search for a word
And finally words fail me. All will hear
My fond farewells ahead of time, save one:
Only my granddaughter will not have heard
How sad I am to bow out. Not from fear
Of hurting her will I leave this undone:
My aim is otherwise. I’d like to keep
Her thinking that I’m in some way still there
When she laughs, as we did together when
Basil in all his tallness took a steep
Dive as he rushed behind the counter. Where
Was Manuel? She knew. Basil forgot again!
Miraculous, the way she understood
That how the scene was built made it so good.

Let me be part, then, of her memory
Each time the comedy of life strikes her
As wonderful. In that way to live on
Is my wish, though I’ll not be there to see
A single giggle. That my last days were
Lit by her friendship until I was gone
Is not for me to tell her, at her age.
Let any last words that she hears from me
Be about Johnny English and the scene
In which he wrecks the sushi bar. A page
Of my book will turn soon, and it might be
The last, but I would want my death to mean
No more to her than our shared sense of doom
When Basil takes charge of the dining room.

Until that day, and never before then,
Let there be no big talk of what is lost
When one friend stays, the other goes away,
And all their sprightly chat comes to an end.
Think rather of the continuity
Prepared for her if she, in times to come,
At any moment when her heart is light,
Should cast her mind back to these laughing hours
And think me part of them. A tiny part
Will do. She’ll have her own concerns.
There must be independence for the heart:
It is by cutting loose that the mind learns,
And therefore, wishing to transfer my powers —
To give her, for her life, the memory
Of how I laughed when she made fun of me —
I shall renounce them at the fall of night
As I move on to find Elysium.