Poetry: Summer Surprised Us | clivejames.com
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Summer Surprised Us

Supposing this is my last summer, let
What I see here, in all its glory, seem,
Come winter, splendid to my fading gaze
As it is now. Curse me if I forget
The luck that still brings me this waking dream
With such a freshness, here in my last days,
I feel that I was born to breathe the air
The rain has just drenched and cooled everywhere.

It needed cooling. Heat does not belong,
Where I lie down now, to the same degree
As it did there, when I had just been born
And started to grow up. It seems plain wrong
To feel my thin supply of energy
Depleted further, even though the dawn
Is such a flood of light it might as well
Be the Pacific sun. Clear as a bell,

Rinsed by this wetly gleaming afternoon,
The light still sparkles undiminished. When
The temperature retreats, as soon it must,
Things might look more like England, and the moon
Seem less a vast night-club for magic men,
Unless the rearrangement of its dust
Is permanent, and nothing from now on
Will cease from being changed or simply gone.

For how to know that these weeks have not been
The first three quarters of my final act
In which, bemused, my judgment quite undone,
I play Malvolio when, scene by scene,
He stumbles to his downfall? Won’t that fact —
Though punctuated by the sunset gun —
Not feel like this, a fantasy, with all
These other people in a fiction’s thrall?

I’ll ask my keen-eyed daughters. Am I here?
Is all this sunlight real? I hear surf boom
As if I, somehow soon, might swim once more.
But no, these waves are only in my ear:
Tricks, like the way the sunlight in this room,
Transposed through time, is light I saw before
And brings with it the young man I once knew
Who took one look and fell in love with you.

As if you were here now and not sky-high
Walking among the pitched roofs of Kashmir,
I long for you to stroll the quarter mile
From your side of the river and drop by,
Just to be asked if I am fading here
In this white stream of fire. Were you to smile,
I’d take that as a no, though I have learned
Richly to see the sky bleached, the air burned.

The truth is that I need no heat to melt
And die the puddled death of the snowman.
I do that from within. My memories
More than suffice to tell me I’ve been dealt
A fair hand if not better. I began
In light like this, and saw the burning trees
Cut swathes through mountain ranges. Far too small
Back then to really comprehend it all,

I almost do now. It is life, drawn from
The roaring force of nature, even here
In these polite, pampered gardens. If I live
To see again the cold Elysium
Which is the winter’s destiny, forgive —
As if it were a figment of the air —
The weakness I show now, if not the way
I thought it strength, back in a heedless day.

At some time or another, it must be
Near in the future now that I shall lose
My last contact with life, and so depart
To leave behind even the memory
Of those cross garters I was proud to choose.
But that absurd confusion spoke my heart:
I sought release in vain, but at the last
It seeks me with success. The die is cast:

This sudden touch of autumn has begun
At last to take the shine off all I see.
A hint of winter will be in the air
As you fly back to us, but if the sun
Should shine at all, it will for you and me,
Blessing us here as first it blessed us there
When real waves roared and how far we would get
Together neither of us knew as yet.