Sunday, 3 February 2013

Good evening

For Annie Janowitz

The clocks turned back the night before and so

Arriving late (a thing I hate), 

That dim-lit Sunday afternoon,

I sat there in the bright, low-ceilinged hall

Waiting to hear my friend Professor Janowitz

Tell all of us about her man Newton, 

And the Poetic Sublime

Her drawly voice, unamplified 

Mid-century Manhattan, 

Late of Muswell Hill and Barbican,

Treated competently of space, of time,

Surrounded by her departmental peers,

All charming folk, all making notes, 

And me (a bloke), inadequate,

Adopting a pose of serene entitlement

Without a pen, pencil, paper or a clue 

Apart from Auden's line about

That apple, 'falling towards England',

Was pleased to see my pal so easily work the room.

‘The guy was a guy’, she says, by way of

Hermaneutic.  We try and get it straight away,

And ripple approvingly, as if to say

The Principia Mathematica gets our vote

And makes us all feel good about our lot,

Thanks to her graft and insight, eloquence and tact. 

Questions were lobbed, sliced back with ease,

Calling on Milton, Anna Barbauld, a French savant

Whose name I didn't catch, and others, many others. 

Scores were gently settled, things broke up

And some of us then went for supper in a pub.

I had pork belly, roast parsnips and red wine,

And talked more than I listened

And having split our bill we all went out into the cold 

Dark night, paired off in huddled bundles

To walk along the Mile End Road.

Above our little group the old white stars,

Unseen beyond our city sodium,

Were still there for the knowing,

Glittering as they always have to do.

Later, fumbling with the key, I looked up,

Launching half-cut thoughts through

The firmament, the swerve, the cosmos if you will 

And ending up, but knowingly, alone.

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