and in the shop…
“The agister’s experiment”
Two Rivers Press
after Taha Muhammad Ali
Pauline, how come you drifted off our chart? We’ve ridden
waves of hope, loss, passion, misery, and long to know
what dragged you down or what shore you landed on.
Remember the choir? lush Brahms, tingling dissonance
of Holst. And Sibelius from the Town Hall balcony: you
and I elbow to elbow on the rail, gripped by tundra chill.
Never a year without a prize: you were at ease
with Virgil’s syntax, Homer’s alphabet; shimmered
through suites for violin; always made
first team for tennis, hockey and lacrosse. Sometimes,
wrung out by early rising and the train, or perhaps
the weight of so much hope, you slid into a faint.
Classics at Somerville but no degree – a breakdown,
someone said; the iron-haired don would not
‘divulge your whereabouts’. We let you slip.
What then, Pauline? Did you wear flowers in your hair,
gasp at Watergate, watch the Berlin Wall come down?
Or did conjugating life and scholarship become too much?
Grey and grandmothers, we’re still afloat (if sometimes
all at sea) but you’ve shrunk to a horizon-dot, a pale blur
on a yard of girls, Solihull High, summer of ’53.