The English Teacher
There is always one latent in your life,
who will shape you to your own advantage.
Mine was Balkwill. Chaucer-fat. Quotation-rife.
Flushed with good booze, and dying in a rage.
Rushing to complete his time, he came in
for the lesson, ranted in despair about his death.
The next day he swept through, played Beethoven –
the Ninth – from start to finish. Nodded – left.
In those days, it meant little. How could we see
past youth to bear witness to him dying in such glory?
We told ourselves it was how the world was framed:
to the wise came decay; to the brilliant, shame.
Yet to suspect all this – the passion he held
in that last summer of his, though dissolving in his palm,
was to long to join him in whatever he loved,
and do it ongoingly. This is how we all link arms:
When he died we knew that we’d been chosen.
In his each and every fantastic literary whim –
Hardy, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Wilde, Owen –
he’d lived. We would too – and if we could, live like him.