THE AUTUMN OF LIFE
I’m old. I’m an old fart, long past it.
Girls don’t look at me, or if they do they laugh.
That ridiculous beard, those fashionable glasses,
trying to be sexy. Let them giggle.
The only fun I get out of life
these autumn days, is to skiffle through the park
scuffing the dead brown leaves with my feet,
noticing the ducks and swans, listening to the fountain.
I’m not a foodie. Lunch is a toasted crust
with a bit of beef showing signs of mould.
Nobody sleeps with me. My teddies stare at the ceiling.
I’m up at 4, to fill the bottomless hole
of unrequited loneliness with e-mails
to Verna, Sandra, Anna, Liz and Kate.
Maria makes my bed and buys me trousers
in an attempt to make me happy, and forget.
Once a week I telephone Bolivia
and share some family scandal with a cousin
catching me up in years but living in the past.
Why did our favourite tango singer have to die
in an airplane accident before the age of 40?
There is not much left for us. Time gets shorter
and we scrape the barrel of our savings.
They’re making a film about Marcus Cumberlege –
the old fart mentioned, in tennis shoes and raincoat,
running away from the rest of his life
with a poem in his hand for Cara, aged 21.
While the Waterman fingers
the shakuhachi with his lips,
blue grey twinkling eyes
checking the music and the holes,
notes like under-ocean bubbles
or a chilly breeze in the trees
sailing forth from the instrument
(a centuries old Japanese flute)
I, the sadly demolished ancient
feudal castle, take time to think.
Despite the melancholy Germanic
Romantic gloom of this piece
specially chosen to delight me
and enlivened by trills and quavers,
I can almost hear the kitchen clock
ticking with a smile towards four –
when the Moon of Libra, balanced
and serene, clicks with Jupiter
and I have an afspraak with Cara
in KT, made long before dawn.
Green dustbin, St Jansplein,
Wednesday 22 October 14, 17.25
impromptu in B flat
Will I ever grow sick and tired
of saying Namo Amida Butsu?
Will I ever get bored and weary
with Maria, Diana, Anabel and Rose?
Will I one day stop writing poetry,
disgusted with the plain indifference
of the Powers that Be, to you and me,
and the strange foreign language we write in?
Will Amida break his inconceivable vow
made a hundred billion aeons from now
to prevent me from reincarnating
in this burning samsaric world of pain?
Will cell-phones, i-pads, tablets and TV
have done away with language altogether?
These are trivial unimportant questions.
A forties Mexican called Pedro Infante
is voicing one of his melancholy waltzes
about the usual treason in affairs of love
and the woman of my life is back at last
from a Saturday afternoon with her friend.
ASKING FOR HELP
“If all else fails, write a poem
on the back of your ID card,”
whispered an angel called Christine
in my ear. “But make it short and sweet,
with no reference to the house
in the Biddersstraat where we meet.”
I once kissed Christine near her mouth
and lost my memory for days,
aswoon in an alcoholic haze.
OK, I realize there are better ways
of being lonely on autumn Saturdays,
writing the boredom out of your system
and leaving that first glass alone –
but Christine’s advice had sunk home,
like the drill in a nice dentist’s chair
touching a hypersensitive bone:
“Do what you have to do, Marcus.”
she smiled with a nonchalant air
(Marc, Willy and Rudi were there).
I could almost hear my eurocent fall.
Even Amida can’t do it all!
West Gistelhof, 25.10.14, 16.20
Revised and corrected 26.10, 05.20