By Clive James

I am the echo of the man you knew.
Launched from the look-out to the other side
Of this blue valley, my voice calls to you
All on its own, and more direct for that.
My line of sweet talk you could not abide
Came from the real man. It will all be gone –
Like glitter back to the magician’s hat –
Soon now, and only sad scraps will remain.
His body that betrayed you has gone on
To do the same for him. Like veils of rain,
He is the cloud that his tears travel through.

When the cloud lifts, he will be gone indeed.
Hearing his cry, you’ll see the ghost gums break
Into clear air, as all the past is freed
From false hopes. No, I nowhere lie awake
To feel this happen, but I know it will.
At the last breath, my throat was full of song;
The proof, for a short while, is with you still.
Though snapped at sharply by the whip-bird’s call,
It has not stopped. It lingers for your sake:
Almost as if I were not gone for long –
And what you hear will not fade as I fall.

From Clive James' bestselling poetry collection Sentenced To Lifewhich is out in paperback on 22nd September 2016.

In Sentenced to Life, Clive looks back over his unusually rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty. There are regrets, but no trace of self-pity in these verses, which – for all their open dealings with death and illness – are primarily a celebration of what is treasurable and memorable during our time here. 

>>>Watch Clive James reading from Sentenced to Life

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