By Clive James
In February, winter was undone.
Day after day a honeysuckle sun
Glowed in the windows. Though the nights were long,
And from one bird song to the next bird song
Took half the morning, still it worked like spring.
I breathed the yielding air and felt it bring
My lost life back to me, at least in part:
Enough, at any rate, to keep my heart –
The one intact component that I’ve got –
From breaking at the thought that I might not
Summon the strength to see the season through
And all the sweet world properly made new.
We old and ill must measure time that way.
When young, we scarcely saw the interplay
Of life and the surrounding atmosphere:
We just lived in it. Now the truth is here:
Existence wants us gone. The oxygen
We once wolfed down now fuels a fire, and when
The air is cold the flames reach deep within,
Reminding us that we can never win
This battle. Only let the air turn mild,
However, and the power of hope runs wild:
It makes a fool of me, as if I could
Begin again, and be both strong and good.
Another month, and still the freeze is slow
To come back to the lawns and wreck their show
Of ground-based blooms. But I have seen before
How March can throw a quick switch, and restore
The temperature to what it ought to be
In any keyhole not blocked with a key,
And how the caught-out flowers pay the cost
Of misplaced confidence. Felled by the frost,
Here without leave and gone without a fight,
Where do they go? They vanish overnight.
This time, perhaps not. Maybe death will take
A whole new attitude, just for my sake.
From Injury Time
, a new collection of deeply moving and life-affirming poems from one of our most cherished, critically acclaimed and bestselling writers.
finds James with more time on the clock than he had anticipated, and all the more determined to use it wisely – to capture the treasurable moment,
and think about how best to live his remaining days while the sense of his own impending absence grows all the more powerfully acute.
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