STONE STEPS, MERTON COLLEGE OXFORD


(To Nevill Coghill my teacher)

 

 

Risers a masonry class:

plumb perfect, six hundred years.

At their turn by the landing an

arch glows, yellow with sun.  My dropped

coin rings, silver-belled.

                       

I leapt these stairs in spring then 

before grapes and cheese, sprawled picnics,

suppers drenched in Bordeaux.   Before

births, breached knees, the fall.  Now

ballast slows me.  Yet

 

cresting this climb still I see you:

a cave bear shambling, crag-browed,

awkward as condors, all

tweed knobs and angles. You loom

like an oak; ask

 

does Lear curse the storm?

though we both know curses are

sideshows.   Acceptance, acceptance

matters -- the proud soaked head erect,

wind stooped over,

 

rattling with rain.  It’s balance

that’s kingly; and the long silent quest

when we wrestled as equals

for essence; when I leafed out, a

green willow by water,

 

found footed order.  Found judgment

was rooted in love.

 

From Man Overboard (September 2018)