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February 2004  |  Jacket 25  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |

John Lucas

Tea and Sympathy

— i.m. Gael Turnbull

Now why should that brown sugar
you stirred about with absent-minded vigour
the while we talked and talked of poetry
be thickening your tea
to paste, and still not sweet,
as the wry grimace
flittering across your face
after one quick sip
made plain. Of course! “Gael,
I’m sorry. That’s cracked wheat
I’ve given you!”
                            A smile, a shrug and
“ach, don’t fash yourself, a glass
of water will do as well.”

Later, your words’ dry lilt
held firm against the bookshop’s
keen of drills, the bop
bop of hammered wood. “Structural
alterations, there’s nothing
we can do.” Meaning: this is more
important than verse, for sure.

You’d probably agree, knowing
how daily happenstance
makes close neighbours of Laughter
and, as your journal shows, Disaster.

“My little dog’s been stung
in his gentleman’s department.”
Not yet thirty, her cancer
so agonising she can’t
bear her young son to hug her.

The single talent well employed
is now its own reward, as are
the many you used well; doctor,
poet, friend, family man:
though when you wrote, “the joy
is in the attention”, I wonder, can
that always be so? Attention:
tendance. Observant care.
Perhaps it can.

February 2004  |  Jacket 25  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |
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