I’d never thought about him till he diedwithout public drama at eighty two;
I’d carried his books tucked into my side
and flicked the pages as schoolgirls will do
and puzzled a little over the context
the abstruse climate and customs portrayed
and nothing in it bluster or defensive
a firm outline to the ancient and complex -
or so I chose to hear, so the teachers said
and it was enough to pass the exam, and live.
Sometime during the years that he wroteI stopped being a schoolgirl, and I grew
my hair out, and even more remote
from nuances, and the immediate milieu.
The books stayed thrust somewhere aside
their pages rarely handled and splayed open
their spines slow faded, tight, still intact
their seeping fame spread slowly worldwide;
but the connect snapped with them way back then
and beyond that no memories, no impact.
It takes many random years to gaugethe words of a writer read in early youth
to reckon the deadweight of an unturned page
of letting a book dissolve in its own truth,
lie dusty and forgotten on the shelf.
The news streams its way around the world
and death is a sudden spike of interest
stabbing time, a leap across the wide gulfs
of my understanding, sharpening what’s dulled
but little point now that his hand's at rest.