This is not an obituary,
This is not the real you, this is not the real life
A sleeping statue in beige and corduroy, the armchair
Walrus, the sing-song voice.
Yes I could have a conversation with you
And yet even then, It was a frosted pane
Between us. Surely you were not always
The helpless foundling fluttered around by a chirruping wife?
Forgive me, I know you were a drummer
(in a big swing band?),
Freeat last under burnt cork and chalk. Alive.
Father left you scandalously when you were five.
Was that It? Or was It laid at
the siege of Malta? A good teleprinting operator
Quiet. Was that you, the man moving the models for
the stars in the films? Quiet, quiet. Stiff upper lip.
And let the bombs explode eternally inside.
Now, let's be honest, you needed her.
Every bid needs a nest –
A Rita Hayworth kind of girl
With a Doris Day kind of smile,
And the strength of reinforced steel.
You thought she could sing. The biggest mistake of your life?
She was looking for a gentle Angry Young Man,
A Lord Peter Wimsey around the house
Poor dear. A high-rise is no ancestral home.
At least you sired the obligatory three,
The last great gift of those who've had their finest hour
(At least! That shows much we've taken you all for granted
Besides, that was not your finest hour. Was the slow and careful wearing
Of your last defences. And your finest hour. Was the slow and careful wearing
Of prejudices. Loyal to God, loyal, loyal, loyalty. Patience and a stubborn strength.)
I wonder when It first came to call
Did it flash forth suddenly, over the dressing table,
Or slowly poison you all your later years. You never said. Stiff upper lip.
And under the carpet we go. For the better.
You never ran away. And slowly you solidified.
With that girl who had been politely turned away
From the upper (middle) echelons, from Art and Literature
(yet who became your minister), into a giant of the same routine.
The boy still fights the fight with his guitar.
And the girls married two Angry Young Punks
Who are slowly solidifying into
Who knows what yet.
And all that's left
Are the slipping tears down weary faces. And the eternal hope, the hope, the hoping
You knew you were gripping on for
The only antidote to It, the eternal knife, slowly turning again
Stiff upper lip. Let no-one see your pain.
(She didn't buckle, that was her strength and her privilege, but you did
And in buckling, you had to fight. More honourable to fight yourself
Than kill another man. No medal swings from your chest
For loyalty, for strength, for struggle.
For gritted teeth, for visions safely gored
In the real darkest hour of self. You fought, and in the fighting taught us to lose
Tell me, what was a Spitfire ace to this?)