Tai Chi on the Beach

Tai Chi on the Beach

News of your passing first quivers and beeps

in my pocket with initial innocuousness early

in 07. I read the generic notice of your death with disbelieve, punched

in to me by Sarah, in the short, sharp words of text speak.

Later I would learn the disease you harboured claimed

your last breath far quicker than you or your kin

would ever expect,  even though the prognosis

on diagnosis just a few weeks before was never good.

I pour a few too many Jack Ds and cokes, toast

your memory. The drink all too quickly becoming the muse

for our fleeting moments of  acquaintance evolving

into the nostalgic recollection of a drunken best friend.

My first memory of you was you tossing

an orange around a circle of bewildered students

-an icebreaker to learn each other’s names.

(Your IQ was high but your memory for names was never good.)

Once I sat tensely in your office, amidst

the hotchpotch clatter of precariously stacked  books

and boxes – no wonder you lost one of my essays-

while you critiqued one of my first pieces, with the dab hand

of a poetic ambassador, never actually saying the words this is crap.

Your eyes would light up at the sound of a great poem, with correct

stanza and iambic pentameter that scanned in all the right places.

and I knew then that you taught for the love of the art and not just

to fund your own habit, although you would remain a poetry junkie to

your final day. And once I even seen your eyes gleam a little

when I read a few lines, and I knew then that I had made an impression

and from then you remembered my name.

Then there was the moment I stumble on you stood

on a Welsh beach somewhere

with far too many consonants for me to remember. I raise my camera

zoom in till you fill the viewfinder, ready to take a shot

catch you for posterity, the poignancy now not lost to me.

The wind was tossing your kelp-like hair, billowing

your wax cotton jacket like the cape of one of the ancients

you studied and revered, spray dappled horn-rimmed spectacles,

giving you a Monet vision of where clouds merge with brackish sea.

You’re twisting your arms into graceful poses, lifting your legs

wax on wax off, facing the waves like King Canute, trying in vain

to stop the waves from advancing. I lower my camera

the moment fades and I walk away, but here now

in the cold light of day, I wish I had snapped you

and maybe then, in the picture at least, I would see

that you had stopped the tide coming your way.

Paul Campbell


One thought on “Tai Chi on the Beach

  1. Pingback: Tai Chi on the Beach | Between the Lines

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