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.