He said, “I always read poetry aloud so I can find its sound,”
with eyes sent to check that I was impressed
and when I left him next to the gin on the bedside table
groaning about Nabokov while I taught twelve children
how to look each other in the eye
(no fewer than three arrived in heart shaped glasses)
he went through all my books and I found him on the bed
reading ‘Potato crisps with Bridget’ in his head
“That’s one of my favourites,” I said
and he closed his eyes and listened while I read.
He said, “But who’s your newest favourite?”
And I wasn’t quite sure what he meant
so I told him that I’d just bought all of Kate Camp’s
published verse and pitched her tent
in an honoured spot in-between Anna and Margaret
underneath the photograph of Squeak Carnwath’s Recorded Time
and while I showed him he came and held me from behind
and said, “These are your favourites. You are mine.”
I didn’t tell him that he smelt like day-old wine.
He said, “The last time that I cried was when J D Salinger died,”
not quite out of nowhere as Franny and Zooey was on the bed.
“I cried when Neville Longbottom scraped the extra points
to win the Hogwarts house cup,” I said
he blinked at me over Ada and shook his head.
“My favourite character is Luna Lovegood, I’d say,” I think I said,
but maybe only thought, as there was no response except
his left-hand pencilling his margins in spider-webs,
singing along tunelessly to Love and Theft.
When we read The Conversation of Prayers I wept.
He said, “But who’s the dying love? And why
must the child drown in such a grief? I would’ve thought
you’d like something upbeat; McGough. McGough?”
“Bless you,” I said, and turned him over to show him
we all have a dying love in our high rooms
and when the tears appeared in then out his eyes
he said, “But no one’s died today, no one’s died,”
and that’s precisely when the rains came from the answering skies
and I smiled at him and meant it, then I lied.