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Warning (with a curtsy to Jenny Joseph)

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When I am an old woman, I shall wear wine-dark velvet

in a retrospective style,

with plumed hat, tilted at a rakish angle,

and toss off a brandy in one go,

and quaff champagne because the sun is shining

or the rain won't go away,

or because a deadline has taken wing for distant climes.


I shall frequent VIP lounges as a matter of course

and rap on the door of 11, Downing Street, with the crook of my stick

and say I've no money for taxes. But you can put the kettle on!


I shall recline on my couch with apricot truffles

and Lady Grey Tea, scanning the script of some hopeful writer

whose narrative suffers from the present imperfect

and whose pages betray dried morsels of keylime pie

which have sustained the harrowing toil of composition.


I shall hold salons where earnest young poets may air their verses

and their chagrin over royalties long imprisoned

in the fist of skinflint publishers.

I shall hear their lamentations upon editors from

the camp of the Philistines

and they shall weep upon my shoulder

at perfidious girls who giggle at sonnets

and prefer to moon over the beefcake on Top Gear.


Ah, what consolation those wordsmiths shall reap upon my finely-tuned clavicle!

How I shall milk their sighs

and their misplaced ardour!

They shall learn that skin-dew is skin-deep

and divine the subtext of kid-leather wrinkles,

etched by a spirit

that has trounced ten thousand adversities.

They shall behold the slaking twinkle of an eye

fixed on shining uplands beyond the turmoil,

where eagles do not prey,

where doves pair for eternity,

where petals do not rust

and no worm excoriates the fruit,

where cancer does not consume like swarming locusts,

where there is neither health insurance

nor negative equity,

nor cynical columnists spitting tacks for effect

in hopes of sinking an overdraft.


Meanwhile, a little cerebral adventure...


Pole-trekking in the Adirondacks?

Wind-surfing off Goa?

White-water rafting in the Andes?


Dancing in the aisles at Buddy?

Or strutting one's stuff through One Singular Sensation?

And yes!

Singing the Brindisi from La Traviata with Alfie Boe...

Daring to rise from the audience and mount the stage,

unscripted, unchoreographed, in a flight of spontaneous rapture

to discover all that was lost is now found:

a voice.


Maybe I should just test the bouncy castle

at the children's party,

or soar, forbidden, to dizzy heights

on the swings at the recreation ground,

a subject for Fragonard.


What fun it shall be!

How heartening that the heart-bypass

is not destined for a hospital theatre

but could take effect

while I am singing Panis Angelicus

in the Basilica at Assisi.

I shall pass from life to Life

through fleeting shadow

and leave the Dead Land...



When I am old and no longer need crutches

and the sand in the hour-glass bears

no more footprints.



from THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether

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