POEM TO BE PLACED IN A BOTTLE AND CAST OUT TO SEA by Barry Tebb
for Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters in a bus called ‘Further...’
Dear _______ and here’s where the problem begins
For who shall I address this letter to?
Friends are few and very special, muses in the main
I must confess, the first I lost just fifty years ago.
Perhaps the best.
I searched for years and wrote en route
‘Bridge Over the Aire’ after that vision and that voice
“I am here. I am waiting”. I followed every lead
Margaret Gardiner last heard of in the Falmouth’s
Of Leeds 9, early fifties. Barry Tebb your friend from then
Would love to hear from you.”
The sole reply
A mis-directed estimate for papering a bungalow
In Penge. I nearly came unhinged as weeks
Ran into months of silence. Was it. I wondered.
A voice from the beyond?
The vision was given
Complete with backcloth of resplendent stars
The bridge’s grey transmuted to a sheen of pearl
The chipped steps became transparent stairs to heaven
Our worn clothes, like Cinders’ at the ball, cloaks and gowns
Of infinite splendour but only for the night, remember!
I passed the muse’s diadem to Sheila Pritchard,
My genius-child-poet of whom Redgrove said
“Of course, you are in love” and wrote for her
‘My Perfect Rose!’
Last year a poet saw it
In the British Council Reading Room in distant Kazakstan
And sent his poems to me on paper diaphanous
As angels’ wings and delicate as ash
And tinted with a splash of lemon
And a dash of mignonette.
I last saw Sheila circa nineteen sixty seven
Expelled from grammar school wearing a poncho
Hand-made from an army blanket
Working a stall in Kirkgate Market.
Brenda Williams, poиte maudit if ever,
By then installed as muse number three
Grew sadly jealous for the only time
In thirty-seven years: muse number two
Passed into the blue
There is another muse, who makes me chronologically confused.
Barbara, who overlaps both two and three
And still is there, somewhere in Leeds.
Who does remember me and who, almost alone.
Inspired my six novellas: we write and
Talk sometimes and in a crisis she is there for me,
Muse number four, though absent for a month in Indonesia.
Remains. I doubt if there will be a fifth.
There is a poet, too, who is a friend and writes to me
From Hampstead, from a cafй in South End Green.
His cursive script on rose pink paper symptomatic
Of his gift for eloquent prose and poetry sublime
His elegy on David Gascoyne’s death quite takes my breath
And the title of his novel ‘Lipstick Boys’ I'll envy always,
There are some few I talk and write to
And occasionally meet. David Lambert, poet and teacher
Of creative writing, doing it ‘my way’ in the nineties,
UEA found his services superfluous to their needs.
― ― you may fuck like hell,
But I abhor your jealous narcissistic smell
And as for your much vaunted pc prose
I’d rather stick my prick inside the thorniest rose.
Jeanne Conn of ‘Connections’ your letters
are even longer than my own and Maggie Allen
Sent me the only Valentine I’ve had in sixty years
These two do know my longings and my fears,
Dear Simon Jenner, Eratica’s erratic editor, your speech
So like the staccato of a bren, yet loaded
With a lifetime’s hard-won ken of poetry’s obscurest corners.
I salute David Wright, that ‘difficult deaf son’
Of the sixties, acknowledged my own youthful spasm of enthusiasm
But Simon you must share the honour with Jimmy Keery,
Of whom I will admit I’m somewhat leery,
His critical acuity so absolute and steely.
I ask you all to stay with me
Through time into infinity
Not even death can undo
The love I have for you.