In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane

Tativille

David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

My Death as the Wren LibraryDon Coles
Close
Close
Vol. 8 No. 7 · 17 April 1986
Poem

My Death as the Wren Library

Don Coles

299 words

I dreamt last night of my own
Death. As I died, I became the
Wren Library in Nevile’s Court in
Trinity College, Cambridge. Dying,
The library became even more
Luminous, its splendid thinly leaded
Clerestory windows were lighting up
Even more valuably.

I tried to phone a cab
To go downtown but the line went
Dead!

My wife was moved. She had
A new friend already, however.

Sophie S., a friend of mine,
Though not that sort of friend,
Was even more moved. She found
A poem of mine describing all this
And rewrote it, in rhyming verse.
‘Oh my little bicycle’ was one of
Her lines. I knew I would not have
Published the poem in this form.

At a certain point I wept.
Up to this point I had kept my death
From everyone (although they knew).

When I wept the Wren Library
Did not tremble – I had feared
It would. Its clerestory luminosity,
Which was of course my clerestory
Luminosity, grew even more coolly
Elegant and uninhabited.

Its lack of inhabitants
Was what made its unearthly beauty
Glow so.

After my weeping, my wife and
Her new friend were more moved
Even than before.

                It was my heart,
The cause.

My son was in the general area.
In general, there was a feeling of
A certain amount of sorrow.

But I didn’t want to worry
My son, who is fond of me,
And is eleven.

I was concerned about the taxi.
Would my beautiful windows oscillate
Too much on the trip downtown,
And shiver into thousands of
Tiny spears?

People were walking up and down
On the gravelled paths of
Trinity’s Nevile’s Court.

My death had been inevitable.

My son’s face kept turning up,
Like a moon among all these things.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences