Elegy for George Barker

Anthony Thwaite

And there, beneath a bull-nosed Buick
Inert in Kensington, the poet lay,
Grease smeared on cheek-bones, a fallen god
Who rose to greet me, seventeen, with Blake
And Langland in the triptych. Stay
Yet a little longer, genius of the place,
Fitting my footprints in the prints you trod,
Letting me see those lineaments, that face.

It was apotheosis. It was epiphany.
Already there were elegies at hand,
Mellifluous and celebrating
The mystery that was also poetry.
Whatever words flew up, whatever scanned,
Became that moment. St George had claimed his own.
Imago, image, creator and creating
Took root within the reliquary bone.

Years past, years gone. I have learnt since then
You were no god, for only God is that.
That was a truth I know you would endorse.
And yet some angels mingle among men,
And have some essence, pure, dark, uncreate,
Extending through subtention. This was yours.
You rose, and fell, and took your vagrant course
Among men, mandrake, and all mysteries.

The vocative takes off in memory,
almost becomes a perfect O to bless
Your wicked simulacrum resting there,
Elbow on bar, seducing those like me
From Id and Ego with your sophistries.
Forget it. What we never shall forget
is that brow-wrinkled, basiliskian stare
Stabbing at the cold heart. It stabs me yet.