It was February in Provence and the local market
sold goat’s cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves and
thick, painted pottery. The stalls of dark check shirts
were the kind you used to wear, and we began to see you:
burly, bearded, handsome as Holbein’s Wyatt,
looking into the eyes of a girl or
jumping up from the brasserie table
to buy truffles from a street vendor.
We stayed with our children like gypsies in a barn
of your wife’s family house near Aix, and you fed us
beef daube, thrush pâté and wine. Long ago
we sat through the night as a threesome writing
those film reviews I always drove to Heffers
in the early rainlight of a Cambridge morning. We still own
the pearwood Dolmetsch bought at your urging,
and copies of that magazine you and I ran together
which the police came to investigate after
a delivery of Naked Lunch from Olympia.
For a few years, you moved whenever we did,
from Adams Road to Sherlock, then De Freville
where the printer we owed money lived next door.
You wrote your first book for three hours a day
and then felt restless, since your body liked
to use its energies and you could lift a car.
Your hair was thick and brown
even in York District Hospital where you murmured
‘I’m not dying, am I?’ and described
the wild animals calmed with a click in your throat.
We guessed you could withstand a February mistral
that gets under the clothes so bitterly down here
more easily than we can, being younger
and more robust though, strangely, no longer alive.