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Born to no particular end,
Hither and thither on the wind,
His homeland was the whole wide world—
And, since this dying rock is curled
Up in a ball, he could never meet
The edge; home was beneath his feet,
Was any little bit of land
Or sea—anywhere he could stand.

A fine mind, mindless, as a rule,
Too cracked to play the common fool,
He felt his hot blood freeze, and felt,
Sometimes, his frozen heart would melt
At his own execrable verses.
A fluent stammerer of curses.
His thoughts, unthinkable, abstruse;
Quite used to being of no use.

Nervy, but not a lot of nerve;
A serving man, who would not serve;
Je ne sais quoi—or why, or where;
Solid gold—but lived on air;
Mad for colour, but colour-blind;
Rushed ahead and fell behind;
Philosopher, for good and ill;
Persevered through lack of will.

Strong on ideals, but no idea;
Rich in rhyme—without an ear;
Soulful, but no mandolin;
A lover—no good with it in;
A joker—mistimed from the start;
Actor—forgot to learn his part;
Painter: he played some bagpipe lays;
Muso: mixed up the blues and greys.

A rare bird, and a risky lot,
Very male—and then sometimes not;
Neither a someone nor 'one of those',
His natural attitude a pose;
He got his kicks from being bored
Then stirred himself and went abroad—
A drifter—drifting far and wide,
Flotsam brought in on the tide...

His paradise an empty dream;
Horizon, just the unforeseen;
He was so homesick he would scream—
For a place he'd never been.
Not having been, he came straight back;
Found himself lost on every tack;
He wept and sang of everything black,
A blight without a single lack.

His spirit shrunken, shrivelled, dried out,
First reserve but never tried out,
Killed himself, an eager beaver,
And spent his life in idle fever;
Too raw—because far too well-done;
Resembled nothing and no-one
Less than himself; poor drunken head
Waiting to live, he lived half-dead.

      (after Corbière: 'Épitaphe')

Alan Jenkins

White Nights
Sheep Meadow Press

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