Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
April 2021
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Monday, 14. April 2003

from Time's Fool - Glyn Maxwell

AUTUMN 1970. Edmund falls in love with Clare, a classmate, and believes his love is returned. He is the envy of all his friends, but on Christmas Eve a stranger, Cole, arrives at the Oak Pub and seduces Clare....


... so I called and signalled but she didn't hear,
or look, in fact; she had hold of three glasses
and backed into the crowd. "You got them, Clare?"

I heard myself cry out in a boy's voice,
as if her name were slipping. I would wait
God only knows how long for any service

now it was near eleven. In my seat
was Clare when I got back, and on her stool
the NAVY man who had arrived that night,

who wore all dark and wasn't from our school,
who lit his cigarette and was engaged
in deep talk with another listening girl,

I noticed, on his other side. I reached
our table and knelt down alongside Clare,
the other side from him. Gently I touched

her hand and she looked down. She said, "He's here,
he's coming through the rye," and carried on,
quarreling with Nick about some war

he said was not "true war." The NAVY man
was scrutinizing him. The atmosphere
was purest smoke through which I led my hand

towards her thigh, gold-coloured and so near,
and let it rest and have her move away
as if earth had itself marooned me here

by quickening. The stranger had his say
about all kinds of things I couldn't follow,
and "Time!" was called to a great choral cry

of disappointment. "Christmas Day tomorrow,"
a girl proclaimed unsteadily. The whole
gang was round our table. "To the Mallow!"

Stan was shouting. "To the Protest Wall!"
Now everyone was out in the yellow mist
and clapping in the chill. "His name is Cole,"

Clare quietly was telling me. "It is?"
I wondered. "Whose is Cole?" "My heart's delight,
obviously." I looked her in the eyes,

but clashed with shields and stood back in the night.
"Now don't forget," said Clare, "it's still our plan.
Don't think you aren't still in my care, all right?"

Her lips were open, she had silky skin,
her breaths were cherry-flavouring the air,
and each was marvellous and none was mine:

and every step I took away from there
put off a light, until the night was bare.

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