for Karl Miller
I could keep returning to the same few places
till I turned blue; till I turned into
on the sleeve of his new record album,
'What is Love?';
wearing a pleasant frown and predistressed denims;
reading the double-page spread ('The Trouble with José José')
on his drink problem,
comparing his picture 'Before' and 'After'...
I could slowly become a ghost, slowly familiar,
slowly invisible, amiable, obtuse...
I could say 'Remember me?' to the blank bellhop,
and myself remember
the septet in the bandstand playing 'Winchester Cathedral',
and the clown coming in for coffee
and to count his takings and take off his face...
I could take on all my former beds for size.
Meander knowingly through twelve towns with twelve street names between them.
Sit on both sides of the municipal kissing seats,
shaking my head at the blanket men
and the hammock men, in their humorous desperation
offering me hammocks for four, for five, for six...
I could learn the Spanish for
'I shall have returned' or 'Hullo, it's me again!'
and get the hang of the double handshake,
first the palms, then the locked thumbs.
My dreams would moulder and swell and hang off me
like pawpaws. I could stand and sway like a palm,
or rooted like a campanile, crumbling slightly
each time the bells tolled, not real bells
but recordings of former bells,
and never for me.
(Corona, Corona, London: Faber & Faber, 1993)