t h r e e  p o e m s


Dannie Abse

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                                                (to Josef  Herman)

Josef, in your thaumaturgic studio,
long live cobalt blue and brown!
Autumn is your season,
twilight is your hour.

Now, in my hometown, you, spooky,
conjure up, abracadabra,
this melancholy impostor
who steals my name.

Is he listening to someone
beyond the picture’s frame,
playing a Chopin piano
of autumnal unhappiness?

Josef, this other is not me.
This golem hardly looks like me.
Is this your unbegotten brother
lost in menstrual blood?

If so, his passport (forged)
would have been Polish,
his exile inevitable,
his wound undescribable.

Look! My best brown coat
not yet patched at the elbow,
my cobalt blue shirt
not yet frayed at the collar.

As if challenged he, dire,
(Passport? Colour of wound?)
stares back - that look of loss -
at whomsoever stares at him.

Or across at Augustus John’s
too respectable W. H. Davies,
at prettified Dylan Thomas
whose lips pout for a kiss.

Infelicitous! Wrong! Impostors
spellbound, enslaved in their world,
with no emeth on their foreheads,
without speech, without pneuma.

But the Welsh say, ‘Whoever stares long
at his portrait will, with dismay, see
the devil.’ So who's wearing my clothes?
Josef, I know your magic. I’ll not stay.



   Dannie Abse 1998. With acknowledgement to Hutchinson, a division of Random House (UK), publishers of ARCADIA, ONE MILE, by Dannie Abse, in which these poems appear.


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