War Poets

Old friend from the days of Elvis, 
today I saw you on the street,
caught sight of you again, heading somewhere 
in your life of Zen, a secret place 
that pulled so hard you never once looked back 
in my direction. You were solemn-looking, 
like a man who abandoned his house and money.

In the dusky air you were gone in a hurry, 
untraceable like a magician’s assistant. 
No time for me to stand in your path, no time to ask 
whether you still play the mouth-harp, 
still listen to your favourite troubadours, 
look for wisdom in the Tao of Pooh
and Mao’s Little Red Book.

Do you still remember our long evenings
comparing Christ to Buddha, or when we put 
our schoolbags on the ground to talk for hours 
about incurable love, or you reciting 
the poems of Allen Ginsberg. 
It has been decades since our backstreet shuffle,
walking home with riches in our satchels:

Keats’s odes, Cicero’s rolling Latin.
The four o’clock saunter on the way from school,
by walls that seemed to ooze the ambrosial 
stench of the brewery. 
I remember this: your fingers tapping 
to a tune of the time. Ride a white swan – 
that summer’s indelible song.

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