everything seems disconnected
mottled hands mischievous eyes
rough frosted hair and disobedient brown shoes
cheeks with the blush of mulled wine
your soft-vowelled Scottish blur
you shuffle frailly inside your suit
the blood must move so slowly now
your mind still moving in worlds not realised
you shared the air that Eliot breathed
you know we all tell stories
in coffee-rooms and corridors
ironically envious of your eccentricity
how once you said:
‘Which way was I going?
Ah, thank you, that way
– then I have had lunch.’
you are so far out
you’re on your own
though it’s true you stalk dead minotaurs
in labyrinths where we lack the clue
and Hamlet is dead, Polonius,
and Ophelia too
and maybe you’ll never write
all those poems you promised to
you did once live in Elsinore
and for that
we envy you
Editor: Keith Westwater
Harry Ricketts teaches English Literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published eight collections of poems; his next, Just Then, will appear from Victoria University Press in March.
‘Polonius: Old Poet’ appeared in Nothing To Declare (HeadworX, 1998). I like the picture it paints of an aged poet, George Fraser, who in turn has likened himself to Hamlet’s Polonius. I also like the layered references to Hamlet and the respectful tone of the poem.
The poem is the first of a suite entitled Three Poems for George Fraser. Harry prefaced the poems with the following note:
‘GS Fraser, the Scottish poet and critic died in 1980. In one of his last poems ‘Older’, he cast himself as a kind of latter-day Polonius figure. ‘Polonius: Old Poet’ (written while George was still alive) was intended as a reply to ‘Older’. The other two poems were written shortly after his death.’
Harry’s poem is posted on Tuesday Poem with his permission.
Keith Westwater is a poet from Welington, New Zealand, whose debut prize-winning collection Tongues of Ash was recently published by Brisbane-based Interactive Publications. Visit Keith Westwater's Writing and the other Tuesday Poets in our sidebar.