fading memory

not a poem about bird

not a poem about friend –

neither my guilt

My grandfatherly friend Hugh died in the spring of 1981. He had a nervous breakdown as a young student from watching NAZI parades while a student in Germany. Returned to England, became a railway worker and trade unionist, card holder of the Communist Party, I believe, and much later, before I met him in 1973, returned to teaching German in a boarding school for disabled students in Surrey. His limp reminding him of childhood polio, his students of all they would be able to overcome.

I don’t remember when I read his little poem – or did he read it to me? In his study –

The line ‘how vain are humans’ is the only bit I do remember from the poem, a response to the bird’s song as Hugh was watching it, and that little memory is possibly not even the precise wording. It did not to me then and does not now speak of vanity or melancholy but of his inner freedom – the mystic-in-him had broken through. Oh why was I so young –

His eyes shone when he talked about Tony Benn, some 15 years his junior, so may both their memories be honoured with this picture.

~ by Barbara S on December 29, 2021.

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