Thank you for your letter in which you say I shall
never forgive you but may grow to understand.
You’re wrong, though: I forgive you already,
but I shall never understand.
Your letter was a great shock, as was your ‘black book’
explaining why you think life meaningless.
I wish we could discuss it, at the Turf. I’ve just
been sent another surprising memoir – my sister’s.
She’s finding God in Los Angeles, and still yearning for
the handsome romantic Texan major
her mother made her give up, on the eve of D-Day,
for a sensible Australian boy
who wrote nice letters. My sister’s just discovered
sex, too – at 54. Her book is in flexible
red binding and you’d loathe its style, flamboyant and
inspirational, and even more its message:
‘Everything that happens in life is O.K.’
Well, she’s a widow, living alone,
and I don’t think her book is meaningless, and
I don’t think your suicide is O.K.
How – one the eve of your D-Day – could you compliment
me so good-humouredly on a new velvet jacket?
Damn you, damn you, Fox! Fox! I never understood why
your new wife called you that – I couldn’t see
the likeness; but you foxed her and all of us: working
slyly for the last fortnight, paying
bills, returning library books, re-directing mail, calling
on people and places (and cats) who didn’t
matter and mattered exceedingly to you. You dropped
hints, but we thought you were quoting
Sartre or someone – your head thrown back in a short
manic laugh, you plausible witty bastard.
Oh, I grant you a perverse delight in quitting a place
for good, cramming everything of use into cases
and throwing away the rubbish. To stand in the middle
of blank walls feels good. But not, surely, when
the stripped room is your life, and you hope and believe
there is nowhere, and nothing, to go?
I’d like to argue with you your use of the past tense
in ‘having known’ me. That was cruel.
I heard you tapping at the window, last night at dawn,
(though in fact the window was wide open).
You’d like that irony – ‘let me back in, it’s worse!’
Fox, how could you forgo the slender girl
under the bough, the flask of wine, the book of verse?
Music? Cigarettes? – I wanted to look inside
the packet, but dared not, in front of both your wives.
I guess you miss them, for it’s not the calm romantic
sleep you imagined – I hope you’re disappointed.
Now, who will listen to me with such a healing air
of having been there too? On whom shall I depend
to smoke more, drink more, scatter more debris?
I needed you, more than you knew, so forgive my anger
(not inconsistent with forgiveness).
I wish you joy and turbulence at your journey’s end.
My friend, my brother, hail and farewell.
from The Puberty Tree: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 1992), © D M Thomas 1992, used by permission of the author.