I stick to facts and teach the rules of grammar.
Pasts both perfect and simple, the clamour
of auxiliaries, common defective verbs.
Beginners are secure.  Nothing disturbs
their present world with its concrete nouns
in place, as I lead them up and down
a serviceable house.  Later I teach
the troubling losses of reported speech
in which my present now becomes his then
and what I say he said, without the passion,
as the active verb I saw can soon
decay into the passive she was seen…
The early blue is my example
of the limpid future simple,
as when we say it will be fine,
before the rapid clouding through the pane,
the change of tense, the spoiling of a life.
Your heart would have responded, if…

from Idols (OUP, 1986), © Stephen Romer 1986, used by permission of the author and Carcanet Press.

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