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William Heyen-V



Decades ago my late friend Martin Booth drove us from Cambridge

            to London where we read

at the Poetry Centre with beveled windows behind us, on an afternoon


The rain through which we’d sped that November Sunday

            had stopped,

& in that elegant room light intensified from behind us, coalesced

            on Martin’s back

where he stood at a carved oak lectern & railed against English manners,

            & remembered Chatterton,

& diatribed the current poetry scene in Britain as puerile, sterile,

            & said that the American

here with him today wasn’t, so that by the time I read, half the audience

            had sworn patriotic allegiance

to all those Martin labeled “decorous versifiers,” & were pissed at me.

            I don’t remember

what poems of mine I spoke, nature or the Holocaust or both, but now

            I’ll leave merry England—

its chandelier disappears as the room brightens with prisms

            of polite applause,

then Martin’s fierce aspect as he slammed his car door & drove us out of there

            like bards from hell.

                                                                (Martin Booth, 1944–2004)