Don’t let us pretend that we are in paradise.
It’s not that it isn’t very nice, for it is.
It’s just that Oxford is like an antique tea-cup in which
Everything has been stewing for so long.
Maybe I’m immune to beauty of the architectural kind.
I’m used to volcanic rock and seven hills and so the sedate
Unfurling of the city’s parchment pavements isn’t a wonder to me.
I must be sick. How can one grow tired of dreaming spires?
It’s not that I’m tired. It’s just right now, they really don’t inspire.
This city is wrapped in leaves, like ivy. Or more like
Virginia creeper for it doesn’t stay evergreen. Everything
Is imbued with intention, every corner stone worth mentioning.
So-and-so lived here, such-and-such was discovered there.
It is harder to grow in such lofty, languishing shade.
Nothing is simple here! From the paper-imprisoned bureaucrats
To the patrician pronunciations of the pasteurized upper-classes.
I’m not sure I’ll ever learn that wave of the hand,
The ‘money is no object’, cross-legged ease.
Even pickled in port, I’m not so grand.
It doesn’t live the way my city lives. It exists,
In that it is constantly in the midst of some existential crisis.
Hell is other people talking endlessly about wine,
As if it doesn’t all ferment and mature the same way
In our bellies or in the toilet basin.
But it is eternal, sort of like Rome but with less sex
And less graffiti. It is internal because it has instilled itself
Into the perfume of all philosophies. You cannot escape the scent
Of the blossom trees by St. Giles.
Oh, but its grace. When the sun is painting freckles
Upon the cheeks of the colleges and the sand stone speaks
Such velvet lyric! When the river calls on rowing day
And the races are fast but the hours are slow,
Picnicking and drinking and thanking God for Pimms…
When on matriculation day, when everything is new
And every street is lined with cycling sub fusc but you know, you know
This is not a place for shadows. This is a place for those that shine.
Gowns streaming out stark behind you as you pedal
Through the heart of the morning sun.
When, after a day lost in some land of learning,
You walk home and the evening slowly unveils nude night
As you stroll amongst the death-beds of the light.
Bustling past are those clutching books as newborn babies,
Students cycling in solid, satcheled streams,
All so very earnest.
It is then it all slips and fits and everything seems a poem.
Oh yes. You are beautiful, loved in the courtly way.
How can I consummate this when you are so hard to touch?
But then, when spring blesses me with blossom in my hair,
And I go home, ready to write
I know that you are a clause, not the full sentence.
A comma, asking for more.