for Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters in a bus called ‘Further…’

Dear and here’s where the problem begins

For who shall I address this letter to?

Friends are few and very special, muses in the main

I must confess, the first I lost just fifty years ago.

Perhaps the best.

I searched for years and wrote en route

‘Bridge Over the Aire’ after that vision and that voice

“I am here. I am waiting”. I followed every lead

Margaret Gardiner last heard of in the Falmouth’s

Of Leeds 9, early fifties. Barry Tebb your friend from then

Would love to hear from you.”

The sole reply

A mis-directed estimate for papering a bungalow

In Penge. I nearly came unhinged as weeks

Ran into months of silence. Was it. I wondered.

A voice from the beyond?

The vision was given

Complete with backcloth of resplendent stars


bridge’s grey transmuted to a sheen of pearl

The chipped steps became transparent stairs to heaven

Our worn clothes, like Cinders’ at the ball, cloaks and gowns

Of infinite splendour but only for the night, remember!

I passed the muse’s diadem to Sheila Pritchard,

My genius-child-poet of whom Redgrove said

“Of course, you are in love” and wrote for her

‘My Perfect Rose!’

Last year a poet saw it

In the British Council Reading Room in distant Kazakstan

And sent his poems to me on paper diaphanous

As angels’ wings and delicate as ash

And tinted with a splash of lemon

And a dash of mignonette.

I last saw Sheila circa nineteen sixty seven

Expelled from grammar school wearing a poncho

Hand-made from an army blanket

Working a stall in Kirkgate Market.

Brenda Williams, poиte maudit if ever,

By then installed as muse number three

Grew sadly jealous for the only time

In thirty-seven years: muse number two

Passed into the blue

There is another muse, who makes me chronologically confused.

Barbara, who overlaps both two and three

And still is there, somewhere in Leeds.

Who does remember me and who, almost alone.

Inspired my six novellas: we write and

Talk sometimes and in a crisis she is there for me,

Muse number four, though absent for a month in Indonesia.

Remains. I doubt if there will be a fifth.

There is a poet, too, who is a friend and writes to me

From Hampstead, from a cafй in South End Green.

His cursive script on rose pink paper symptomatic

Of his gift for eloquent prose and poetry sublime

His elegy on David Gascoyne’s death quite takes my breath

And the title of his novel ‘Lipstick Boys’ I’ll envy always,

There are some few I talk and write to

And occasionally meet. David Lambert, poet and teacher

Of creative writing, doing it ‘my way’ in the nineties,

UEA found his services superfluous to their needs.

― ― you may fuck like hell,

But I abhor your jealous narcissistic smell

And as for your much vaunted pc prose

I’d rather stick my prick inside the thorniest rose.

Jeanne Conn of ‘Connections’ your letters

Are even longer than my own and Maggie Allen

Sent me the only Valentine I’ve had in sixty years

These two do know my longings and my fears,

Dear Simon Jenner, Eratica’s erratic editor, your speech

So like the staccato of a bren, yet loaded

With a lifetime’s hard-won ken of poetry’s obscurest corners.

I salute David Wright, that ‘difficult deaf son’

Of the sixties, acknowledged my own youthful spasm of enthusiasm

But Simon you must share the honour with Jimmy Keery,

Of whom I will admit I’m somewhat leery,

His critical acuity so absolute and steely.

I ask you all to stay with me

Through time into infinity

Not even death can undo

The love I have for you.

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