Never on Earth

for Nimai Chatterji

Now in the summery chill air,
on the South Bank beside the river,
a soul I sense most fine, most rare
before me. And I know at once
the body saw fit to deliver
it to be here now: that it sent it
out to our meeting. Since prevented
by its own limiting circumstance

(and I already on the train),
it breathed you here. The lumbering bear,
the schoolboy smile, the crease of pain
(ignored) so near the bodily state:
all that I saw is with you there.
In time and age’s disappearance
there is a thrilling sweet adherence.
For once I do not have to wait

for you to arrive. My older brother
(for you hold me a brother too),
now we may sing, one to another,
of being, and images, and hues
of day. And what I hear from you
is the music of sailing over
the deepest fathom. A world-rover
drops by, as if to pass on news.

You chose the arts, and mainly words,
an archivist of East and West.
A great love chose you. Two far birds
nesting apart, settled elsewhere,
still heard the note of each. The best
of love was in your own true marrying.
The girls are gone now. You are carrying
their instance in the autumn air.

You sing to me of poems, of puns –
I cannot follow, but applaud –
the voyage that is everyone’s
you sing, a heaven beneath the sky
where all are low and none is lord,
of human ease, and of a searching
beyond the smudging and besmirching
of every life, for what is high.

You sing – you are – and you are gone.
On the South Bank beside the river
I see your form again. Stretched on
a hospital bed you undergo
fierce question. I see it and shiver.
My turn will come. But to have met you
invisibly, is to forget you
never on Earth, till I too go.

October 23rd 2009

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