Monday, 6 August 2012


This poem has me, in Norman Nicholson's phrase, looking back to looking back. It was written in 1994. I believe that the discovery that triggered it was made that same year, though a scan of my diary for the whole of the University's Long Vacation 1994 yields no reference to it.

The memo referred to was dated 1982. My thought on finding it was not "How far we've come in twelve years!" but "1982? Really?"

I have noted three publications of this poem: in Streetwise 17, December 1994 (p. 17), in Cambridge University libraries information bulletin 39, Michaelmas 1996 (p. 8), and in Perimeter 8, July 2000 (p. 21).


The library where I work now quiet
(deep in high summer, a day in August):
weeding old files, I find a warning
to staff, twelve years back, on both sites,
about this man, dirty, mad, belongings
all rammed into a bag -- he's recognizable
indeed by the bag and the dirt --
the only one, it seems, in all the world....

I weed some more, watching out for the memo
permitting first names on Faculty premises,
or the schedule of words, with shillings off your wages
for saying them, or the statement
on isolated cases of divorce, reported
in other sections of the University,
that they should not give any cause for alarm.
But the files contain no more of the kind;
there might be something in the books.

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