Sestina: Meeting a friend not seen for many years, who’s won a Nobel Prize for physics, but has Alzheimer’s Mind in fragments … Like crumbling masonry? Like a tile, wind-struck, sliding downwards, leaving Glimpses of age-warped batten, stained by rot? Like thin gaps in stone walls, where mortar, flaking To dusty powder, falls away? Like broken Lumps of limestone, softened, crumpled by time? No. No. How dare I! David’s personal time’s Been filched from him. Why? Why’s the masonry — To use that image — of his great brain broken Into scrap-heaps of non-connection leaving — Well, leaving what behind? Thin strands of flaking Memories, now old, stale, and tasting rotten. Or does memory failing transform rotten Apples of half-remembered moments dropped when time Was bud and twirls of birdsong, when “Look! Flaking!” Meant blown runners gasping, when masonry Was castle walls we climbed, exultant, leaving Triumph flags there; a smiling time when broken Limbs quickly healed in the unbroken Sunshine of summer ladhood … There, split, rotten Stumps were home to bright creepy things, and time Stretched out like a naked sunbather leaving His body on earth to dream-carve masonry Of cloud-castles. No. No. That scene is flaking Away in horror, as we watch David’s flaking Grapples and clutches reach for an old broken Ladder, stumble on bits of masonry Scattered over barn floors, or squelch in rotten Patches of mud, trying to untie time And enter the room which everyone is leaving. No. No more images. David is leaving Bits of himself behind. He sees them flaking Off him. Or does he? Is he drowning in time Or dropping out of it? What has been broken Inside his brain? What made the tissue rotten? What crumbles memory like masonry? Scrap that word ‘masonry.’ David is leaving His brilliant mind behind, rotten and flaking. His life now lies broken, murdered by time.
Leo Aylen: born KwaZulu, South Africa. 9 collections; latest The Day The Grass Came (“a triumph” Melvyn Bragg, “Stupendous” Simon Callow); 5 prizes (Arvon 2ce; Peterloo 2ce; Bridport). 100 poems in anthologies; approx. 100 poems broadcast; performances in theatres, universities, schools, in Britain, North America, Africa, Albert Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral, Round House, New York night clubs, to 4000 Zulus in an open air amphitheatre. 3 solo shows American nationwide TV (CBS). He writes usually in strict forms.