Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Far Ships

for Keith Wiltshire, my teacher

Your yearly letters make me smile.
Hammered on an old word processor,
they slash with slanted lines of bile
the madness of the world’s car-owners,

the British stock of nuclear shells,
how Singapore Immigration stopped
you at the airport, bade farewell
to future visits, and then dropped

you on the next flight home, without
so much as a reason (fear of infection?).
Your letters sound so clear of doubts,
the years a seamless flight connection.

You are as constant as your letters.
With equal passion, you taught us boys
Shakespeare: how not to heed our betters
as Hamlet heeds the ghostly voice,

and why, in Pride and Prejudice,
prejudice is the name of pride.
You read us Larkin’s poem “Next Please”
and the far ships came alongside

and then sailed on, leaving no goods,
giving no reason. Wide awake,
we saw from where we sat or stood,
waters that neither breed nor break.

Do you remember those good years
as good? I do, with thankfulness,
for though your letters do not bear
good news of world and heart, they bless.


Larry said...

I love this - personal, well-crafted, understated.

How did you resist rhyming "processor" with "professor" in S1? I'm not sure you should have.

Much enjoyed.

Jee Leong Koh said...

Dear Larry,
I'm glad you like this one. The plain truth is I did not think of your suggested rhyme.