Sign up with your email address to be the first to know about new products, VIP offers, blog features & more.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

i.m. John Wareham

 

The tide of chance may bring
Its offer; but nought avails it!

THE OPPORTUNITY Thomas Hardy

 

Each week on Tuesday promptly at seven –

chicken curry and chips from Barry Wong’s

on West Derby Road at the ready –

he and I would turn on the TV

in our rented rooms to watch Hughie Greene’s

‘Opportunity Knocks’.  It was an hour –

including adverts – of metaphors

of the mid-sixties: kitsch; schmaltz; condescension;

nudge-nudge; the cruelty of class; fifteen

seconds of fame; occasional talents.

 

We had no doubt we were poets – actual

not aspiring. Would we settle for minor

recognition – or would only major count?

How this would happen we never discussed.

Maybe we hoped we would be discovered

like others in their twenties in the city!

 

I can see him now chortling at the absurd –

his laughter bubbling, his kindly eyes gleeful.

He was an admirer of Thomas Hardy,

ever the collector of the bathos

of pretentiousness and misfortune.

He told me tales about the writer’s heart.

Hardy had willed, though an atheist,

his body be buried in the churchyard

of the village in which he had been born.

But his young widow was strong-armed by the Dean

of Westminster Abbey. Her husband’s ashes

were interred in Poets’ Corner near Dickens’.

His heart, however, was preserved, and borne

in a biscuit tin – Huntley & Palmers

Bath Olivers, it was claimed – from Paddington

or Waterloo to Dorchester then Stinsford.

One tale had the heart buried in the tin.

Another, the tin being on the grave digger’s

kitchen table with, for some reason, the lid

off, maintained the family cat ate it.

 

He published little. Re-reading what he wrote

when we lodged together in Liverpool

I am shocked by the matureness of his talent,

and his ability to make the mundane

original, significant, portentous:

Spareness is the point.

November’s manifest in skies of ash,

Branches whittled by the edge

Of winter, the parkland quite

Quit of final birds.

And how his, over years, has shaped my work,

like an underground, uncharted watercourse.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
share
5 Responses
  • Sarah Selzer
    September 27, 2019

    I love this! What a beautiful tribute to a friend and fellow poet – and a snapshot of the 60s. I bet the curry sauce hasn’t changed…. xx

  • Mary Clark
    October 2, 2019

    I’ve wondered about the youthful poets I’ve know, who now are dormant, whether poetry’s point was too sharp, its meter too demanding, and they needed comfort, or did they have a much more clear idea of how far their talent and hard work would take them than I ever did. In any case, “The parkland quite quit of final birds.”

  • Mary Clark
    October 2, 2019

    I’ve wondered about the youthful poets I’ve known, who now are dormant, whether poetry’s point was too sharp, its meter too demanding, and they needed comfort, or did they have a much more clear idea of how far their talent and hard work would take them than I ever did. In any case, ‘The parkland quite quit of final birds.’

  • Las Finix
    October 4, 2019

    I have wondered about the poets whose tales are told by the rags that are displayed on library shelves as unread articles of tales in half selves. Served with words whose actions caused their demise now all they do is reminisce and watch the space as the new pages scurry for attention bloating and mumbling in constant soliloquy crying out for affection. I am now a collection of thoughts that gave me a purpose to summon the great ones that brought liberty to souls chained by fame and fortune. Look we bear witness to shame and misfortune of poetry that turned swords into pottery.

  • John Huddart
    October 8, 2019

    The sequence of poems on poems is revealing, refreshing and original.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *