On hearing that Ronnie...

                        for Ronald Hindmarsh-Midwood

                             (24.O5.30 - 17.01.92)

 

                                              T.Wignesan

 

 

To recall a friend

                        is never an adieu

  he has merely stepped across the landing

      the light still beams      the door's ajar

      you can hear him pacing   humming    swinging the windows

          to let the street in      the warmth

                                                  the wind ruffled

                            through his half-opened shirt

 

 

Across the spare digs halfway to the Schloss

      austere in the shaded light slanting on drab curtains

          the bare table     rough-hewn     the dishevelled books

          the gaping porcelain jug and still wet basin

        the whiff of fresh-bitten soap           the close shave

 and the stiff white collar excusing the day-old striped shirt

 

A gentle tap  the door opens to a glass of port

                                                                      cut bread

                   and even if you will not        cheese

 

 

"Beware! Beware you don't become an Hasbeen!"

  he made no bones of his luck from stipends through Reading

  the wideopen eyes commisserating through the flailing sheaf

                                fallen on his ample brow

        the hand ever brushing aside

                          that wilful unconcern in your life

     in your little worries   your mishaps

And you knew you had mattered in his life

 

To recall a friend

                           is to give body to form

    to words that bind muscle to bone  

                                                         those mutual moments

 

You may come back a quarter of a century later

And he is still there           a trifle stumped by your aged face

      the mutual moments flow without break

 

 

You had driven through four sleepless nights

  your eyes peeled beyond weariness

                  your mind bristling and in the red

 

"Take care! Take care", he said, "lest you burn both ends!"

 

 

Other worlds     other duties

      keep you from bringing up his face

      keep you from keeping mementoes:

                                                         "Never excuse, never apologise!"

 yes   you might have penned a word

                                        when the stolid face swung back

 you didn't              for that would've been abrupt

      too flippant   unceremonious   requiring tact

 

So you turn up a l'improviste

   the mutual moments flow over coffee at the Konditorei

   the same cream curtains

      the same goldbraided periodlike chairs

         over neatly folded ceremoniallike lace

                                                     the irreal flood of filtered light

 outside 

           no more the tug and grating pull of trams to dull your words

 

 

Again the same attentive stare    the same empathic vigil

   for your fresh worries     for your private imbroglios

 while he foregoes a meal at the mensa

 

 

Only you hadn't known nor suspected

   the stealthy pain gnawing away at the bones

         nor did he let it be shown

 

Only the stoic face and the pained look

                  

                                          for your own blasé pain

 

 

© T.Wignesan, 1992

July 4, 1992

(Published as a « preface » to Ronald Hindmarsh’s commemorative writings : « Mr. Hindmarsh is not writing a book.” 1993. Ronnie taught English at Heidelberg University when I first met him during the summer semester in 1957.)

[from the collection: back to background material, 1993]

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