Magazine | September 10, 2012, Issue

Poetry

MEMORIES OF ENGLAND

So, having tackled most of Churchill’s History,

Surfed the net for tickets and a book,

Hopped a jet and, spellbound by the mystery

Of dynasty and tomb, gulped with a look

The English weather with its burly clouds,

The Tower, Saint Paul’s, which swallowed us and shook,

And the overflowing Thames, bridged by crowds,

We’d had enough. Such a long list of dates,

Stamped like bills to pay, while here the dust shrouds

An unfriendly square where a bus-queue waits,

And there, scaffolding clatters up the skies,

And farther still, pressed under smoke-gray plates,

A yellow manuscript tilts at your eyes

With pencil lines that make you want to rub.

If any memories haunt us, they arise

From a stray evening wasted in a pub,

Away from where a million tourists massed:

Our pints had shallowed — the rush and hubbub

Lifted like fog — when England shone at last,

Engrained in the oak, like a root of good

That held the light and always would hold fast.

Or somehow we imagined that it would.

Novelist and critic Lee Oser teaches English at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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