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This poem is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

Two Poems Anne Stevenson
The Master and his Cast
A tribute to Henry James

Passing first class on their luxury liner through the straits
Of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they lingered on deck
In dinner jackets and jewelled gowns, looking perhaps like advertisements
For expensive perfume, but playing for possession of the sunset.
Fortunes steamed over the sea to them, waiters in black raced between them
Bearing trays of iced syrup and soda-water, while at ease
In the narrows of their ways, he steered them through a channel of lawns
Green as billiard tables, shaded by porticos and elm trees -
Beauty at its cruellest most civilised at Matcham and Fawns.
Justice settled which girls would be turned into monsters,
Which would suffer victory to vindicate innocence. Yes, wealth
Does a great deal to worry goodness in those late magniloquent chapters,
More art than odyssey, more parable than myth;
But why should a gilded tour of betrayal not feature privilege and princes?
Beyond the next rock lay the wreck. It moves me to think of him
Scrupulously analysing Scylla right there on the lip of Charybdis.

Vince, getting on with his life

'Hey! That's Vince,'
I said,
or almost said,
as a lean, bald patch
loped past me up our hill,
and I recognised,
or thought I did,
the joker on the window sill
(he fit the frames and fixed the latch)
with whom I, laughing,
used to chat,
not meaning anything
by talking
but 'Let's be friendly!'
i.e. that
being two,
and being human,
we maybe had
as much in common
as wagging dogs
or jackdaws larking.

It might have been
the tilted angle of his head
he carried low
to hide his face,
or how his work-stained
back expressed
some jokeless trouble
made him seem
less like the Vince
I used to know,
more like his double
or his ghost,
or worse,
a self-accusing dream
out of my own experience.
I had to hesitate.
I didn't say hello.
Why did I wait
till - watching him
run to his boss's van
and clamber in -
it was too late?

This poem is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
Further Reading: - Anne Stevenson More Poems by... (15) Articles by... (7) Review by... (1) Reviews of... (11)
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