PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue New poems by Ange Mlinko Sean O'Brien on Graves, Myth and European War Rebecca Hurst maps the woods Richard Gwyn considers Borders and Crossings Frederic Raphael listens to the Silent Conversations of Anthony Rudolf
Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This poem is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

After Long Absence John Ash
After long absence I found myself back,
all unwillingly, in the country of my sickness
where a kind nurse told me that the blue band
fastened to my wrist indicated ‘cognitive impairment’,
and I think there may be something to it. Why –

only yesterday I forgot how to spell
that grave word catastrophe when this
is what had happened like an unforeseen eclipse,
or shadow of an obliterating wing. In the hospital
as I waited to leave (and waited and waited)

to divert myself I read for the second time
Dame Freya’s Lycian Shore and recalled
an ogival tomb standing in shallow water
amid tall reeds where a blue boat lay moored
beside the small forgotten town of Tristomon,

abandoned after plague. After infinite delays
I was wheeled out along an endless subterranean
corridor lined with ineffectual images of woodlands
and cathedrals – myself a minor Orpheus
or Theseus escaping underworld or labyrinth.

On emerging I saw what I had so quickly forgotten:
trees like clouds swaying as if drunk, and a sky
blue as the summer Marmara I had crossed so often
on ageing ferries heading for the islands of exile,
Yalova, and the promise of Asia.

Soon I would be home, or what passed for it
(for it was not mine) assuaged by music
after so many days of torpid silence in a high room
with a view of factories, power plants, stagnant waterways,
beautiful at night. In the taxi, gasping for breath,

overcome, I concluded that this was no time
to think of dying, and later as I lay, sleepless, a bird
began, on cue, to sing its tribute to the returning light.
Then silence returned like a recollection of menace,
and birch trees rustled against a sky white

as paper, this paper.

This poem is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to editor@pnreview.co.uk
Further Reading: - John Ash Picture of - John Ash More Poems by... (23) Report by... (1) Articles by... (6) Interview by... (1) Reviews by... (6) Reviews of... (4)
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image