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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
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