Saturday, July 07, 2012

Poem for the Nineteen

On Friday 6 July we held a farewell lunch for nineteen colleagues who are leaving the English team this academic year - some have already left. It has been a difficult and painful time for us all.

I was asked to write a poem to mark this sad occasion. It was printed on the inside of the nineteen farewell cards we gave out at the lunch. Here is the poem.

Poem For the Nineteen

We know how to say goodbye.
It’s built into our contracts.

Each year the students
come and go.
It’s part of the ebb and flood tides
of our working lives.

But our colleagues' leaving is difficult for us.
It has smashed our equilibrium,
driven by hard currents
that are out of our control
and has left us reeling.

In other offices
they are dismantling our island collegium.
Slow - matured over decades
now diminished to a remnant
of the colleagues
I have measured myself against.

So let’s mark that for a brief time
we shared together
the great toy of language
kinship in the team room,
incendiary in the classroom.

That ignited these indifferent walls -
that will not remember any of us.
For we are all only just suspended
on the living threads of memory.

I know that I shall be looking through files
in months to come
and find written on some discarded paper
your familiar handwriting
that will inflame the dull insistent ache of loss
that I’ve been carrying around with me.

And I know
for those of us staying
and for those of us going,
it is as if we are all
become exiles – adrift
leaving something precious behind.

© David Loffman