On hearing that Ronnie…

On hearing that Ronnie…
                        for Ronald Hindmarsh-Midwood
                             (24.O5.30 – 17.01.92)

To recall a friend
                        is never an adieu
  he has merely stepped across the landing
      the light still beams      the door's ajar
      you can hear him pacing   humming    swinging the windows
          to let the street in      the warmth
                                                  the wind ruffled
                            through his half-opened shirt
Across the spare digs halfway to the Schloss
      austere in the shaded light slanting on drab curtains
          the bare table     rough-hewn     the dishevelled books
          the gaping porcelain jug and still wet basin
        the whiff of fresh-bitten soap           the close shave
 and the stiff white collar excusing the day-old striped shirt
A gentle tap  the door opens to a glass of port
                                                                      cut bread
                   and even if you will not        
"Beware! Beware you don't become an Hasbeen!"
  he made no bones of his luck from stipends through Reading
  the wideopen eyes commisserating through the flailing sheaf
                                fallen on his ample brow
        the hand ever brushing aside
                          that wilful unconcern in your life
     in your little worries   your mishaps
And you knew you had mattered in his life
To recall a friend
                           is to give body to form
    to words that bind muscle to bone  
                                                         those mutual moments
You may come back a quarter of a century later
And he is still there           a trifle stumped by your aged face
      the mutual moments flow without break
You had driven through four sleepless nights
  your eyes peeled beyond weariness
                  your mind bristling and in the red
"Take care! Take care", he said, "lest you burn both ends!"
Other worlds     other duties
      keep you from bringing up his face
      keep you from keeping mementoes:
                                                  "Never excuse, never apologise!"
 yes   you might have penned a word
                                        when the stolid face swung back
 you didn't              for that would've been abrupt
      too flippant   unceremonious   requiring tact
So you turn up a l'improviste
   the mutual moments flow over coffee at the Konditorei
   the same cream curtains
      the same goldbraided periodlike chairs
         over neatly folded ceremoniallike lace
                                   the irreal flood of filtered light
     no more the tug and grating pull of trams to dull your words
Again the same attentive stare    the same empathic vigil
   for your fresh worries     for your private imbroglios
 while he foregoes a meal at the mensa
Only you hadn't known nor suspected
   the stealthy pain gnawing away at the bones
         nor did he let it be shown
Only the stoic face and the pained look
                                          for your own blasé pain
© T.Wignesan, July 4, 1992
(Published as a « preface » to Ronald Hindmarsh’s commemorative writings : « Mr. Hindmarsh is not writing a book.” 1993. Ronnie taught English at Heidelberg University when I first met him during the summer semester in 1957.)[from the collection: back to background material, 1993]

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