Tower, Queens’ College, Cambridge

You forgot there’s more to go. The rise

Seems unilateral and solitary. Every step’s

The last before you die. Up, up in strange

Circles, with a rope of small relief

For the fall;

Curiously windowless we rise until we find

Ourselves on the wrong side

Of a trapdoor.

A trapdoor above, like a shambolic

Peter’s Gate, fallen face-down onto stone.

Unpick, unpick and release

And a fragment of night at an odd angle

Is seen, poking your head up

To the plateau.


I have never seen so many stars.

A heady quiescence, outlooking over

The city – finally like a twilight Oxford –

Finally all but spires and broken clouds

Because I’m up there now.

I am where I shouldn’t be –

They might fear, he’ll jump, he’ll surely jump

But every breath of this is my Elsewhere.


This is why all towers are locked

From us.


But here am I, and I’ve smuggled my hip flask

Into this sole and strange, this almost-heaven

And finally I’m all but spires and broken clouds.


2 thoughts on “Tower, Queens’ College, Cambridge

  1. Dear James Thankyou for the poems. G and I have just read them by our November hearth. It’s gently raining and it feels good to be by the fire for an afternon of reading. Later Gerald has the final rehearsal for an acted narrative of significant moments in the first World War as recorded in the Parish Mags, the local press, and archive material which we are building up in our new Heritage Centre in Ash. He is reading 4 poems by Sassoon, Owen, and Maccrae. A retired teacher in Cop Street writes something like a historical drama every year which is performed in various places in the village. Last year was the Agricultural Riots in the early 19th century. This year it will be performed in the village hall which was in fact used as a military hospital. Brava! Strange that so many events happened in this small insignificant village over the years. It is also remarkable that there hasbeen a vigorous tradition of recording and enacting them, usually by the various vicars and church congregations and Village Meetings.

    Maybe one day you will write a Poetic Drama like TS Elliott? There are certainly some dramatic subjects happening and about to happen in the world. I have been painting watercolours of local scenes this summer,but now that the weather is about to change I have turned thelittle room under the thatch into a studio where I can paint whenever I want and leave my messy stuff about and not have to tidy it up for meal times. The room is still cluttered with stuff that Hugh hasn’t room for in his small cottage in Bridge, and lots of my things as well, but the first room with the long table is all clear. I am delighted to have this secret little place where I can paint. Also nobody will now be obliged to sleep ‘under the thatch’. And when you and Blair visit, as we hopeyou will, you can have a proper bedroom. I have nearly finished an oil of Addleborough, a fell in Wensleydale, which I will send you in lieu of a poem.

    How is the teaching bit of your job going? It all sounds very interesting – a big learning curve – you sound to be so very much in touch with your worlds.

    Now i will continue with reading Mollie Keane. Do you know her? ‘Good Behaviour’ is wonderful. Lots of love from us both, Gran

    Sent from my iPad

    • Well hello there! As ever I am astounded at how busy and productive, creative and artistic you both are. You really are part of the lifeblood of that place, and I am so glad that you are sharing your talents and enthusiasm in so many varied ways. I would love to see more of your art, the paintings you shared with me about a year ago were utterly beautiful and I can hardly imagine how refined your technique will be by now. Ever so proud of you both.

      The teaching is going extremely well thanks, increasingly thinking of heading into PhD territory. Exciting possibilities. Shall discuss this further via email!

      I’ve taken a week off work, for a solid four days of which I intend to Finish A Novel. It can be done. I have all the plot, characters, themes, style and intrigue in mind ready to go. Determined to make one full, beautiful piece of art before I become comfortably middle-aged.

      Take care, you guys. Love to you, as ever, and always. xxx

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