The Master’s Field


For Alan Kingsley, In Memoriam

When our friend sent news about you
Walking that final stretch of road, he asked
If I would write, because he thought it best
“To be reminded of friends and happy times.”
Memories of the three of us playing like
Children at recess in the Master’s Field
Between lectures on poetry, philosophy,
“Aspects of structural design with glass,”
Walks at Christ Church Meadows,
Strolls through St Catherine’s Fields
And Magdalen’s Deer Park, wine
And mussels, chess and hearty laughter—
Flooded me with such force
That I felt at a loss to find
Comforting words to offer
During your final days.
I remembered Mark’s wedding
In Adelaide, the vineyard, the two of us
Walking in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens,
With youth on our side.
Exchanging news with you became
A heartbreaking game of wait and see.
No one learns how to die young. Now
That you have gone, we are gathering
To celebrate the “one of us”. You
Brimming with smiles, always calm,
Always thinking, then back to that inner smile
That kept us companionship in happy times.


Alan, you will hold the rest of us together
As much as memory does: gently and forever.
The picture of yourself you sent to me
Is of a boy playing on the floor with his father:
It’s one I have never seen. It’s a part of you
I never met before, my dear friend—a parting gift?
The little boy’s eye light takes me by surprise
Like a wish half-fulfilled, or like a thought
That barely touches the mind and leaves before
You have the chance to learn what it is. Tonight’s
Salmon sky surprised me in the garden, and, like your
Life, vanished before I could record it in my mind’s eye.
I see Mark and you in the Master’s Field at Balliol
In that moment before the Professor of Poetry’s Lecture,
When it was so hard to tear myself from our chasing game,
To go learn about the fields of just and perfect words.

14 December 2021

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