Poem by Ian Fitzgerald

The Courtyard

They’re not allowed to smoke inside
so they come here, and I watch and listen.
‘Professor Martin is a jerk,’ she says.
Milburn overhears and laughs.

They sit down. I start to feel her body heat. I like it.
Heat and cold are all the same to me; I was made
for both. But body heat is all I know of feeling.
The wind, rain, sleet, snow are mere vibrations.

‘I hate Ode, the fever and the fret,
his obsession with dying. Die with dignity, I say.
Go quietly. Man that is born of a woman is of few days.
Days full of trouble, and full of you if I’m lucky.’

‘Or unlucky! I like Ode, the fruit tree wild,
fast-fading violets, and yes, the fever and fret.
He’s not obsessed with dying; he’s dying.
He describes suffering
and the beauty of his garden so vividly
that we’re forced to confront a paradox:
the world is so beautiful, yet the world is so cruel.
Keats is heavy. You’re heavy.’

She stubs out, trying not to smile.
Milburn, half watching, shuts his book and holds it
for a moment as if in prayer…..They leave quietly.

When no-one comes I talk to myself or to the slabs
that are near me. We are as one, slabs and benches,
born to watch and listen. We were made to be still.
You were made to come and go, according to the rules.

Ian Fitzgerald was born in Birmingham, where he works as a tutor in English. He has travelled widely in North America and is a graduate of Dartmouth. His poetry has been published in The Warwick Review.