Goodbye, Peter

                 My own songs awaked from that hour

 our families were very close

                 You know his voice

 but you think of him saying other people’s words

                  and you think of pronunciation

 when words are words. I have kept embers of that time

                  Have asked the wind to blow on them.

 Not in Wellington. Surprise, his eyebrows almost shot out of his head

                  to find me with my own beard.

                              I was a child who said surprising things

 which he saw through. Perhaps the wind will not come,

                   the voice is gone. I was not so golden

 in his regard. He laughed. Had a pipe. The time, the Whole

                   Earth Catalogue and Little Red Schoolbook,

 of cultural answers to political questions, was rather beginning

                   than drawing to a close. And the pipe had to go.

 Not the pipes. But certain words. Socialism. Egalitarian society.

                   Socialist utopia. I heard him say too soon to say

 in the brief gold sunrise before, presage to the coming age, when

                   If we speak kiwi, if we do, then, she’ll be right.

                               But I would stay up precociously late

 to hear, bear out the heaviness, of any argument again, about

                  the human element, its burden to government,

                               when we cast our vote by machine,

 when we do. Again have my first glass of cherry brandy, hear

                  on your headphones Switched-On Bach and

                              and hear, His mind is blowing!

 Who is here to see through me if I should presume to say he was

                   an actor unlike any other I knew and how he

                              was, he was my father’s friend, how

 like no other, again, you hear the voice and not the words,

                    what are words? not the song, and if I

                              pronounce he spoke with his fragility

 and his intelligence, how should I presume? without gesture, without

                     face, with the presence of his body.

                              Seat, self-

 aware, and self directed, as my father knew,

                      knew him, vulnerable seat, of his working mind.

                              His angles graceful

 elegant songs. A photo of him like this, in State of the Play

                      resting his elbows, on the side of the stage,

                              the classroom. So the older writer I knew him as,

 awaked my own songs at that hour. With an irony

                      hurt by its own distance

                              by laughter overcoming it. And I have at home

 A Choice of Whitman’s Verse, ten years after their wedding, I

                       remember. That day, Farm Road.

                              And in it, written in the front cover, is

 Simon. and a choice for a young poet, with

                       regards from Peter & Sue V.J,

                              christmas 1980. I don’t know how they

 thought of me. Did they consider the first line for Peter

                        of this song would be from there?

                              Consider at that time I was reading

 Jean-Paul Sartre, I awaked precociously late

                        with only embers, hoping for the wind

                              which changes direction frequently

 on these islands, to the hour of the gifts they gave,

                        in that generous brief and golden sunrise.

 That I was not golden in his regard. You see how he saw

                         through me? to my youth, a child of Whitman’s

                              who stayed young for you and sings

 and shares, with that poet forever youthful, his birthday.

                         At Rotoiti, we liked to pronounce it, aping the

                              accent of the well-to-dos, as leak,

 Another photo. This time, taken by Peter. I am on the jetty.

                        My younger brother is there beside me.

                              News of his birth came

 when I was in the bath at Peter and Sue’s. My parents’

                        game, If you had other parents who

                              would they be? So there I was.

 In Peter’s black-and-white photo I had freckles, a soft brim

                         hat, old clothes, a trenchcoat and belt,

                              gumboots. With perhaps no intelligence

 at all, but thoughtful, and no intelligence of what,

                         I am looking into the grain of the photo,

 the water and the mist, it is agreed that

                         it is of Christopher Robin, so it is.

 So it is Christopher Robin

                         who says,

                              Goodbye, Peter.

 [for Peter Vere-Jones,

  21 October 1939 – 26 January 2021,

  by Simon Taylor, 14 February 2021]