I went round to Sarah’s flat one night:
“Hi man,” she said, “Yeah, you can come in, sure,”
apologising as she shut the door –
“but not for too long, you know how it is –
I’ve got two essays still to write
and then exams start – I’m in quite a tizz.”
She yawned and laughed, said “I’ve just changed Sam’s nappy,
and now he’s fast asleep – at last!” she smiled –
“Wow, but he keeps me busy!” “Also happy,”
I put in. “Yes, but not all the while –
he’s got a weak chest, coughs, cries with the pain,
I get so uptight we both end in tears…
his dad got sentenced, over drugs, eight years…
that’s long: I guess we won’t get back again;
I’ve got my Finals coming up, and then,
after, who knows? I’ve hardly time for dreams:
with Sam and studying, sometimes, it seems
my life’s nappies and essays, nothing more.”
She changed the record, sat to roll a joint,
and said “First thing I do, even before
I take Sam to that Nursery up the road –
he’s bigger every day! He’s quite a load!
But anyway, that’s not the point –
first of all, I get stoned, and stay that way,
or else I’d never make it through the day.”
A new cloud added to her soft rich room
a further depth of blue, a silent pause.
She spoke again, her thoughts already gone
back to her work: “And then, they seem such fools,
dividing all Philosophy in schools.
You know my option is the Indian course;
I know so much of what the old books mean:
things of which lecturers can’t conceive, think guff,
I understand, they’re places where I’ve been…
I’m always trying to turn the lecturers on:
if they’d drop acid, or just smoke some stuff,
they’d see so much… but they’re not brave enough.
So Transcendental just remains
a trendy course which their students can take
if other courses can’t keep them awake.
But still they try their worst,” she said, nonplussed,
and read “The Bhaghavad Gita retains
relevance for our century. Discuss.
Christ, aren’t they boring!” she said, biro poised.
I let myself out, while she found her page,
and Briggs, her hamster, woken by the noise,
went streaming up the rat-race in his cage.
This poem dates to the time after I had dropped out of the University of Dundee, but still came back to it in the years that saw most of my 25,000 miles of hitchhiking. I feel I learned more by wandering in and out of jobs, countries, languages and religions than I would have if I’d stayed on Sarah’s path. But then, I have no idea how life worked out for her, so who knows.
The poem is semi-formal – rhymed but without a rhyme scheme, in iambic pentameter with some occasional liberties taken with metre… but those liberties are comparatively acceptable, even beneficial, in a longish poem as they break up the metrical monotony. That’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking with it. The poem was published decades later in Snakeskin – thanks, George Simmers!