Oxford

By Fanny Howe b. 1940 Fanny Howe
Homeless and never sadder,
dragging bags, spending money,
leaning over luggage,
suddenly saying, “Without you, God,
I can’t continue.” Who was that?

And then I lift it and walk
to find one book.

Up Iffley Turn to the Hawkwell and Tree Inns
and down over a lock
into an extended filthy river
through the Thames Valley
and over a meadow into town:
two fats,
one fishing and one man on a bike
swerving through Cotswold cow pads.
I ask:
“Do you know the fastest way
to City Centre?”

No, yes, no!
Circle Magdalen College, and the mall, the High,
Broad Street, po and Headington Hill,
Brookside and Christ Church,
cross big pavement stones and cobbles
to Holywell
and down North Parade, Maison Blanc, Browns,
the Phoenix Cinema on Walton Street
where you can bring your wine into the film.
Asbestos,
white dust, condiments, Pret Manger,
T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin, smelly markets, buskers
on a harp
and a xylophone, buses and bicycles.
Red-faced riotously quiet British. . . .
Earl green carpets and rotten wood frames,
lavender, and buttery daisies,
flagelot beans, bar food, the stink of perfumes
over toilets, Blackwell has none,
St. Philips does, what are you looking for:

Thomas Merton.

(There are so many mental ways
and Abbot Patrick in his cassock stands high above
and smiles and says You see? It’s all right
the church is in ruins.)

The devil runs the world was Adam’s discovery
and now it is time to pray
before Blake’s engravings of the double bind.
I made this fruit for you. Don’t eat it!

“Do you carry The Seven Storey Mountain?”

No.
Everything you see is finished.
Even the ground underfoot and ahead.  
The stars and the dancing planets—over.
A grand finale unfolds across the lens.
There is no present.  
The book is out of print.

Source: Poetry (November 2009).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2009
 Fanny  Howe

Biography

Fanny Howe is the author of more than 20 books of poetry and prose. “If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone’s notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily struggle,” Fanny Howe explained in a 2004 interview with the Kenyon Review. Indeed, more than a subject or theme, the process of recording experience is central to Howe’s poetry. Her work explores grammatical . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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