Barry Tebb

Measures of Science

for Debjani Chatterjee

For two hours in a dream you struggled to make me write

Forced me, made me ignore the banquet of feasting poets

Like an amah with a steel spoon you fed me the words

And so against the urge to sleep forced pen not pain to rule.

You refused to let me off fatigues “You must write, like it or not.”

The years you pushed back cancer with death the inevitable master,

You would not let me give up, “Scribble on the back of a paper plate”,

You urged, forbidding them to clear the table while I wrote against the grain

Against my own pain.

You charmed me with the story of your visit to the palace awash with poets,

Listening to your friend, Basir Sultan Kasmir going on and on to HM about waving

To her in Lahore fifty years before at the last royal visit, hardly a Durbar, just an open

Rolls raising dust, the children waving flags, shouting for baksheesh

HM must have had lessons in holding a smile, her beam continuous as

Carcanet and Bloodaxe presented, Duhig, McMillan and the sainted Carol Ann

Whom an hour before I struggled on the attic floor to read, gritting my teeth

At her mannish metaphor, bragging about beating boys at ball games and showering

Afterwards alone, the water pink with menstrual blood.

You had a single glass of bubbly with chips to nibble in Charing Cross Station,

Already preparing in your serene Brahmin way for a meditation retreat

Aimed at cancer sufferers and their carers so you so little me, preparing

Your power point presentation about Ramilla and Jerusalem the Golden.

You seemed stronger than me, was it the online course in CBT in preparation

For your MA in Art Psychotherapy? All you missed due to your travels was yoga

And boxercise. I was never one for crowds, classes or courses, more for controversy,

Protest and satire. The muse poet breaks through night sweats and sleeping pills painted,

Wilde adored and Yeats died for but managed to kiss and caress in a poem

‘To His Last Mistress’

My creativity was never so bad until the light bulb behind me exploded suddenly

Like a starting gun while I was struggling to comprehend the crucial emphasis of

Relational psychoanalysis, social theory, trauma studies, non-linear dynamic systems

Theories and the irrationalist psychoanalytic orientations, all anchored in contemporary

Dialectical constructive hermeneutic epistemologies.

Is it too late now? Heaney in heaven with Jimmy Simmons, equals at last.

All poets the same, sisters under the skin, scribbling, competing, backbiting

And you Debjani recounting the rage of Joe Winter, the chance meeting on a verandah

Of a guesthouse in Bengal, Winter at full throttle, demanding why the translation grant

For Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’ going to Radice via the Arts Council Committee you chaired.

At the year’s turning I’m back in training, ready to compete with McDiarmid’s ghost

On the art of the long poem, with Mallarme on obscurity and Valery on the sublime.

Barry Tebb © 2014