Today we have a couple of poems by Paul Waring who, in his own words ‘is a retired clinical psychologist from Wirral, UK who once designed menswear and sang in several Liverpool bands. His poems have been published in anthologies, print journals and online magazines, most recently in Prole, Atrium, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Dear Reader and London Grip. He came second in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and was commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. His debut pamphlet Quotidian is published by Yaffle Press.
I’ve read lots of secondary literature about Auden and his partner Chester Kallman over the years, a lot of it gossipy and prurient, but still endlessly fascinating. Paul’s poem is about an imaginary meeting with Auden and Kallman towards the very end of Auden’s life. What particularly struck me was the level of detail about the everyday tastes and foibles of the two men who were clearly amazing bon-vivants…
Lunch On Audenstrasse, 1971
At Kirchstetten station Auden greets, states in assured Oxonian
lunch is at one; face creased into ruts and grooves like a relief
map of the Balkans – but to Chester Kallman he’s cutesy poo.
They summer at this two-tone green farmhouse on Audenstrasse,
named in his honour. He smokes, heavily, but only half cigarettes,
as the last half is most dangerous.
Chester fetches Bloody Mary’s and lunch: cold cucumber and spicy
sorrel soup, ham and redcurrant jelly, fresh raspberries, local beer,
Our loft study talk of Isherwood, Spender and MacNiece; T.S. Eliot,
the influence of dead poets. The many collaborations: forthcoming
book of clerihews; Stravinsky and Mozart librettos.
On the blue and cream express to Vienna I picture Auden on long
summer days in his study; giants like Eliot, Yeats and Housman
looking over his shoulder – breaking bread with the dead.
When All This Is Over
When all this is over I’ll start afresh,
master the art of losing myself,
seek wide open space to stretch
out like a Thomson gazelle, take time
to study, see things in gap-stone stiles,
turn up in gardens unannounced,
observe and practice dance steps
of exotic insects, hear stamen tongues
wag in flowerbeds. I’ll stay up late,
tune into night orchestra; knit neurons
to needleclack beat of unclosed taps,
make ambient fridge belly rumbles,
banshee car and ambulance alarms
the soundtrack to my new life.