(with a curtsy to Jenny Joseph)
When I am an old woman, I shall wear wine-dark velvet
in a retrospective style,
with plumed hat, tilted at a rakish angle,
and toss off a brandy in one go,
and quaff champagne because the sun is shining
or the rain won't go away,
or because a deadline has taken wing for distant climes.
I shall frequent VIP lounges as a matter of course
and rap on the door of 11, Downing Street, with the crook of my stick and say I've no money for taxes. But you can put the kettle on!
I shall recline on my couch with apricot truffles
and Lady Grey Tea, scanning the script of some hopeful writer whose narrative suffers from the present imperfect
and whose pages betray dried morsels of keylime pie
which have sustained the harrowing toil of composition.
I shall hold salons where earnest young poets may air their verses and their chagrin over royalties long imprisoned
in the fist of skinflint publishers.
I shall hear their lamentations upon editors from
the camp of the Philistines
and they shall weep upon my shoulder
at perfidious girls who giggle at sonnets
and prefer to moon over the beefcake on Top Gear.
Ah, what consolation those wordsmiths shall reap upon my finely-tuned clavicle!
How I shall milk their sighs
and their misplaced ardour!
They shall learn that skin-dew is skin-deep
and divine the subtext of kid-leather wrinkles,
etched by a spirit
that has trounced ten thousand adversities.
They shall behold the slaking twinkle of an eye
fixed on shining uplands beyond the turmoil,
where eagles do not prey,
where doves pair for eternity,
where petals do not rust
and no worm excoriates the fruit,
where cancer does not consume like swarming locusts, where there is neither health insurance
nor negative equity,
nor cynical columnists spitting tacks for effect
in hopes of sinking an overdraft.
Meanwhile, a little cerebral adventure...
Pole-trekking in the Adirondacks?
Wind-surfing off Goa?
White-water rafting in the Andes?
Dancing in the aisles at Buddy?
Or strutting one's stuff through One Singular Sensation?
Singing the Brindisi from La Traviata with Alfie Boe...
Daring to rise from the audience and mount the stage,
unscripted, unchoreographed, in a flight of spontaneous rapture
to discover all that was lost is now found:
Maybe I should just test the bouncy castle
at the children's party,
or soar, forbidden, to dizzy heights
on the swings at the recreation ground,
a subject for Fragonard.
What fun it shall be!
How heartening that the heart-bypass
is not destined for a hospital theatre
but could take effect
while I am singing Panis Angelicus
in the Basilica at Assisi.
I shall pass from life to Life
through fleeting shadow
and leave the Dead Land...
When I am old and no longer need crutches
and the sand in the hour-glass bears
no more footprints.