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  George Szirtes
George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England with his family after the 1956 Hungarian uprising. He has worked as a translator of Hungarian literature, producing editions of such writers as Agnes Nemes Nagy, Otto Orban and Zsuzsa Rakovszky. His Selected Poems 1976-1996 appeared in 1996. He also co-edited Bloodaxe's Hungarian anthology The Colonnade of Teeth. He lives in Norfolk where he teaches Creative Writing at the Norwich School of Art and Design and the University of East Anglia. His latest poetry collection, Reel (2004), was awarded the 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize.




Try to imagine death as a phone call. Say
you have just called your mother or the friend
you met last week before you went away,

and say they answer just at the perfect end
of a perfect life, as the moon rises full
of a benign pearly joy that should portend

more joy, just as the tide begins to pull
away from you and that is the very spot
on which you die, in that calm, most beautiful

of places; and say you die, because it's your lot
to perish by the sea, though it catches you unaware
at the time like a possibility you forgot,

because why after all should you have gone there
but for the possibility of a moon full of joy
and not a death you could meet just anywhere;

say that you know it takes a moment to destroy
a life, to snuff out the moon and the sea and the sand,
to become a distant speck like the dark buoy

bobbing on the tide, to be far from firm land,
a kind of human flotsam, or a space
between constellations, an invisible band

of sky, the weeping memory of a lost face
in another's grief, the friend, the mother, the pet
left puzzled by your absence; say the trace

you leave behind fades in time as people forget
your precise dimensions and the exact
pitch of your voice, that the vast internet

of the imagination registers you as a fact
without context, swimming in the immense
indivisible particularity of a compact

universe beyond summoning, say that a sense
of loss can be anticipated and is so,
or has been, as a whispered confidence

from one part of your brain to another and you go
round knowing all this for ever, my darling,
as do I, as does the voice saying yes, I know

in the poem, would that be at all consoling?
Say it were so: say it to the moon and to the ear
listening on the phone, to the waves rolling

towards your feet in the darkness, to the fear
of falling and let it go, my dear, let the rain
fall, let waves lap, let the invisible appear.

© George Szirtes 2006