Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 1 July 2008

  • Edgar

    (i.m. Edgar Bowers, 1924-2000)

    A few things that recall you to me, Edgar:

    A stately 80s Buick; hearing a car
    Referred to by a coaxing sobriquet—
    “Now come on, Captain, don’t you let me down.”
    French spoken in a conscious southern accent;
    An idiom calqued and made ridiculous
    (“Eh, mettons ce spectacle sur le chemin”).
    “Silly,” dismissive in its deep contempt,
    “Oh, he’s a silly; an amiable silly,
    But still a silly.” Or the words I first
    Encountered in your captious conversations,
    “Tad”, “discombobulated”, “catawampus.”
    The usage that you gave me once for “totalled”—
    “Oh cruel fair, thy glance hath totalled me.”

    Most recently, in Cleveland’s art museum,
    The French medieval tapestries brought back
    Your unabashed reaction to their beauty,
    And how, for once, you’d stood there almost speechless,
    Examining Time’s Triumph inch by inch,
    Enraptured by its richness, by the young man
    Proud in his paradisal place, until
    You saw what his averted gaze avoided—
    The old man, beaten, bent double by fate’s blows,
    Driven from youth’s charmed, evanescent circle:
    And how you’d wanted to be sure I’d seen him.

    by Dick Davis

    from A Trick of Sunlight
    Anvil, 2007; Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2006
    Copyright © Dick Davis 2006

    This poem in memory of the American poet Edgar Bowers is from Dick Davis's seventh collection. Unfashionably perhaps, Davis rejoices in the traditional tools of rhyme and metre, though this poem is a slight exception with its unrhymed, conversational address to the dead friend. His poetry has been applauded by Thom Gunn, Richard Wilbur and Anthony Hecht among others. Its wit, intelligence and grace often (and startlingly) achieve an immediacy and rawness of vision.

    Dick Davis was born in Portsmouth, England. He is a professor of Persian at Ohio State University. He has also published translations of prose from Italian and poetry and prose from Persian. His previous collection, Belonging, was chosen by The Economist as a Book of the Year.

    Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.