The Drowning Man
Though I kept my rooms on
I'd given up all hope of an audience
when one day I was summoned.
It was like an interview in the womb
before being granted life.
He read what I'd brought without comment,
and then addressed me in the half-light:
"There is a drowning man in us all,"
"and like a man who never sleeps
he is driven mad by his own existence."
He said no more;
but then he'd said it all.
We never met again.
I did not expect we would.
And that's all I can remember,
except his eyes:
as if some prisoner inside him
was peering out through them at me.
I had only ever seen them in a mirror.
17 October 1986
This is the sixth of The Drowning Man Poems. Thirty years on I cannot think of a single change I might make to it. I have no idea where it came from but it’s one of those poems like ‘Common Denominator’ (#534) I can’t get over writing. I’m not an idiot. I know I have a facility with words. But every now and then I write a sentence or two and there’s this disconnect. I know I wrote them but I can’t imagine writing anything that good ever again nor can I figure out how I managed to write the words I’m looking at. Where did they come from? Was it the crazy guy I sometimes glimpse in the mirror who wrote them? Always a possibility.