Poetry 55: Japanese Maple by Clive James


Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:
Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?
Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.
My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:
Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “Poetry 55: Japanese Maple by Clive James

  1. What strikes me most about this poem is hearing (in my imagination) Clive’s Australian voice speaking the lines, his familiar cadences, his slight breathiness, and that self-deprecating, almost mocking but affectionate delivery. Whatever he says (or writes) he has a poet’s voice; a lovable voice, a lovable man, and – I guess – a man who is comfortable with himself, likes himself, and is reconciled to his death (which we are aware is close if not imminent), having enjoyed a fulfilled life during which he has been lionised for his many talents.

    The poem has a strong elegiac motif, anticipating his death, and is more wistful than sorrowful, and even a little sentimental in tone. There is a strong classical structure to the verse and it’s this, I think, that adds to the touch of old-fashioned sentimentality I perceive in it. Mischievously, I think it might be more like a typical Clive James performance-piece if it ended with a little bit of genteel piss-taking. I’m disposed to thinking-up a couple of endings to suit, but I know that Clive would always do a far better job of sending himself up, so I’ll leave that thought hanging in the air. If you’re still there, Clive…………………….

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