If Winter Comes
Hot sweet almond oil, cane sugar, and flies
Throbbing like a plucked cello string:
Sinks toward winter.
Mr Keats is dead,
Drowned in Mr Shelley's pocket;
The winged boat scuds empty
Over the Italian sea.
Build a fire on the beach,
And burn the poet's heart.
It is only a muscle, after all,
The size of a fist.
A fist that will not shake
Against Castlereigh anymore;
But we will never shut up,
Do what you will.
Why should I say
Goodbye to ghosts?
They will tell the truth
When no one else will.
1. According to Poets' Graves,
Shelley was drowned in the Gulf of Spezzia while sailing to meet Leigh Hunt. Shelley's body washed ashore several days later and was cremated on the beach at Via Reggio with Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt and Edward Trelawny in attendance. His heart, which refused to burn, was first passed to Hunt who later gave it to Mary Shelley.
When Shelley's body was found, a copy of Keats' poetry was discovered in his pocket - doubled back - as though it had been put away in a hurry.
The present poet has apparently misremembered the story, and has the party on the beach keeping the body and burning the heart.
2. Poems referred to include Keats' ode To Autumn and Shelley's Ode to the West Wind & Masque of Anarchy.
3. The astute reader will also recognize more oblique references to the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and to the contemporary Cassandra Pages and Frizzy Logic.