The last time I wrote a poem I was thin for the only time in my life because I didn’t eat for a year. All I could do was drink cheap Bulgarian wine and gaze at the remaining fragments of a smashed affair. Turning it's shards round in my hand, remembering what it was like to my touch and recalling the perfume and the stench of it was all it took for thirty five poems to pour out of me. Then I met Julian and, thinking I could only write poetry when suicidal with unrequited passion, I stopped.
Six years later, at Arvon, John asked us to pick ten objects, to feel our feet on the ground as we sat with them, to turn them around in our hands, recall the smell, the sound and the touch of them, and to write an ode to each. He reminded us, just as I remind myself when I play the cello, to feel something stir inside us, allow it to rise up and, without articulating it in speech, let it flow down our arms, through our hands and our pens and on to the page.
‘Every poem I write is a love poem’ he said later, and I realised that to give something my attention is to be in love, whether it be with the bastard that broke my heart or a pair of trousers.
So here, fresh from Devon, is my love poem to Julian's 501s.
Stiff with dried oil paint
Like obedient eggwhites
Whipped into shape
Your painty trousers stand to attention
Waiting for the muse.
At four, when it is getting dark,
Your ballet legs
Tiptoe off and step into them.
An ochre bum,
A spot of poppy on your groin.
All the odours of Provence
Stroked down your thigh
And your bare kneee,