The photographs in the manila folder
Are all of me when I was strong and bolder,
But now I’m old, and illness makes me older,
And winter’s coming and the nights grow colder.
This photograph is me when I was swimming
At Inverell and sent the pebbles skimming
Across the river. Now my eyes are brimming
Because my arm aches and the light is dimming.
And in this one my wave of hair is showing
The gleam of Brylcreem, and my mother sewing
Has told me that I am a sheik, and going
To stun the girls when I have finished growing.
And here I am as the high school debater.
A Cicero with an accelerator,
I talked too fast but I got better later.
Lucky that pimple didn’t leave a crater.
The snaps of me when young are less narcotic,
I think, than those in which I look robotic,
Decked out by fame in various exotic
Bad hats and a fixed smirk that grew sclerotic.
I finished growing and the years went flying,
But there is no time now to waste time crying,
Although these pictures prove, beyond denying,
That once I was alive and not just dying.
Indeed because they show the treasure gleaming
Of good health I was granted beyond dreaming,
These constant posturings need no redeeming:
They are the substance. I am just the seeming.
The world I conquered is a tide retreating,
And with my maker there will be no meeting,
But look at this and see how time is fleeting:
Here, I am one year old. My heart is beating.
Time to pack up this packet and forget it.
The past would overwhelm me if I let it.
The clock ticks like a bomb. I didn’t set it.
Let’s just say there’s a deadline and I met it.
– Clive James
In addition to penning this poem, Clive also sat for an interview with Honi. It can be found here.