Malcolm Lowry at 70

At seventy, besotted by survival, with camera crews
on your best behaviour, and the Sunday
supplements parading some partly-faded snaps,

Malc the alchemist, that wizard chap, is dreadfully alive. Booze
elbows a jetsam of abandoned manuscript ('One day,
my Voyage That Never Ends!') The claps collapse,
offscreen, in a hubbub of reverence.

You speak with difficulty, swilling Rimbaud
round the rocks of an addled palate, speaking Aiken's
name, forgetful, in the present tense,
probably sobbing ('He called me Hambo').

A snatch of taropatch - your battered ukelele - awakens
one terrorised eyelid. Seven log-jammed
decades have flooded clumsily under its busted bridge.

Seven: the number unnerved your nerves, damned
your doppelganger heroes. Now your vigilante,
Dante, beckons you back, a salt-eyed
bosun berating you, atone for your numberless crimes.
And holystone the deck.

A sentimental Redburn, the sun sunken on your shrunken wreck,
rogue steamer, puffing out asthmatic genius - yet you died,
eyes dry as ink. The place was Ripe: unlike the times,
you'd say - such puns would gurgle through your verse
and sink - and, as if to rehearse
once more the doleful, doggerel epitaph
you wrote, you launch a lifeboat down your runway throat, and laugh.



From Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday

Malcolm Lowry would have been 70 years old on July 28, 1979. He died, aged 47, a suicide, at Ripe in Sussex on June 27 1957