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 the book 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