Veni, Vidi, Violi
i.m. Paul Violi, 1944-2011
A sunlit April Monday morning.
Beautiful. I’m driving around Kirkwall,
Looking for a newsagent. Too early,
It seems, wrong day. But still, I’m getting
A nice, if needling, “grass is greener”
Feeling – as in, what could make more sense
Than to share the life of these substantial
Citizens, dressed smartly, on their walk to work?
The pavements oblige them, seem to rise and meet
Their steps, and spur them on, knowing their way.
What could be better? How long have I missed out
On town life, stuck in the stix with nothing
But cliffs and standing stones and cattle?
Driving out of town, the radio is Libya,
Migrant workers, cluster bombs... and now,
I feel a poem coming on. Because I’m thinking,
Paul, of you, your obit in the NYT, and those
Lines of yours it quoted, on the aftermath
Nearly ten years old now: translation
Of a barroom joke, chalked up, “Veni, Vidi,
Velcro” – I came, I saw, I stuck around.
You’re one less on the road today,
From Putnam Valley into NYU,
In your big automobile (as it seemed to me)
Your cigarette and your smile.
But I hope you’re remembering Orkney
On a day like this, as I think of your poems,
And of you, down by the lake, at martinis
In Grange Hall, or shouldering the rain
On one of your huffy “Bloomberg Breaks”.
Or now, over there, on the “other side”,
Where the grass must look so green
When you get close enough to see it.
And how you’re still sticking around
Where it matters, smiling at the rational
Way to respond to a feeling that you’d
Ever really rather be elsewhere.