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Graham Greene (1904-1991)

Graham Greene, novelist, (1904-1991)

Speak to me of novels, Mr. Greene,
those vast terrains you seeded from
misfired sparks and neural floods,
unmitigated impulses that laid out
end to end today, we’d medicate,
eradicate, restoring you to moral
and to level, playing, boring,
disenchanted fields.

I’ve heard it told by one
who knew a clerk who kept
your cover on the western coasts
of Africa that novelists are further
down the road of disingenuous
than spies. We must be without
shame a fugitive, outrunning
fusillades of politic, pretending
faiths until we know the rites by
heart—though yours you never
dropped—refraining from the urge
to boast. There is no greater
theft or flagrant waste, you said,
than stealing from a character
her actions and her words to win
a spate of praise. The glory days
of one who writes long fiction
live within; she radiates.

Speak to me, kind sir, of pace
and plot, the boldness that it takes
for witnessing and laying out
and never stepping in. How do
I plug the holes, endure?
And you explained: let no one
judge, come near the planes
of your terrarium. Their imprints
and their breath will only fog
and kill the shoots; your world
is one apart and must be so,
yet be more real than any
but the truest kiss.

And now I hope
you will not take amiss,
Moiselle, I step again into
the borderlands where first
we met. Remember what to
keep, when to forget, and how
to see anew. I will say this
of your composure, in the hindsight
of our pleasure, you have much
of greater worlds and souls
than mine yet to compose.


© Elaine Stirling, 2014