Brodsky, Walcott, Heaney and Me
It was l984. They were all still alive,
none had yet won the Nobel. I was 35,
forever humming the Talking Heads’ line
How did I get here? to myself as I walked
through Harvard Square. As I remember,
we all ordered hamburgers. My friend Harry,
Joseph’s translator, was there too, just
to keep things human. I don’t remember much
of what we talked about— or, rather, they
talked, we listened. I remember they were crazy
about Frederick Goddard Tuckerman,
whom I had never heard of. When I got home,
I looked up his poems, filled with cedars
and hemlocks. One line struck me most of all:
And Change, with hurried hand, has swept these scenes.
It’s almost 2020 now. Change, with hurried hand,
has swept that scene: All three of them
are gone, their Nobel Prizes gone with them.
Only Harry and I are still here, feet on the ground,
no prizes to speak of. And Tuckerman, too,
is long gone from that day, the rain that was
drumming outside and none of us yet knowing
what was to come, or by whose hand.