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Merryn Williams
Reino Unido

Merryn Williams

I live in Oxford and my latest of three collections of poetry is 'The First wife's Tale' (Shoestring).  I am also literary adviser to the Wilfred Owen Association and have translated the Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca (Bloodaxe).




My brother had a quiet voice; you had to strain

to hear him from the back of a crowded room.


My brother spoke in the debate on conscription, said

he’d always be last to go forth and the first to retreat.


When the newspapers cried, ‘Young men, march forward!’

he sat in one place and smiled, ‘I’m a coward’.


He liked chess problems, hiking above the snow;

should have been a girl because girls didn’t go.


My brother was lost in the summer advance;

his name is written on blue glass


in the college chapel.  They dedicated

the window before the Lord Lieutenant


and other dignitaries, swathed in black.

I went there and looked once.  I shan’t go back.


Merryn Williams,

19 The Paddox, Oxford OX2 7PN





There was no trace, no suicide note, no body,

but there were sightings.  I was on a bus

going round Trafalgar Square, and suddenly saw him

striding along the pavement, jumped off, of course,


but lost him in the crowds; the traffic screened him.

There was a poet, too, whose car was found

empty near the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco

one foggy ’fifties day, presumed drowned.


Still, you can’t know, and you keep on wondering.

To go back to my friend, they advertised.

His mother sticks up notices in the subway,

the picture ages underneath your eyes.


On the dark underside of the bridge you glimpse them,

white streaks, peeling away.  If you ask me

he’s gone for good;  the waterdrops are streaming

down that face, the bodies carried out to sea.


Merryn Williams,

19 The Paddox, Oxford OX2 7PN





Sadly, Diana, the years are slipping away, and nothing

you or I can do will slow or stop their relentless

forward march.  If we don’t die young, and we haven’t,

wrinkles, arthritis, bathchairs await us all.


Death seized two generations of young men, and a lovely young woman

with the same name as you.  Living a good life makes

absolutely no difference;  the religious

and non-religious tread the same dark path at the end.


Well, we escaped the wars, and tuberculosis,

train crashes, violent husbands, the all-devouring

sea beside which we grew up, and the killer gene

that undid your brother.  But one day it’s all going to stop.


Say goodbye, then, to your carefully-tended garden,

Diana, your blue and white Wedgwood, the delicate glass

picked up for a song in some Venetian island,

that vintage wine, which somebody else will glug.


Merryn Williams,

19 The Paddox, Oxford OX2 7PN


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