Clive James, who remains terminally ill yet still alive despite his publicly expressed concerns about his imminent demise, has written a poem: Return of the Kogarah Kid, published in The New Statesman’s summer issue, about wanting his ashes returned to Sydney after his death.
Reading about this in yesterday’s Times: Clive James makes a poetic appeal …, I was struck by the following comment:
[Clive James] added: “I’m not being heroic when I say I’m not scared. It’s all been an adventure and it has been a blessing to have the extra time. I’ve never written better because my mind has never been clearer or with fewer distractions.”
Beautifully expressed in such simple terms. I’m sure this will resonate deeply with many of us whose lives have been dramatically changed by illness.
I’ve certainly found that illness has made me focus more clearly on the things that I care most about and to care less for much that I have ‘lost’.
I feel thankful for the adventures I’ve had and appreciative of all I can still do.
And that appreciation is a very live emotion – so much more acute than in my before-illness days – because of those moments when all seemed lost.
Sitting, having a coffee on John Lewis rooftop terrace, in the brilliance of a summer day, my eyes filled with tears.
D was immediately alarmed.
“No,” I said. “I’m fine. I just can’t believe I’m here. Doing normal stuff. Living life.”
We laughed because life is clear.
Live it without distraction. For every moment you are able.
Until you reach the end.
Return of the Kogarah Kid by Clive James
Here I began and here I reach the end.
From here my ashes go back to the sea
And take my memories of every friend
And love, and anything still dear to me,
Down to the darkness out of which the sun
Will rise again, this splendour never less:
Fated to be, when all is said, and done,
For others to recall and curse or bless
The way that time runs out but still comes in,
The new tide always ready to begin.
Do the gulls cry in triumph, or distress?
In neither, for they cry because they must,
Not knowing this is glory, unaware
Their time will come to leave it. It is just
That we, who learned to breathe the brilliant air,
And first were told that we were made of dust
Here in this city, yet went out across
The globe to find fame, should return one day
To trade our gains against a certain loss —
And sink from sight where once we sailed away.