I am at a thing. A historic thing. (An historic thing? I will never know).
Poets are there. Household names. (In my house at any rate.) Like a child who has never been warned about the dangers of staring, I move around the room grinning and gawping at them. These people, chatting in groups. Poets: my heroes.
To one I say : ‘I love your radio programme!’ To another I say: ‘Congratulations!’ To another I say: ‘We haven’t met yet, but now we have!’
To another I say ‘Thank you.’
I could blame the wine, but that would be lying. I may never get this chance again. I have spent too much of my life being English and not saying what I think. Or saying the opposite of what I think because I am English and want to look clever. Tonight is different.
To another poet I say ‘Thank you.’ And to another. And another after that.
There is no time to lose. I could be dead next week. We all could be.
From nowhere, a poet is at my side. A great poet. A seriously good poet. We worked together, once. Handshakes and how are you. I am half way through saying thank you when the poet says to me: ‘I’m stopping. Stopped, I mean. I’ve stopped.’
Sound goes dead in the day, the evening now a tad less glittering and full of thank you.
‘I’ve decided. I can’t do it any more. Why would I want to put myself through that again?’
The poet is serious (and good, and good). I protest this. I protest this again. ‘But you are a great poet! You are responsible for saving my life! You will never know the regions of my heart into which you have spoken and poured your healing. Please come back.’ But the poet will not be talked round.
‘I quit,’ they say to me, looking me in the eye.
It is clear they mean it. We part with another handshake. I resume my traversing of the room, this time with more of a shuffle than a dart in my step. ‘Thank you,’ I murmur. ‘You have saved my life.’
But sometimes saying thank you is not enough.