“Return of the Kogarah Kid”: a new poem by Clive James

“From here my ashes go back to the sea / And take my memories of every friend / And love, and anything still dear to me.”

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Inscription for a small bronze plaque at Dawes Point

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.

 In my will I have left instructions that my ashes should be scattered into Sydney Harbour from Dawes Point, presuming that a box of ashes is allowed on the aircraft, that the customs officers at Sydney Airport do not rate ashes as organic matter, and that there is no ordnance against ash-scattering within the confines of Circular Quay. In the event of a small bronze plaque seeming possible and appropriate, the above poem is meant as a suggested wording for an inscription.

Clive James is an Australian author, critic, broadcaster and poet, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, his chat shows on British television and his prolific journalism. He has submitted several original poems for the New Statesman

This article appears in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue