Dream 18

That William Empson should be there was, perhaps, less surprising than his demeanour, which was courtly yet randy, frayed but impressive. He sat in the dugout held fast in the earth’s shivery embrace, his hands fidgeting with pen, paper, cigarette, small fetish items – a signet ring, a netsuke.

He wore wire-framed spectacles that I thought I recalled from old photographs – but I could’ve been wrong about this, and besides that that there should be a certain penumbra of ambiguity surrounding him seemed only fitting. Fitting it was too that he wrote and thought and smoked and wrote again. Ken Morse supplying the rostrum camera, my eyes tracked across the floor of the dugout, which was covered with six inches of pellucid water. Down there on the impacted mud floor lay a Stylophone, an iPhone, and old Bakelite phone with the rows of buttons needed for a switchboard – all of them were clearly in working order. My youngest daughter was there as well; aged nine, painfully beautiful – I cried upon looking at her beauty. Beauty and fear.