Auden in Yorkville, 1939

NPG P869(3); Wystan Hugh ('W.H.') Auden by Cecil Beaton

Having posted my Christopher Hitchens poem, which was based on Auden’s In Memory of WB Yeats, I thought I might post my WH Auden poem too…

Auden in Yorkville, 1939

He’s in colours I can never give the ‘thirties,
tramping flat-footed, lost but with direction,
through the wind and noise of Upper East Manhattan.

It’s November, not twelve months since he disembarked
with Isherwood on this, the latest stop on his journey
towards Heaven. He knows, really, where he’s going

just not quite how to get there yet. He needs a sign, let’s say
on Eighty-Six and Third, and when he finds it his way
will be clear into the darkness of a movie theatre, where

shortly he will see such silver-hardened hatred flicker
in the faces of the audience of Sieg im Polen
that he’ll be thrown back into the arms of a faith

he never left completely. But I always see him here
in black and white, on the street, cigarette nipped in massive hand,
sad eyes hard ahead. Always still and always incomplete.

This was published in 2017 in Issue 21 of Antiphon.

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