By Paul Potts
I have waited to ask you this.
I could not ask you in prison.
I waited until you were free.
But why, why did you let them use
Your name and your greatness
As so many pennies to put
Into the meters of their gas machines.
You know what they did with their gas,
Your gas, Ezra Pound.
The crime was too big.
There are no extenuating circumstances.
You should have known better.
In Jerusalem I asked
The ancient Hebrew poets to forgive you,
And what would Walt Whitman have said
And Thomas Jefferson?
By Dannie Abse
(For Paul Potts)
In Soho, you repeated the question.
In the square mile of unoriginal sin,
where the fraudulent neon lights haunt,
but cannot hide, the dinginess of vice,
the jeans and sweater boys spoke of Pound.
The chee-chee bums in Torino’s laughed and
the virgins of St. Martin’s School of Art.
The corner spivs, with their Maltese masks,
loitered for the two o’clock result,
and those, in the restaurants of Greek Street,
eating income tax did not hear the laugh.
You, of all people, asked the question.
The strip lighting of Soho did not fuse;
no blood trickled from a certain book
down the immaculate shelves of Zwemmers.
But the circumcised did not laugh.
The swart nudes in the backrooms put on
and the doors of the French pub closed.
Free now (and we praise this) he may
Bars cross the jail of your exercise book
between bare words drenched with painful
the warders of an establishment will not
Gentle Gentile, you asked the question.
Pound did not hear the raw Jewish cry,
the populations committed to the dark
when he muttered through microphones
of murderers. He, not I, must answer.
Because of the structures of a beautiful poet
you ask the man who is less than beautiful,
and wait in the public neurosis of Soho
in the liberty of loneliness for an answer.
In the chromium bars they talked of Ezra
and excused the silences of an old man,
saying there is so little time between
the parquet floors of an institution
and the boredom of the final box.
Why, Paul, if that ticking distance between
was merely a journey long enough
to walk the circumference of a Belsen
Walt Whitman would have been eloquent,
and Thomas Jefferson would have cursed.