Almost 21 - Poem by Frank Bana
A slim boy wearing summer clothes
Bare feet like cat's paws on the paving stones
Steps around last night's broken glass
Guitar in hand, heading for the busking site
Where the traffic never gets too loud
To play for tourist passers-by
For the drunkards on the benches
Where they pass their waking hours.
Becoming less boyish
Watching the summer's progress
Living in cloisters built centuries ago
For five-foot boys and men
All he had learned in recent years
Summarized in a fist of index cards.
Now he learns more by watching the town
An accelerated documentary of change
That overturns the marble statutes
And the old ideas of restraint
How amazing, just a few years
Of cultural fire up-ends it all.
He too is straining for expansion and change
A child of the universe after all.
When the songs in the guitar case have been sung
He goes looking for paperbacks of Descartes and Locke
And calls up ethicists, modern empiricists
From the depths of the Bodlean
He grasps at their schemes for a month or two
And then lets them loose for all time to come.
Walking at dawn in wet grass by the river
Around the ethnographic museum
Where the punt boats rock, tethered, half-asleep
He fully expects to meet
Strange mythic creatures at every turn.
Where will I go, he asks the inner sky,
What could be more perfect than this?
There are sometimes a few
Perfect moments in life
And this is one of his.
Higher education lies ahead,
Higher visions and dreams
To be found, without doubt
To be fought for and earned
Within the world of work.
This English summer, where the evening light lingers
Will survive in his memory all the time he is free
England's summer is fickle
Beloved and brief
Just as lives can be.
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