Guest poem sent in by Smitha Rao
(Poem #521) The Suicide
And this, ladies and gentlemen, whom I am not in fact Conducting, was his office all those minutes ago, This man you never heard of. These are the bills In the intray, the ash in the ashtray, the grey memoranda stacked Against him, the serried ranks of the box-files, the packed Jury of his unanswered correspondence Nodding under the paperweight in the breeze From the window by which he left; and here is the cracked Receiver that never got mended and here is the jotter With his last doodle which might be his own digestive tract Ulcer and all or might be the flowery maze Through which he had wandered deliciously till he stumbled Suddenly finally conscious of all he lacked On a manhole under the hollyhocks. The pencil Point had obviously broken, yet, when he left this room By catdrop sleight-of-foot or simple vanishing act, To those who knew him for all that mess in the street This man with the shy smile has left behind Something that was intact.
Louis MacNeice was born in Northern Ireland in 1907 and died in 1964. He took a first in Greats at Oxford and later taught classics at the University of Birmingham. Though his work is spoken of in the same breath as Auden's the main worry about his poetry is its occasional lack of depth and penetration, although in his best work there is a piercing sweetness and melancholy. This touching poem about a colleague who killed himself is a moving record of MacNeice's response to years of office life. The image of 'a manhole under the hollihocks' is an effective one for the sudden sense of a yawning void at one's feet which extreme depression can sometimes produce. The last two lines might serve as an epitaph on MacNeice himself. -Smitha. We've run one MacNeice poem before, Bagpipe Music: poem #18 For a brief biography and a number of poems see http://members.aol.com/carrickman/macneice.htm