Could this be Clive James’ last work? 636



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The New Yorker has published a heart wrenching poem by Clive James written as he is believed to be nearing death.

Clive is a renowned Australian journalist, author, critic, broadcaster, poet, and character best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, for his chat shows and documentaries on British television. He has lived and worked in the United Kingdom since 1962.

James was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2011 and emphysema and kidney failure in 2010.  In an interview with BBC Radio 4 in June 2012, James admitted that the disease “had beaten him” and that he was “near the end”.

His poetry below is a personal, insightful and metaphoric story of self, body and spirit into which he relates the beauty of a Maple his daughter has planted in the backyard.




Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.

So slow a fading out brings no real pain.

Breath growing short

Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain

Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see

So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls

On that small tree

And saturates your brick back garden walls,

So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends

This glistening illuminates the air.

It never ends.

Whenever the rain comes it will be there,

Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.

Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.

What I must do

Is live to see that. That will end the game

For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,

A final flood of colours will live on

As my mind dies,

Burned by my vision of a world that shone

So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

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