From: Some Letters Never Sent
To:- Ms. Angela Carter, ℅ The Berkeley Café, Bristol.
It’s not there now, but then no more are you.
Were this to find you anywhere though, Ange,
I would like to think it was The Berkeley,
After the hours we spent together there.
Mature students we were meant to be,
Not that anyone ever would have guessed
From our ritual morning challenges:
You: Waiter, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.
Me: Give in. You: Yes, sir, it’s trouser soup.
And then you’d laugh, that breathless laugh of yours
That sounded like a puppy choking.
The “Children” seemed almost afraid of you,
Especially in seminars. You had read,
It seemed, nearly every Russian novel
There was ─ surreptitiously though, as you
Once confessed, when you were the court reporter,
Bored beyond belief, for some local paper.
Clapham, was it? At times too you could be
So cutting. Do you recall that pale,
Flat-chested girl who read Old Norse and wore
Those long, silver necklaces? You called her
The Muse in Chains. And you got no better.
Years later, after a reading you gave
In Lancaster, a little old lady
Asked you where you got your ideas from.
‘I make 'em up,’ you growled at her. ‘It’s my
Fucking job.’ There was no need for that.
But back in our busy Berkeley days
My Bacchae had been shown on television
And you were writing your Shadow Dance
That students are writing dissertations
On today. That was another of our
Contests. I remember winning one with
‘Some Studies in the Rhetorical Use
Of the Full Stop in Johnson’s Rasselas.’
Only to hear some visiting speaker
Refer next day to a Johnsonian The.
That had us both snorting behind our fists.
Footnotes? Well, there was that grey, bedraggled
Woman who came and wiped our tables down
With her wet dishcloth. You called her (we’d been
Reading Swift) The Struldbrug. I know she’s in there
Somewhere. And one morning you said you’d been
Dribbling syrup over your porridge
In patterns ‘like ecclesiastical
Embroidery’. We smoked so much those days
The air would get to be a dishcloth grey
And almost about as thick as porridge.
Over the road ─ it seems ironic now ─
Was the Wills Tower and Library, built by
W.D. and H.O. out of their
Profits from the stuff that would account for you.
We had been warned. A clown in one of Ben,
The other Jonson’s plays, attacked the weed:
‘Who knows,’ he said, ‘but that the alligator
Hath not pissed thereon?’ Bloody alligators.
To:- Ms. Angela Carter, ℅ The Berkeley Café, Bristol
Neil Curry • United Kingdom www.neilcurry.com
TO:- MS. ANGELA CARTER, ℅ THE BERKELEY CAFÉ, BRISTOL is a poem from Some Letters Never Sent.
Neil Curry is a poet and a literary biographer who lives in the English Lake District.
Other Rooms, New & Selected Poems, (UK), 2007
Some Letters Never Sent (UK), 2014
On Keeping Company with Mrs Woolf (UK), 2019
William Cowper: a Revaluation (UK), 2015
William Shenstone, Landscape Gardener & Poet (UK), 2019