25 February 2021
To John Keats
On the bicentenary of his death (23.02.2021)
By Neil Tidmarsh
I caught it off you, John, this word-virus.
Fifty years I’ve suffered, searching, singing
(Trying to sing), feverish on this night bus
To joy and pain, beauty and loss. Dreaming.
I’ve met other super-spreaders. The vain,
Lame lord who laughed at you. His friend, who drowned
In his own ideals. The Lakeland mountain
Pair, before they grew old and ran aground.
But you were always the most infectious.
Coughing blood, your voice mutated (became
Stronger, more beautiful) when death came home
To father, mother, brother and the noxious
Sick at Guys, and followed you (far from fame)
To quarantined Naples and silent Rome.