The Manchester Review
Jeffrey Wainwright
Selections from The Reasoner
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‘History would make a stone weep’

John, what takes you back to Evensong so late?
Did History fail you?

I, who have spent no time at all in archives or the field,
have to say it is still the Book of Where Things Happen,
The Book Endlessly Corrected, the Book of Witness,
The Book of Expectant Understanding. It absorbs us and it should.

. . . .

When Deian’s mobile went off
I heard you guffaw from the coffin.
That’s a fact. No it’s not. Who else heard it?
But how much impartiality should we try for?
I’m talking to you John, not ‘for’ you . . .

. . . sometimes in ‘conversational French’:
. . . le grand vin blanc de Bourgogne . . . le grammaire
des civilisations
. . . how actuel is
le monde actuel? . . . does it just roll through us,
and bye the bye absolve us from any blame attached?
How much impartiality should we try for?

. . . .

Surprising you in the backmost pew,
I’m curious to know if it be the music or the words?
Can I catch you murmuring Now lettest Thou . . . ?

Thou of whom it is said: Thou knowest all things,
Of whom it is said: Thou canst do all things
Of whom it is said: is in all things just
Who will grant us grace

because we find we are not
and cannot do these things

as History shows

and need these things

as History shows

at least to imagine them

as History shows.

And we are not absolved.

. . . .

John, reason with me,
am I hearing you aright?