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Time Away

August 16, 2015

Meeting Point by Louis MacNeice and Wincher’s Stance by John Clinch

macneice    eleanor clark   winchers stance

In 1938 MacNeice, who was still on good terms with his ex-wife Mary, and whose affair with Nancy, the illustrator of I Crossed the Minch, was drawing to a close, met the writer and political activist Eleanor Clark on a US lecture tour. The following year he engineered a job at Cornell university to be with her.

I couldn’t resist juxtaposing the poem of their meeting, presumably at New York docks, with the late John Clinch’s sculpture, Wincher’s Stance, at Glasgow bus station. Both are accessible and deservedly popular.

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise –
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.
— Louis MacNeice

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