The poem "Japanese Maple" by Clive James was first published in The New Yorker and is included in his latest book, Sentenced to Life
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 colors 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.
The Australian broadcaster and critic, who has been receiving treatment for terminal leukaemia for more than five years, writes of blushing at the realisation he had “written myself into a corner” by announcing last September that he would die very shortly, when in fact his health has rallied thanks to an experimental drug treatment.Posted by Jill Fallon at January 6, 2016 6:33 PM | Permalink
That prediction came in a poem called Japanese Maple, published in September 2014, in which James suggested that when the leaves of a tree in his garden turned brown, it would “end the game” of his own life. In fact, he writes in his column, “Winter arrived, there has been a whole other summer, and now the maple is just starting to do its flaming thing all over again, with me shyly watching.”
A new chemotherapy medication prescribed to the writer earlier this year is “holding back the lurgy”, he writes, “leaving me stuck with the embarrassment of still being alive”.