Alan Brownjohn


Late home again, I heard murmurs about me,
my parents in bed. It was not the first time,
and I didn’t know whether they ever realised
I could hear them speaking, that I also guessed
what their regular topic was. By oversight
left on the dining room table, not typed
but (“strictly required of all candidates”)
done in handwriting ‒ upright ‒ spaced
as clearly as always ‒ was my father’s
most recent letter of application.
I should not have read it. It set out his wide
experience, his talents, his eagerness
to meet new prospects with fresh ideas,
and adjust to a changing world (which went
without saying but had to be said). I saw
one detail that stopped me with its bravery:
“I am still a young man”, and the figure he added,
like this: (47). I looked at the clock
‒ as late as that? There was no more risk
of waking them now. I could go to bed.
Seventeen, on that frozen night my eyes
started something not far from the same sort of tears
that they fill with today, so I like to believe.

Alan Brownjohn was born in London and educated atMerton College, Oxford. He partici-pated inPhilip Hobsbaum’s weekly poetry discussion meetings known as The Group. He is a social poet in the sense that if people in the future want to know what many lives were like in the second half of the 20th century, they should read Alan Brownjohn – observant, troubled, humane, scrupulous, wry, funny.